follow tali on ...

the everyman memoirs

The official blog of author Tali Nay.
DEC
01

Gratitudey

I'm grateful for this pie, which I made, which almost never happens. And I'm grateful for all the delicious food I consumed this week, for my little house, my cat, my health, my job, my friends, the people who buy my books. In thinking about all of this, about how grateful I am for circumstances that, while not perfect, are certainly fortunate, my thoughts always gravitate toward my family.

You could say it's because holidays are usually full of them, family, or because most (dare I say almost all) of my Thanksgivings have happened in the company of some amount of them, either where I live, where they live, where none of us live. This Thanksgiving was unique, in that I was away from my family. From all of them. On my own and cooking just for two (everything turned out smashingly except the rolls, which I can't even talk about), I confess it felt strange to consider what a family-less Thanksgiving would be like, but I needn't have worried. Because the thing about a family like mine is that you feel connected to them in these times of love and gathering and gratitude even when you're apart. We texted, we FaceTimed, we talked on the phone. I knew what they were doing and laughed with their kids and awed over their freshly-assembled Christmas trees. I didn't feel like I was missing out. I felt like I was there. 

What I'm most grateful for then is that I have this kind of family in the first place. The kind that sees each other as often as we can, the kind that maintains traditions, the kind that keeps in touch, the kind that asks for last minute recipe advice, the kind that enjoys being together. What I probably don't ackowledge enough is how lucky I am that this is what I have, what I've always had. There are those in my life for whom this seemingly constant stream of togetherness, kindness, and familial love can trigger an almost sadness, an acute awareness of not having had anything like it. Ever. And how does one respond to that? What can a person do to make it better for those who did and do not have what I have? Short of sharing my family with the world, which I wish I could do, I'm going to double my gratitude efforts. I don't want to forget, even for one moment, how lucky I am, this season and always. I also don't want to make rolls from scratch again. Like, ever.

NOV
09

An Afternoon at King's English Bookshop

Last weekend's book signing at King's English Bookshop was significant for a few reasons. First, Utah is cold, so the weekend was memorable in and of itself and left me (and my coat) wondering how we ever used to handle cold weather on the regular. Second, unlike signings in my own backyard, coming back to Salt Lake City after not living there for almost a dozen years meant that so many of the people who came out to the bookstore were people I hadn't seen in a very long time. Some close to 20 years. And isn't that just a little crazy? So are worlds colliding, which is what happens when you have a very crowded bookstore full of family, friends, former roommates, former classmates, people from your hometown, and former church colleagues. It's a melting pot of your own life history. 

The third reason that last weekend's signing was significant is that it marked the first time I've ever done a reading. I've always shied away from them in the past, I suppose in part because I get nervous reading my own books, but mostly because a reading seems a little silly when you're someone who's not actually famous. I mean, I'm not exactly JK Rowling. I'm not even known much beyond my own friends and family. So what would really compel people to hear my own measly thoughts about my own measly book, the details of how it came to be, snippets of my favorite passages? Yet there I was, reading and talking to a group of people in a slightly overheated room of children's books and totally loving it. Did I turn bright red and wish that sort of thing didn't happen to me when on the spot? Yes. Did several show up late or miss the reading entirely? Yes. Do I wish I didn't talk so fast? Of course. But I loved having the chance to tell readers a bit about the book, what it means to me, and what I hope they'll like about it. I loved reading a few passages and seeing when people laughed and when they didn't. I loved feeling like an author.

Here's to Salt Lake. Here's to King's English Bookshop. And here's to (hopefully) more readings in the future.

OCT
26

Afternoon at Warwick's

I suppose the only negative thing about having a book signing at Warwick's is that you don't get to spend the time you're there perusing the store. And believe me, once you've been to Warwick's, you'll for sure want to peruse the store. Every corner of it. Yet I was otherwise engaged on Sunday afternoon, signing copies of my new book, and for that I couldn't have been happier. 

The first signing of a book is usually a bit telling. You learn things. About the book. About yourself. This signing marked the most books I've ever sold to strangers in any given setting. And to an author, while selling books to the friends and family who have come to a signing to support you is immensely satisfying, there's an additional satisfaction (and sense of confidence about the book) that comes when people who don't even know you buy your book. When "regular customers" in a bookstore on a random Sunday afternoon ask what your book is about and smile when they hear the answer and then take a copy with them to the counter to purchase. 

