The 5 Year Gap

Today I pulled up an old file titled “Favorite Books.”

My computer says this file was “Created Saturday, April 8, 2006 at 9:43 a.m.”  I scan the list and am immediately disappointed to see what’s missing — no Beloved, no The Liar’s Club, no A Thousand Acres?

I feel even worse about what’s there.  I mean, Pope Joan was an enjoyable story to read, but an all-time favorite?  No way.


April 8, 2006.  9:43 a.m.  A Saturday.

I’m living in Minnesota.  I’m living in Minnesota, where I’ve lived for 12 years, and I don’t have a clue, not one iota of an inkling, that in 9 months I’ll be living in California.

A month earlier, to escape the long winter, I’d visited a friend in the south of France.  I took this photo looking down from Eze Village.

A month from now, I’ll be reading Wallace Stegner’s Crossing to Safety.  I remember this because while I’m reading it my best friend and I will begin our irreparable break up.  A split that will leave me more hurt, and hurt longer, than any romantic breakup I’ve ever had.  This was my bookshelf in April 2006.  A photo of me and my friend is just left of center.  Her head leans toward mine.  We are so small, so blurry.


On April 8, 2006 at 9:43 a.m., this is where I was.  Today, 5 years on, more than 1/2 these books would not make my list.  I am no longer that person.  Where were you 5 years ago?

Ordinary People
Pillars of the Earth
Joy Luck Club
The Kitchen God’s Wife
Prince of Tides
The Poisonwood Bible
The Pianist
The Godfather
The Handmaid’s Tale
The Kite Runner
The Kiss
Bastard Out of Carolina
Angela’s Ashes
Into Thin Air
The Color of Water
Pope Joan
Lonesome Dove
Terms of Endearment
A Map of The World
The Hours
Sophie’s Choice
Smilla’s Sense of Snow

35 thoughts on “The 5 Year Gap

  1. macdougalstreetbaby

    At least you were reading, right? Your list makes me hang my head in shame. Would you believe I’ve only read a handful of the titles there? Five years ago I was crouched on the cold tile floor of my bathroom, tears rushing down my face, my hands pressed against my ears trying to silence the constant crying and whining from the other side, wondering if this was what my life would be like forever.

    I’m sorry you lost a friend. I know how painful that is.

    1. Teri

      And now you have a houseful of beautiful sailors and quiet when when the school bus comes. It’s interesting to look at chunks of time from a distance. It’s ironic how I always think I’m looking ahead, at what’s next, when in real life there’s no way to have a clue. All of my control-freak tendencies are completely for naught.

  2. amyg

    Five years ago this week, I was two-months pregnant. We were smack in the middle of rehabbing our house, the house I had lived in from ages 7 to 18 and then bought fourteen years later from my dad. Within in weeks, I would miscarriage. Within months, my husband and i would begin our final fights about my drinking and within a year, I would quit drinking altogether and finally end up pregnant again.

    five years ago, some of my favorite titles would have been:
    kavalier and clay
    the year of magical thinking
    fear of flying (still)
    the women’s room (still)

    1. Teri

      I just looked up The Women’s Room and ordered it. And that’s you and Lyra both for Kavalier and Clay, so I’m picking it back up soon.

      And out of that one paragraph, Amy, I see a whole book. Maybe memoir #2?

      1. Teri

        If you learn how to talk properly, we’ll have to start correcting you.

        I blame it on the crevasse between “the hub’s english” — mums and trolleys and whatnot — and your mother tongue. And the teaching French. See how confusing this would be?

      2. Deb

        I haven’t read The Women’s Room in 24 years. I was pregnant with my son and on bed rest. It’s time to pick it up again. I’m just afraid I’ll be reading it and raging at the air or yelling ‘hell yeah!’

  3. Lisa Golden

    I’m in awe of those bookshelves.

    Let’s see. Five years ago. I was working full time as an executive (laughable now!), making a long commute and managing the lives of a high schooler and two grade schoolers. I’d just started blogging which would lead to more writing. I watched TV more than I read, had finally decided to make the house we were living in a home and had begun painting every damn room, and hadn’t yet met the person who would start a chain of events that rippled into every crevasse of my life.

    Today the high schooler is gone, the grade schoolers have grown, the job is gone, the house is gone, the car I used to commute is gone and that person is gone. And so it the person I was.

    What lasted? The writing.

    In retrospect, 2006 was the calm before the storm.

    1. Teri

      The bookshelves were beautiful. And I built them in because I wasn’t moving. Bye bye bookshelves. And I think the new homeowners tore them out.

      And like I just said above for Amy, I see a book in that paragraph. In fact, it almost reads like the blurb on the back of a book, does it not?

  4. Laura Maylene

    Five years ago I was not yet married (and thought I never would be) and living alone in an apartment I loved for its fabulous light and hardwood floors and charming 1920s touches. I still had my old cat Whisper, who would have been about 19 then. I was working in a job that did not challenge me at all. I was writing short stories and going to writing groups but not trying to submit anything, except to MFA programs.

    I had no idea that instead of enrolling in an MFA program I’d end up in a new job right after moving into a new apartment with my boyfriend. And I had no idea that some of the short stories I was writing then would end up in my first published book five years later.

    1. Teri

      Laura, you have no idea how happy this post makes me. I’m glad you skipped the MFA — you didn’t need it! And how great that you were just writing the stories freely, not knowing you’d be packaging them later.

