My latest essay is about Trump and the election, because what else is there to talk about?
But seriously folks, I wanted to understand why I took this one so hard (like a lot of people). When I dug down, I realized it had something to do with my body. Let’s just say that getting an IUD seemed like a fitting coda to the election of 2016.
It’s about anger and resistance and the things we bury that come screaming to the surface when we least expect it. I hope you enjoy it.
“I wish I could say that getting an IUD in the waning days of the Obama administration was an act of political resistance. It wasn’t.
My doctor had been suggesting one for a while so the timing was purely coincidental. However, it seemed fitting that I close up shop, reproductively speaking, in the days before Donald Trump’s inauguration.
It was also the day of Trump’s first press conference as president-elect. Before my appointment, I sat down in front of the television to watch, not on the sofa where I might have been comfortable but perched on the edge of an arm chair, ready to pounce, or run.”
Yesterday marked the end of my year-long Gurfein Fellowship at Sarah Lawrence College. Through the generosity of Kathryn Gurfein, I had the opportunity to work one-on-one with novelist and short story writer Marian Thurm.
I read from the first chapter of my novel-in-progress, A Last Innocent Year, to an audience that included friends and family. The novel tells the story of Isabel Rosen, a girl in her final semester at Wilder College who finds herself drawn into an affair with a married professor. Isabel, a working class Jewish girl from New York, has always been a fish out of water at Wilder, a small, conservative school tucked in the leafy hills of New Hampshire, but as the affair intensifies, the life she has created for herself begins to unravel. Set in 1995, My Last Innocent Year explores themes of class, creativity, gender, sexuality and power set in a specific historic moment, but also at a very personal moment of transition: the time just before you leave college and begin to imagine a place for yourself in the world.
Here is a short bit of what I read:
“Jason and I continued across campus, walking through deep trenches carved in the snow. The cold air swirled inside me, a strong breeze through a stuffy room, and I imagined it burning away the grit that had lodged there after two weeks in New York. Wilder College still felt like a miracle to me: the symmetrical white buildings that framed the campus green, the brick library with its tall clock tower. It was the kind of place that inspired nostalgia even while you were still there. When I was older, four years would zip by in a flash—I’d turn around and find I’d lived somewhere for six years and still feel like I’d just moved in—but it felt as though I’d been at Wilder forever. At 22, I hadn’t yet placed myself in perspective, that as college students we were always on our way out, the campus shedding students the way a snake sheds its skin: slowly but inexorably, the edges always moving out to make way for the new.”
The essay isn’t available online, but you can download a digital copy of the issue here. You can read a little bit about the story behind the essay here.
I told a version of this story at my mother’s memorial service in 2000. At the time, her death felt very much like a car crash: quick, unexpected and violent. My dear friend Peggy Tagliarino came up to me afterwards and urged me to write the story. And so I did.
Here’s a short excerpt:
“The summer I was 26, my mother and I traveled together to the south of France. She was spending a week at the vacation home of friends on the French Riviera and had invited me to tag along. I thought perhaps I was a bit too old to still vacation with my mother, but since I couldn’t afford to take a European trip on my own, I jumped at the invitation.
Being asked to spend a week at someone’s home in France was the kind of thing that happened to my mother and never h
appened to me. I had spent most of my life suspecting she was cooler than me—she was Swedish, spoke seven languages and was a successful fashion executive—but now the distinction seemed starker than ever. While I struggled with low-paying jobs, roommate dramas and small apartments, she was thriving. At 55, her marriage to my father over and my brother and I living on our own, she threw herself into her work and friends and traveled whenever she had the opportunity: white-water rafting in the Grand Canyon, biking through Eastern Europe, skiing in Utah. Her eclectic group of friends invited her everywhere, and I could understand why; she was affable, energetic and up for anything.”
My latest essay, on the link between memories and stuff, is up today at Motherwell.
(And if you’re not reading Motherwell yet, well, you should. You can follow them on Facebook or Instagram, or sign up for their newsletter here.)
Thanks for reading, commenting and sharing!
In my family, I am both the closet cleaner and the memory keeper, the one who decides what stays and what goes—Are we keeping this notebook? Can I toss this Barbie shoe? What are we doing about the Lego? And I’m good at it: I can whittle down a sock drawer or toy basket with the best of them. But I am also the person who remembers things, like which painting my daughter Ellie had in the first grade art show (the one of the flower vase) and where I’ve stored the gown both boys wore at their bris ceremonies (oh no, wait—now I remember only Sam wore it because when Oliver was born I couldn’t find it and he borrowed his cousin’s). At times, it is an uneasy alliance because while I am the one who tosses things—there are only so many science journals or Mother’s Day cards a person can save without ending up on Hoarders—I know that in the act of discarding, something else always gets lost.
Read my latest essay, “Seven and still sucking his thumb,” in the inaugural issue of Motherwell Magazine (www.motherwellmag.com). I’m thrilled to be part of this launch, which features essays by some of my absolute favorite writers. Check it out: you won’t be disappointed! And then follow Motherwell on Facebook to be part of the conversation.
The baby comes out of the womb ready to suck, its tiny, toothless mouth as powerful as a Hoover and, more often than not, clamped onto your nipple. In the early days of new motherhood, I prayed my babies would find something— anything—to suck that wasn’t attached to my body. So when Oliver, my youngest, found his thumb, I collapsed with relief and exhaustion. “Be careful,” my mother-in-law told me, “the thumb is harder to take away than the pacifier.” Whatever, I thought, adding that to the long list of things I would worry about later.
I’m happy to share my latest essay, published in the Dartmouth Alumni Magazine. I wrote it shortly after returning from my twentieth college reunion last June. I had attended earlier reunions, but this one hit me hard, I think because everyone was more vulnerable and real. We were ready to admit what our college years had meant to us and also willing to reveal the ways in which life had surprised us–and maybe even let us down. I wanted to bathe in it forever.
Was I really going to reunion? I was busy, my schedule impossible. And reunions were lame, the epitome of all the rah-rah hokum I’d avoided when I was in college. Yet here I was, making the drive up I-91 with two friends, my heart pounding in an unexpectedly familiar way as we got off at exit 13. Back on campus for the first time in years, time telescoped in and out, life at Dartmouth seeming both a minute and a century ago….