Last weekend's signing made clear to me that there is something about dreams, about going after them, that resonates with people. There's something about forging new paths, about trying new things, about recalling that time you did that thing you always wanted to do that makes people remember times in their lives when they did the same. That's why I write books, and it's all I can hope for as an author.

Thank you, San Diego, for such a wonderful day. Salt Lake City, I'm coming for you next.

SEP
29

And....it's Out!!!

At long last, my new book is officially out! I've said this before, that it's strange to think that this thing that has taken years of effort and preparation can be read in a matter of a few hours. But I suppose that's the point, and I hope for anyone who reads it that those few hours provide opportunity for you to look back on your own life adventures, be it moving to a big city, changing career paths, or going after that long-held dream.

Dreams are why I like this book so much, because it reminds me that I did it. I went "all in" for a dream. Not because it was a guarantee or because I had any idea if it would work. In fact, having given up so much to try and make it happen, I spent a fair amount of my New York City time worrying over whether I'd made a terrible and irreversible mistake. But that's what dreams require of us. And how often can we say that we've done it? We've gone after them? We've made sacrifices for them, taken risks for them, worried over them, bettered ourselves for the chance of them?

I used to live in Cleveland, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is one of my favorite things in that city. It's so full of dreams, the evidence of dreams achieved, as well as those gone wrong or cut short. Amidst all the things inside, my favorite was a wall with a picture of Billy Joel at the piano. Below the picture was a quote from Billy that has never let me go: "If you are not doing what you love, you are wasting your time." I wrestled somewhat with the quote, because, come on Billy, we can't all be rockstars. But on the other hand, I can honestly say that this quote is one of the things that most inspired me to quit my job and pursue gemology. Because maybe we can be rockstars. Maybe we can each get at least a little closer to actually paying the bills with those things we are most passionate about. That is why I like this book so much. And I hope you will too.

SEP
08

Newbie in New York

My new book launch is next month, and after all the years of work that go into writing a book, it's hard to believe it's so close now. It's also hard to believe, and sometimes a bit frustrating, that this thing that took multiple years of effort can be read in a matter of hours. It's sort of like why I hate cooking. All that time and effort for something that is eaten in a matter of minutes. But that's the way of it. The goal, in fact. To provide a few hours of entertainment, escape, retability for my readers. 

This picture was taken in Central Park, where I got a chance to do a final read-through of the proof copy of Newbie. It was wonderful to be in New York City while reading it, because the book is about my time living in New York, and so many of the places I love and remember featured into the trip. I'd pause and smile when passing the International Gem Tower where I studied gemology, or think back while at a particular restaurant or park to the last time I had been there. It's a phase of life I'm so glad I got to have, and it's a book about doing something I'd always wanted to do in a place where I'd always wanted to live, and I can't wait to share it with you.

AUG
18

Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

While in New York City last week, I posted on social media about the world feeling heavy right now, about the Mrs. Maisel pop-up exhibit at the Paley Center for Media reminding me how refreshing it is to laugh. In response to this, I had a friend ask me if everything was OK, as if perhaps I had hinted at some sort of life meltdown or tragedy by posting such a thing. But I'd been referring to the world in general as being heavy. Headlines, almost all of them, seem too much to bear on most days. And it can't be ignored. So what are any of us to do to feel happy?

While pondering this question I thought about, well, Disneyland, but I also thought about television, about how TV shows can serve as an escape for 30 or 60 minute intervals. And yet let's consider many of today's popular shows. I'm currently in season 6 of Game of Thrones. A great show, and I'm invested, but it's so violent, and so intense. Or how about Killing Eve? Also a good show, a great one, but equally intense, and downright disturbing. And speaking of disturbing, there's Handmaid's Tale. So, see, even the shows we turn to for an escape provide situations and circumstances that are just as heavy. 

That's why The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is so treasured. It's light, it's funny, and it reminds us of a simpler time. And what I find so enjoyable is that it's not as if there aren't crappy things happening, because there are. But it's the way the show and the characters carry on, navigating uncharted waters and doing their best to go after what they want. The Paley Center's exhibit is worth a look if you find yourself in Manhattan in the next few weeks. It will make you smile, laugh, and stay in the center's auditorium watching episodes on the big screen much longer than you'd planned. Tits up, everyone. There's always something to smile about.

