1997: I turn 40

don’t you think this qualifies as a photo of me?

1997: Kathleen turns 16, gets her license, and drives out the driveway while my face is plastered to the window. It doesn’t seem possible. Sam is 3 1/2 and he and Jack and Bobby are the three amigos. I have enough free time to think about going back to practicing law. But I’m lucky enough not to have to for the money. I’m lucky that my question can be what do I want to do with my one wild and precious life. On January 9th, I write. And again on the 10th, the 11th, the 17th, and the 30th. I never loved the law. Already I love writing with the same passion I have for all things French. In February, we take a ski trip with Sam. I keep writing. For the 40 days preceding my 40th birthday, one of my sisters sends me a card a day. For my birthday, Cal and I rent a honeymoon cottage in Seaside. We’re home for a day, then head to Sarasota for spring break. In June, Cal and I go see James Taylor at Chastain Park–this is something we do almost every time he’s in Atlanta. In July, Woolworth’s–the place I fell in love with office supplies, the place my mother and I would eat patty melts while she wrote her To Do list on a small yellow pad, the place my sisters and I used to shop for Christmas gifts–closes its remaining stores. In August, Princess Diana is killed in a car crash. Next summer, instead of Florida, I want us all to go to New England. I begin to plan. I’m thinking Vermont, but after I read a guide book cover to cover, I settle on Nantucket. In October, I go for a week to scout houses. After I land in Boston, I rent a convertible and drive with the top down and the heat on. I stay in the lovely, lonely house above and know next summer we’ll come back to Nantucket. In November, it’s the Pine Mountain Trail again–we’re a little slower this year. I reread The Anna Papers for a second time, and if I had any doubt about what I want to do with my life, I no longer do. Bobby gets his own computer. Cal and the kids get a puppy for Christmas–Max–a puppy I’ve sworn not to feed or walk or take to the vet. I do children, not pets. I have to draw the line somewhere. In my giant Suburban, I alternate between Sting’s Mercury Falling and Sarah McLachlan’s Surfacing.

20 days to 60


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

5 thoughts on “1997: I turn 40

  1. How long did that vow to do nothing for the dog last?

    I love how writing settled into you. I love how patient you were.

    I can’t tell you how many rich stories I’ve heard from people about Woolworth’s (when I lived in Virginia and North Carolina, that is) and how much it meant to their childhood. Someone needs to write a book about it. Maybe someone has.

    So, Princess Diana–another one of those “I remember exactly what I was doing when I got that news” memories. I had a hard time believing it and I was deeply saddened for days, maybe weeks. I still don’t understand why her death, as awful as it was, affected me so much. I didn’t follow her every move, I didn’t in any way attempt to imitate her or imagine I should try, I rarely thought about her. But her death really did hit me hard. I’ll never figure it out. Mysteries of the heart and gut.

    Yes, that photo qualifies as a photo of you, for sure.

    Liked by 1 person

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