When the Kids Are Gone

Single mom finds perfect escape into world of creative writing

By Charlotte Symonds

‘I was then in my 50s and finally able to do something that I had always done mentally, but never had the time to put onto paper. I could write a novel.’

Having a career and being a single mom of two daughters didn’t leave much room for “me time.”

My total focus was on earning a living and being the best mom I could be. When my girls were young, there were museums, zoos, playgrounds and parks to visit. As they grew older there were sports practices, tournaments, dance recitals and crew regattas.

I was pretty much their activity planner, chauffer and biggest fan. With each daughter being assigned her own color, our family calendar was chock full of red and blue ink depicting who had what activity coming up, and when and where. I of course had no color assigned to me because I was the blurred mixture of the blue and red that spent every free minute that I wasn’t working with my daughters. When my oldest was readying for college, I realized that with her departure the family calendar, as my daily life, would lose a bit of color. Time had opened in my hectic daily schedule and there was now space for some “me time.”

I was then in my 50s and finally able to do something that I had always done mentally, but never had the time to put onto paper. I could write a novel. As long as I can remember, I have been creating stories. Some people fall to sleep watching TV or reading. For me, I close my eyes and create characters and story plots.

I write dialogue, choose costumes, create sets and have movies of my very own swirling in my mind. People are often bored when waiting in lines or driving long distances. These are not annoyances for me; rather, they are opportunities. They are times when I can create other worlds, and keep myself totally occupied.

I have a thick folder at home where I keep notes with ideas for future novels. An idea can come to me from anywhere at any time. My purse is occasionally full of scraps of paper where I have jotted down an idea on a sales receipt, bank slip, used envelope or a napkin.

The folder sits on my desk in my dining room next to our family table. My desk had always been there for it held our family computer. Wanting to be able to check my daughters’ Internet use, I had it placed in our busiest room. My favorite place to write isn’t at that desk, but rather, I sit my laptop on my dining room table. It’s the same table where I helped my daughters with their homework and projects. The same table where they would color, finger paint and where we dyed Easter eggs, made Valentine cards, wrapped Christmas gifts, blew out birthday candles and shared stories of our days’ events at every meal.

Creative setting

Perhaps that’s why it is there where I feel the most relaxed and free to express myself. It’s because of the love that table has been surrounded by for so many years. I guess if wood could talk, that table would have a novel all of its own, full of both smiles and tears.

When I first started writing, my youngest daughter Jessica said, “It’s about time you’re doing something for yourself.” I hadn’t been aware until then that I really had put my own life on hold when I became a single mom and that my children realized it. Funny, when I separated from their father when they were quite young, I never would have guessed that my girls would have started dating before me. That fact still at times makes me smile.

I would have loved to engage in writing earlier in my life, but it would have meant taking time away from my top priority, my daughters. And that would have been something I would never have chosen, not even if I could. My dining room table no longer has text books, book bags and classroom notes sprawled out across it, but rather notes on research I have for whatever novel I’m working on, pictures of actors whom I have picked to depict my current characters and my caffeine beverage of choice, a vanilla Coke.

One might say my genre of writing is of the human condition. When picking male protagonists for my novels, I pick the best characteristics of men to attach to them. While it’s true that no man is perfect, I realize kind, thoughtful, caring and good men are out there in the world.

Men usually get a bad rap, so I write about the good guys to give credence to their existence. I am sure that I am not the only woman who doesn’t have one of these good guys in her life at the moment, so I write in the hopes that others can sit back, relax and for the hours they read my novel be totally enthralled with the male characters who treat women with the love, respect and sex that they deserve.

For me, writing is more of a calling than choice. I totally lose myself in another place and time and am taken away to wherever I want to go, with whomever I want to be there with. While I am writing a story, I mentally live in the world I create. Writing brings out every emotion possible, the best and worst of them. And, yet even after writing a heart-wrenching event with eyes puffy from crying, I still have a feeling of contentment. When I type the last sentence to a novel and hit the period, a sense of accomplishment overcomes me.

But, then with it, a bit of sadness appears. For just as my own children have left the nest, now characters whom I have grown to love also have been set free. That’s when I go for my folder of ideas, and the whole process starts again.

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