AUG
04

Blue Milk

I'll say this about Star Wars Land: you certainly feel while there as if you have left Disneyland and are somewhere, dare I say it, far, far away. Which is exactly the point. No churro carts, no frozen lemonade stands, no parades, no constant stream of upbeat ditties blaring through speakers. And aside from the lack of snacks available in Star Wars Land, which is kind of annoying, I have to say that this kind of setup really works. From the employees who refer to cell phones as "image scanners" and dollars as "credits" to the fact that you can't even watch people building their custom light sabers on account of the First Order who might get wind of it, they really try and maintain the illusion. 

Of course, what might have been sligtly lost on me was the Millenium Falcom ride, which actually puts you in a replica of the cockpit. Only I wouldn't have known it, had the ride not contained the ship's name. To me, it was just a space ride. In a ship. Now, seeing the outside of the ship, in its entirely, just sitting there in the middle of the land, that was pretty cool. So was the Cantina, which saw me sipping Blue Milk while tapping my feet to the familiar tune from the Cantina scene in the original movie. So, I guess the land isn't completely ditty-free. May the force be with you. Just grab a churro before you go. 

JUL
07

Lab Girl

I don't recommend books very often. Partly because writing books of my own cuts into my reading time, but mostly because rarely is one so remarkable that I feel the need to take to the streets to recommend it. But I'm about to post a 5-star review for Hope Jahren's Lab Girl, and I feel compelled to mention just how much I enjoyed it. Well-written, yes, which is key to a dymanite book. But this one's got a fascination factor rare in the world of books, even memoirs, which tend to milk the "look at this unique life I've lived" in a way that is almost never as interesting as it tries to be. But this book full-on made me want to be a scientist. It made me look at nature and plants and trees in a way I never have before. It made me feel not only that I was there, right along with Jahren as she built lab after lab, but also that I wanted to be there. And I'm really not sure what more a person could want from a book. 

The whole notion of "summer reads" is dominated by chick lit, by stories of female protagonists escaping to the beach to contemplate their divorce or unearth secrets at family reunions or mend relationships with mothers and children. And maybe this is what most readers crave when they themselves escape to the beach to contemplate their own divorces and relationships. But if you're looking for a completely engrossing tale of an actual person who actually studies things that actually affect the world we live in, then this is your book. A truly remarkable read.

JUN
23

If It Looks Like a Book

I considered taking the printed versions of interior layout options for my new book elsewhere before spreading them out and making desicions. My cat always makes a mess of it, assuming the freshly stacked piles of paper have been put there for her to run around on, which she does, making it impossible for me to make any progress. The same thing happens when I make the bed, by the way. But the thought occurred to me that it's tradition, really, the book's christening by cat footprints, and so I couldn't quite bring myself to do it without her.

The cover for this new book was finalized earlier this month, always an exciting day, but there's something even more special about moving on to the book's interior layout, in that you're actually seeing how the book will look and feel to readers. Doing this in such a small-scale, grass roots way means I have a lot of say in these decisions, and that's incredibly satisfying. What would be even more satisfying is selling books, which I don't do much of, so there are definite cons to not being backed by a large publishing house.

But it is what it is. I write books that I think are fun to read, and this one's getting closer and closer to completion. You can bet my cat will be on hand to celebrate every step of the process. Especially those that involve things that can be stepped on.

MAY
27

Switzerland and the Alps

I was prepared for chocolate and cheese, for beautiful scenery and a few rainy days. But what I was not prepared for on my first trip to Switzerland was the Alps. What must have been the expression on my face when I caught my first glimpse of them, all majestic and jagged and snow-capped? I remember that I had to pause and process. I remember my eyes widening. I remember it registering immediately that I'd never seen anything like them. Because they simply don't look like any other mountains. No offense to, well, everything else in Swizterland, but once the Alps are in your line of sight, why would you want to look at anything else?

I saw the Alps from the country fields of Swizerland, from a ferry crossing Lake Geneva, even from inside a tram that took me up and up into their snowy tops. And to actually be in the Alps, to witness them at every altitude, to feel yourself getting colder and colder as you rise, to go from sun to snow and back down to sun, to do everything you can to look and look and look until you're sure you won't forget, to want to blink everyone you love to the same spot so that you can all witness together the beauty to be had on this rolling sphere of ours. I'm just not sure what compares to that. Besides fresh Gruyere cheese. 

Of course, vacations are never as picture perfect as they look. The jet lag beat me down, the long flights were torturous and devoid of sleep and unusually gassy (is that just me?), and I lost my footing on a Swiss staircase and nursed a severely bruised arm for most of the trip. Three weeks out from the fall and my arm still isn't back to normal, which does on one hand make me take every staircase with an increased grain of caution, but it also reminds me of those lazy Swiss days, dipping bread into a fresh pot of fondue, strolling along a flower-strewn country road after a storm, and, yes, lifting my eyes to take in the tops of those mountains in the distance. 

