no cows to milk

pen-paper-writing

Sometimes you wake up at four in the morning
with all this energy and no cows to milk.
So you just have to get up and
figure out what it’s there for.
Use it or lose it.
If you’re lucky
some part of you will know what to do,
but it’s not the part that thinks its steering.
Make sure you have your notebook and a pen.

~ Abigail Thomas, Thinking About Memoir


Photo: Anne with Where My Deepest Dreams and Desires Are Hatched

Sunday Afternoon: Dwindles to a wisp

fading-light-portrait-eye

When I was young, and for a long time afterward, Sunday afternoons were melancholy. I used to blame it on memories on my father retiring alone to his study to listen to classical music. I didn’t like classical music. It made me uneasy…I didn’t like the closed door.

But I think something else was going on. The span of a week is a reminder of the finite, even to the young. And powerful Sunday, which starts out fat and lazy, stretching endlessly ahead, dwindles to a wisp, and just like that, it’s over.

~ Abigail Thomas, Thinking About Memoir


Notes:

me me me me me me

chocolate-chip-cookies

A couple of years ago my sister Judy and I were each given a box of truffles. The tiny print said two pieces contained 310 calories and there were six pieces in each box. We were seating in the bus heading downtown, quietly downing our calculations.  Judy was dividing by two and I was multiplying by three.  When she realized what I was doing, a look came over her face that was hard to describe. “I lost all hope for you,” she says now. The difference between us could not have been more clearly defined at that moment.  There are people who can eat one piece of chocolate, one piece of cake, drink one glass of wine.  There are even people who smoke one or two cigarettes a week. And then there are people for whom one of anything is not even an option.

~ Abigail Thomas, Thinking About Memoir


Photo: jaimejustelaphoto

 

My Truth

abigail-thomas

My editor turned it down. She wanted me to write a novel about that marriage, what went wrong, what went right, then friendship, illness, and death. But life doesn’t arrange itself conveniently into chapters – not mine, anyway. And I didn’t want to write a novel. My life didn’t feel like a novel. It felt like a million moments. I didn’t want to make anything fit together. I didn’t want to make anything up. I didn’t want it to make sense the way I understand a novel to make a kind of sense. I didn’t want anywhere to hide. I didn’t want to be able to duck. I wanted the shock of truth. I wanted moments that felt like body blows. I wanted moments of pure hilarity, connected to nothing that came before or after. I wanted it to feel like the way I’ve lived my life. And I wanted to tell the truth. My truth doesn’t travel in a straight line, it zigzags, detours, doubles back. Most truths I have to learn over and over again.

~ Abigail Thomas, Thinking About Memoir


Notes:

Inhale

noxzema

Sometimes all you have to do is open a jar. The smell of Noxzema takes me back to the summer of 1957, and the front seat of the old Hudson my boyfriend drove, and how we parked at the Amagansett beach at night and made out like crazy, and afterward I was afraid I was pregnant, even though we didn’t do anything but kiss. The fear and the pleasure are as fresh to me every time I smell the stuff, and I keep a jar around so I can remember being young.

~ Abigail Thomas, Thinking About Memoir


Image: gabysbeautyblog

 

If I like something, I like it a lot. (Simpatico)

color-hands-portrait-paint

My friend Denise tells me somebody told her, “Shopping is despair,” but my daughter Jennifer says, “Shopping is hope.” Hope gets out of hand. One turquoise ring from eBay is not enough. I must have five. A single secondhand Coach bag is not satisfying – I bid on seven. As I have implied, one is not a concept I understand. When I smoked I smoked three packs a day, when I drank, well, let’s not get into that. If your psyche is a balloon animal and you squeeze to eliminate the cigarettes and whiskey, the crazy has to go somewhere. A friend’s mother ate nothing but clams for six months. Morning, noon, and night, nothing but clams for six months.  “I don’t know what it is – I can’t seem to get enough of them,” she told her son. He shakes his head, but i understand. I eat nothing but broccoli for a month, then yogurt for six days, then (for one glorious week) lamb chops. One day I roasted a chicken and had seven chicken sandwiches before nightfall. If I like something, I like it a lot. Just one doesn’t cut it. I don’t know what it is I can’t get enough of. At least I don’t have shopping bags full of duck sauce.

~ Abigail Thomas, Thinking About Memoir


Photo Source: weheartit

Because what are we without five minutes ago?

street-art-paint-roller

My husband, Rich, lost his memory after he was hit by a car and suffered traumatic brain injury. In a moment of perfect clarity he once described his loss like this. “Pretend you are walking up the street with your friend. You are looking in windows. But right behind you is a man with a huge paint roller filled with white paint and he is painting over everywhere you’ve been, erasing everything. He erases your friend. You don’t even remember his name.” It’s terrifying. Because we are we without five minutes ago? What are we without our stories? Where is the continuum of consciousness? Is it all one big lily pad of a moment?

~ Abigail Thomas, Thinking About Memoir


Image: Street Art via mennyfox55

And I know now what a moment can hold

bath-tub

And then I hear the water rumbling into the tub. Naked, the baby’s arms and long legs flail against the bare air, and she wails. “Oh you,” I whisper, unable yet to call her by my name, “it’s all right.” I want my joy pure, I want to get rid of the echo in my head. This is my granddaughter, named for me. This beautiful child. I gather her up, nuzzling her soft face, and bring her into the bathroom, and my daughter, her breasts heavy with milk, reaches up her arms for the child. The moment she is lowered into the water the baby stops crying, her body goes limp, her eyelids drop—it all happens at once. Under her half-closed lids her irises are now moving left to right, over and over, rhythmically, as if to a beat. At first I am afraid, and put my hand in the water to make sure it’s not too hot, but it is fine, comfortable. We don’t speak, but my daughter touches my arm as we realize what we are looking at, what the two of us are being shown. This is the face of the unborn child. And I know now what a moment can hold.

~ Abigail Thomas, What the Moment Can Hold. Safekeeping: Some True Stories from a Life


Photo: With Love and Light

It would just be there

face-close-up-eyes-closed

I lie awake,
wishing I had faith of some kind.
I’ve caught glimpses of it now and then,
I can even conjure it up for a second or two,
but it fades.
It’s a stillness,
the polar opposite of worry.
It isn’t hope;
hope has too much energy,
requires constant renewal;
faith (if I had it) would just be there.

~ Abigail Thomas, Safekeeping: Some True Stories From a Life


Photograph: A. Sprigg via Precious Things

Saturday Morning. 4 am.

http://serrahrussell.com/equivalents/ddtdyna0o1folzm6dzmpy5kz32j2lb

But now it is four in the morning and she is still awake while her husband breathes regularly and sweetly beside her. When she tires of listening to him breathe, which takes a long time because he sounds like a child and it is beautiful to hear, she comes into the other room and looks out her window uptown and at the lights on the river. Now and then opening a can of tuna fish and thinking this fish in this room on 112th Street was originally swimming in the deep Atlantic and now it is here on the thirteenth floor. What a miracle, although not for the fish. Still. You can appreciate things at four in the morning that would go right past you during the day.

~ Abigail Thomas, She has had insomnia. Safekeeping: Some True Stories from a Life


Image Source – Precious Things – Serrah Russel, Equivalents

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