There is a cinematic strings option on the ipad GarageBand app and I have died. There I am, dead. Awesomeness kills. CUE THE STRINGS.

ETA: Um, the end of Master and Commander where they’re playing together and plucking their fancy classical instruments like banjos? WHY YES, I DO BELIEVE I SHALL.

ETA 2: The Illusionist’s climax? The figuring-out part of A Beautiful Mind? Orinoco Flow’s Sail Away from that old cruise ad? ALL ARE MINE.

ETA 3: You know what would be really good? A short souped-up Chesil Beach, with some added content so we come to respect our characters’ intellectual chops and not just their fears, with an almost totally strings-dominated soundtrack and a specific theme constructed for the outdoor beach scenes. Some grand delicate thing on which to pan out over the sea from her standing there stonily at the end, which would keep playing as we fade to black for the white text summary that is the real ending. You’d have to have that theme keep playing as you read the text. It could be done so well.

“I refuse to cater to the bullshit of innocence.”

Maurice Sendak makes me feel better about myself. Not in the usual sense people mean that—“well, at least I’m not him!”—but rather, if he feels no shame in taking the stands he does at his age, and if he also scoffs at acting like everything’s dewily perfect when you’re a little kid too, then I am completely within the realm of the okay, as fierce as I am at the age that I am.

“I refuse to cater to the bullshit of innocence.”

mrs. dalloway rides again

At first I tried to do what I’ve resented others for trying—to reconstruct things exactly as they were. When the inevitable dawned on me—that, of course, no one was who they were anymore and could not be cajoled into being such—I improvised. I have a husband now, and he could sit where my sister used to, since she cannot be bothered to spend more than cursory amounts of time as a member of a family. I made the helpings we used to and had the sides we used to (except rolls; I forgot those), but I used recipes from a chapter only a little self-consciously titled Food For Coming Home. My dad, it turns out, has a deep and lasting love of artichoke hearts, which I used copious amounts of without knowing of this fondness. I put the vegetables in the indestructible brown container they always used to sit in—that I always bitched about having to take out and stir, because what teenage jerk thinks of how fragile these stable dinners will become? I used every skillet they own. I chased no one out, and worked actively to find things for my mom to help with, because I have zero desire to make anyone feel extraneous. No one is.

I have used Mrs Dalloway to describe this, and I have used The Sims. Both are applicable, as scandalous as I suppose that might be to those under whose tutelage I studied Mrs Dalloway. I work very hard to create these moments of shelter. Perhaps World War I isn’t looming on the horizon but it’s no less important to have these moments of fullness and of familiarity that won’t last, but that let you forget for a little while that they won’t last. When I fill people up like this—I don’t just mean food—I want to disappear. To remain, but invisibly so, as the beneficent presence that pulled it all together, circling the scene and warding off discord and disappointment for as long as possible. I suppose part of me recognizes that for me to participate in the scene increases the likelihood of that end coming sooner. That isn’t morose; it’s simple fact. I have as little patience with insincerity as I do with bullying, and I take few steps to curtail my disgust when it arises.

So it is better for me to gather these people, and fill them with food and the feeling that they have been instrumental in its production. It is better for me to watch, and remember, and remind people when they have forgotten, that they were happy here. I am the one with all the videos of birthdays and anniversaries; with PDFs of well-worn recipe cards and photos of every benign gathering since I received, with reverence, my first flip-top Kodak camera with the little blue button at the top. I am the one with the memories. But I am not just a chronicler. I work actively to construct these scenes—lights, staging, props, the whole shebang. Because I am a poor actor. And because they need to be remembered, even if I never set foot on the stage.

opening yellow birds

“To be ignorant of evils to come, and forgetfull of evils past, is a mercifull provision in nature, whereby we digest the mixture of our few and evil dayes, and our delivered senses not relapsing into cutting remembrances, our sorrows are not kept raw by the edge of repetitions.”
—Sir Thomas Browne

embers

Shelter is beautiful at times. There’s a lot of land in it, which always matters to me. But I suppose the most important part of it is the standing-over-you-with-stick-to-learn-a-lesson part.

At least I have a family to miss. Even though no one’s healthy now and all anyone can talk about is dying and disease and my sister is dating some bloodthirsty gun nut, I can remember building forts with the long bendy saplings my parents trimmed in a swathe in the side yard, and coloring book Saturdays, and clambering around Devil’s Den.

This narrator does a really good job of trying to tend memories like this like a dying fire, knowing she needs them to keep warm. But it’s a losing battle since everyone deserted her when she was too young, and the fire’s growing cold.

If roads were collapsing all across the United States, killing dozens of drivers, we would surely see that as a moment to talk about what we could do to keep roads from collapsing. If terrorists were detonating bombs in port after port, you can be sure Congress would be working to upgrade the nation’s security measures. If a plague was ripping through communities, public-health officials would be working feverishly to contain it. Only with gun violence do we respond to repeated tragedies by saying that mourning is acceptable but discussing how to prevent more tragedies is not. “Too soon,” howl supporters of loose gun laws. But as others have observed, talking about how to stop mass shootings in the aftermath of a string of mass shootings isn’t “too soon.” It’s much too late.

If roads were collapsing all across the United States, killing dozens of drivers, we would surely see that as a moment to talk about what we could do to keep roads from collapsing. If terrorists were detonating bombs in port after port, you can be sure Congress would be working to upgrade the nation’s security measures. If a plague was ripping through communities, public-health officials would be working feverishly to contain it. Only with gun violence do we respond to repeated tragedies by saying that mourning is acceptable but discussing how to prevent more tragedies is not. “Too soon,” howl supporters of loose gun laws. But as others have observed, talking about how to stop mass shootings in the aftermath of a string of mass shootings isn’t “too soon.” It’s much too late.