For me, much of this week was all about Nora Ephron.
On a drive home last Tuesday, all three boys asked, 'What is it?' after hearing me gasp. I had turned the radio up as soon as I heard Nora Ephron's name, thinking “What luck--an interview with Nora!” And instead they announced that she had died at age 71.
My first reaction was "Impossible. I have unfinished business with her." As if I had heard an old flame had gotten married. Conversations and collaborations in my head that some part of me thought were really going to happen *someday*.
Second reaction, how is it possible that she was older than my mother? Obviously, part of the reason I adore her---get her---is because she was the same generation as my mother. So when Jack Nicholson starts singing "My Boy Bill" in Heartburn, I thought it hilarious. Just like I know all the old movies mentioned in Sleepless in Seattle. And recognized that “You’ve Got Mail” was a remake of “Little Shop Around the Corner.” But in so many other ways, perhaps because my mom came from Ireland or married an older man, they were not in the same generation.
I was sixteen, with my very first broken heart, when I saw "Heartburn" and fell in love with Nora Ephron and her words. Carly Simon sang "Coming Round Again" at the end while Meryl Streep played Itsy Bitsy Spider with her daughter and I felt hope that love really would come round again. I still have my paperback copy of it from 1987. My favorite passage of her writing comes from a scene between Rachel, the main character, and her therapist, Vera:
I can still picture the maze of book stacks at Black Star bookstore on Sheridan Road in Chicago and coming across her collection of essays called Crazy Salad when I was 18. Not even close to her best work, but reading it was a revelation for me.Vera said, “Why do you feel you have to turn everything into a story?”So I told her why: Because if I tell the story I control the version.Because if I tell the story, I can make you laugh, and I would rather have you laugh at me than feel sorry for me.Because if I tell the story, it doesn’t hurt as much. Because if I tell the story, I can get on with it.
And then "Harry Met Sally" came out that winter. My mom, sisters and I all went together but the theater was packed and we weren't able to all sit together. There’s nothing like seeing a comedy with a great audience. I remember wanting to turn around and look at my sisters for their reactions.
I was only 20 years old when I started dating Brian, and thought that a ridiculously young age to commit to anyone. But I found Ephron’s line to be true: “When you find the person you want to spend the rest of your life with, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.”
A few years later while Mom was visiting me in Tucson, my best friend Angie and I took our moms to see a double-feature of "Sleepless in Seattle" and "Cascablanca" at the UA theater. “You’ve Got Mail” is better each time I see it. I didn’t believe my friend Scott when he told me “Mixed Nuts” was a bomb, and he was so determined to prove it to me, he went to see it again with me. I conceded, but I loved Nora even more for having taken the risk and showing that failure is part of success. I'm so glad my mom got to see "Julie and Julia"; she, like Nora, loved Julia Child. I loved that Nora’s writing didn’t turn a blind eye to the challenges of living----she saw corruption, the inevitable loss and pain and still, always it seems, sought beauty to still enjoy---a dish worth trying, an adventure worth taking, a love worth risking ----because there’s “more room in a broken heart” and the spider always climbs back up that sprout.
In her last book I Remember Nothing, Ephron wrote a piece called "What I won't miss" and "What I will miss"; I think she knew it was her last book. And now I'm glad I bought it, in hardcover ---a rarity for me. It was the least I could do.