1999: Across the pond, the euro is born, but here at home, there are carpools times a thousand, dentist appointments, doctor appointments, snacks for all the various games, watching the various games, school conferences, the grocery times a thousand, the meals that nobody wants to eat, the arguments during meal times, the spend-the-night parties, the Sunday chores, and so many gifts that I keep tape and scissors in my car so I can wrap on the way to the party from the store. On TV, we watch in disbelief as teen-agers drop out of windows at Columbine. In the spring, I’m accepted into my first writing workshop–Elizabeth McCracken’s at the Napa Valley Summer Writers’ Conference. I reserve a Hideaway Cottage in Calistoga. Kathleen graduates from high school. I head to Napa where Mark Doty, Jane Hirshfield, and Richard Bausch are also teaching at the conference. Evenings are readings at vineyards with wine tastings. In class one day Elizabeth crawls up on a counter to reach the blackboard so she can illustrate the reader/writer compact. Every day for a week, we talk about writing. Back home, I do another round of Bon Voyage French Camp for the kids Sam’s age. I’m so ready for Kathleen to go to college, and she’s so ready to go. Cal and I take her to Ole Miss. When I hug her goodbye on the curb, I burst into tears. I get in the car and wave, but I cry and cry and cry. Forty-five minutes out, Cal stops at a liquor store and buys a bottle of wine. Gradually I stop crying. No one is more surprised at this behavior than me. The West Wing premieres, and Wednesday nights have new meaning. I read 73 books this year–one of which is Eat Fat, Lose Weight. But among the highlights–and this is an amazing year of reading–Doris Lessing’s The Golden Notebook, Mary Gordon’s Spending, Richard Yates’ Revolutionary Road, Michael Cunningham’s The Hours, and Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own.

18 days to 60


Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
Mary Oliver