Mothers, daughters, caretakers, lovers

It’s Mother’s Day, and I just have a couple brief things to share.

I have a new short story published in The Forge called “One Day Closer.” It was inspired by my mother and deals with a character who wonders whether she should become a mother herself.

Here’s the beginning:

In the morning, the nursing home residents are in a good mood. By evening, the act of living begins to take its toll.

I too have started going to bed at eight o’clock. I pat lavender leaves on my face and chest and fall into exhaustion. It’s the hormones, I read once. Our clocks are aligning. We no longer have the moon cycle in common. We just have the sun.

Read the rest at this link.

They also interviewed me, among other things, about the inspiration for this piece. Here’s a quick look:

A few things rumbled around my mind when I started writing this. My mom had just quit her job at a nursing home. I was having one of my yearly “do I ever want to have children?” crises—I still don’t. And California was experiencing record-breaking wildfires. Through all of this, a character in a nursing home was born who feels deeply for the people around her but is paralyzed by fear about impending doom and loss.

I’ve been working in the climate movement for more than a decade now. From time to time, I’ll see an article where an environmentalist pronounces that she’s never having kids and you shouldn’t either! This then inspires a cycle of predictable responses. I’m not opposed to people making this choice, but I won’t try to convince others to stop having kids. I don’t believe that personal lifestyle changes alone will solve global warming—oil companies want you to think that, to pass the blame. However, the fact that this is becoming a common question interests me. It’s interesting that young people these days are growing up with these hard questions around their shoulders.

I was thinking about how this question would play out in the mind of a woman who, in her heart, loves taking care of other people, but doesn’t want to have kids herself—for whatever reason. There are plenty of good reasons to not have children. In my opinion, if you don’t really extremely want children, you don’t need them. Kids are a life-changing experience, and some people (ahem) like their lives as they are now. But there are different forms of caretaking that don’t involve having children. I hope this isn’t a spoiler, but the protagonist in this story learns how to be a caretaker in a way that is right for her, not necessarily what’s expected of her.

This story is not about me, or my mom, or anyone I know.  It’s about the part of my heart that worries over how the climate crisis will affect our relationships. The coronavirus crisis has laid some of that bare, partly for the worse.  I’m sure many of us have fewer friends and acquaintances than we used to, but partly for the better, with deeper investment in the relationships we do maintain.

You can read the rest of the interview here. In it, I also talk at length about Oreos, so it’s not all doom and gloom.

Happy Mother’s Day. To anyone who is a mother, but also to anyone who has ever had a mother, to anyone who may not want to be a mother, to anyone who’s found motherhood in unconventional ways, or simply to anyone who appreciates the motherhood found in Mother Earth. We have one life so it’s worth taking care of each other.

<3 Denise


PS: A programming update: I will probably not post a new noticement until June. I’m participating in “Story A Day May” — writing a new short story every day. It’s a great challenge that I’ve found invigorating so far, but I have little brain space left to write anything else. If I find myself with time and something important to say, you may still see me in your inbox. Otherwise, see you in June!