My mother has this funny thing where she ascribes meaning to everything. Everything. Capital E. Crows cawing during my brother’s wedding were meaningfully rhythmic. Stepping in dog doo on your birthday is a sign from God. Finding a book of crossword puzzles under the couch is a message from a dead relative. Getting stuck in a snowbank at Bird’s Hill Provincial Park was “meant to happen” (and not, as one would assume, the result of stubbornly driving a 1986 Eagle Vista in a foot and a half of snow when the park is closed for the season).
(Forgive the digression, but I must elaborate on this event. While my mother kicked and shoved at the car in an attempt to bully an inanimate object into magically popping itself out of the snow, my brother and I were told to go and play in the snow at a suitable distance, one that allowed us to only hear the loudest of the curses. It was a typical winter day in Winnipeg, i.e. -48° and windy. While we played in the snow, my brother and I happened upon what we first assumed was a rock; it was actually a dead mouse, frozen solid, a grimace of pain fixed on its whiskered face. We looked at each other, the dead mouse in my hand, and I knew that we were thinking the very same thought: “We’re going to die out here.”)
It can be infuriating. When someone tries to tell you that the movie House Bunny deeply explores issues of racial intolerance, it takes an incredible force of will to keep your eyes from rolling so far into your head that you can see your own sinuses. My mother is a very intelligent woman, a published author many times over, a successful teacher at the University of Toronto. But it’s a little like having John Nash for a parent (“Look at the connections! Look at them! It must be the work of the commies hiding encoded messages in the newspapers!”).
You can’t convince her otherwise, either. The fact that you chose to wear blue on the third Tuesday after the 78th anniversary of your dead great-grandparents wedding (“Their wedding was a blue theme! A blue theme, Nick!”) is a sign that the universe’s strings are being pulled by a complex and beautiful swirl of ghosts, multi-ethnic deities, and possibly some benevolent aliens.
I have officially entered my 4th week of being away from my friends, of not being a teacher, of being unemployed. Because of this, I have been able to finish Emily Rose and am into the second draft. Try as I might, I can’t seem to get a job, and I would consider myself a pretty good teacher with a decent bit of experience. I know exactly what my mother would say about this situation. I know, of course, because she’s told me.
She would tell me that I’m being given a chance to write, a chance that she first got when I was born. Sitting at home with me (the fat, ugly baby) she wrote her first novel. She did it because of a Harlequin romance tucked into the baby basket handed out by the hospital where I was born (the healthcare system was more generous in those days); this book was apparently so bad that my mother declared, “I could write one of these!” and then she did. (Spite, after all, is one of the greatest motivators of modern literature.)
She would tell me that I was born to do this. She would tell me that it’s in my blood. She would tell me that I should take this gift and do something incredible with it. She would tell me that the whole of existence has bent its will to make this happen.
I guess my Mom ascribes to one side of Albert Einstein’s assessment of the universe.
“There are only two ways to live your life,” says Einstein. “One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.“