On December 12, my neighbour knocked on my door. Where I live, in east Vancouver, if there are packages left outside the door, a neighbour will grab it and take it into their house for safekeeping until you are home. So she had in her hands a large padded envelope. I wasn’t thinking about my book when I opened it; my dad had passed away two days before, and the book wasn’t supposed to be out until the spring.
I opened the envelope, and there was A Little House in a Big Place!
Technology is a pretty amazing thing! Months before the people at the publishing house, Kids Can, had sent me pdfs of all the pages, and I was able to show the dedication in the book to my dad on my laptop.
He was so happy to see it all. He couldn’t talk then; he hadn’t talked for a long time. He had a disease called ALS, and ALS affects how the brain connects with muscles and communicates–his muscles just weren’t working. But he could see and he could type on an ipad to let me know his thoughts. And he was excited about the book.
My dad was a carpenter. He built beautiful homes for people. The house I grew up in, he’d built. And he was always finding something to fix or build in the home in which my boys grew up.
As I held A Little House in my hands that first time, I thought about how this is now the tenth time I’ve done this: held the product of my work in my hands. But for my dad, at the end of every work day, he SAW his work. Maybe he’d built a wall that day, or maybe he’d painted, or put in doors or windows. I often witnessed how he worked and I knew that at the end of every day he took time to thoroughly clean his workplace, sweeping sawdust, sorting leftovers of wood, organizing gyp-roc, then cleaning and caring for his tools, and securing the site. What is it, I wondered, to actually SEE one’s work every day, to see changes, to see it growing. Writing isn’t quite like that. I might have a feeling about what I’ve done–whether it’s “enough”–whatever that might be. Or if I feel that whatever I’ve produced is “good.” See how I’ve put quotation marks around that? That’s because I’m not really certain. Sometimes I write something that seems to be what I want it to be, and the next day or the next week, I look at it and realize it’s not what I thought it is and it needs to be tossed and done over. My dad couldn’t afford to do that with a wall; he had to get it right the first time. And then it was done.
Such different ways to work. It can be important to know how you like to work. Do you need to see the results every day? Or are you okay with experiencing that differently? I know that creating things can take a long time; maybe that’s why I like to paint a wall occasionally, or do some gardening…