Laura Distelheim is the author of The Art of Celebrating Nothing, which appeared in our November 2015 Issue. We spoke with her about writing and motherhood.
What was your inspiration for writing this story?
This story was inspired by an actual day in my suburban community when a rumor of immigration raids in the area led many employees to stay home from work. I found myself thinking about the impact of their sudden absence upon the lives of people who had grown accustomed to their daily presence, and that led me to think about the jolt that a phone call like the one Nikki received from Fabiola would have given a woman like her. Envisioning the aftermath of that phone call offered me the opportunity to explore two themes that are close to my heart. The first is how easy it is, amidst the deluge of life’s daily details, to lose sight of what matters most to us in this world. And the second is how rapidly the differences between people of wildly diverse backgrounds and circumstances pale in comparison to all that they have in common when they’re dealing with those very things that matter most, such as the welfare of their children.
What was the greatest challenge in writing it?
I didn’t want to appear to be judging Nikki for having become caught up in the swirl of her life’s daily demands. While I believe that it’s important to take the time to step back and see the big picture, I also understand how easy it is to be swallowed up by life’s minutiae. And furthermore, I don’t believe that all that minutiae is meaningless. I think there’s poetry and purpose in the car pools and grocery store runs and committee meetings and school recitals from which a family’s life is knit, so my greatest challenge was to take care not to be as hard on Nikki as she is on herself.
How do your children inform your writing?
I don’t have children of my own, but I have many children in my life whom I love as if they were my own, and every time I spend time with them, I come away enriched by their innate wisdom and their gift for living in the moment and their openhearted approach to this world. Children have often served as the inspiration for my essays and stories, and they populate the pages of almost all my work.