Wednesday, May 15, 2013

My Son's Story

My son graduates from high school this weekend.  A little while ago I had a good idea for a blog post that, while not directly about my son, pertained to him and his friends and their last year in school.  Before I wrote it, I asked my son if it was okay with him that I do so, and he said no.  "Mom," he said, "that's not your story."

Writers swipe other people's stories all the time.  We take snippets and bits of conversations and people and actual things that happen to us, and things that didn't happen but could have, and we whirl it all together in a sort of blender in our brains, and what comes out, sometimes, is fiction, but if you know how to look at it--say, because you know the writer really well--you can sometimes see the individual bits and pieces.  Sometimes you know what story they come from.

Last summer I met a woman who's written two successful memoirs, and who also for a time wrote about her family in a magazine column.  I'm always thrilled to meet another writer, and I was especially looking forward to meeting this woman, whose work I admired.  But when I told her that I'd read nearly everything she wrote, she looked deeply uncomfortable.  "Oh," she said, "so you know all that."

Well, duh, lady.  Being on the New York Times Bestseller list means quite a lot of people know all that.  But I understand that as a writer, readers seem amorphous.  They exist somewhere (we hope) but we don't really see them.  This makes it easier for us to pour out our souls.

But not our children's souls.  Sometimes now when I read a blog where women happily write all about their young children, I wince.  Not because the stories are inappropriate, but because, at some point, these children might start to mind.  I could tell a hundred stories about my son:  funny stories, sad stories, wry, comical ones.  Stories that illustrate his integrity and grace.  The problem is, he would hate that.  He doesn't want me to tell his stories.    My stories about my son are really not mine any more.  They are his stories, and he will tell them on his own.