“What’s your book about?” is the first question I am asked when I tell a mother in my daughter’s nursery school class that I am writing a book. Eeeesh. It is a totally fair question but it is the one I want so desperately to avoid – especially at this new parents’ event I’m attending. I would prefer to be vague in my answer and come across as perhaps mysterious and interesting because I am a “writer.” The woman in front of me is smiling expectantly. She is waiting. She is clad in athleisure wear (yes – it is a thing) which is the uniform of the young mothers in my daughter’s class. She has a high ponytail, is pregnant with her third child, and I am probably twenty years older than she is. Still, she is listening intently and patiently, waiting for my answer and trying to support this book-writing-thing I’m doing with her sunniest smile.
“It is a memoir.” I bravely tell her, and then try to match her sunny smile. I notice her eyes narrowing as I imagine what is running through her head is “Is this person standing in front of me famous? Infamous? Have I failed to recognize a famous, infamous person whose daughter is in my son’s nursery school?” Her face takes on a neutral resting stance.
I dive into what I hope will be a short, high-level summary of my book…“Well, you see… I had cancer, and as luck would have it, I had two cancers, not related to one another….” and as I am talking, I am watching what was a smiley face morph into a neutral face and now that I have uttered the dreaded word cancer….it is a gaping face. I find myself searching my brain for some of the funnier stories (about cancer?) to tell her so she will see that I can be funny and not this morose, old mother I am currently seeing reflected in her gaping mouth and eyes.
“Wow!” she says “That sounds like a lot! Do you mind me asking how old were you when you were diagnosed?”
“I was 44” I confess to her. Before she can stop herself, she blurts out “Wait – when did you have your daughter?”
“That’s part of the book!” I explain. I cheerfully tell her that two years after I finished cancer treatments my husband and I successfully used IVF to get pregnant with our daughter.
“I had Rory when I was 48” I say softly. Her eyes widen as she does the math in her head.
“You’re 52?!?” She says to me, incredulous. I wait for her to tell me that I am the same age as her mother or some other horrific true fact that will establish that she and I can never actually become friends.
“Yup!” I say, bravely, bracing myself for her response.
“How cool are you” she shoots back. “I can’t wait to read it!”