I am very good at compartmentalizing. I put things in boxes and baskets all over my house, corralling, herding, filing until there is enough order for me to move on. Those containers are real but there are virtual ones, too. My mother’s death is in a box, as is her life. My father’s ongoing health dramas are packed into a larger box these days. Looking for a ‘forever house’ is in a box marked “I’ve really got to get on that.” London is in a crate marked “Home.” My sons each have a box labeled “College” and my daughter has one currently called “Who the hell is this kid?” Finally, my writing has its own box and I take it out each day. I try to determine what story I will tell and how I’ll tell it. Sometimes I try to remember what I thought I was doing when I started writing at all.
I spent a bare 24 hours in deepest, darkest Wiltshire last week. It isn’t that deep, a couple of hours outside London and it isn’t that dark, the sun duked it out with the rain the whole time we were there. And let’s be honest, 24 hours is hardly a trip, it’s a ‘tripette’ as my friend Fiona would say. In fact, she did say it as we piled into the car with my husband.
My husband is bald. Elegantly, handsomely bald. This has been a fact of his life, and mine, for more than ten years. It snuck up on him when he was in mid-thirties and completely overtook him by the time he was forty. That’s when I gave him a buzz clipper for his birthday. His face fell so far he looked like a Dali. I pictured a kind of ‘Out of Africa’ hair-washing scene with me in the Robert Redford role (damn it). David saw a ‘Mommy Dearest’ Bon Ami moment (No more silly comb overs!). After he’d buzzed it off with a number 3 blade–just a hint of spikiness, not a ‘do’ per se but not an invalid-ish hairless-ness–he never went back.
One of my first jobs was at a not-for-profit think tank. I figured out pretty damn quick that I needed profit to live in New York City. I also noticed that at 23 I was too easily distract–oooh, something shiny!–ed to do much of the thinking thing. So, wisely, I went to work in publishing. I mean, I read walking down the street, surely I would really focus if it was my job.