Jason Gurley

By day, I'm a user experience designer; by evenings/weekends, I write novels from my home in Scappoose, Ore. My newest is Awake in the World, published February 2019 by Roaring Brook Press; my previous novel, Eleanor, was published by Crown in 2016 and has since been translated into German, Portuguese, and Turkish. I’m currently working on a new project.

Nibs and inkwells

Here's the thing: When your mother-in-law moves in, life around the house actually mostly stays the same. You want her to feel at home and welcome; she wants to avoid stepping on anybody's toes. So life just goes on, just the way it was, with only subtle differences. 

One of those differences is that sometimes, when you come home from work, your wife and daughter and mother-in-law are hard at work at some strange new task, like this night, when I came through the door to find them perched over a notebook and a plastic tub full of, oh, maybe eight hundred different types of pens, dutifully clicking them or removing their caps to test their usefulness on said notebook. 

Or the previous night, when I came home to find them dutifully rolling loose change into paper packets, only to discover later, when they took them to the bank to deposit, that bank tellers just break the packets open and run the coins through a coin-counting machine. (Which turned out to be a good thing, since some Canadian money and other random things ended up in some of those packets.)

But those are the little eccentricities that make life interesting. Our daughter now gets the joy of growing up with her grandmother, who she calls ba ngoai (the Vietnamese pronoun that means 'maternal grandmother'), and it's lots of fun to watch the two of them playing beauty shop and pretending to wash each others' hair. There's also the added benefit of reintroducing date nights into my wife's and my life; ba ngoai is always quite happy to spend an evening with Squish while Felicia and I enjoy a previously rare night out at the movies. 

Grouped with my mother-in-law's own possessions, which my father and I brought across the country in a rented truck a couple of weeks ago, were boxes of my wife's childhood toys and books and things, most of which by now Squish has discovered. Our house is cluttered with big stuffed pigs and 1980s-style My Little Pony figurines and various dolls and such. For Squish it's a retro Christmas each day they unpack another box. 

Our little family is larger now by one (tiny) person, and we wouldn't have it any other way, if for no other reason than it's hilarious to watch my wife and her mother experimenting with these six billion pens, scribbling away, Felicia wondering why they're bothering ("Aren't the two hundred good pens we've already identified enough? Couldn't we just throw the rest away?") and her mother shaking her head ("They're still useful, of course we can't just throw them away! That's wasteful."). And between them is Squish, snatching up random pens from any pile, much to Felicia's consternation, the integrity of the pen piles disturbed by a toddler with a hankering to draw pictures of Daddy. 

I should point out, too, that I'm essentially live-blogging this, as Felicia and her mother are still, hours after my return home, sorting through these four thousand hundred dozen pens, Felicia's hands covered in old ink, and her mother patiently scribbling with each apparently-dead pen, convinced that with some patience, each and every one might still serve its purpose on this planet, and record something worth having written.

In short: We have another writer in the house!

Billions and—ehh, whatever

The wee hours