Yesterday, I encountered a woman who briefly assisted me in doing some research for the last book. I had liked her instantly when I first met her, and liked her again when we spoke yesterday. She seems to be a very gentle, intelligent and markedly observant personality. I had forgotten her name, and I was too shy to ask her again what it was. And you know, that's the kind of thing you have to do right away in the conversation because the longer you wait....It was a Larry David moment, where I was chat-chat-chatting away but thinking What's your name? What's your name? What's your name? But anyway, as we spoke, I watched the expressions on her face, how her eyes were warm and kind and, how shall I say this....ready to be in on the joke. I thought, this is the kind of a woman I'd like to have for a friend. But we concluded our brief conversation, and she walked away, and that was that. I had a thought to say, "Hey, wait up. Want to be girlfriends?" But of course I didn't do that. I passed her when I left the building where we'd run into each other, we waved, and all the way home I thought, Why didn't I act on a good impulse? Why didn't I say, Um, would you like to meet for lunch sometime? Because I DIDN'T KNOW HER NAME, that's why. And I just couldn't ask. I felt like a weird person with her mismatched socks falling down into her shoes, peering around corners at the normal folks. If there is one thing I've learned in life, it's that we should take these chances. Well. Presumably, the woman lived through another day, as did I. And so I have resolved to (1) find out her name and (2) ask her, "Um, would you like to meet for lunch sometime?" I wish we could fast-forward friendships and get through the awkwardness. I always want to eliminate the part that feels like tight shoes and move immediately into sharing wildy intimate secrets. Sometimes I do. But I need a person's name first.
Today it's going to be ten thousand degrees, so what am I doing? Baking a birthday cake for my honey, Bill, who is 57 today, that's what. I really hoped he would request a scoop of lemon sorbet for his "cake," but nope, it's German Chocolate cake. (If it's good, I'll share the recipe under the recipe section.) I asked Bill how he felt about being 57 and he said, "I'm fine with it. I wouldn't change it." I said, "Hmm. I would. I'd go back to....25." Only I'm not sure I would. Each age has its own glories and trials. Bill got cigars and scotch for his birthday. I came into the kitchen this morning and began singing loudly, "Happy BIRTHday TO you," and he sang robustly along, changing "you" to "me," of course. This is a man with a healthy self-esteem and a great love of life that does not quit. Every morning it's like he's in first place at the Indy 500 for life appreciation. Sometimes I look over at him as he's quietly reading a novel and he's smiling. And it's not even a funny book, he's just happy. Where does he get that????
Tomorrow my daughter is 27. One of my her gifts is a money tree plant hung with silver charms, all of which reflect some aspect of her personality. I added a little blank book made of handmade paper in which she is meant to write one wish a day, the more outrageous the better. It seems like a good idea to make outrageous wishes. What would yours be?
Janis Joplin is on the stereo singing about "one good man," there is a ton of laundry waiting for me to do, I need to unpack and pack again, pay bills, return calls and emails, but the first thing I did today was to visit my garden, which is just waking up after a LOOOOOOONG winter's nap. The lilacs are very close to blooming and it breaks my heart to think I might miss them. I like to fill my house with lilacs when they come out. The scent practically assaults you when you walk in the door, but it's a good assault.
I loved being in Boston (where I just was) for lots of reasons, but the top one is that I got to spend time with my daughter, Julie, and her family. She and I took a walk one lovely afternoon with 2 -year- old Matthew, 7- month- old Katelyn, and 7 (?)- year old Wrigley, the chocolate lab, who can't believe how these dang kids have ruined his life, but he is very nice to them anyway. Matthew refers to the stroller he and his sister ride in as "Strolee" and was very concerned that it would be wet, as the last time he rode in it, it rained. He has not yet learned about condensation, or how things change. I remember the pleasant heartbreak and loveliness of seeing a child's perspective when my own children were young, their vulnerability and innocence. (One of my favorite memories is of Julie as a toddler about Matthew's age standing at the window watching the sun set and saying, with great wonder and appreciation, "The sky's coming down." ) I also appreciate little children's infinite wisdom. Matthew was so full of joy at the simple sight of the out -of- doors, at being able to walk ALL BY HIMSELF down the sidewalk. What a view, the sight of a toddler ambling along, that side-to-side, lurching movement, like a cute Frankenstein. Whenever his Mom or Dad pull up into their driveway, him in his carseat in the back, he says with out- and- out joy, "We HOME!!"
The tour is going fine, and what a pleasure to meet the readers I have. Two women in line became self-described "insti-friends" in Boston--I love when that happens. The reception for the book has been really great--I love when THAT happens, too. It keeps me in green olives, which I have to buy today because I'm making that green olive chicken dish for dinner AGAIN.
I've been exchanging emails with a few other authors about life on the road, comparing tour blues. We all agree that it's our readers who make it worthwhile, but man oh man you can certainly get tired. I know I'm off my feed, as they say. I'm quick to cry these days, am pretty much wiped out by 4 in the afternoon, and at 6 this morning sat in my chair in my office full of despair because I don't want to go to Italy. (I know, don't say it.) I am just a big chicken, afraid to travel, and I understand the need to GET OVER IT which is why I planned this trip in the first place. I blubbered a bit to Bill when he got up and you know how it is, you always feel better when you blubber to someone and so now I do want to go. I looked at pictures of Positano on the web and oh my goodness, it is glorious. I do know how lucky I am to be going there. I really do.
