I was an unconventional housewife (I did as little cleaning and cooking as possible) and mother. I had always wanted to be a mother, from the time I was three years old. I loved my little girl more than I ever imagined, and I had just danced her to sleep to the tune of "It's Cryin' Time Again."
While my three-year old was down for her nap, I sat in my rocking chair, picked up a note pad and pencil, and wrote a poem. No one could have been more surprised than I was. It began, "You have touched me, and I am in pieces . . . " I think it was a poem, perhaps, to God or my own unconscious, who was breaking me apart inside and letting more of me emerge.
I kept writing poems and poems and poems--a few "good," a few "blah," and some that smelled like Norwegian lutefisk, which is made with lye. Someone, who read the few "good ones" said I should send them out. I laughed hysterically, but just to be adventurous, I did.
I finally had enough poems published--after that first coup of publication in Up Against the Wall, Mother--to apply to be a poet-in-residence. I continued to rear my daughter who had started school, and we were always home at about the same time. I even did a residency for her elementary school. She was very proud of me, and said, "That's my Mama."
I had a teaching certificate and had taught three years prior to my daughter's birth. That came in very handy because after my hideous, shredding divorce, I needed substantial work. I became a creative writing teacher. I was a natural because I understood that what is inside us we often don't even know is there, and I eventually became a mentor, as well as a teacher, and my daughter attended my school--and liked that until she turned 15.
A few of my students went into the world as poets, teachers, and mentors, and some followed other blisses, like motherhood, birdwatchers, or doctors.
After I died of cardiac arrest six times and lived a zombie life, which was very fuzzy and unproductive, reinvention was crucial. When I could drive again, without running over mailboxes, I drove across the country all by myself.
I went on to teach poetry seminars at the university level because somewhere in all those years, I reinvented myself from BS to MS and then Honorary Ph.D. (just for the semesters I taught). I nearly died again when I was invited to teach at Esalen as a Master Poet, with my own little cottage. I had to take the paths uphill to the dining hall very slowly, but I had become much more patient over the years, with myself.
I am still a mother who loves her daughter, now 35. I am still a poet, but chronic heart problems have forced me to give up most of my teaching. I am sad about that. I do mentor when I can and always give encouragement. I call this reinvention, "old woman who gives advice whether it is asked for or not."
I am fighting these heart problems, but will not reinvent myself as a "sick person." That is just not the core nature of Bonnie, who is, at the core, quite alive.
So, who will I be tomorrow?
When things get quiet, if I listen to that inner voice when I sit in the reinvented (rickety) rocking chair, I will, no doubt, reinvent myself again.
Causes Bonnie Roberts Supports
The Southern Poverty Law Center, The National Resource Defense Council, The ACLU, Doctors without Borders, Save Darfur