Photo of candle lighting
secondnight taken by DD, so she’s not in
it. The guys (DH, DS, and DD’s boyfriend) properly covered their heads and donned
hats for the blessing of the candles—
A mad hatter’s party^
The night before that one was
the first night of Hanukah. DD is vegan now, so I worried about how eggless
latkes would pass for the real thing. I needn’t have. The vegan latkes were
successful, maybe better than ever.
DS and DD had just returned
from a wonderful all-day hike in Point Reyes. DS then proceeded to put on a
Santa outfit and head with a sack of gifts for the little kids in the house
next door. He does it at the neighbors’ request, and from the fact they ask him
to please do it every year, he must be a good one. Nothing like a Jewish Santa!
Only after DS’s Santa duty could we all light the Hanukkah menorah, sing songs,
The only thing that went
wrong was that DD came back without her wallet. She thought she might have lost
it on the second of three buses they took, but couldn’t be sure. It had her bankcard,
her ID, her Juilliardstudent ID card, her dorm
room key, and some more things... Oh, and there was money also. All the cash
The office for Marin Transit Bus
Company was already closed, (Christmas eve) and would be for the next day.
(Christmas day) We thought it might be closed Monday. (Christmas Day observed
in offices) We had no way to call their lost
We figured that if it isn’t
located by the time we call on Tuesday, we‘d have a lot of work to do to
replace everything. What a shame.
As my grandma would have
said, “it’s always something.”
Now for the rest of the
DD called the bus company Monday
just in case someone would be there, and a woman answered. DD didn’t have to
say much, only that she may have left a purple wallet on bus line #68, when the
lady asked, “do you go to Juilliard?”
Yup, they had her wallet.
That afternoon we drove to San Raphael to the central terminal to collect it,
and everything was in it.
But there’s more---
DD said there’s twice as much
cash inside than she had before. All her IDs are there, and someone added some
Well, that’s our Hanukkah
story, and we’re sticking to it.
Although they fall roughly on the same month, only a few
times in every century do Christmas and Hanukkah actually occur at the same
time. That is-- the first day of Hanukkah (beginning the evening before
according to Jewish tradition) is also Christmas Day. Christmas Eve is also the
evening of first candle lighting.
This is one of those years.
If you celebrate both, or either, this one’s for you—
I’m one of the few who has yet to read a Stephen King novel, though I know I
have read one of his short stories a long time ago. This very good and uber-successful
author writes horror stories. I don’t read horror. Ah, the horror!
I got a strong recommendation to read his book on writing, and it turned out to
be a delight. The writing advice is solid if standard fare, but the memoire
parts are a testament to why he is the Stephen
King— a vivid story teller of the first order.
King puts members of his profession into four categories. He sees this classification much like the government’s
food pyramid, with the bottom having a larger mass than the pinnacle top.
the bottom are the Bad Writers. Mr.
King hints that a few are commercially so successful they live a life of luxury in the Caribbean. (Who could he be talking about? I have my list)
them, in smaller numbers, are Competent writers,
who comprise much of the work-for-hire, journalistic, and other pretty decent
writing we encounter.Competent
writers have the ear for cogent expression, but their stories lack wings.
the competent are the Good writers,
and Mr. king suggests he is in that layer. Good writers have solid technique
and tell good stories.
the very top are The GREATS. Think Shakespeare, Yeats, Faulkner, or Eudora Welty.
King believes that no amount of teaching will turn a bad writer into a
competent one. They lack the ear, or they wouldn’t have been bad to begin with.
He insists that no how-to course or mentoring will make a good writer into a
GREAT. The Greats are divine accidents.
teaching and coaching have a place in the middle of the pyramid. There, the
competent, who, if they listen well, try hard, and work at it, could become
tend to agree. I see this in all fields, though it’s most pronounced in
artistic pursuits. It fits with a certain perception, one divergent from Malcolm
Gladwell’s and his ten-thousand hours of work to any expertise.
then I wonder: how wise or true is it to have rigid classifications? It
organizes the mind, and is fun in its way, but how deeply true?
is my other confession for today: I really don’t know, and I know that I don’t. Organization and classification (like these pyramids) make for easy, comprehendible and jauntier
I don’t know about the substance of King’s notions, but trusting some
of the best readers I’ve known, Stephen King is nothing if not a Great
storyteller. Maybe his system is just
another one of his stories, cooked for easy digestibility.
the Jewish Home, where my mother passed her last eighteen months, I met one of
most magical people ever. Ben was a marvel. He was a resident who, by the time
my mother moved in, had been there a few years.
On set days and times, Ben played
the pianos on every floor for other residents. It wasn’t official, but he had a
job—making music for those who were not mobile and couldn’t leave their floor. Sometimes
he played the grand piano at the common area on the first floor, right next to
his room. He’d shuffle over carrying his sheet music, sit down at the keyboard,
and make marvelous music just for himself, with the whole house watching.
my mother’s birthday month, and at the luncheon for all the residents who had a
birthday then, he sat next to my mother. She glowed. I did, too. Ben was not
only handsome; he was radiant. Ben was beautiful.
to make conversation, but already suffering from dementia, my mother made a
valiant effort to connect with him and make a friend. It must be a Jewish
trait, for he answered every question with first repeating it. The conversation
went something like this--
mother: “Are you very old today?”
“Am I very old? Just old enough.”
mother: “What is that?”
“What is that? Ninety-two.”
mother: “That is too old.”
“Too old? Yes, it is.”
mother: “How long will you live?”
“How long? They give me a day, I take it.”
last line stayed with me. My mother lived for another year and four months, and
passed away eight years ago. Ben still lives. He is one hundred-years-old.
I try to begin each day by saying what he
said. I’ll take it.
friend was rejoicing at the sale of her first manuscript to a publisher. The
joy of being able to say my editor
for the first time brought back memories.
there’s nothing like the first.
first my publisher. The first my editor. The first my book. The first my agent. These can come in a different order, but that^ was mine.
really, none of these is really mine.
I don’t own them.
writers have are stories. Stories we make with chapters we construct with
paragraphs that we make by joining sentences. Sentences we make with words. It
boils down to this: the only thing that we own are the words.
the words are a gift.
opening verse from the gospel of John rushes in:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word
The meaning of this enigmatic phrase, for me, is that all comes from thought. Thought
extended outward begins with words, and words begin with one word.
I sit and contemplate this, I realize nothing is mine. I rejoice at having nothing.