Friday, September 28, 2012


I am really collecting Amtrak miles this week! Did my usual trip to NYC on Monday and then home Tuesday. Digression: Before I left on Monday, I put a flank steak in a Ziplock bag with a marinade and threw in some sliced portabella mushrooms. Got home Tuesday at 7, threw that flank steak on the grill, and had the most yummy dinner in no time!

Anyway. Thursday took a train back to NYC, connected to the Long Island Railroad, and did a really terrific event at the Northport Library. Doris there is an amazing librarian, and her kids' book club was such fun! The trek back to Manhattan got me to bed after 11, and I overslept this morning, waking to that gorgeous sound of rain. Loved lying in bed and gazing out the window at the rainy street. And the rain did not keep my buddy from meeting me for breakfast before I went back to Penn Station and boarded yet another train to DC this time.

I'm always impressed anew when I step into Union Station here. What a gorgeous building! And then out to the street with the statues and all the marble. Just beautiful. Unfortunately I got right in a car and was taken to the oxymoronic Crystal City. Climbed into bed at the Hyatt and am about to take a cat nap before my talk tonight.

In the morning: another train! To Baltimore and the Baltimore Book Festival. Hoping to get to the Museum of Visionary Arts in the afternoon, then dinner with an old friend.

My panel with Susan Straight is on Sunday at 3, followed by my good friend Laura Lippman's, and onward to dinner with them.

Monday: the train back to NYC! I am getting a lot of knitting done, folks!

Tuesday: the train back home!

Then I am off--by plane--to Wilmington, NC for a few days at UNC there.

I will have just a couple of days to be home, do laundry and pack for a week in Italy. I've got miles to go before I sleep, but that trip is nearing and I'm just starting to get excited...

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Day After

Well, yesterday was simply one of the saddest days I've had in years. Was it because it would have been Grace's sixteenth birthday, that milestone in every kid's life? Was it because I had to spend the day alone here in NYC to teach? Oh, it's pointless I suppose to try to understand why some days just slay you. This one did.

Then the oddest thing happened. Those of you who read this blog regularly might remember that just last week I thought about contacting someone who has been out of my life for some time. I didn't do it. Last night, feeling so melancholy, I walked back from The New School after class, lost in my thoughts. It was in so many ways a perfect fall evening: chilly and clear and all good NYC things. But sad me just wanted to crawl into bed with a glass of single malt and a good book, go to sleep and wake up to the day after. I turned onto Bethune Street, and was right in front of my building when seemingly out of nowhere that very person appeared. I was so startled that I called his name, and he was so startled to see me there.

We stood beneath the lamplight talking for quite some time. Laughing. Catching up. In many ways it was as if no time had passed. He remembered that it was Grace's birthday, and that remembering and acknowledging it reminded me why I had loved this guy so much in the first place.

So much is lost in life. People we love. Friendships gone awry. Misunderstandings and mistakes. Somehow seeing him this way was just what I needed. We hugged goodbye, a good hard hug. Part of me wanted to stand on that street all night. Part of me wanted to make a plan to see each other again. What can be repaired? What can be regained? I really feel that this serendipitous meeting was some kind of divine intervention.

I came inside and got in bed. And it was after midnight. The day after had arrived, and I was grateful.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

All these places had their moments With lovers and friends I still can recall Some are dead and some are living In my life I've loved them all...

One of my all time favorite songs, and sums up how I am feeling today. September brings such bittersweetness with it. As Grace'a birthday approaches, I can't help but relive the wonderful days leading up to it. Sam had just started pre-school at Gordon, and my midwife thought the baby was coming earlier than expected (my due date was October 1), so I explained to his teacher that I might disappear soon to have my baby girl. Her eyes popped. "You're pregnant?!" she said. "Nine months," I told her. Grace was only 6 pounds, three ounces. Such a calm and beautiful baby.

We went to a fundraiser at Slater Mill and I sipped my first glass of wine in months, with midwife's blessing. I remember the blousey black dress I wore, the cool September air, how happy I was. Grace was just days away.

