Laurie Colwin — my mentor in the kitchen & on the page

photo copy 2 - Version 2I once bought a black speckled canning pot, two boxes of Ball jars, and twelve pounds of dusky Italian plums in memory of an author I loved.

For years, I’ve suspected I was one of a few remaining Laurie Colwin aficionados, a smallish but loyal band of readers of a certain age and sensibility who still hold her close in our hearts, afford her books prime space on our shelves, and continue to make her signature dishes in our kitchens.

So it was rather wonderful, though a bit startling, to discover in the pages of the New York Times this week that I’m not alone after all. That in fact, in the more than twenty years since her death, Laurie’s following has only grown, attracting “a new, cultishly devoted generation of readers,” many of whom are in their thirties or even younger.

Turns out, Laurie Colwin is bigger than ever. Her books, never out of print, are selling briskly. Some of her most zealous disciples today were toddlers when she died in 1992. Somehow, knowing about her expanding fan base gives me hope — not only for this new generation of readers, secret romantics, and home cooks, but also for the survival of such humble institutions as tea parties, afternoon picnics, and family dinners. [continue...]

Motherhood Realized

motherhood jacket imageFlying to the west coast recently, I found myself seated on the plane alongside a young couple. They appeared to be about twenty-four or so, the same age as my own older son. She, five months pregnant, was immersed in a how-to book about mothering newborns. He, sweet but distracted, played a video game on his computer.

I couldn’t help but watch them with tenderness, these two innocent parents-to-be with so many joys and challenges and unknowns in their future. The young woman spent a long time bent over a page of diagrams showing, in step-by-step detail, how to swaddle a baby. At one point, she summoned her husband’s attention to the page as well. She went through the motions of blanket folding in the air, concentrating intently, referring back to the directions. It was clear she wanted him to take the swaddling lesson as seriously as she did.

“We have lots of time to practice, honey,” her husband said, before turning his gaze back to the screen on his laptop.

Shyly, she turned then to me. “Do you have children?” she asked.

I told her I did, two sons.

“Did you swaddle them?”

“Yes,” I answered. “But not for long. That only lasted for a week or so. By the time I got good at it, they didn’t want to be swaddled anymore. And then I had to learn something else. That’s pretty much the way it goes all the way through motherhood — just as you get one thing figured out, your child is on to some new stage, and you’re trying to keep up.” [continue...]

Glitter and Glue

201402-omag-obc-14-284xfallI was sitting at my kitchen table answering email last Monday when a note from Kelly Corrigan popped into my inbox.  I don’t know Kelly personally, but somewhere along the way I must have signed up to be on her mailing list.

The note was casual, hastily typed, without so much as a capital letter – the kind of quickie email I’d expect to get from a close friend:

22 years ago i started writing a book about a family i lived with in australia and how that radically upended many opinions i held of my mother. 

Below, there was a link to a reading Kelly had done the week before, in a friend’s living room in California — an essay that serves (quite brilliantly) as a trailer to her new book, Glitter and Glue.

And so it happened that I was one of the first 100 or so people last Monday to click over to YouTube and watch Kelly talk about how her goal coming out of college was to become Interesting, with a capital “I.”

Convinced that “things happen when you leave the house,” Kelly sets off with her college roommate to travel around the world.  But it’s not long before she runs out of money, her dream of being a hippie explorer derailed by lack of funds by the time she hits Australia.  Instead of trekking in Tasmania, she winds up caring for two newly motherless children in a suburb north of Sydney.

It’s a coming-of-age story with pictures, condensed into five minutes, and it makes for great video. I was still wiping away tears as I shared the link on Facebook.  And then, without really thinking about it, I sent Kelly an email in return.  “Love the video,” I wrote. “And we share some territory.”

A reply flew back within a minute: “Of course I know you!”  Two days later, two books arrived from her publisher.  One for me to read and keep, and another for me to give away to one of you.

And here’s the amazing thing.  As I sat down on my sofa and began to read Glitter and Glue, it actually did feel as if I were settling in for a good long talk with my best friend.

Such is the magic of Kelly Corrigan.  The spell she casts – an irresistible  mix of vulnerability, heart, humor, bad-girl charm, racy language, and hard-won wisdom – draws you in close and holds you tight.  Her words weave an invisible inner circle, and there’s no place you’d rather be than right at the center of it with her, sharing a second cup of coffee, leaning in close so you won’t miss a word, getting down to the heart of the stuff that really matters.

So, I should warn you now: You will not read the first pages of Glitter and Glue and then set it down to go off and tend to other things.  [continue...]

A Religion of One’s Own

IMG_9798The first thing I did when I found out I was pregnant, twenty-five years ago this winter, was get in my car and drive to Harvard Square to buy a copy of What to Expect When You’re Expecting.  I am a book person, a life-long reader.  And so my first response to anything new or challenging in my life has always been the same: go find a book on the subject.

For a few years, as I became a mother to first one son and then another, I read my way through an entire shelf of parenting titles.  I read books about every age and every stage, about attachment and achievement, discipline and diet.

But the book that finally set me on my own path, both as a mother and as a person, wasn’t a parenting book at all.  It was a book called The Re-Enchantment of Everyday Life by a writer named Thomas Moore.

Most of us have a handful of books we consider seminal, books that make such profound, deep, and lasting impressions that we remember, even years later, exactly where we were and how we felt as the words landed in our hearts.

I was in a lawn chair at my parents’ house in Florida, savoring quiet. [continue...]

Pub date! (Music, photos & books to win)

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Today is the official paperback release of Magical Journey.

Paperback publications of quiet, mid-list memoirs don’t generally get reviews or ad budgets or press releases or parties.

But I’m pretty excited about today anyway. The fact Magical Journey even made it into a paperback edition is incredibly gratifying.  It means this close-to-my-heart book will find its way to many more readers in the months to come.  (Thanks to some energetic advance footwork by the terrific Magical Journey Team, this is already happening!)  Reason enough to celebrate, right?

So, this morning I thought, Why not mark pub date with an intimate on-line party right here, in the space where we meet each week to converse, connect, and share stories of our lives?

First, some music. . .

Exactly two years ago this week, I was holed up in my mom’s guest room, writing five or six hours a day.  To stay sane, I took long walks.  One afternoon, while listening to a Pandora station through my earbuds, I found myself stopped in my tracks on the sidewalk, tears streaming down my cheeks. [continue...]