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Twenty Minutes

2010 December 24
by prgiff

This is for my daughter Alice and all the women who haven’t a moment for themselves.

 I remember: three children, teaching full time, my husband a New York City Detective with long, unpredictable hours. The house was never the way I wanted it, dinners were never inspired. Life was a rush.

It was then I began to write. I carved out twenty minutes for myself, made lunches, laid out the kids’ clothes, signed homework, all the night before.

 Twenty minutes. That’s all I had. I dragged myself out of bed twenty minutes earlier, and left everything out on my desk all day: typewriter (yes, it was a long time ago,) paper, pencils and—

  Twenty minutes.

 I remember those first days, feeling my muscles relax, feeling the joy of those mornings. Self-doubt would come soon enough. I’d never write anything worthwhile, I told myself.  But then,  no one ever had to know what I was doing except Jim and the kids.

 After awhile, a word would please me, a sentence, a character.

 Twenty minutes. Those minutes changed my life. I wrote through sorrow, through joy, through anger, through worry, and often, through fatigue. I wrote and never stopped. It was something that belonged to me, that belongs to me still.

My daughter Alice writes beautifully, but I don’t think her heart is there. Where her heart may be is in drawing, painting. She’s wonderful at that and deserves those twenty minutes. So under the tree tonight one of her gifts is a table easel, pencils and pads, acrylics and water colors. I hope she’ll find a spot to draw, maybe that table in the corner of her family room.

Maybe she won’t use this box of supplies now, maybe it will stay in her closet until she’s ready for it. But I hope it won’t be long.

 All of you who might be Alice’s age, all of you who might be my daughters, find that tiny scoop of time, give it  to yourself, no matter what you do with it.

I’d love to hear that you’ve done it. Let me know. Happy Holidays!

5 Responses leave one →
  1. December 27, 2010


    I was in your first 5th grade class along with John Wekerle, John Sangimino, Gerard Cook, Frank Noviello, etc. In fact I’m going to see John Sangimino in January.

    I started writing a little blog for my own amusement, telling the funny things that have happened to me (and possibly because of me). My daughter thinks they are funny.

    I try to get some of your earlier books for my grandchildren to read, and point out some of the stories like the Candy Corn one are very familiar to all of us in that 5th grade class.

    Hoping you and your family are well. I didn’t know how else to get in contact with you.

    Shelly Dreyfuss

  2. January 4, 2011

    Thank you for this post, and for all your beautiful writings. I am at this point in my life: four little boys, a small weekly column, and an itch to write like nothing else. I tell myself every day: Just take what time you have. The yawning chasm of time will come later, when all the kids are in school, but for now, the nights, the nap times, the early mornings are for me to create.

    Thank you for the reminder.

  3. prgiff permalink*
    January 6, 2011

    Hi Tiffany:
    Time is such a problem, isn’t it? But if I hadn’t taken that twenty minutes, I would have had to wait ten years to write. Instead, I wrote ten
    children’s books in that time. So I hope you do take that time now. (By the way, I had to smile at that “yawning chasm” of time. It still hasn’t
    come for me.

  4. January 7, 2011

    i like it

  5. April 15, 2011

    Heya i’m for the first time here. I found this board and I find It really useful & it helped me out a lot. I hope to give something back and aid others like you helped me.

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