Chick Wit : First-day jitters for a columnist

Posted: March 18, 2007

This is my first column. I feel compelled to sharpen pencils and drink bad coffee out of somebody else's mug. The mug should say something cute and office-y, like "You want it when?" And I wish I had a company manual, a plastic ID, and a secretary. Especially a secretary. My mother was a secretary, and I really wish I had her, specifically.

I think I might be nervous.

I write novels, so I usually have 100,000 words to tell a story. In a newspaper column, there's no story, and I have only 700 words. I can barely say hello in 700 words. I'm Italian.

In fact, I'm almost as nervous as the first day of school. I feel oddly as if I'm turning back the clock, to the time when there were erasers, something nobody uses anymore. I'm jonesing for a schoolbag, too. You remember schoolbags? They were starter briefcases and held a composition book, yet another thing that's gone extinct, along with an artifact such as a protractor, and a lethal weapon known as a compass.

I've had so many first days of school, all in the Philly suburbs, starting at Seneca Avenue School in Norwood, Delaware County, and later at Bala Cynwyd Junior High School, and eventually Lower Merion High. Then freshman year at Penn, and first day of law school, also at Penn. All my first days blur together in a flip book of school supplies and fresh sunburns, earned on the beach in Ventnor, glistening under baby oil and wine vinegar.

Not everything we used to do was such a good idea.

You're not supposed to start something new at my age. Quite honestly, and with apologies to my parents, they weren't starting anything new at this stage in their lives. My father was an architect, and, like my mother, held the same job in the same company for 30 years.

But things are different now. Wine vinegar looks anemic after balsamic, and the water bottle has replaced the Thermos. We have calculators and laptops, iPods and Blueteeth. And we have lots of first days that we never had before, and never expected to have. We get downsized and relocated, we change jobs and careers, we leave the mommy track and then jump back on, we telecommute, we e-mail work everywhere. We marry and divorce. We acquire stepchildren and then lose them again. We teach ourselves that starting over is good, and to be expected, and even a Growth Experience. Some first days are unhappily forced upon us; others are much sought after.

This first day, happily, was much sought after. I love to write books and will continue do so, but I'd always wanted to write a column like the ones I've loved, by Ellen Goodman and Anna Quindlen. Like Maureen Dowd, without the politics or PMS.

And now I get to write a column, every week. Yay! I'll be writing about real life in Philadelphia and the suburbs. About what it's like to be a working woman, a mother, and an Eagles fan. About family, love, and why menus have gotten so big.

I hope that you'll join me here. I promise this column will be light, funny and occasionally meaningful. And in time, I hope that we can develop a dialogue, because as much as I love to talk, I love better to listen. So meet me here each Sunday. I'll look forward to it. It'll be a Growth Experience.

But that doesn't mean I'm not nervous.

Mommy?


Lisa Scottoline is a best-selling novelist. Her most recent book is "Daddy's Girl." She can be reached at www.scottoline.com.

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