In this essay from our Fine Lines series, raising a teenager of her own offers author A.M. Homes a glimpse into her mother’s experience of raising her.
An Introduction to Death
An Introduction To Death
A.M. Homes | Longreads | August 2018 | 5 minutes (1,200 words)
I wrote my first book when I was 15, a collection of poems called “An Introduction to Death With Excerpts From Life.” I was in 10th grade and the way some people take a year abroad, I took a year locked in my room. I smoked, I wrote poems, I emerged a few times a day and delivered those hand-written verses to my mother who had recently gone back to school to get a masters degree in Counseling Psychology.
Listen to A.M. Homes read “An Introduction to Death” and chat with Essays Editor Sari Botton on The Longreads Podcast.
I was her worst nightmare; her classmates, men and women twenty years younger than her, came to the house for study sessions. And there I would be, a chunky 14-year-old who smelled like a tobacco farm, sneaking past them and into the kitchen. “Here,” I would say, depositing another poem on the counter. “Can you type it for me?” And later, when her classmates had gone home, my mother would get out the Smith Corona and she would type the poem and cry. Did I do this to be intentionally mean to her? Or did I do it because I wanted her to know how much I was suffering? Probably both. My mother would type and cry and call the shrink. I would hear her whispering from her own hiding place in the laundry room. She was worried, very worried. The poems were confessions of primal rage, angst that knew no limit, an outsider identity that had no name, ennui to infinity. I was an adopted child whose grief and sense of powerlessness were boundless. There was no version of getting it right.