Friday, June 29, 2012

coming around again

i don't remember what year i first saw the movie Heartburn, but i know Meryl Streep singing itsy-bitsy spider to her little boy and the baby she held in the carrier at her chest spoke to me. and Carly Simon singing the words: ... pay the grocer/ Fix the toaster/Kiss the host good-bye/then you break a window/burn the souffle/scream the lullaby... well, that was right where i was at that minute in my life. 

small babies. husband who worked all the time and came home a bit rattled from the traffic outside and all the baby noises inside and i was just tired, all the time and if i am honest just a little bit angry that i wasn't writing and i wanted to throw something at somebody, maybe even a pie like Meryl eventually did but that would not have been ladylike. and i didn't happen to make pies very often in those days.

and though i knew my husband was not carrying on like Jack Nicholson (he was just trying to pay the bills), he had been a pretty good reporter like Carl Bernstein and that fact was one of the reasons i had fallen in love with him in the first place. and we were both writers as Carl and Nora Ephron were and so there was that, too. i just identified with Meryl's and just watching the film somehow i knew deep where it matters that there would be a good day or two ahead of me even though i was spending more than a few of my current days crying on the back porch because the baby inside the house wouldn't stop. crying. either of us.

i know more than anything that i wanted to write a story like that one day, one that would be funny and sad at the same time and real, about the things that go on every day but you are too busy to miss their meaning.

like what makes you go out and cry on the back porch on a sweltering Georgia afternoon feeling quite sorry for yourself and homesick and then looking up at the wisteria growing over the top of porch then thinking you really need to get the hedge clippers out and trim it, not knowing one thing about wisteria except that it seemed to be wrapping your house with itself. and that thought leads to the fact that you didn't really like the house nor the 18 percent interest rate or the fact that it faced North Decatur Road and that leads to realizing that Scarlett O'Hara's mill was on N Decatur Rd and you are sure Scarlett didn't have to deal with all the traffic that you do just walking to the mailbox. and then you have to laugh at the absurdity of that picture, Scarlett walking to your mailbox in her pretty white taffeta with the green trim and asking the kind gentlemen in the buggy blocking your driveway to please step aside because she is late to lunch at Tara and so you pick yourself up and go back into the house and take the crying baby into your lap and rock yourselves into feeling better.

like the time tornadoes swept through downtown Atlanta (no, i'll not say like Sherman) and my husband worked for the power company (he was no lineman for the county, but a pr flack) and having been through a tornado myself before i got the baby and the dog in our little hallway and put our tiny tv on a kitchen chair so i could watch the weather. and when the lights went out and the sump pump stopped working and the basement thought about flooding and my husband didn't come home i put the baby to bed and somehow had the best night's sleep i had had in a year. things like that.

Nora Ephron had done that, taken a magnifying glass to her own life, poking around long enough to find the funny in the middle of all the pain.

then there was When Harry Met Sally, then Sleepless in Seattle, You've Got Mail — which I didn't love at first but can't stop watching whenever it comes on tv now — and i thought every single time, well, she has done it again, that Nora, lived right inside my head and put what i was thinking down on paper. who is brave enough to do that? go inside a woman's head and reveal what she is making those around her think she thinks, and then say, too, what she is really thinking?

certainly not me. i was too busy raising my kids and trying to write sweet about it at the same time and hiding what i was really feeling from pretty much everybody around.

because that was more ladylike than the alternative.

in the days since Nora died i have read a dozen articles about her, how she basically was the funniest friend you'd ever want to have, and that she was a real champion for women writers trying to make a go of it. to write the funny, sad truth about life. 

there is that line in Sleepless in Seattle, when Rosie O'Donnell's character is talking to Meg Ryan and she says: you don't want to be in love, you want to be in love in a movie. don't we all? with the nice lighting and just the right soundtrack and the overstuffed sofas and the bookcases to the ceiling and the apartment that looks out over the streets of NYC but you don't hear any of the noise? who doesn't want to be in love like that, even at my age? 

and the scene where Meg is standing on the side of the road watching at Tom Hanks greets his real life wife (who is not his wife in film) and Meg later says to Rosie that she looked like somebody they would want to be friends with. not that i ever could have been but watching her movies made me feel like Nora was someone i wish i had as a friend. because she was writing so much of what i was feeling, that somehow in the middle of a sweltering friday afternoon in the middle of the summer you could still believe you could fall the tiniest bit in love with your husband again even though the baby wouldn't stop crying and there were toys all over the floor.

maybe that's just me. but i know when i was that young mother, and as i got a little older, too, i remembered because Nora's words told me, how it felt to know something important about someone just by the way their hand felt holding yours. because of her i imagined how it would feel to every now and then to be that... in love in a movie. or to have someone describe you to someone else like Tom Hanks described his movie wife in Sleepless. just watching her peel an apple was enough for him. 

truth be known, i have more than once daydreamed that once i finally finish my novel that dear Nora would read it and want to make a movie starring Meryl and Sissy Spacek and Holly Hunter with Tom Hanks as the aging love interest because i can so see them in it.

ok, so that's a pretty big daydream. besides, Tom and Meryl will likely be in a retirement home by the time i finish it. 

but every single time i watch Julie & Julia and Julie falls exhausted on her bed after she punches the answering machine button and call after call is from agents and publishers all because she has a BLOG, well, i cry every time, buckets, because that is my 
dream right there in living color.

never mind that i have absolutely nothing in common with Nora. raised in a jewish family in nyc and the daughter of screenwriters, she could not have lived a more different life than this little eastern nc episcopalian. but knowing that just shows me that when you get right down to it, we are all pretty much the same, at least on the inside.

i guess what i have been trying to say in all of this is thank you to Nora, for showing me that even in the middle of living your life with all its bewildering twists and turns there is usually a pretty good story in there somewhere, a story with deep truths about human connection. and even in the sad parts there is always room to laugh at yourself. so thank you. for showing me that there is story in everything. it's just a matter of how close you look. and if you miss it the first time, it will be coming around again soon. 

writemuch.blogspot is the original work of author susan byrum rountree. all written work and photography is copyright protected and can only be used with written permission of the author.