Notes from the Edge

Too old for the mom club, but with the best of intentions

By Renee Phile

Oh, I had such wonderful intentions.

At 7 years old, I am sitting cross-legged on my bedroom floor in Memphis, Tennessee, the sun streaming through the window, writing with my sparkly purple pen on white computer paper stapled into a “book.” I write the book first, and then I go back and illustrate later.

I published masterpieces like:

Anna Chokes on Broccoli


The Dog Who Saved a Little Kid Who Was Walking Across the Street without Mommy.

After I published my books, I called my siblings and a few of the neighborhood kids, assigned each one a role, and made them act out the book for my parents. They begrudgingly took their parts as a hero dog or a choking girl, and my parents clapped and smiled and laughed when the play ended.

I was seriously on fire! I wanted nothing more than to be a writer.

Twenty-some years later, nothing has changed. I write every single day, and if I don’t hit at least 1,000 words a day, I start to feel itchy. I carry around my notebook and pen. Writers know what I mean.

Sometimes I sit in random places — Java Bean Plantation, Mean Bean, the emergency waiting room at the hospital (yes, I have gotten a ton of material from that room) — and write what I see.

Sometimes it looks like:

A short, bald man, probably in his ’50s, is lying on his side on the hard blue bench of the ER waiting room, a hospital blanket covering him. He is accompanied by his service dog, a German shepherd. The dog sits quietly on the floor by the man. The man snores, then wakes up, then snores some more. The dog doesn’t move.

I imagine what he is doing in the ER. I think about the dog and the man’s relationship. I wonder what happened before this hour in the ER, and what will happen after. I wonder . . . I wonder . . . I wonder . . .

Or, maybe:

I am sitting at my favorite coffee shop in Moore County, Java Bean Plantation, sipping my peppermint latte and watching the mom club at the table next to me. There are three of them. They look like they just walked out of a yoga class, hair pulled up, jacket over their yoga tops, latte in hand, kids, probably around the ages of 3 or 4, playing with iPads by their feet on the floor. They laugh and giggle about something that I can’t hear, and I wonder what it is. One says her husband is deployed. The other two look at her with concern, ask if there is anything they can do to help. One kid, a girl, decides she wants to put together a puzzle, and reaches for one from her mom’s bag. The other two kids decide puzzles trump iPads and I smile at that.

I wonder how long they have been in their mom club. I wonder if they would let me in, even though my kids are older. I wonder . . . I wonder . . . I wonder . . .

My boys, David, 15, and Kevin, 10, are among my very favorite topics with subjects like, “Why must you wait until hours before your band concert to tell me that you need black dress pants and black shoes?” and, “You announced what to your teacher? Really?” Nothing is off limits, except what he said to his teacher. That’s too awful.

On the way home from school, Kevin asked me if I had been practicing the “Dab.” As I understand it, the Dab, is a type of dance move where a person drops his or her head into the bent crook of a slanted, upwardly angled arm, while raising the opposite arm out straight in a parallel direction.” (Google said that.)

I have tried to Dab, I really have, but my progress hasn’t been good enough for Kevin.

“Uh . . . Mom, you’re going to need to practice more. I don’t get it. I taught you how to do it a hundred times, and you still can’t do it right.”

So, I write. And I Dab. And I wonder . . . I wonder . . .  PS

Renee Phile loves being a teacher, even if it doesn’t show at certain moments.

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