May Days

May is a mixed bag.  Here’s my list of the coming month’s anxieties and anticipations …

1. Opening the patio.  The rains here are officially finished.  We won’t see another drop — not one! — until probably November.  No kidding.  It’s time to get the big oak trestle table and cushioned chairs out of the garage, and invite the neighbors over for what we call “chosen-family dinner.”

2.  Reading outside.  This kind of goes with #1.  I’m 150 pages into Alexandra Stryon’s READING MY FATHER (which, so far, is to die for), and today I was able to sit outside under the crimson-colored, Japanese Maple, warm breezes blowing through, with this book on my lap …. aka, heaven.  Even if you’ve never read Styron, you would appreciate this daughter’s plunge into her father’s life.  Beautifully written, and revelatory.

3.  Mothers Day.  Good god, Mothers Day.  I dread it, or hate it, or both.  Oh, I hated it when my mother was alive, too, but for different reasons.  Mothers Day used to feel like an obligation, one established by Hallmark Cards and predicated on guilt.  Once a year we were all required by mass marketing to prove how much we loved our mothers, how much we thought about them, missed them, couldn’t exist without them.  We had to choose the right card.  We had to get that card in the mail on time — the two-day-late card being far, far worse than no card at all.  Now, of course, I wish I had to buy the damned card.

4.  Good friends and family.  We’re meeting one of our favorite couples for a long weekend.  There will be too much food, too much wine, and too much laughter.  We’ll also be in Indiana to visit my son and in-laws —- in-laws who don’t seem the least bit like in-laws at all.  Since my mother passed, these family visits are invaluable to me.

5.  AmyG !  In a couple of weeks, AmyG and I will be meeting at an undisclosed location.  🙂  I’m sure there will be (a) buku coffee, (b) hugging, (c) gossip, (d) photos (at least one!), and (e) commiserating about our writing lives.  Maybe her beautiful office / desk organization will rub off on me.

6.  E.L. Doctorow, for a reading one night and an “in conversation” the next day.  I will have to read his masterpiece, RAGTIME.  I’m ashamed to say I’ve never read a word of E.L. Doctorow.  Have you?

7.  Am I skinny yet?  This is about the time I start to panic about summer clothes.  Okay, I’m already really, really panicked.  I’m never as thin as I want to be when May rolls around.  Why do I always, always imagine I’ll magically be a size 6 — ha!! — by now????

8.  Gifts of this magi, running late.  This week I’ll be delivering gifts to my favorite professors, first editions of books they love.  Sometime tomorrow I need to sit down and write them the notes to go with the books, telling them how much and why I appreciate them, how much I’ll miss them now that I’m gone.

9.  Graduation.  Though I officially graduated in December, all the ceremonies are later this month.  For us MFA’s, we’ve got 3 official events, though I will only be attending one:  the big, all-school one.  Early on a Saturday morning, I’m going to don my robe and the big, brown-trimmed Masters hood, and take my place in line.  I have always loved school so much — I’m kinda sad it’s finished, even at age 45.

10.  WORK.  So much re-writing to be done on my book.  Thankfully it’s work I’m looking forward to plunging into.  And speaking of writing, here’s a little bit from Alexandra Styron’s book about her father’s (my icon’s) work habits:

The big living room was Daddy’s domain.  Here he read, watched the news, clinked ice around in his Scotch glass, and hid from the rest of us.  During the day, he wrote in the study in the little house.  But when evening came, he’d set his manuscript pages up at the bar and pace the gold shag carpet, making revisions to the day’s work with Mozart blaring on the hi-fi.

Here’s to family and friends, to the coming of Summer, to our literary and teaching heroes, to reading and working.  Maybe I’ll try a Scotch and some Mozart.

Cheers!

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24 thoughts on “May Days

  1. Oma

    Can’t wait to read A. Styron’s book about her father. Sophie’s Choice one of my favorites. I will finish Just Friends tonight. I have read all of Doctorow’s books. Congrats on graduation, have a good time with Aim, please take a picture and post it.

    1. Teri Post author

      Oma, if you love SOPHIE’S CHOICE you will love reading every detail about how he came to write it. I know bits and pieces, but this his daughter’s version (with all the detail leading up to the writing of it) gives a much broader view of things.

      Which Doctorow book would you suggest I start with?

      1. Oma

        I read Ragtime first. I loved it. Then I went back and read Book of Daniel, Waterworks was a fun read. The only book of his I haven’t read is Homer and Langley. Enjoy!

  2. erikamarks

    AmyG! I will confess I am envious of the great time you two will have–I think I speak for all of us when I say that we’d wish to join if we could. So that said, will there be pictures, video, vlogging, karaoke-via-skype? We’ll take whatever we can get! (BTW, It still riles me that I leave Indiana and THEN connect with you all.)

    Your May looks lush and flush from here, dear. Congratulations on graduating! Talk about a woman of mystery; where was I when this news was flashed? I had no idea you were getting your MFA–that’s a huge accomplishment. Cheers to you!

    And thanks too for the peek at Ms. Styron’s book. I’m awaiting my copy and the excerpt assures me it is every bit as revealing and spell-binding as I’m imagining.

  3. Sandra Bell Kirchman

    Grats on achieving your MFA. Your May and summer sound so organized…so that you know what you need, where you are going, where you might slip up…

    It sounds like heaven 🙂

  4. Downith

    May Day May Day – I’m exhausted from reading your list and jealous of much of it, including the meetup with Amy, no rain for months and your patio!

    Congratulations on the graduation and commiserations on number 7. The answer for me sadly is NO!

