I found I could not write and didnt want to. I could teach, however, and it helped me feel useful. I drive from Bethesda to Quogue on Sundays, and meet my M.F.A. writing classes at Stony Brook University on Mondays and Tuesdays. Then back to Bethesda on Wednesdays. The drive takes more than five hours and a tank of gas each way. But it is easier and faster than flying or taking a train.
Road rage was a danger those first weeks. I picked fights with store clerks for no reason. I lost my temper with a student who phoned me too frequently about her work. I seethed at those who spoke of Amys death in the clichés of modern usage, such as passing and closure. I cursed God. In a way, believing in God made Amys death more, not less, comprehensible, since the God I believe in is not beneficent. He doesnt care. A friend was visiting Jerusalem when he got the news about Amy. He kicked the Wailing Wall, and said, Fuck you, God! My sentiments exactly.
Whats Jessies favorite winter jacket? The blue, not the pink, though pink is her favorite color. Sammy prefers whole milk in his Froot Loops or Multigrain Cheerios. He calls it cow milk. Jessie drinks only soy milk. She likes a glass of it at breakfast. Sammy prefers water. Such information had to be absorbed quickly. Sammy sees himself as the silver Power Ranger, Jessie is the pink. Sammys friends are Nico, Jonathan, and Kipper. Jessies are Oana, Danielle, and Luxmi. There were playdates to arrange, birthday-party invitations to respond to, school forms to fill out. Sammy goes to a private preschool, Jessie to the local public school. We had to master their schedules.
I reaccustomed myself to things about small children Id forgotten. Talking toys came back into my life. I will be walking with the family through an airport, and the voice of a ventriloquists dummy in a horror movie will seep through the suitcase. Buzz Lightyear says, To infinity and beyond! Another toy says, Im a pig. Can we stop? A talking phone says, Help me!
In all this, two things were of immeasurable use to us. First, a friend of Amys created a Web site inviting other friends to prepare dinners for our family. Participants deposited dinners in a blue cooler outside our front door. Food was provided every other evening, with enough for the nights in between, from mid-December to the beginning of June.
The second was a piece of straightforward wisdom that Bubbiess nanny gave Harris. Ligaya is a small, lithe woman of about forty-five. I know little of her life except that she is from the Philippines, has one grown son here who is a supervisor in a restaurant, and has a work ethic of steel and the flexibility to deal with any contingency. She also shows a sense of practical formality, by calling Bubbies James, to insure that name for his future. Ligaya altered her schedule to be with us twelve hours a day, five days a weekan indispensable gift, especially to her small charge, who giggles with delight when he hears her key in the front door. No one outside the family could have felt Amys death more acutely. Yet what she said to Harris, and to the rest of us, was dispassionate: You are not the first to go through such a thing, and you are better able to handle it than most.
Excerpted from Making Toast by Roger Rosenblatt. Copyright © 2010 by Roger Rosenblatt. Excerpted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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