Her mother was delighted with the news, initially.
She always knew that her daughter would be a writer – a journalist, perhaps. Finally, the girl would do what she had long envisioned. Yes, her daughter would do what she had the talent to do herself, but never had the time; the opportunity; or, more likely, the nerve to do.
“What are you writing?” she asked as she perched her chin in her hand, elbowing the dining room table where they sat sipping lukewarm coffee.
“Fiction,” her daughter replied evasively, half hoping to share the news without going into details.
“Oh? what kind of fiction?” the mother pushed, her eyes narrowing ever so slightly.
“Adult fiction,” she answered succinctly, hoping to end it right there while her mind raced to find another topic of conversation. How’s Aunt Betty? Have you heard from Angie, lately? Or, the sure-fire conversation derailment, “Have you lost weight?”
“Adult fiction? What is that?” her mother prodded with that all-too-familiar tinge of disapproval coloring the question.
The older woman knew the answer even as she asked the question. Still, she always pushed, poked, and prodded until she got her answers – answers that she most often disapproved of. This would be no exception.
“Crap. Too slow.” she thought. Cutting to the chase, the girl said matter-of-factually, “Erotica, Mom. I write smut.” She then took a long swig of her too weak coffee and watched her mother’s reaction over the rim of the mug.
Predictably, the woman half-gasped, rolled her eyes and tsked as she shook her head, evoking the unspoken, “Where did I go wrong?”
“It’s never good enough. Is it, Mother?” she shouted in her head, “No matter how hard I try, no matter how successful I am, it’s just never quite up to your standards. There’s always something wrong. At least, I try. What have you ever written that you had the courage to show anyone? Oh, and by the way, did you not hear the part where I am being published? It was the advance that paid for this little trip, here, to share the news with you. But, could you be happy for me? Nooooo. There is no pleasing you, is there?”
The words raged in her head and she trembled with the effort to keep them from spilling from her mouth.
It was then that her father, a retired musician and talented artist in his own right, lowered the newspaper and folded it on the table. He looked first at his wife then back to his daughter. “Never apologize for your art.” he said simply.
The mother opened her mouth, prepared to voice her objections, but it was his voice that was heard instead. “Never,” he repeated.
And there it was. Crystal clarity.
In the end, it didn’t matter what her mother, father or anyone else in the world – save only one – thought about what she did with her talents. They were her gifts to give. In truth, it was all that she truly had to offer: herself. Every word that spilled onto a page was a piece of her – her heart, her thoughts, her truth, her soul. Apologize for that?
She smiled as she drained the last of the now-cold coffee from the heavy ceramic cup and stood up from the table then leaned down to kiss first her mother then her father, “You’ll have to excuse me, now. I have some writing to do.”