MAY
04

Prom

So, I chaperoned the prom last night, and I was struck by two things. First of all, this prom was like nothing else I'd ever seen or even imagined. It's not so much that it made me remember once more what a simple, shall we say not financially fortunate district I grew up in. It's more that it made me wonder just how much money was being spent on last night's party, and how much the idea of "prom" has morphed over the years. Because what I witnessed was not prom as I remembered it (i.e. teenagers dancing in a large, decorated assembly space). This was pretty much a carnival, the building full of various lounges and rooms the kids could go to and find various activities, elaborate food spreads, and painstakingly detailed decorations. I was shocked.

Outside in the parking lot, lest the kids get too warm in the buiding or dance hall, a number of other activities were made available, including a big-screen movie showing complete with all the candy and popcorn you could want, and In 'n Out Burger catering. I heard last year they even brought in a Ferris Wheel. I'm sorry, what? It was just so impressive that I found it challenging not to gawk. Or to be jealous of these hours they got to spend circulating in their fancy dresses among such stellar options. I was stuck manning the photo booth and only managed to grab a lunch-size bag of potato chips. I found myself sort of wanting to go to the prom.

Because the other thing that struck me about the evening was that it's been almost 20 years since my own prom. And isn't that kind of a long time? We spend the first half of our lives so unconcerned with our own mortality. I know I've never really concerned myself that much with age, because I know I'm still relatively young. That there are more people on this planet who are older than me than there are people who are younger than me. No matter how old I am, I'm still young. Except there's going to be a point where that's no longer true. And when you realize that your own age doubled is a number many people do not live to, it kind of makes you yearn for, well, the prom. Oh to be young.

APR
21

To Have Been There

Paris was the first place I ever went outside of North America. It had taken me entirely too long to work up the nerve, mostly battling what seemed like they'd be annoying inconveniences like jet lag and foreign languages. Of course, being there turned out to be the very opposite of annoying, and I was left wondering why I'd spent my whole life stalling; wondering what could possibly be better than actually being somewhere you've always wanted to be.

Notre Dame was so striking that I returned three times that first week I spent in Paris, once going to the very top, where this picture was taken, once crying from an inside pew, leaning my head against a cold metal post and mourning a certain part of my life that felt quite squandered. This is not one of those "all is now lost" posts, because the cathedral will be rebuilt, the doors will re-open. This is more to say that if there's somewhere you've always wanted to go, you should go. Because there is only now. And because the things we squander can be recovered, found, but only if we seek them.

MAR
22

Changes

It’s a strange thing, getting your manuscript back from the editor. On one hand, she’s paid to help you make it better. On the other hand, she gone done marked up this precious thing you’ve spent years working on. And you’d really rather she just find it perfect as is. I realize this latter scenario isn’t realistic. And if she’d told me it was perfect, she probably wouldn’t be a very good editor. But this does mean that I’ll be spending the weekend sifting through a sea of red marks, trying to sort out how to now make the book better based on her edits, feedback, and suggestions.

The editing process in general requires a lot of restraint on the part of a writer. You have to actively stop yourself from being too attached to any one part of the book, from getting a bit defensive at the constructive criticism aimed at this thing you’ve put so much heart and soul into. Because this is the way you want it. This is the way you like it. This is the way you wrote it. It hits me fresh with each new book, the manuscript returned to me peppered with suggested changes. It initially feels quite icky. Oh, hell no am I cutting that part. Or turning that complex sentence into three short and simple ones. Psssshhhh. But it helps to remember that readers won’t necessarily interpret things the way I believe I’m putting them across. They won’t necessarily know what I’m referencing by mentioning, say, a John Cusack movie while inside of Serendipity (doesn’t that one seem obvious, though?), or, perhaps, a poem about what happens to a dream deferred (Langston Hughes, anyone?).

The important thing about this manuscript--and all other manuscripts my editor has handed back to me over the near decade I’ve been working with her—is that there were no major problems that needed fixing. From timing to organization to structure, this one was given a pass. Which is really what I’m looking for with a manuscript, hoping I’ve gotten it to a point where any changes that need to be made are of a small, grammatical variety. Sentences shortened, typos removed, awkward wording replaced. Having achieved this once again is what I’ll be striving to focus on as I go through the marked-up pages this weekend. Cake, right? Let’s hope.

