Once upon a time there was a girl who loved books. (Have I been watching too much Elmo’s World?)
Once upon a time there was a girl who became an English major. It didn’t take long before she subsequently became a grammar nerd and was paid money to edit papers for friends in college. She graduated with plans for grad school and glowing recommendations from bearded men who wore tweed. In the spirit of Dead Poet’s Society admiration, she became a teacher and was paid to critique the grammar and Englishy-ness of her students. She even went to grad school and did Englishy things like watch Shakespeare plays, talk about deconstructionist theory, and laugh at people who said things like “her and me went to the store” or “irregardless of what you think.”
Part way through her quest to become an English professor, something happened. She fell in love with a musician and dropped out of grad school to get married.
But she was a Christian feminist and went back, working at the university to pay for it, so it was okay.
Unfortunately, she missed teaching, so she went back to teaching high school, and dropped back to part time work on the Masters degree. After entering the fourth year of stop and start work on a degree that should have taken two, she began working on her thesis on Christian Feminism and the Inverted Sacraments within literature.
But then she got pregnant. Dang Sacred Feminine.
Undeterred, she would finish the prospectus in the fall and write the thesis to defend in early April just before the baby was due in mid-April. Thus all dreams would come to fruition at once.
Then at the University library one rainy November day, the day before Thanksgiving, she was desperately working to finish research for a prospectus due the first of December. If she could gather all her materials together, she could write the paper at Thanksgiving and still finish on time. She hastily scanned texts and stuck on post-its, and piled the sides of the cube high with nearly incomprehensible volumes of criticism. It was here, scarfing Saltines in the dusty smelling basement to avoid vomiting from early pregnancy nausea, a crisis happened. The university decided to close early for Thanksgiving, which meant that, the student worker informed her gleefully, she would have to leave.
Now, this was back in the olden days when a lot of information was still in books that cannot be taken from the library. Getting the research done for the thesis was daunting under normal circumstances, but this English major was teaching full time in a high school, was perpetually tired from pregnancy, and was raising support to move overseas the following summer to become a missionary.
As the English major hastily stacked up her books and papers, swept away her saltine crumbs, and hoisted up her slipping maternity jeans, she knew the truth. Descending the steps of the library, she walked out to her truck, feeling the rain falling in chilly sheets, like discarded papers, washing away her very long held dream. She hefted her bag full of books and notes, that held ideas that would never be quoted by her, never be synthesized into brilliance, and never be gathered up into a thesis on inverted sacramentalism in female protagonists in literature.
Even though this happened back in the olden days, she did pick up her cell phone to call her husband and tell him, through big gulping choking hormonally swollen desperate sobs, “I–can’t–do–it. They–they–they–cl-lo-closed–the library.” Her husband, a shrewd man who recognized only one sacred feminine concept and married her, realized that she would not be able to write the prospectus that weekend, which shut all the subsequent doors to prospectus deadline, thesis writing, thesis defense before baby’s birth, and Master’s degree before impending move to the uttermost parts of the earth.
Reader, she dropped out of grad school.
The English Major did not become an English Master. She did not become an English professor. In fact, it would be scant years before she could barely remember the rules of grammar and would beg other women to attend plays called, Women of Will, about female characters in Shakespeare plays, only to realize that she herself, only vaguely understood the theater. She no longer saw mistakes in e-mails. She even started inadvertently interchanging “their’ and “there” in her writing. (Though never “they’re because, as you know, that means THEY ARE.) That dream, to be a wise and erudite scholarly professor, just died. She realized it was an old dry dream, into which she’d been puffing life for years and never really resurrecting fully.
The next spring, on the very day that she should have defended her thesis on Christian feminism and inverted sacramentalism, something entirely wonderful happened 11 days ahead of schedule. If you are at all literary, you might call it irony, or inversion, or even a type of sacred feminism. (Situational irony, you may recall from your own olden days, is when the opposite of what is expected to happen, does in fact happen–and with significance.) In essence, this small irony was that irregardless (;)) of what happened in the library in November, the English Major would not have presented any thesis for defense before any committee on that day. On that day, instead of defending her thesis, she had her baby.
In fact, she was quite taken up with motherhood and her beautiful baby girl. And more likely than not, she would not have been very eager to go in to the University at any point in the following weeks to go talk about something so entirely unrelated to her life as Edna Pontellier and Hester Prynne. That would have just been silly.
And so, as it often happens in literature and in life, when one beautiful cherished old dusty dream is allowed to die, a newer better one comes along, carrying with it a whole new breath of life, heat of love, and the sketch of hope. With this life, love, and hope, the English Major, who never really became a master of anything, became a mom.
This post is written for my daughter, Adriana Judith, with whom all my new dreams for life were born that beautiful April day, 6 years ago. I love you, my Addie Sunshine.