Words, slow in coming, slow in thinking, slow in painting a worthwhile picture in the mind. Words, slaved over, loved deeply, churning, building, breaking and remaking. Hours spent thinking and shaping, shattered regularly as arguments crescendo, toys are thrown, and tears are shed.
Notebooks and loose pages adorn most surfaces, scribbled with half-ideas and whole hearts amid runaway crayon and stickers and stick figures.
A modest laptop for ideas to be formatted into cohesive line and thought; hour upon hour of reshaping, tearing up old pages, tearing up over old ideas, tearing apart wrestling children who cling to one another’s hair and appendages.
Words shaping, arcing, spinning, beauty, perfection, with no pen to be found between diaper changes and dumped dinners. Most inevitable; artists know the best inspiration comes while in the shower, or the darkness of 2am, or when up to elbows in spilled glitter.
My heart upon the page taking shape, becoming something, something worthwhile, worth saying or painting or sculpting or being. My heart pulling at my pantleg, arms outstretched, begging to play, to hug, to sit on my lap between me and that page.
My heart, the older one, so proud as he sits next to me at the kitchen table, and meticulously draws out his letters. “I’m going to write, just like you, Mama.”
My heart, the little one, climbing up the kitchen chair to squeeze himself between me and the backrest, to wrap his arms around my neck with kisses, and beg me play horsie.
And hours passing, between them and I, love and struggle so tightly bound I cannot separate one from the other, playing and learning, baking and building, fighting and crying – those half-finished pages gnawing at my thoughts, those thoughts of work while holding these littles, gnawing guiltily at my heart.
Could there be harmony with the odds of these powerful demands, artist and mother? I love those words, the shaping, holding, building, creating something from within to set free without. Those words reside inside where I care for them and love them deeply; I make colour in a dark world when the right words are realised. But those little ones I love so deeply, once held within my body being shaped to enter this world, everyday building, creating, becoming their own selves. They are small, brilliant candles in a dark world; the world and I need their light. And the words go neglected for days, for weeks.
Today spins slower, the earth breathes while its people panic, stay home. And I can’t make sense of the words I love right now. And I can’t make sense of the tears right now. But little hands still reach for me, still pull me away from pages of notebooks with Mommy come see! And the artist fades in and out, tossed with the fragility of emotions, but the mother doesn’t stop being or doing or caring or loving, which sets the foundation for words to again meet page.
A. S. Compton grew up on her family’s inter-generational farm in Ontario and attended the University of Western Ontario, receiving her BA in English and Literature in 2012. Before beginning university, she lived in Botswana, Africa for her gap year working in HIV awareness and outreach. She is active in fair trade, social justice and empowering youth initiatives. She loves reading and cycling, and still spends much of her spare time on the family farm with her two children. A Grandmother Named Love is A. S. Compton’s first novel.