MAR
03

Tiny Beautiful Things

I probably mentioned back in the summer of 2017 that I was reading a book called Tiny Beautiful Things when my suitcase was stolen off of a plane. The book had me spellbound, such that I had to finish the final few pages before getting up. I was at the back of the plane and likely had some time before it was my turn anyway. Had I looked up, I would have seen someone taking my suitcase from the overhead bin and walking off with it. But I didn't look up. I couldn't.

And having now seen the play adapted from the book, I confess a similar sensation came over me, in that I couldn't look away. The neatest thing to me about the book is the letters that comprise it are real letters. Written by real people. So instead of just imagine Cheryl Strayed writing to these very real people who have written about very real, very personal, and in some cases very complex issues and questions, we now get to watch as someone portraying Strayed takes painstaking care to address each person who has written to her as the cherished, searching, and desperate souls they truly are. It's pretty powerful stuff, both the depths of character these letter-writers pull from as well as the boundless empathy that such a unique and textured life allows Strayed to pull from as well.

If the play comes to a theater anywhere near you, go see it. If it doesn't (or even if it does), read the book. You will be inspired. You will be bettered. You will need to keep an eye on your suitcase.

FEB
18

The Hand-Off

This picture is really just because my cat feels like she doesn't get mentioned enough on this blog. Also because I was out of town and we are happy to be reunited. But mostly because the activity in this picture (reading) is significant. Having turned in manuscript #4 to my editor, it means I once again have time for books and the reading of them. 

My editor is the only one who reads my books before they're typeset. This is probably stupid. But it's what I'm most comfortable with. I figure people have different opinions, and the more hands I have in the pot (in the form of people who have read the manuscript), the more feedback I'll get--most likely differing feedback--and at the end of the day, it should come down to my own opinions of how I want this book to be. Not anyone else's.

Needless to say, what my editor thinks of the books is incredibly important to me. Not just because she catches typos and things that could probably be worded better, but also because she's my only test reader. The only one I can ask if a certain thing is offensive or if the timeline is confusing. And so I wait in what I would describe equal parts excitement and anxiety for her to send her edits and overall feedback, hoping beyond hope that she thinks it works, and that she enjoys reading it. 

That's what I hope for all readers, of course. That they settle in for a few hours of escape, feeling upon the book's end that they've truly been somewhere, even if that somewhere is simply somewhere other than where they usually are. 

JAN
25

Writers and their Cats

My cat is hoping to be included in the next edition, which she'd prefer be titled, "Cats and their Writers."

That's fair.

To me, having a cat has always paired nicely with being a writer, in that it feels like something that goes together. Not that this makes any sense. If anything, my cat is probably incredibly frustrated about how often she competes with the computer for my lap. And I get incredibly frustrated when I lay out notecards or typeset page drafts and she runs around on top of them. 

But we belong, she and I, the cat and her writer.

DEC
31

The Letter

Every New Year’s Eve I write a letter to myself. I type it, actually, on the vintage typewriter I bought with my tax return while living in New York City. I do this partly because the typewriter was expensive and I’m still trying to get my money’s worth. And partly I suppose because I love the look of typewritten letters. I want ink on a page. The clap of letters being lined up together. The ding of running out of space on your current line. To me it is charming, and somehow more meaningful than simply pushing print.

The letter I write to myself each year is usually one of advice and encouragement. There are things I want myself to focus on, to do better at in the coming year. There are things I want myself to let go of; to give myself a break on. The letter I wrote a year ago today may be one of my favorites so far, despite the majority addressing a certain personal goal I had for 2017 that I did not achieve, the result of which was a much more difficult year. On the eve of 2018, then, I encouraged myself to own it, accept it, and to do better in the new year.

Which I did.

And I have my letter to thank for that, as it sat on my nightstand table and reminded me on a daily basis of what I deserved. I'd had Scotland on the brain when I wrote it, having returned from a vacation there a couple of months before. I had climbed to the top of Arthur’s Seat, in a windstorm, and taken in the one of the most beautiful views I will ever see in this world. And so I leave you with my favorite line from last year’s letter, a sentiment that I have perhaps only in 2018 come to truly understand.

“You saw the greens and blues of a world too beautiful to be spent alongside those not battling the wind just to stand next to you.”

Here’s to a new year, a new letter, and a new chance to do/get/be what we need most.

