Now that the end is here, Smartmom is wondering how Dumb Editor will mark the end of her tenure as the parenting columnist at The Brooklyn Paper.
Will he give her a gold watch with her name inscribed on the back?
Will he throw a lavish going away party at the River Café in honor of her?
Will he at least send her a lush bouquet from Zuzu’s Petals with a note professing enduring love and respect?
What do you think?
All she’s left with after six years on the job is a scrapbook full columns, a minor case of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, and a son in college — Dumb Editor’s stated reason for demanding Smartmom’s resignation as a “parenting” columnist.
Bitter? Of course. But that hasn’t prevented Smartmom from looking back on her oh-so-Park Slope memories — a reign of terroir, if you will.
Speaking of memories, here’s memory number one: The day she met Dumb Editor at the Tea Lounge in Park Slope.
It was an awkward meeting. Dumb Editor didn’t like blogs, but he was a fan of Smartmom’s writing from her Only The Blog Knows Brooklyn site. Smartmom and he discussed her writing, and he said he’d get back to her.
He never did — until two weeks later, when he barked, “Where’s my column?”
“What column? You never hired me,” she said.
“So I’m hiring you now,” he said. “And I need a column.”
So began Smartmom’s illustrious career at The Brooklyn Paper (and texts of “Where’s my f—ing column?” from Dumb Editor every week five minutes after deadline). That was back in 2005, and Smartmom has been writing her column, every week, ever since.
Sure, it took her awhile to find her voice and her subject matter. But after a while the column, the adventures of Smartom, Hepcat, Teen Spirit and the Oh So Feisty One, started writing itself.
There was a learning curve — and it was as steep as Dumb Editor’s ambitions. It took her a while to develop a style, a rhythm, a pace for her weekly 800 words.
Buddha knows, she made plenty of mistakes. Sometimes she revealed too much about herself and her family. Sometimes she made people mad. She knows for sure there are quite a few people who don’t like her because of the column. There was even a snarky parody of the column that someone taped to the front door of her building.
That was a little creepy, but it was also kind of funny. In time, Smartmom learned that you need to have a thick skin — and a sense of humor — if you’re going to be in the public eye.
Indeed, the public side of having a column was a mixed blessing. She loved meeting her readers on the streets of Brooklyn.
“Are you Smartmom?” people would ask and she was always flattered to be recognized, especially if they were fans of the column. Sometimes people would stop her to tell her what they didn’t like about the column. And that was OK, too, though less satisfying for the ego.
“I hate your use of the third person. It’s SO annoying,” someone might say.
Thick skin, thick skin.
Working with Dumb Editor wasn’t always easy. He was, well, bossy — and way too honest about what he didn’t like about her writing or topics. But that was a good thing, too. And she learned a lot from the man she’d come to call a friend.
Smartmom enjoyed the discipline of writing a weekly column and hitting (more or, more accurately, less) her deadline. It provided her with a chance to reflect on the events of her life and to articulate what she was thinking and feeling.
Some weeks, she didn’t think she had anything left to say. But then, magically, words would appear and she’d have a column where once there was only a blank screen.
A mother isn’t supposed to have favorites, but Smartmom definitely has columns she’s especially fond of including, “The hat lady sings!” about the woman who posted on Park Slope Parents about a lost boy’s hat that she had found on Prospect Park West; “The envies of Park Slope” about yearnings for other people’s brownstones; “Ratner $$ can’t buy love” about Ratner’s partial sponsorship of the PS 321 auction and dance, “Lessons in parenting in a tiny yellow bird” about her dad; “A trip through time at Two Boots” about all those pizza faces at the Slope’s child-friendly restaurant, “State of the Union — kids are back in the hall” about the no-stroller policy at Union Hall that quickly became a national story; “The OSFO goes parasailing and Smartmom learns to cut the cord” about OSFO’s sky-high adventure; and “Smartmom weighs in on the decade that changed parenting forever,” which pointed to trends like Bugaboos, breast feeding and intentionally bad moms.
Maybe she wrote one too many columns about the difficulties of getting rid of a beloved leather couch and buying a new one.
Maybe she wrote too much about what to do with Teen Spirit’s room after he goes to college this week.
Maybe she said too much about her kids. Writing about them was difficult as she tried to be discreet and truthful and that’s a tough combination.
She got yelled at a lot by them but she always apologized profusely and told them that she’d try to do better. Strangely, they both seem to be sad about the end of the column, as is Hepcat.
And why not? The column was a weekly sit-com/dramedy about their life and times. As much as they hated the attention, they sort of liked it, too.
Needless to say, Smartmom is feeling quite sad. This feels like the end of something important in her life and she’s not sure if she’s ready to move on. The truth is she still has a lot to say.
Most of all, she’s going to miss her readers, who seemed to enjoy these weekly installments about the life and times of one family in Park Slope. It was like she had a whole bunch of really good friends to talk to and share what was on her mind.
Smartmom felt known and understood by all of you and that was very special and something she won’t soon forget. She hopes that by shedding some light on her tiny slice of the universe she may have, occasionally said something meaningful.
That’s all a writer can hope for. Especially a smart mom.
Yes, Smartmom is ending her reign as The Brooklyn Paper’s esteemed parenting columnist, but her relationship with the Community Newspaper Group is only beginning. Watch for more work by her in these pages, and in our sister publications, soon.