My mother sends newspaper clippings along with handwritten notes on monogrammed bird stationery, thanking me for flowers I sent or reminding me about birthdays, and in order to fill up both sides of the paper she likes to toss in little non sequiturs about the weather or grocery shopping or the kind of trash she picked up on her morning walk. (“Found another pack of cigarettes with three cigarettes still inside! I threw them away.”) The latest, which came between “Chris’ birthday is next Thurs. (the 20th)” and “thanks again”:
We had to have the dishwasher fixed today. A small piece of glass was caught in the drain & the water wouldn’t drain out. ($141) Next time a glass breaks while in the dishwasher, we’ll make sure we have all the pieces.
Well! The facts are out! In a single paragraph she has not only sketched for the reader an outline of the problem and its genesis with a grasp of detail worthy of Pulitzer-Prize-winning novelist Marilynne Robinson, she has cataloged the cost of her concern and the lesson she has drawn from it. Yet nowhere is this episode colored by self-pity or blame or emotion of any kind. Listen, she’s saying, sometimes things break, and we pay money to clean them up, money we do not intend to pay twice because there will be no second time around.
This week’s clipping was about the sister of a girl I went to high school with who is the publicist of authoress Stephanie Meyer and who recently published a young adult novel herself that has just been optioned for the talkies. It’s a nice article about someone I know only marginally by association and would never recognize if I ran over her in the streets of the city in which we both now happen to live, and is also intended as a gentle nudge in my direction, i.e. to get off my lazy damn ass and write a book. Unfortunately the part with which I most closely identified was where this publicist/novelist/hometown girl/total stranger purposely never told her parents that she was writing a novel because she didn’t want them asking how it was going every time they called. So I highlighted that section and mailed it back to my mother, along with a handwritten note about how nothing ever breaks in my dishwasher because that’s where I keep my panties.