Not many people write an essay in their heads while standing at their kitchen stove. But such was the case in 2010, when I was cooking regularly for a dear friend who was very sick. So sick that I thought she would die any day. I measured, poured, stirred, simmered even as an essay simmered in my head.
When my heart is full I have to write. It doesn’t matter if I place the essay. It doesn’t even matter if it’s good. It just matters that I write it. And so, after making a pot of black beans and rice for her, I sat down and wrote. And wrote.
As life went on–hers and mine– I forgot about it. It sat on my hard drive, untouched.
And then, five years later, she died.
That was almost a year ago and I can’t remember how I even went back to the piece, but I did. My first thought was, “Wow, she had five more years when I wrote that.” My second was “I can finish it now.” And with many tears and tissues, I did.
And I knew I was going to find a home for it, because 1) it was good and 2) I wanted to honor my dear friend. Who always loved my pieces.
So I did. I finished it and sent it to a freelance editor I like to use for pieces I’m going to send out for consideration. Because when you write personal essays, as I do, you’re usually too close to them to have an unbiased eye. She suggested some edits; I took most of them. Yes, it’s true. I went to journalism school, I had an entire writing career in corporate communications, I have been writing for publication since I was 16 and I’m still a freelance journalist and essayist, I KNOW that I’m a good writer–and STILL, I use an editor for important personal essays. And appreciate great editing.
Serendipitously, I saw a call-for-submissions from an anthology focused on the middle years, that time in life when we’re caught between life and loss. I knew this was the place for the essay and it was accepted shortly after I submitted it.
I’m thrilled to tell you that the anthology, Here in the Middle, stories of love, loss and connection from the ones sandwiched in between, is now available for purchase. And there, in that book of beautiful and moving essays, is mine: We Cook: for Marilyn. Published almost a year after she passed. Here’s the website for the book.
On December 20th, we’ll remember Marilyn on what would have been her 76th birthday. What a young 75 she was when she died! And on December 27, the first anniversary of her death, I will do a personal ritual to remember her. But really, the big thing is that she’s now memorialized forever in that essay, in that book, in print.
I’d love to share the essay with you here, but the publisher owns the rights for a couple of years, so I can’t. Never fear–you can read it and a whole bunch of other really good essays when you buy the book. It’s the perfect book for those cold winter days in front of a fireplace. What a great gift it will make–for your mother, sister, aunt, grandmother, best friend–it’s a collection of pieces meant to be savored and that means it’s a good vacation or even bedside table book. Amazon will send copies directly to your recipients, so it’s an easy gift, too.
The quality of writing in this anthology is so high that I’m super-proud to have my piece in it. I promise you won’t be disappointed. And of course, I’d love to hear what you thought of my piece.
Here’s what author Vikki Claflin said about it: “Here in the Middle is a beautiful and moving compilation of essays about navigating the fine line between the needs of our children (even as adults) and the needs of our aging parents, while simultaneously trying to take care of our own. The stories are deeply personal, honest, and often poignant, with just enough humor to give us hope. It’s a book you’ll come back to again and again. You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. But most of all, you’ll relate. Buy it, love it, and share it.”