I hid my dreams in the back of my mind – it was the only safe place in the house. From time to time I would get them out and play with them, not daring to reveal them to anyone else because they were fragile and might get broken.
I wanted to return to writing, but what if I tried and failed? Then I would have nothing left to hang on to.
Erma Bombeck wrote that fifty-some years ago, well before I was born. But when I read it a few months ago, I felt like I’d found a long lost friend.
I’ve heard her name for as long as I can remember. Her columns and books were hugely influential to the women of my mother’s generation. But it wasn’t until I became a mother that I was able to fully appreciate her wit, self-deprecation, and optimism for myself. She’s the ultimate mommy blogger, really.
There’s a writers conference in her name in Ohio. Once every two years. This year it sold out in six hours. It’s happening next week.
I’m going to be there. I can’t decide if I want to scream, laugh, or cry.
For years, you’ve watched everyone else do it.
The children who sat on the curb eating their lunches while waiting for their bus.
The husband you put through school who drank coffee standing up and slept with his hand on the alarm.
And you envied them and said, “Maybe next year I’ll go back to school.” And the years went by and this morning you looked into the mirror and said, “You blew it. You’re too old to pick it up and start a new career.”
This column is for you.
Margaret Mitchell won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for Gone with the Wind in 1937. She was 37 years old at the time.
Margaret Chase Smith was elected to the Senate for the first time in 1948 at the age of 49.
Ruth Gordon picked up her first Oscar in 1968 for Rosemary’s Baby. She was 72 years old.
Billie Jean King took the battle of women’s worth to a tennis court in Houston’s Astrodome to outplay Bobby Riggs. She was 31 years of age.
Grandma Moses began a painting career at the age of 76.
Anne Morrow Lindbergh followed in the shadow of her husband until she began to question the meaning of existence for individual women. She published her thoughts in Gift From the Sea in 1955, at 49.
Shirley Temple Black was ambassador to Ghana at the age of 47.
Golda Meir in 1969 was elected prime minister of Israel. She had just turned 71.
This summer Barbara Jordan was given official duties as a speaker at the Democratic National Convention. She is 40 years old.
You can tell yourself these people started out as exceptional. You can tell yourself they had influence before they started. You can tell yourself the conditions under which they achieved were different from yours.
Or you can be like a woman I knew who sat at her kitchen window year after year and watched everyone else do it and then said to herself, “It’s my turn.”
I was 37 years old at the time.
I’m two years later than Erma was, but it’s my turn. Here goes everything.