Stealing Time is a magazine for, about, and by parents. When I discovered its existence, I was immediately intrigued, yet wary as well. Would it have an angle, an agenda to promote? Would it rise above the content of most parenting magazines out there? Thankfully, the answers are no and yes. Stealing Time lives up to its mission statement: “To provide a venue for quality literary content about parenting: no guilt, no simple solutions, no mommy wars.”
Published quarterly, with an additional annual issue on pregnancy and childbirth, the magazine features a theme for each issue, this issue’s being “Relations.” Like the magazine’s take on parenting itself, the theme seems open to interpretation, which I found to be a positive thing.
The opening editor’s essay, “Built By Hand” by Sarah Gilbert, kicks off the theme of relations by discussing the strained relationship she and her husband have with his side of the family. After three decades of tension, communication begins to trickle in from various relatives, including her estranged father-in-law. Having only been in contact with her mother-in-law’s relatives, Gilbert finds the wealth of new information enlightening: “This was where my boys’ strong hearts and problem-solving brains had come from. . . . This was how my youngest could run two miles without stopping at almost my pace.” No easy miracles occur, however. She is unable to let go of her anger toward those she blames for the family rift: “I want to let my anger die away to ash, but this new half a family kindles both my sense of pride in my boys’ heritage and my wrath. I let it smolder.”
Fiction and nonfiction pieces continue along these lines. Jason Squamata’s nonfiction piece “A Noir Aspect” details a relationship that doesn’t work out, seemingly for the best—the narrator seems somewhat unprepared for a life with a woman who has a three-year-old child. One gets a secondhand sense of the difficulties of dating for single parents: “I worried for [the child] and felt guilt over the confusion my love affair with his mother had brought into his world.” Jackson Connor’s “Limited Spiritual Access” describes the difficulty of being a stepfather in a Mormon family. Despite helping to raise his wife’s four children (and having their own child together), the author notes that “only the first marriage in Mormon culture is eternal.” But despite a persistent feeling of being on the outside looking in, by the end of the essay he comes to understand his own role in their lives.
“Snow and Coffee,” a story by Bhaswati Ghosh, follows the life of Aruna, an Indian woman who moves to Toronto with the assurance that her husband will follow within the year. Nine years later, she is still alone save for her son, whom she struggles to support by working in an Indian restaurant in a nearby shopping plaza. After years of experience as a journalist in India, Aruna had been confident she would obtain the same type of job in Canada, and the story is a bleak vision of what must befall many immigrants. Yet it ends hopefully; her relationship with her son is solid and healthy, and Aruna learns to cope with her single parent status and find her own self again.
The magazine’s poems are a little more loosely centered around the “relations” theme, probably necessarily so. “Wolves Eat Children” by Heather Bell delves into the death of a child: “. . . And so I am here to tell you what the doctors // will not: that when you lose a baby, you will feel like a Nazi and the sadness will fill // the room quietly on stilts, hovering at the ceiling. . . .” Kristin Camitta Zimet’s “Choker” goes to the other end of the spectrum, beginning with a child tasked with untangling her mother’s choker necklace and ending with a different type of necklace as the mother dies: “. . . Your arms raise an O, / clasping my neck as you go out for good.” And in Changming Yuan’s “Codicil to Allen Qing Yuan,” the narrator entreats her son to inter her remains on the Internet: “In an e/cask, and send it / To a site that will / Never be on hiatus.”
My favorite piece in the magazine is Lisa Sinnett’s “No Organic Allowed,” a story that begins as a deceptively simple day in the life of a woman in Detroit. Elisa has just dug her car out after a blizzard so she can take her two small children to the supermarket. She needs to go because she has just received her WIC coupons and they are desperate for food. The conflict of the story comes when the cashier refuses to let her purchase organic cheese, despite the fact that it’s on sale and is the same price as regular, WIC-approved cheese. As the people behind her grumble and the cashier and manager treat her with barely veiled contempt, Elisa remains calm, even when her toddler ends up wetting her clothes. After leaving, she returns home to find the parking spot she labored to clear taken by someone else, yet she still manages to find hope in the nearby pine tree that is “still living, growing, and rooted in its own space.” The story is a heartbreaking, human look into the reality of poverty.
Stealing Time also features wonderful black-and-white photography that serves as the perfect backdrop to each of the pieces. I enjoyed almost all the work in the magazine, and I felt that this is a quality addition to the lit mag world that anyone, parent or not, would enjoy reading. It’s a thoughtful look at the world of parenting, but with a broad enough lens that everyone is included.