If you're new to my blog, WELCOME! If you'd like to start at the beginning of my Passage West, go to the bottom of the page and click "Next Five Entries" until you get to # 16, which is REALLY # 1, and was posted on April 3rd 2008 when Dan and I, our cat Ellison and our dog Hopper began our journey west to start our new lives in California.
If you're a returning reader, I just wanted to tell you that an essay of mine, which I call "The Concierge," but the New York Times calls "The Crazy Lady Upstairs" will be in the Lives column on the NYT Magazine this Sunday (find it here: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/16/magazine/16lives-t.html?_r=1&ref=magazine). It's adapted from my upcoming book MADE FOR YOU AND ME: Going West, Going Broke, Finding Home (in stores March 8th, available now for pre-order at amazon.com). The essay has some pretty juicy details about our crazy neighbor-- I call her Mabel in the book--in Los Angeles...including her interesting method of suicide, which I only discovered recently with a call to the LA County Department of Coroner!
And FOR EVERYONE, I wanted to tell you that we're premiering my new website in time for the Times, so check it out: http://caitlinshetterly.com.
FINALLY, as many of my returning readers know, I consider this blog a dialogue. Sometimes I write back under your comment on the comments page, sometimes I'm able to find you via however you logged into this site. But I'm here, open to your stories, too. Tell me something true about you, too!
Happy January! We have so much snow up here in Maine it's a winter wonderland out there! Love, Caitlin.
Dearest and Closest,
Last night, or this morning, depending on how you look at things, Master M. roused himself from our Dr. Sears “family bed” and took my face in both his (what seemed to be huge) hands and yelled at me, “toffee!” I was busy having a weird anxiety/hallucinatory/Moulin Rouge type dream about being in a play with my friend Chris and everything was going totally off the rails into theatre dysfunctionland. “Huh?” I murmured. “Toffee!!!!” he yelled again. Ok it was five AM and still dark out. No one was going to have any toffee. The toffee in question, though, is good enough to dream about. My cousin Carrie used to make it every year for Christmas but I suspect my aunt Maggie might be making it these days. Anyway, it’s incredible. And for our young boy it was a revelation in the sweets department. All this I understood. But still.
It occurred to me as I said “Honey, no one’s having any toffee right now. Back to sleep. It’s still bedtime,” that I was done with Christmas. Suddenly I wanted all remnants to disappear as quickly as possible. No matter how sad and forlorn those trees look out on the sidewalk, I was ready to pack up the ornaments, put away the candles and lights and call it done. It’s New Year’s already! Usually Dan and I are busy scrubbing our apartment on New Year’s Eve, doing a deep expunging clean to ring in the New Year. But not today, not this year. We’re too tired. Life has been too complicated to gear up for a huge clean and, also, we’re busy putting together applications for Dan to, maybe, we hope, become a professor of photography next year. Yeah, yeah, we know, it’s more likely he’ll be bartending in this job market (and it would be lucky if he were), but we’re going to try. It’s so weird, though, sitting on the couch here and looking at applications to schools in Chicago or Alabama, Pennsylvania or Utah. I could tell that Dan was nervous I might be reticent to do all that again. But I looked up from the applications and said, “You know what? This is crazy but I’m ready to hitch my wagon up again. So let’s go for this!”
So, here I sit, tonight, the tree still in the living room, still illuminated, the stockings still hung, and there might be, if I’m lucky, one tiny sliver of toffee left in the pantry. A new year is beginning in just a few hours and, yet, somehow, the tree and the ornaments of Christmas make me feel rooted in the past.
Lately, as I do dishes, I’ve been watching a young woman in the apartment behind and below ours. She’s in her mid-twenties, I’d say. Her apartment is neat as a pin, with plants everywhere and brightly colored odds and ends, a nice stereo. Everything has its place. She has a little study, her books all tidily lined up. I often watch her lying on the couch reading. When I watch her it’s like I’m looking back in time to myself, only a few years past, but what feels like a lifetime ago. I, too, had my neat little single woman’s apartment. I, too, had a little study where I’d write and all my book heroes surrounded me on clean, white shelves. I, too, kept everything organized and pretty. I, too, used to lie around reading. If only I had known then what I know now: You can go so quickly from being a single young woman with only yourself to know to a married wife and mother with little time to even think about, let alone know, yourself.
The other night Dan had been doing the dishes and he came into the living room where I was, I don’t know, probably recovering from Christmas, and said, “You know I get really grumpy watching that girl and her boyfriend in the apartment behind us.”
“Why?” I asked.
“All they do is lie around and read. I never get to lie around and read,” he said.
Maybe that’s what we need to be doing more of, somehow, in 2011. And maybe I need to do more of the “knowing myself.” Or well enough to go easily into time that is always always sliding like sand through my fingers. The truth is that, in the end, there’s only now and this year, for me, portends another year in my young son’s life, a possible move once again and the release of my book, Made for You and Me: Going West, Going Broke, Finding Home, and, who knows, but I may never do any of this again. So I’m going to try to be present every second.
Happy New Year. Love, Caitlin.
Dearest and Closest,
Below in a link to an essay of mine about some vexing cookies Dan and I make every year as a labor of love. It airs today on a website called "She Writes: A Room of Her Own Just Got Bigger." I'm including the link here if you want to see some photos Dan took and take in the lovely layout they've done for the piece.
Also, it might get you in the holiday spirit!
Love and Happy Holidays. You are all in my thoughts and heart during this time of small, important lights in deep darkness.
PS: I'm now--shockingly--on Twitter and Facebook. Look for me at authorcaitlin on Twitter and at Caitlin Shetterly Author on FB--we can stay in touch that way!
CAITLIN SHETTERLY will speak, answer questions, and sign
Made for You and Me: Going West, Going Broke, Finding Home at these free events.
NEW YORK CITY
Thursday, March 10, 6:00 PM
CORNER BOOK STORE
1313 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10128
Wednesday, March 16, 12:00 PM
PORTLAND PUBLIC LIBRARY Brown Bag Lecture Series
Main Library, 5 Monument Square, Portland, ME 04101
Tuesday, March 22, 7:00 PM
430 Gorham Road, South Portland, ME 04106
Saturday, April 2, Time TBA
MAINE FESTIVAL OF THE BOOK
USM’s Abromson Center, Portland, ME 04102
Thursday, April 7, 7:00 PM
One Monument Way, Portland, ME 04101
Wednesday, March 23, 7:00 PM
279 Harvard Street, Brookline, MA 02446
FORT LAUDERDALE, FL
Saturday, March 26 & Sunday, March 27; Details TBA
BROWARD PUBLIC LIBRARY FOUNDATION Literary Feast
100 South Andrews Avenue, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301
Thursday, March 31, 7:00 PM
GIBSON’S BOOKSTORE, 27 South Main Street, Concord, NH 03301
When Dan and I went west to L.A., in early 2008, our best friends, Tim and Jess, were to soon follow us in a year or so. This was a plan hatched over too many bottles of wine and even more big dreams. Well, folks, as we all know, in a year Dan and I had gone belly up with the American economy and had come home to move in with my mom. Six months later, they went west, to L.A. While I sit here and feel envious of all the adventures they're having in L.A, they sometimes call us and miss home....Well, my friend Jess started her own blog when she went west to keep her friends in family in the loop.
Here she responds to my Christmas Tree piece (# 60, below). This is the LA Tree Story to my Maine Tree Story.