“A mother would have been always present. A mother would have been a constant friend; her influence would have been beyond all other. ” ~Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey
Many thanks to EVERYONE who took the time to leave a comment for me or to share my Wanderlust in Suburbia release — I truly appreciated it 🙂 . After the random drawing, the winners of the giveaway items are:
Lauren K (signed paperback of Pride, Prejudice and the Perfect Bet)
Susanne Barrett (Pride & Prejudice keychain)
Maria UB (According to Jane tote bag)
Suze (choice of ebook)
Congrats, ladies!! Please email me (MarilynBrant AT Gmail DOT Com) with your mailing address or email, as needed, or you can send me a private message on Facebook, too. Wishing everyone who reads this a fabulous week!!
It’s celebration time! I have a different kind of book release out this week—my first nonfiction essay collection—and I’m so excited to get to share a little bit of it with you all today!!
As some of you already know from Facebook, for the past few months I’ve been working on this surprise project in honor of Mother’s Day here in North America. (I know those of you in the U.K. celebrated Mothering Sunday back in March—you’re all ahead of us over there!) Wanderlust in Suburbia and Other Reflections on Motherhood is a collection of personal essays and just a few poems that I wrote over a ten-year period for a variety of national and regional parenting magazines when my son was little. All were on the subject of motherhood and on the experiences I had as a new mom.
These essays were my absolute favorite magazine assignments. Once I got my first novel contract for According to Jane, though, I wasn’t able to do nearly as much freelancing. And, at the same time, many of the print publications I used to write for also changed direction. Some closed their doors altogether, which meant that none of these previously published pieces were available to readers anymore, not even digitally. So I figured the time had finally come to make a compilation of my favorites!
For those of you who enjoy quick reads or only have time to snatch a short chapter here or there in the middle of a busy day, you’ll find 21 essays in this collection, each of them just a few pages long. And while this isn’t a purely Austen-inspired project, the truth is that I’ve loved JA ever since I first read P&P at age 14. So, I found a way to slip in Austen references whenever I could…including this essay, entitled “Wanderlust in Suburbia” (where the collection gets its name), which I’m sharing here *exclusively* today! Hope you’ll enjoy it. If you’d like to read another one of the essays from the book, I also have “Leaning Toward Optimism” up on my website HERE.
And please don’t forget to leave a comment below in answer to the question at the bottom of the page! As part of my launch celebration, I’ll be giving away:
1 signed paperback copy of Pride, Prejudice and the Perfect Bet
1 P&P Peacock key chain from Zazzle.com
1 According to Jane canvas tote bag
1 digital copy of (winner’s choice) Pride, Prejudice and the Perfect Match, On Any Given Sundae, Double Dipping, Holiday Man, or All About Us (or, if the winner has all of these, he/she can choose to receive an Advance Reading Copy in PDF of my *upcoming* contemporary romance release—The One That I Want—which won’t be available until mid-summer!)
ALL 4 of the above prizes are open Internationally! Winners will be posted here by 5pm Central Time on Sunday, May 10th (Mother’s Day), so check back!!
And, in honor of moms everywhere, right now the ebook for Wanderlust in Suburbia (regular price $2.99) is only $0.99 Amazon US/₤ 0.99 Amazon UK (the Kindle sale is worldwide). It’s $0.99 on B&N Nook. And there’s a paperback copy available, too, for just $8.99 US/₤ 6.04 UK!!
Wanderlust in Suburbia
I have a confession: Beneath my fruit-snack-toting, suburban mother façade hides the soul of a travel junky. As I drive my seven-year-old son to birthday parties, taking the sluggish I-94, I imagine whizzing toward exotic European locations via the Autobahn instead.
After my good friend recounts her walking tour through northern Scotland, I envision myself trailing in her footsteps, battling the fog, the mist and the shadow of Nessy as I trudge through rain-soaked, northern Illinois soccer fields.
When my young, single brother—who, like Jane Austen’s Mr. Darcy, is in possession of a good fortune—plans his two-week vacation to Hawaii, I vicariously feel the sun warming my face on a stroll along the historic Dole Plantation grounds. I need only to plunge my fork into a bowl of tangy pineapple chunks to inspire the illusion.
For a few moments every day I engage in a version of Walter-Middy Mom. I forget all about play dates, classroom volunteering, cell-phone calls, and the unholy mountain of laundry in the hamper. I’m a traveler, and I’m going somewhere.
Somewhere besides the grocery store.
“Why are we buying THAT, Mommy?” my little boy asks, tones of horror lacing his voice.
We’re in the middle of the store’s Aisle 5, and I’m reverently holding up a jar of artichoke hearts, reminiscing about a delicious salad a Sicilian friend once made for me. The recipe calls for marinated artichokes, black olives, diced tomatoes, brightly colored peppers, and rotini pasta, among other ingredients. Although I’ve never visited Palermo, I can almost feel the pulse of Sicily’s capital city and smell the enticing aroma of oregano and olive oil.