DEC
15

On Ballet and Weight Gain

There’s something about being a woman and gaining weight that is entirely unpleasant. I’m a skinny person, so take anything I say here with a grain of salt, but there’s something about gaining weight that simply doesn’t agree with us. Even if it’s needed. Even if it’s inevitable. Even if your boyfriend says you with a few extra pounds doesn’t make a lick of difference. Because even after all of that, what remains is you, unable to fit into your pants. Even after all that, there will be you, having to buy bigger pants.

My current situation has me battling a health situation that involves injections and medication that both cause weight gain. I exercise as much as I did before (more, actually). I eat the same as I did before. Yet every weigh-in is higher than the one before. It’s defeating in a way not many things have been. Weighing more than I ever have is alarming in a way that makes me feel lazy, helpless, and obsessed. Because I have not responded well. I started getting on the scale every day. I drastically reduced my calories. It worked (in that I stopped gaining), but it made me miserable to have sucked all the fun out of my life. Because a few pounds should not even be on my radar. Right? Because they make pants in all sizes. And because I deserve ice cream.

I stopped the daily weigh-ins and resumed eating a normal amount of calories. I gained the weight back, but I feel happier for just letting my body do what it’s going to do; for focusing on all the positive attitudes I have toward my body. It’ll probably seem silly, but the thing that’s helped me the most is a weekly ballet barre class. I’m a terrible dancer, but when I’m there, when I’m watching the instructor gracefully move her arms and turn her body, I feel like what I’m doing is just as graceful. I know it’s not, but I feel like it is. I feel nothing short of beautiful in that class, and looking at myself in the mirrors, I see a body that’s slender and capable and strong. And it will always be those things. Even if it’s a little curvier.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this, how much I wish that we would be kinder to ourselves and our bodies and focus on how amazing and capable they are despite any deficiencies we may have (like actual medical issues or shortcomings) or simply perceive (like non-actual ridiculousness that we somehow think is terrible or limiting or unfortunate). Someday we or the people we love won’t be here. Someday we’ll have actual crises that are worth worrying about. Gaining a few pounds, for any reason, isn’t one of them. So go get yourself some bigger pants. You’ve got some holiday parties to get to.

DEC
02

Manuscript #4: Done

Every weekend I put "write" on my to-do list, which is why this weekend is significant. It's the first time in a couple of years that "write" has been replaced with "edit." Because my fourth manuscript is officially done. There's a lot of work still to do, but I cannot emphasize what a big deal it is to get the writing all down. To finish the last few paragraphs and know that you've come to the natural stopping place. That it all feels done. 

Of course, for me, when I say the manuscript is done, this doesn't mean that it's ready to hand over. I have months of editing to do, not to mention organization and chronology, since I'm the odd memoir writer who does not write in anything resembling chronological order. I just pick a piece or scene or topic and write it up, then pick another one the next time I get a chance to write. So right now it's not in the order I want it to be for you readers. 

Like I said, there's more work to do, but my goal was to have the first draft, to have all the book's innards, written by the end of the year. It feels like a Christmas present to myself that I was able to follow through. Bring on the editing. And also that beach walk.

NOV
18

Faulkner and Funerals

I was genuinely moved at a funeral this week when the deceased’s widow brought up William Faulkner. I would have been moved anyway, her husband having died much too young and in the sudden sort of way that left no time for goodbyes, but the literary reference caught me off guard.

This woman is strong and together and in many moments of her remarks seemed so composed and matter of fact that you’d have had no idea she’d just lost her husband. But when she, in the most raw sort of way that only the grieving can, finally broke down over how hard it is, how sad she was to put his body in the ground and never get to look at it or touch it again, I wept. I wept for her and her children, for all of us. I wept because even the promise of heaven does not soften the blow of being separated from a loved one for the next several decades. How do you learn to do life without the person you do life with? Where is the comfort in that if the comfort doesn’t come until you yourself have left the earth? It’s a question I’ve never been able to answer.

It’s like that story, the widow said. A Rose For Emily. She reminded us of the basic plot, which is that Emily keeps the deceased body of the man she loves, in her bed, and even gets in the bed with the body, a fact that’s discovered upon her death. It’s such a classic, frequently-read story. As early as high school I was scrunching my nose in disgust over the whole icky idea. It disturbed me, frankly. It had disturbed the widow, too, except here she was now admitting she finally understood why someone would do it. And the thought of closing the casket and leaving him in the earth was so much worse than taking him home with her, as she wished she could.

Honestly, it’s the first time I’ve felt any amount of affection for the story. The first time it struck me as something tragic and almost beautiful. It’s the first time I’ve left a funeral craving Faulkner.