When you are a cheapskate and also barely a millennial you can’t justify spending money on an online version of the newspaper. This means being very strategic and pacing yourself with your 10 free articles per month of The New York Times. This weirdly reminds me of that Seinfeld episode in which Elaine has to decide which men are worthy of her few remaining contraceptive sponges. Yesterday morning I saw your Modern Love essay with the dating profile theme for your husband but I didn’t know it was you. I thought about reading it, but moved on considering it not quite “sponge worthy.” Later in the day I flipped to the AP news app and saw that it was you and the essay had gone viral. I went back and read it. Absolutely, it was worth using up one of my free articles. I had no idea you were dying. I’m so sorry.
In 2005 I heard somehow about the upcoming release of your first memoir. This was years before I owned a smart phone or a social media profile. We didn’t even have internet in our Evanston apartment. Since my new husband and I had computers at work it wasn’t necessary. I may have read about your book in the Chicago Tribune which was still paper then and delivered to our door. Anyway, something about the way you marketed the book was unique and charming and drew me in. Even in the book there was a lot to do with interacting with your website, etc. Wasn’t there something about shipping a homemade pie to a reader? I’m sure you remember it better than me. In any case, I bought the book from your website. It was a delight. I loved the size of the book and that the book jacket was only, well, more like a vest. I enjoyed your writing style and that you lived in Chicago and especially your incredible wit. Though I don’t have the book anymore (I know! More on that later.) I remember my favorite encylopediac entry–it was the one about how your brother used to walk around the house with his towel at his chest after a shower instead of at his waist because with two older sisters he didn’t know it wasn’t necessary. I don’t know why I think this is so uproariously funny. Maybe because I have one sister and five younger brothers. I don’t know, but it still makes me laugh. Thank you.
So I mentioned that I don’t have the book anymore. I loaned it to a friend. Saddly, she didn’t care that much for it. She moved several times across the country and managed to keep lugging the book around. There was lots of nagging before I ended up getting it back. Then one happy day it returned to my shelf again. Over the years I, too, moved several times with the book. Before the my last move, however, I purged too much of my book collection and donated Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life to the library or gave it to Good Will. I’m so sorry! What was I thinking?? It was an original printing and I would read it right now again in honor of you if I still had it.
You have done so much other wonderful work since then. Now your kids have grown and mine have shown up. I enjoy reading your children’s books to them more than most others. Your memoirs give your children’s books an endearing context, a good frame, for adults reading to their kids.
In August I saw your second memoir at Ann Patchett’s bookstore, Parnassus Books, in Nashville. Remember I alluded to being cheap so I didn’t buy it. But I did put it on hold at my library and read it when I got home. It was lovely and strattled the realms of traditional paper books and the written words tapped into phones so nicely just as your first one had done in its own innovative way. I like the way your memoirs both impacted the reality of your readers. It’s like you brought back our childhood imaginations with the books’ interactive qualities. Your whimsy made us feel like you invited us all over for the coolest play date ever.
I like the tattoo suggestion you ultimately picked*. As you said in your essay it was so poiniant for a writer robbed of a long life. But I’m having trouble deciding if that appropriateness is an embrace or a jab. I guess its open for interpretation.
So anyway, thank you for living out loud through your memoirs. Thank you for making bedtime reading more engaging for parents. Your life has been a gift to so many. Your writing life even at this very end is inspiring me to keep writing as a way of living well, of preserving life’s beautiful strange, of offering a crumb, of reminding an unknown reader–even if it is only ever one reader–that we humans are more alike than we are different.
Besides both being Chicago-dwellers I’m like you in one other way. The family we were visiting in Nashville (where I saw your book in the bookstore) was my husband’s sister. Sixteen years ago she and her friend, whom I’d babysat ten years prior and still made a point to see, decided that we should meet. So we did. And like your Jason he is unbelievably amazing–fit, handsome, gentle, compassionate and a great cook. Yours paints. Mine gardens. I feel completely undeserving and like I won the lottery almost every day. The best guys really do need a little help with love because they are not arrogantly walking around like they are every woman’s dream come true. They are, but they have no idea. Anyway, I’m so sorry you have to leave him. My heart absolutely goes out to you.
Nothing personal, but I hope that we are not alike in death. My dad’s mom, sweet Ruth, passed away at age 62 of ovarian cancer when I was seven. My dad and uncles tell me often that I look like her so I’m always slightly on edge that my genes will betray me and I will follow her not just in looks but in how we leave this world. Of course we try not to dwell on these things. But whatever takes me in the end, whenever that is, I will make sure that I’ve left a thick kinetic wave of words in my wake. Per your inspiration I will pay attention and create playfully and test boundaries. I will keep a pen in my hand and a quirky story in my pocket.
Thank you, Amy, for your life and hard work that so resembled play.
*If you didn’t read Textbook Amy Krause Rosenthal you should. Until then let me explain. In the book she invites readers to text her suggestions for her next tattoo. She and the winning reader were to get matching tattoos together. In the aforementioned essay in the New York Times she said the winning tattoo entry was the word more. So she and the winning reader did in fact meet and get matching more tattoos together in Chicago.