Age ten was the first time I thought about being forty—the age Oscar Wilde was when he was imprisoned and wrote The Ballad of Reading Gaol. I assumed I would similarly have a long literary career by that time—though without the ball and chain.
As age twenty came, then more and more children, that daydream became lost in the black of the Nothing, with the scary black wolves of age and no education and stay-at-home-wife invisibility shrouding the reality I had imagined—one full of leather-bound books, pipes, trips to Ireland, violins following me into obscure cafés in Brussels where I’d randomly meet contemporaries I’d randomly met at the Louvre the year before. My study had secret doors that led to other, more secret doors into rooms I can’t tell you about because they’re secret still.
Instead, my days were fragmented by poetry in the same notebooks I homeschooled in, written in-between seizures and autistic meltdowns, baby screams, and weeks without sleep. The loneliness of like-minded peers, of people who could think and imagine worlds was exacerbated by the doldrums of suburbia and a strange marriage.
And then something happened. I didn’t have scandalous rooms full of ancient texts or memories of the Motherland, but I had new magic. Instead of my world, I had five, eventually becoming a villain in a land riddled with barely won wars, a wise-owl with four husbands in a genealogy made by my Irish twin sons who happen to be a Dragon and a Honey Bear. I woke every morning in the land of impish girls and a clever boy who never smiled.
And then I wrote it. I wrote them stories and silly poetry. I spent hours on nonsensical limericks and reciting impromptu prose for wee ones just shy of reading on their own. They were taught to love literature, but they preferred mine. I made them laugh until they cried and physically attacked them when ghosts came. I chased them through woods and led them to buried treasure.
They grew older; I grew older. But the worlds we made—those never aged. The dreams I had when I was ten, I’m doing those now. Or at least, I’m on my way.
One day I hope to visit Reading Gaol because it was out of the prisons in my life that my greatest stories have come—but these are real.