Meet Susan Arnout Smith!

I am possibly the only person on the planet who traveled to Anchorage, Alaska and didn’t see a live moose. I may have seen Denali in the distance from my hotel window, but I really can’t be sure. My week in Anchorage, back in September, was spent hurrying between the Sheraton(?) and the Convention Center during the Bouchercon mystery conference. *sigh* I’m a rotten tourist.

But I did meet wonderful writers and readers from all over the country. One of those writers was Anchorage native Susan Arnout Smith, who moderated a panel I was on. She was such a pro–I couldn’t believe her first novel, The Timer Game, wasn’t due out until January of this year. You can meet Susan yourself if you’re attending Thrillerfest July 9-12 in NYC (I’ll be there, too!) or at the Southern California Writers Association gathering on Saturday, July 19. You can visit Susan’s website for details.

I love to have writers guest blog here at The Handbasket. (And not just because it gives me time to hang out with my kids!)

Welcome, Susan!

Already Gone, by SUSAN ARNOUT SMITH

Two things are happening this week in my family: my sister-in-law, Dossy, is using her pool for a commando toddler learn-to-swim program, where her grandson, Jack, will be tossed into the deep end of the pool by an instructor who routinely makes the mothers cry.

And my daughter, Martha, is home briefly this week from Stanford, on her way to Croatia and Romania where she’ll be teaching English for two months. She’s glossy, beautiful, only 19. It is an act of faith on our part to let her go. That’s not true, of course.

Faith has nothing to do with it.

She’s more than ready; our job is to buy the phone card and support her choice.

Still.

All over America, kids are graduating this week, poised on that edge.

They start small, these babies of ours. And in the beginning, we dream our dreams for them. It’s easy, before they come into our lives, to imagine theirs.

There’s usually a doctor in there, someplace, maybe a president. And then this baby arrives, insistent, demanding, better than any imagined dream, and we remember again how little we know and how much we already have.

They come into the world needing everything, and all we can give them is our love.
We guide. We direct. We stand on the sidelines and cheer.

We build peanut butter sandwiches and tents made of bedsheets.

And all the while, this miracle, this child of ours, is busy dreaming his own dream.
Busy reminding us that if—he is ours—he is also, most of all, his own.

A singular self. A child of the spirit. A voice in the vast cosmos of good that stretches back in time and links forward through all the times to come. And while we’re focused on car pools and permission slips, our child is growing up.

Until one extraordinary day, we look and see not just a child, but a young adult, poised on the edge of her own life. Confident, sure of herself.

Already gone.

Toddler Jack is there on that continuum, poised over the deep end.

Martha’s already jumped. Many times.

Only it’s not a swimming pool. It’s an ocean.

Swimming toward a far shore and a light only she can see.

And all Fred and I can do is stand here, arms linked, and wave.

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