While I sleep, my memory plays. This morning, I remembered something I hadn’t thought about in a long time. I added it where it belonged–to the beginning of yesterday’s post.
2001: In January I read Mary Gordon’s The Rest of Life, which will be the best one of the 54 books I read this year. Post hysterectomy, I comforted myself into 10 or so extra pounds, and after months of no exercise, I use the new year as an opportunity to take control. A friend suggests we train for a sprint (think short not fast) triathlon–600 yard swim, 16 mile bike, and 3 mile run. We hire a trainer. The race is June 16th, and even after hyperventilating during the swim, I complete the triathlon in 2 hours 7 minutes. In November I completed a first draft of my novel and am now revising. In March I apply for and am accepted into the New York State Summer Writers Institute at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, NY. I will be gone 12 days, which is a long time, especially when the children are 13, 11, and 8, and the 20-year old is in France. But this program offers the opportunity for a full manuscript read, and that’s what I need. Cal is not happy about the 12 days, but he’s supportive. Workshops are Monday, Wednesday, Friday. I’ll have one week with Clark Blaise and one week with Howard Norman. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, there are Q and A sessions. Each night at eight, there’s a reading–Lee K. Abbott, Lucie Brock-Broido, Joyce Carol Oates, Jay McInerny, William Kennedy… Howard Norman holds my full manuscript to his chest as if it’s a novel he loves. His interest in my work helps me believe I’m a writer. At some point my friend and I sign up for a slightly longer triathlon in September–1000 yard swim (but I don’t hyperventilate), 18 mile bike, and 5 mile run. On September 2nd, I finish the race in 2 hours 36 minutes. Nine days later, on a bright bright Tuesday, Cal calls from work. Turn on the TV, he says. A plane has flown into the World Trade Center. And then I watch another plane fly into the second tower. When the plane crashes into the Pentagon, I call Kathleen in Oxford, tell her to fill her car with gas, to get cash out of the ATM, to pack a backpack with essentials, and to be ready for anything. I call my parents, who have not heard, and tell them to turn on the TV. I call Cal and ask if we should get the kids out of school. We decide to leave them where they are. Weeks later, when planes are allowed in the sky again, it will be unsettling to look up and see them. It will be unsettling for many years.