Author, Writer

Saturday night, after the evening church service, I stop at the grocery store. It is a good time to pick up the incidentals for the coming week. The aisles are fairly clear of traffic and I needn’t wait a turn or two to rifle through the ‘reduced for quick sale’ meat at the counter. Because it is late, the rows of frosted and glazed pastries leave me untempted, as do the gaudy displays of ice creams in the freezers. Just the basics tonight, thank you, and I will be on my way.

The check out lines are vacant as well. I am careful to choose one that advertizes ‘we bag’ instead of ‘you bag.’ It is one of the perks of Saturday night shopping. I return the cashier’s happy smile and begin to unload the cart.

“Did you find everything tonight?” Standard question.

“Yes, thank you, and more.” Standard answer with small laugh.

Bing, bing, bing, my selections pass the scanner.

“Have any fun plans for the rest of the weekend?” Another standard question.

The image of my computer and the editing that is waiting to be done flashes between me and the smiling clerk. “Work.” I admit with another small laugh. I am sorry I blurted the word. It seemed easier than explaining I would be cooking for my twenty something sons and their friends. If I am fortunate the conversation will turn elsewhere. I am not.

“Oh, what do you do?” The cashier gazes at me expectantly. I let a few more ‘bings’ pass between us while I contemplate my possible reply.

What do I do? I find it a difficult question to answer. For awhile I was a teacher; easy answer, no explanations or qualifiers necessary; stay-at-home mom, feeding six teenagers, succinct and also easy. For a brief period my reply was ‘substitute teacher.’ My conscience won’t let me claim that any longer, two half days of teaching in the last year and a half don’t count. As for the other options, my six teenagers are all twenty something and only two are left at home. Stay-at-home mom is just as feeble and inaccurate as substitute teacher. I haven’t been employed full-time or even part-time in a classroom for the last seven years, that discards the ‘teacher’ alternative.

So the question arises. When is a writer born? When has an author arrived? Though it is what I do, I hesitate to bestow on myself that label. I have yet to inform some one confidently, breezily, or even stammer, “Oh, I am an author.” The next question would come and I would be forced to admit, “I haven’t anything published yet, I’m working on that.” A small, “Oh,” and instant disinterest would follow. It would confront me and force me to conclude that I am not an author, I have not arrived.

Acknowledging that I am a writer would afford more leeway in the follow up question. “Oh, what do you write?”

“Various things,” I might manage without turning the same red as the tomato soup can on the conveyor, maybe add casually, “At the moment, I am waiting for some one to pick up my novel.”

Bing, bing, bing, the last of the items cross the scanner, the tally is totaled and I swipe my card as payment.

“Right now,” I say with another bright smile at the stranger across from me, “anything on my ‘to do’ list.” We laugh and I wish the clerk a good evening.

My sister and friend have used my name in the same sentence with the word ‘author.’ An in-law of my daughter has called me a ‘writer.’ When do I become those things? Probably not until I can admit it to the cashier at the grocery store.

It occurs to me to speculate on what answer a reclusive farm girl might have given to a curious Amherst shopkeeper.

 

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