“Mommy, I want macaroni and cheese. You promised we could get some. And SpaghettiOs.”
Well, okay. This is the accepted pasta of my son’s generation, although somewhat less authentically Italian than what I had in mind. Before we shuffle to the checkout line, we work out a compromise and agree on fresh (not canned) ravioli, but the gourmet chef in my imagination insists upon a bolder dinner next time. I try. Yet, some of my more ambitious attempts at foreign cuisine are met with grimaces that could turn a mythic goddess to stone.
“No chicken drumsticks or stuffing tonight?” my husband asks, inspecting my homemade attempt at Thai vegetarian spring rolls on his dinner plate. He stabs an extra-firm square of tofu with his knife and wrinkles his nose thoughtfully. “Kind of squishy, this stuff.”
All in all, sometimes Chef Boyardee is the way to go.
I love my husband, my son and our family life—make no mistake. Because I love them, I willingly defrost chicken and try to come up with acceptable, yet healthful, ways to fix it. I watch PBS Kids, viewing episodes of Arthur and George Shrinks I’ve long since memorized. And I spend my free time hunting for library books on the terrible T-Rex or the equally intriguing SpongeBob. Although I tackle these chores joyfully most days, this still does not keep me from daydreaming about faraway places and decidedly non-suburban adventures.
It is, perhaps, the prerogative of families to form a unit onto themselves. To merge and become “one” from the collective of individuals who share a life together. Every member sacrifices a little bit of his or her freedom in order to keep home routines running smoothly. The tendency, though, is for such a cohesive family to forget that the people who comprise the unit—especially for those of us taking on the roles of “Mommy” or “Daddy”—are people who once lived very different lives and played very different roles.
When I was in college, I belonged to a dance troupe that toured Europe for six weeks. We performed all styles of American dance at folk festivals in four countries. We met fascinating musicians and dancers from around the globe. We feasted nightly on “specialties of the region.” And, when we returned home, I swore that dancing, traveling, and exotic dining would remain part of my lifelong personal identity.
Nearly twenty years later, my dancing repertoire primarily consists of wiggling and jiggling to tunes from a Disney soundtrack. The last time I tangoed was in 1993. Travel-wise, my husband and I consider a visit to my native Wisconsin a “Big Adventure” these days. And I can’t tell you the last time I ordered anything from a menu that a first grader wouldn’t recognize.
But call off the detectives. There are no hidden mysteries here. In the dozen years since our wedding, we went from two singles to a married couple with a child. From two full-time incomes to only one. From a one-bedroom loft apartment to a three-bedroom house. And let’s not even talk about taxes, inflation, and the skyrocketing cost of education. We used to have time, money, and energy to pursue our individual interests with ease. Then times changed.
And they’re likely to change again.
As our son grows and breaks away from our family unit to forge his own identity, his father and I must be there to support and encourage him. Just as we lovingly camouflaged some of our own individuality during his early childhood in order to create this strong familial unity, we must be willing to let him break apart from it so he can thrive and evolve into his own man. A man who seeks the tasks and hobbies that stir his soul. Voyages to distant places in search of the people and locations that resonate within him. And tries new dishes to determine his own taste and style.
It is then, perhaps, that my son might welcome my culinary adventurousness. When my dancing time might be reclaimed. When my husband can enjoy more frequently some of his long-lost pastimes also—his chess games, tennis matches, biking. When we two parents can plan that dreamed-of cruise to the Caribbean…with the expectation of actually going on it.
Once braces, soccer uniforms, driver’s education fees, and college tuition are paid. Once our monthly bills don’t have us seeing hazy green spots when we close our eyes. Once we feel assured that we really did put our child first and he is happily settled into a life of his own choosing.
Until that time I must be content with my Walter-Middy Mom world. I read and often review novels that allow me to escape to Paris or Sydney or Rio de Janeiro, and I imagine myself in a more glamorous, fruit-snack-free environment. I rent movies where the heroes and heroines lounge in Tuscany, sipping red wine on a veranda, never going faster than a motor-scooter spin through the hilly countryside. A place where they probably eat meals with marinated artichoke hearts daily, and everyone loves it.
I’m reminded, too, of that Nitty Gritty Dirt Band song “An American Dream,” the one where we’re supposed to “think Jamaican in the moonlight…” I’ve never been to Jamaica. But someday soon, I know, when I’m sprinkling shredded coconut on someone’s birthday cake, I’ll imagine what it might like. Sandy beaches. Rum. Love every night. And getting there by just closing my eyes.
**Question: If you could close your eyes and be transported right now to anywhere in the world (present day) for a week, where would you go?? Let’s say you can bring one person along…would you? And, if so, who would it be?** 🙂