Yesterday morning, before I left the house, I had to empty out the six inches of Stuff that had accumulated at the bottom of my bag. It occurred to me as I sifted that I was one of Those Women that Nora Ephron had written about– one who was Bad At Purses.
I paused for a moment to consider my bag (but not too long because we were already late out the door) and whether or not I hated my purse the way Nora Ephron hates hers (the reasons for which she chronicled in her essay, I Hate My Purse.)
I decided, as I took into account the pile of Post-Its (some used, some new, and who can really tell the difference?), business cards, the lone tampon, an old rumpled check, three pay stubs, two tubes of Carmex, a myriad of napkins, a handful of markers and one straw that had wriggled free of its wrapping– that I do not hate my purse.
I’m just bad at it.
As coincidence would serve, I managed to refill my purse a lot faster than I had emptied it. In went the wallet, the laptop, the Moleskine, the passport and the Thank-You cards I still need to write. It laid there, half-spilling, sort of lifeless on the bed, bloated again with Stuff. New Stuff. But still.
James looked at me: “Do you need a new bag?”
“I think I could use one with a bit more structure, toward the bottom,” I told him as I picked my bag up and set it on the floor. On cue, it flipped onto its side and started spewing its contents onto the bedroom floor. I nodded, “Every time I set this one down, it flips over and empties itself out.” As proven, this was not untrue.
But it was not until later in the day when I (also coincidentally) realized that I had forgotten to put all the writing I meant to edit into my bag that Bigger Things were set into motion. With nothing to edit and 2.5 hours to kill before I met Rosa, I had a lot of time to kill and a very short attention span. My phone was dying, so instead of reading my Kindle App I decided to wander from Bryant Park to 46th/ Fifth Ave to buy a Real Book With Pages at Barnes and Noble. Specifically, I was in the market for another dose of Nora Ephron. I wanted to get Heartburn.
I flirted for a couple moments with the idea of instead getting a Chelsea Handler book, but let’s be honest. Chelsea is funny and all, but she’s no Nora. The more I read, the more Heartburn made me want to write. The more it also made me want to write a cook book, or, anyway, any sort of book that would then somehow cross my path with Nora’s and give me an excuse to invite her over for lunch.
Lunch, I think, is the new dinner, where you can prepare almost anything without the meal taking itself too seriously. Lunch is my third-favorite meal, after Brunch and Dessert (which, in my opinion, is a meal all itself if you eat it properly).
I read on the steps of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral (because if you happen to be in that neighborhood and you’re clearly a local, then why not? So I did.) I often gravitate to that cathedral, anyway, because that’s where my father and I light candles for Mimi and Papa whenever he visits, which is exactly what I did after I read Heartburn for a bit.
Now, to be fair, I didn’t have the $2 cash suggested donation for the candle-offering. I had $.67 cents, total. But I also had a serious case of dehydration because I had given the water I purchased with my lunch to a thirsty-looking homeless lady (who asked me for change before I realized I had $.67 cents I could have spared). She needed the water more, anyway. I did the math in my head and reasoned that I had not only given water to the needy, but had given my last pennies as an offering. From what I remember of the Bible, Sweet Baby Jesus would probably have been satisfied with all this benevolence as Better Than $2. So I lit a candle and said a prayer for Mimi and Papa and headed out on my way.
Now you should know that I absolutely did not leave the church with the intention of buying a new dress, but these things just tend to happen to me, planned or (more often) not. Had I not popped into Ann Taylor, though, two very startling revelations may never have occurred to me, revelations that are certain to Change My Life Forever.
1. I dress alarmingly like my grandmother used to (and, moreover, this does not bother me in the slightest).
2. I truly believe that Nora Ephron is one of the best writers, ever and one of my life-goals is to one day have someone, somewhere, review my work and say, “This young lady is the next Nora Eprhon!” … or something to that tune.
She’s one of the Best Ever, and I’ll maintain that to my death, and I’ll tell you why: She writes in a way that really lets a certain kind of woman (the kind that are bad at purses and run commentary to themselves as they cook supper) really latch on to what she’s saying.
Her writing has it all– the meat and potatoes and even the pie (and sometimes, even the recipes). If you’ve ever lost something in your apartment only to look down after an hour of searching to find it was in your hand all along, her words are for you. If you’re perpetually a step behind on the maintenance of your cuticles, eyebrows, bunyons, under-eye circles or leg hair, her words are for you. If you have ever, a single moment in your life, spelled out your perfectly rational behavior only to have your significant other look at you like the lunatic you are, her words, my dear, are for you.
Which explains in no small way why her words are so much for me.
Every time I lose my voice or style or tone, I read Nora and I always find them again shortly thereafter. Her writing summons them back again like bashful children who wandered off without permission, their faces taught with timid smiles as they shuffle their feet. Hullo, they say. Sorry to keep you waiting.
How it took me so long to realize this about her and her writing and its effect on me is beyond me, but there it is, all because I bought a scarf along with my new dress– a scarf Nora would probably love.
And it’s not– as Nora might guess– because I’m starting to hate my neck.
I just also happen to really love scarves.