  5. josephinecarr

    I cleaned off my farmhouse porch, and I wrote out there yesterday evening. Sun going down, ice-cold martini, and glorious music piping straight into my ears, courtesy of Pandora.

    Congrats on the new degree! I would love to read just a sliver or slice of your writing?

    Finally, great little piece from the Styron memoir.

  6. MacDougal Street Baby

    I love your lists. Do you have hard copies lying about as well? Now, every time I’m out and about and I see a beautiful or quirky note pad, I will think of you.

    You and Amyg! How fabulous. Although I doubt you will, it will be okay with all of us if you end up trashed and dancing on the wooden bar. There is that much to celebrate. Just remember, if you don’t post at least one picture we’ll all be just a wee bit devastated. You have us all, in this moment, in the palm of your hands.

    Mother’s Day. Sigh. Too much to say but I’m right there with you. I only accept hand-made cards but my own mother loved those Hallmark ones. Because of that, I have a love/hate thing going on with them.

    Your recommendations are always so good. I’m going to put the Styron memoir on my list.

    And, finally, congratulations!!! So much hard work. Do you know who will be speaking? Whoever it is, may their words rain down on you in ways that will inspire you for years to come. I hope it’s a magical day.

    1. Teri Post author

      MSB, one of the things I’m enjoying most about the Styron book (and the whole thing is excellent) is her day-to-day accounting of how hard her father’s writing life was on him, his pains and struggles, his triumphs, and his relationships with other great writers of his time. Imagine Norman Mailler having cocktails in your living room, or James Baldwin staying in the guest house out back. Wow.

  7. Deb

    It sounds busy, but a wonderful way to welcome the summer. You’ve inspired me to firm up my own plans which are rattling about in the abstract.

    Congratulations on the graduation! A great accomplishment at any age – but maybe even better at 45. I appreciated school much more in my 30s than teens. I can’t imagine a more thoughtful gift for your professors. Just wow.

    I’m wondering if my husband is going to pop in for a surprise Mothers Day visit. It would be kind of silly to spend the money since he’s moving back in June, but I have a feeling. Womans intuition? I have to admit it would be pretty nice.

  8. lizisilver

    And now, dear Teri, you have one more item to add to your May list :). Please take a look at the post I published today.

    I’m dying to know what number 8 consists of! Tell us, please.

    1. Teri Post author

      Oh #8.

      We have 2 novels: Wallace Stegner’s ANGLE OF REPOSE (1971) and T.C. Boyle’s THE TORTILLA CURTAIN (1995). We had the best debates on classism, racism, and the immigration issue on the Boyle book. People literally stood up and banged fists on the table. It was fun as hell.

      One poetry volume: James Wright’s SHALL WE GATHER AT THE RIVER (1968). I’d never even heard of him before taking the class, and it turns out that he is now one of my favorite modern poets — a Midwesterner, his writing makes me long for (and love) my old home.

  9. Sherry Stanfa-Stanley

    Your list makes me envious: no lingering rain, Amy G, and a freaking MFA? But May is a month of hope for me, too: a promise of warm(er) weather, a glimmer of a new manuscript and a fully-paid writing fellowship at a writers retreat. Cheers to all of us!

    1. Teri Post author

      Sherry, a fellowship at a retreat would be like a dream come true. I hope you absolutely love it — can’t wait to hear all the juicy details!

  10. amyg

    two weeks, two weeks, two weeks!!!

    i was talking up our meet-up today with one of my cousins (she attended an all girls boarding school near our 1/2-way-meet mark).

    i’m so freaking excited.

    and then, two weeks after our meet-up, i’ve got a writing weekend planned for myself. so my may is going to be all about my writing life.

    the styron book sounds dreamy. i love that visual of him in his living room. and the story behind sophie’s choice almost seems unreal, as if that was written on some imaginary planet where writers of certain skill get to fly to and their ink is made of chocolate and they never doubt themselves or stall…at all. just one long continuous loop of a gorgeous novel. i know, i live in a fairy world most of the time.

    and now i’m joining the party late and can only wish you a belated CONGRATULATIONS on your MFA walk. what a freakin’ accomplishment. i can’t wait to hear all about it.

  11. Lyra

    Mother’s Day. I don’t know there is a more mixed-up day for me.
    My best friend’s dad died on Mother’s day. They’re Jewish, so you gather at the house immediately. Her mother was in denial (read: she denied it, utterly) and the flowers that he had sent arrived, me paying the delivery guy, me holding the flowers trying to think of what to do. i was 19. Her mother at the top of the stairs staring at the flowers. Smiling and telling me happily to put them in the kitchen. I walked past her and put them in the kitchen.

    The same friend had her second baby girl on Mother’s day, which of course falls on a different day of the year. Her birth was on the anniversary of my friend’s father’s death. Fifteen years or so years later.

    Life is complicated.

  12. Laura

    My mother’s birthday was in mid-May, and occasionally it even fell on Mother’s Day. In the first years following her death, I dreaded May. Now it’s much easier, but the month still provides back-to-back reminders.

    This year, on her birthday, I’ll be with my brothers to celebrate a graduation. It will probably be the first time we’ve all been together on her birthday since she was alive, I’m guessing.

    1. Teri Post author

      Laura, I hope your time with your brothers is a joyful one. My 2 brothers and I have rarely spoken or seen each other since our mother’s death — a whole story in itself.

  13. lisahgolden

    What a month! Congratulations on achieving your MFA. That’s fabulous!

    I’m sure you and amyg are going to have a wonderful time. The rest of us will be dying to hear about the meet up.

    I haven’t read any Doctorow, but I picked up All the Time in the World, a collection of short stories at the library on Friday. I’m looking forward to reading it.

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