Iowa Writes

from A Firefly in the Night

One day a few years after my father died, I was driving my mother a hundred miles back to her house and farm in Davis County. She had come to visit my family in Iowa City during a mild week early in June, but now insisted that she had many important tasks to perform at home.

After leaving town, we followed Highway 1 south through Washington, Brighton, and Fairfield. Nine miles south of Fairfield, as we approached the village of Birmingham, my mother casually said, "This is the town where you were conceived."

I turned and looked at her in disbelief, not that I doubted what she'd said, but disbelief that she'd said it at all. She continued to stare straight ahead. Her mouth had formed that slight smile it always did when she said something she knew would surprise somebody. Mother had learned a code of speech and behavior from Grandma Austa Fleming Hunter, and that code did not permit use of the word "conceived," except when spoken in a medical context. Grandma Austa had served as a midwife and didn't use words like conceived for humorous effect. That was the last word I expected to hear from my mother in the village of Birmingham on that lovely spring day. Mother knew how much she'd surprised me, and she enjoyed every symptom of it. "Better keep your eyes on the road, Patrick," she said.

About Iowa Writes

Since 2006, Iowa Writes has featured the work of Iowa-identified writers (whether they have Iowa roots or live here now) and work published by Iowa journals and publishers on The Daily Palette. Iowa Writes features poetry, fiction, or nonfiction twice a week on the Palette.

In November of 2008, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated Iowa City, Iowa, the world's third City of Literature, making the community part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network.

Iowa City has joined Edinburgh, Scotland and Melbourne, Australia as UNESCO Cities of Literature.

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Patrick Irelan's short stories and essays have been widely published in magazines, anthologies, and literary journals. His latest memoir, A Firefly in the Night: A Son of the Middle West, was published by Ice Cube Press in 2007. He lives in Iowa.

The Ice Cube Press, based in North Liberty, Iowa, began publishing in 1993 to focus on how to best live with the natural world. Since then it has published a number of well known authors, including Mary Swander, Jim Heynen, Stephanie Mills, Bill McKibben, and Paul Gruchow.

Ice Cube Press

This page was first displayed
on December 30, 2006

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