Last night I woke up sick, and it is only now passing. So I did no work at all today. And now it's too late in the day to get going, so I'm going to sit on the porch and read LOST ON PLANET CHINA, which I'm really enjoying. There's so much in the world to learn about, and I feel I've had my head down, lost in navel-gazing, for most of my adult life. I just sent an email to a friend saying I want to go out into the world more, and write not fiction, but about all the things to see.
Oh, and take a look at September's O at Home magazine. I have the back page essay talking about my kitchen but the best thing in there is the beautiful essay by my friend Barbara Ascher on making a new life--and home--after the death of her beloved husband. I wish I could visit Barbie in that new place today. If you've never read Barbara Ascher, boy are you in for a treat. Pick up any of her books and have a look. She makes you swoon. I love having her for a friend for many reasons, and one of the reasons is that I can buy those teeny tiny vintage beaded sweaters for her because she's a size negative ten thousand.
A sad day today, for my Aunt Cathy died last night. She was one of the six sisters with whom my mother was raised. Her life was not easy but I think maybe the truest thing that can be said about her is what my mother told me last night, "For her, the glass was always half full." Aunt Cathy was deeply intelligent, had a terrific sense of humor and an enthusiam for life and learning that was truly inspiring. If there's a heaven, she's there, organizing a book club.
I am fifty-eight years old and lucky to have both parents alive. So many of my contemporaries have lost their parents, or are losing them now. It's a real frustration that we come so late to appreciate so much about our parents. I suppose that's the way it has to be--otherwise, we'd none of us ever leave the nest--we'd be walking in the door with our lunchboxes and yelling "What's for dinner?" to our exhausted 85-year old mothers, asking our 85-year old fathers for permission to stay out late and to fix things.
When I talked to my Mom last night, it was hard to hear her crying but even harder, in a way, to hear her graceful acceptance of the loss of her sister. Yet another thing to admire about my parents' generation. I am not graceful about death. I want to beat it up.
I was in Boston recently, smelling the head of my newest grandchild, now six weeks old. This is a very intelligent baby, I'll tell you. "Gosh, you're really alert," I told her. "I think you are going to be a very bright girl." "Going to be?" she said. In her way. As for her darling brother, 17 month old Matthew, he is in love with a candle. He refers to her as "Candie." Julie, his mother, celebrated her birthday when I was there, and some of her gifts were candles. We put one of the candles in Matthew's room and he was instantly smitten--could not tear his eyes away from that wavering flame. He wanted to touch it but of course we dutifully told him, "Hot! Hot!" and he dutifully repeated same in his breathy little toddler voice. He used to be in love with bubbles, but now his affections have turned from water to fire. What's next--earth? Air?
I am in my big fat fluffy blue robe and I'm going into my study to work and I'm not getting dressed until I'm done. If I ever have to really work for a living, I don't know what I'll do.
I am back from Minnesota, where my sister and her husband, Bill and I, and my mother's sisters and my father's brother celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary. It's hard for me to conceive of. 65 years! Imagine the changes they've seen together. We had dinner out, and there were all these people I've known all my life, and I realized I was seeing them through a lens similar to that which you employ when you look at your children: they may be thirty-five, but they're also five. Two. An infant. Fourteen. I watched my parents and thought that they, too, saw each other in many of those old ways through the now: there was my mother's dimpled smile, essentially the same as it was the day they met. There was my father's affection and interest, still. It seemed to me that there was more than one time during dinner when they out and out flirted,and it was a fine sight to see.
Oh wait, here come the guys who are fixing the hole in my ceiling. Which came about as a result of a leak in a furnace. Here they come, their heads full of things I don't understand. I really envy them. They get to wear slobby cothes every day for a good reason, and they get to charge ten million dollars an hour.
In my next life, I'm going to be a man who knows how to fix EVERYTHING. Last Christmas in one of those rare, Come on, you can do it!! moods, I asked for a drill and some tools, because I thought that just having them would make me confident and competent, and turn me into someone who can figure percentages in my head and do that kind of whistle where you stick two fingers into your mouth. My sister gave me a book called, "Chicks Can Fix." I envisioned myself saying to my sweetie, Bill, "Okay, I've got a few spare hours. How about we put in some built-in bookcases? And oh yeah, let's add on to the kitchen. " Chicks Can Fix, huh? Ah, well. Not this chick. I'm thinking of using the drill for a planter or maybe a lamp. A door stop? A paper weight?
I'll bet you think I'm still sitting around, sulking, with a paper bag over my head. Wrong! Because a million (well, three) people have said, "Oh, it's not THAT BAD." Which felt roughly equivalent to them saying, "I am awestruck by the genius of that haircut."
So. Back to real life. Which is: a sunny day, the kind of winter day I adore, where the brightness of the snow makes you squint, where the presence of the many birds on the feeder makes it seem like spring even if it's not. Those birds have so much to say to each other! Every day it's like a big birdie Tupperware party out there.