The night before I went into labor, I ate pasta with pesto because my midwife said pesto helped bring on labor. I woke early with the first signs. Lorne was off to a meeting in Boston, so Sam and I stayed in bed together talking about his new baby sister coming, me with one eye on the clock as I timed my pains. Soon enough, I called my father who came and brought Sam to school, then took me for a midwife visit. She told me the baby would be born that night and I should go home and eat to build up my strength. My father made me my favorite beef stew and I ate it up. Lorne arrived back home and the pains were coming fast and furious. While he loaded the car, I lay on the floor of our foyer, which is where our new nanny found me. She'd been with us about three days! We got to the hospital around 4, and Grace was born at 6:40 PM.

There have been moments these past few days when I miss her with such intensity that I actually double over.

My family has had such a big loss this year with the death of Auntie Dora in a car accident. And then my mother's best friend died just a few weeks ago. Maybe this is why this year feels especially sad, and makes me think of other people I've lost, like my friends Barbara and Karla.

But also people I've lost over misunderstandings or bad behavior. This morning I almost emailed an old friend who is the only person who would enjoy a funny thing that happened to me. A few years ago we had a falling out and although I hear about him from time to time, and have even glimpsed him, I stay away. Today I thought: why not? and looked up his email address. But I chickened out. And I reminded myself WHY we're not friends anymore. Do I really want to open that door? Yet I am in such a sentimental weepy mood, that I want to reconnect with everyone I've loved, let bygones be bygones, and have them back in my life.

Maybe we should all email an old friend we've lost today...

As I often do when sadness takes hold of me, I read poetry. Today I found comfort in Ruth Stone and Yeats, and this by Emily Dickinson:

I measure every Grief I meet (561)

by Emily Dickinson

I measure every Grief I meet
With narrow, probing, eyes – 
I wonder if It weighs like Mine – 
Or has an Easier size.

I wonder if They bore it long – 
Or did it just begin – 
I could not tell the Date of Mine – 
It feels so old a pain – 

I wonder if it hurts to live – 
And if They have to try – 
And whether – could They choose between – 
It would not be – to die – 

I note that Some – gone patient long – 
At length, renew their smile –  
An imitation of a Light
That has so little Oil – 

I wonder if when Years have piled –  
Some Thousands – on the Harm –  
That hurt them early – such a lapse
Could give them any Balm –  

Or would they go on aching still
Through Centuries of Nerve – 
Enlightened to a larger Pain –  
In Contrast with the Love –  

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Autumn in New York

Stepped out of Penn Station into the most perfect autumn weather here in NYC. As I walked down 8th Avenue to my little sublet on Bethune Street, I had a smile on my face. How I love the fall here. The crisp cool air and blue sky, the thrum of the city streets. And today I woke up to another perfect autumn day. Watching big white puffy clouds in that blue sky out my window.

Lots of teaching this semester to prepare for none next semester when i hit the road for THE OBITUARY WRITER publicity.

I'm already teasing out a new idea for a new novel, which is always exciting. I love the time when the characters and the story live only in my head almost as much as I love when I start to write that story. There is something so private and exhilerating about carrying a story around with me that no one knows yet. I like rewriting sentences in my mind, changing characters' names and playing with the structure, with HOW to tell the story, all while walking down the street or sipping my coffee. Just me and my story. This phase can last quite a while, so the timing is good--teaching a lot takes away writing time. But I don't need the writing time at the computer yet.

So my story and me are off into this beautiful autumn day...

Thursday, September 6, 2012

First Day of School

Oh, September! Such a mixed bag of emotions for me. The new pencil chalk dust memories. The pictures of each of my kids standing in front of school with backpacks bigger than them. And 1996, nine months pregnant with Grace, Sam off to pre-school, and women who would become my friends for life still new faces. September. Always a symbol of hope for me. Of promise. Grace born on September 24. The most beautiful baby I ever laid eyes on. F. Scott Fitzgerald's 100th birthday. Surely a fortuitous day. A promise for a bright future. And so when September comes now, after losing my Gracie too soon, I find myself both hopeful and sad; eager to pack lunches and sharpen pencils and bake cookies; and paralyzed by grief.

But let me count my blessings: Gogo turned 81 yesterday. Annabelle went off to third grade with a gap toothed smile. Sam got the lead in a play at school. I'm teaching and writing, knitting and reading. In a month I'll be in Italy, even as I plan trips to Norway and Alaska over the next year.

And oh! I had that beautiful funny smart little girl for five years! A blessing that.