  5. girl in the hat

    Once I fall in love with a book, it’s forever. I still love two on your list– The Handmaid’s Tale and The Hours. Love, love!

    I guess I’m the same with people. I haven’t talked to my best friend in 13 years. We don’t talk but she’s still my best friend. Like a book I keep on the bookshelf. Don’t pick it up but I still remember. Maybe it’s better this way, but I’ll always love her.

    Thanks for this post! Dredging up these lovely, sappy thoughts!

    1. Teri

      I just re-read The Handmaid’s Tale last year. It holds up. Love that book. And if you’ve never listened to The Hours on audio, check it out. Michael Cunningham reads it himself and he’s very good.

  6. erikamarks

    I love that Lisa wrote: “What lasted? The writing.”

    Yes. THAT piece hasn’t changed. For any of us, I suspect.

    Five years ago, I was living in Northern Indiana, pregnant with my second daughter and having no idea that a group of amazing women writers would be meeting in Chicago in November 2011 and that I would have then been two hours away and able to be there too.

    (PS–Lisa, that hair of yours is absolutely swoon-worthy.)

  7. Lyra

    I LOVE this post…

    1) Those bookshelves are amazing.
    2) Some of those would have been on my list as well. The Kite Runner still holds up for me.

    Five years ago…I had a one year old and was doing miserably as a mom with a full time job with a commute that sucked out my soul. I started back running to run a marathon that would see me lose some weight and handle depression that has always been within arms reach. I was lonely for my friends back home, yet madly in love with my husband trying to convince myself that that was enough. I was trying to balance out my daughter who was having trouble with a new kid that she saw as mine and therefore she saw herself as not mine. I was begging my husband to think about another child even as I saw myself in a spiral of depression that was closer than either of us cared to admit. He didn’t want another one in hindsight because he saw what was happening to me.
    I wrote in dribs and drabs. I talked to my grandmother every Sunday. She told me writers write because they have to.
    I’m so glad I’m not in the place I was then, and that I know have all of you.
    As for the friend, my heart aches for you because sometimes it really is the end and it just hurts.

      1. Lyra

        I’ve spent three years trying to prove her wrong…

        Funny, the main character is named after her. I think she’d appreciate the irony. But man, would she go ballistic about the stuff I’m having her do…hehehe.

  8. oma

    Wow, I have read every book on your list except two. Great minds…. Five years ago I was in the middle of chemo and not feeling too well. I was reading quite a bit. I do remember lying in bed one night reading David Sedaris, I was laughing out loud, my mother (I had to move back in with my 78 year old parents, that was worse than the cancer) opened the door and said, “Denise whats wrong?” “Nothing, I’m just reading.” Well lets see, what could be wrong, I have breast cancer, I am still quite sore from surgery, I have to move in with my parents because I can’t afford to stay in my apartment, that I loved. I am so sick from chemo I can barely walk, and when chemo is over, I get to start radiation- 5 days a week for 8 weeks. Ain’t life grand! As my friend Jeano and I used to say, “Life’s a bitch and then you die.” But I am still here, asking everyone if they got their mammograms. And today is my favorite holiday, Happy Halloween everyone!

    1. Teri

      I remember this is your favorite holiday! It didn’t used to be mine, but how that I live here and the whole neighborhood goes so BONKERS over it, it’s rubbing off on me. I’ll try and post photos.

  9. Downith

    Five years ago I had a 4 year old and a 3 three year old. The 4 year old had just started school full time (I know) and fell asleep every day on the drive home from school. No one told the three year old that the terrible twos were supposed to stop when she turned three. The Hub was working away.

    Five years ago, I read headlines. On a good day.

  10. schietree

    I love this – and the fact you kept a list from back then, Now I wish I’d done that.

    Five years ago I was in Australia, waiting to go home to Scotland, It was so bright and hot in Sydney and I was bitterly lonely, with my boyfriend gone ahead of me early to start his masters. The PhD programme was awaiting me…I hadn’t really been tested. I hadn’t written more than two or three stories. Now the boyfriend is my husband, I wrote a novel, lived in Glasgow, lived in a bedbug ridden pit in New York, walked dogs for a semi-living, got an agent, moved back to Edinburgh…the next five years will be interesting too. Life is always moving us along…

    1. Teri

      Okay, I’m really glad you’re out of NYC and those bedbugs. I have the heebie-jeebies just reading that.

      I love that you hadn’t written more than 2 or 3 stories and now you’ve got an agent and a novel. It’s possible.

      1. schietree

        who knows if the novel will make it out in the world? I hope so, but can’t tell. Writing another one, just in case.

        Oh, Bedbugs are worth every shiver. I still have nightmares about them.

  11. Sherry Stanfa-Stanley

    Not much has changed in my reading choices from five years ago.

    Let’s talk fifteen years ago.

    I’ve found my reading interests have evolved from heavy stuff to lighter fare over the past decade and a half. As I’ve been through my own tough life experiences, I’ve needed more of an escape.

    I still enjoy an occasional sad memoir or dark fiction, but I read much more humor and lighter stuff than I used to.

    Interesting thought. I might have to make my own list… Heading to my bookshelves now…

    1. Teri

      This comment, Sherry, makes me wish for more really smart humor. I remember reading the memoir “A Girl Named Zippy” (which made me laugh so hard I cried) and wishing more nonfiction books were funny.

      Smart and funny. Kind of like your blog!

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