Barbara Pruitt

Creative Non-Fiction Winner
Artist Statement​

In the 1st grade, I learned to read using Fun With Dick and Jane. I celebrate fifty years as a reader by seeking to join the conversation. All the words, ideas, and life I have taken in have filled me to overflowing, and I write to understand and express them. My favorite genre is magical realism, but I also write creative non-fiction and literary fiction.

Artist Biography 

Most of my life has been spent moving from place to place. My father joined the Air Force when I was 2 months old and separated two days after graduating from high school. One of the constants in my life was books; another was libraries. An introverted kid, I spent much time living in my imagination. I married a man who eventually joined the Army and continued to move every two to three years. We had five daughters whom we homeschooled through many moves. Twenty-five years ago, we moved to the suburbs of Baltimore and have remained in the  same house. It still feels strange to have lived so long in one place.

I have lived nine years of my life outside the United States. I went to preschool in England, a middle school in Germany, and a high school in Nebraska. I have had a baby in Monterey, California; Ft. Campbell, Kentucky; two in Virginia; and one in Heidelberg, Germany.

I started writing—juvenile fiction, magical realism, mystery, and creative non-fiction—because I love stories of all kinds. I also finished a college degree in Biblical Studies. I had paused for twenty years to get married and for the development of the computer to correct my spelling. Currently, I am a part of an Annapolis writer’s group led by Laura Olivier and am seeking to be published.

Miles To Go Before I Sleep 

When my husband was deployed to the Middle East, our family was fortunate to live a forty-minute drive from my parents. After church on Sundays, we, myself and my three daughters: five, three, and 4 months went there for lunch and stay through dinner.

It was hard to leave. At my parents, I felt I could relax, knowing there were other adults on alert. I would curl up on the couch and fall asleep while my dad took the older two to the park, and my mom rocked the baby. It was the best sleep I got all week. Monday morning was school—the structure our week hung on—so I would try to leave by 6ish or 7ish for 8ish bedtime.

One fall Sunday evening, I left late. It was after bedtime when we arrived back at our quarters on base and it was fully dark. The children were asleep. I pulled up under the large oak tree that overspread our designated parking spot, my tires crunching leaves and acorns. Turning off the car, I stared at the entrance to our house. It was about a hundred yards away. In our scramble to get to church on time, I had neglected to turn on the porch light. It would be difficult to find the keyhole. When this had happened while my husband was here, one of us would sit in the car with the lights on to make it easier. It added another brick to the load of getting three little children into the house alone. I looked at their soft, sleeping faces trying to decide who to carry in first.

 

The three-year-old had tearfully asked me the night before if her daddy had died. She knew he was a soldier who had to go away to fight.  In her mind, he must be dead. I worked hard to reassure her that he was alive, but did I convince her? Should I carry her in first? Would it be too scary for her to be left in the house while I got her sisters? Maybe I should bring the baby in first? If she stayed asleep while I got the others into the house, that might work, but it was almost time for her to nurse again. I should probably wake the oldest and have her walk while I carried the three-year-old leaving the baby for the second trip. Trying to decide the best solution was like trying to solve a logic puzzle. If Mr. Blanc sat on Ms. Vermillion’s left, who was on his right, and did they have pumpkin cheesecake for dessert?

 

I shut my eyes and leaned against the headrest considering the let’s-all-sleep-in-the-car option.

As I sat in the quiet under the tree, the words of Robert Frost floated up from my subconscious depths. It was a poem I studied in high school English.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,

But I have promises to keep,

And miles to go before I sleep, and miles to go before I sleep.

It made me smile because I was poetry resistant. I wanted to be fierce and tough. Liking poetry didn’t fit that image, but in that moment, I felt that poem was written just for me.

Promises to keep.

I touched my lips, remembering my husband’s final kiss and final words, “Keep my girls safe.”

I promised.

Somewhere close, an owl hooted, perhaps in the oak above us.

"Mommy?" my oldest sleepy voice asked.

"Did you hear the owl, Lee? I think he's welcoming us home,” I said softly.

"I wish Daddy were here,” she whispered back.

We sat together in silence, absorbing the feeling. What to say?

"He would like hearing the owl,” I responded.

"Is he?” she stopped and I waited. “Is he coming back?"

"Yes, he is. I'm sure he's coming back."

More silence. Then the owl hooted again.

"Time to go in," I said as I undid my seatbelt and opened the door. “I have lots to do before bed." The glaring car light caused little sleeping eyes to squint tightly. The baby started to wail, and the three-year-old began to whine.

But I have promises to keep,

And miles to go before I sleep, and miles to go before I sleep.

Featured
Artist
Featured
Artist