Breaking Up with My Job

leavingjobLast week, I left the job where I have worked for the past seven-and-three-quarter years. There’s not much to say about the job itself—that’s the other life I don’t write about in this forum, the one where I live under another name entirely, although in this day of the online permanent record, you can connect all the dots in a minimum of keystrokes on Google.

There’s also little to say because it was a very good job, the kind of rare position that is always being written about in our papers of record for its flexibility and humane part-time hours, along with its intellectual challenge. Despite my commitments to domesticity, volunteerism and full-on mothering, it never made sense not to work, and it’s been good for my mental health, to boot. (I guess that means I should write about it, but I’m not going to do it here.)

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In Memoriam

roadside-memorialIf you live long enough in a place, people will start to die there, but the phenomenon of time’s passage is often framed more romantically. Consider the lines of the classic Beatles song (emphasis mine):

There are places I remember…
Some have gone and some remain
All these
places have their moments
with lovers and friends I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life, I’ve loved them all.

I’m not immune to this tendency myself. I am a Southerner, after all, and a Mississippian, a member of the tribe for whom the phrase “a sense of place” is endlessly and (often) sententiously invoked.

A real joke: How many Southerners does it take to change a light bulb? Answer: Three. One to call the yardman, one to mix the martinis, and one to talk about how lovely the old one was. [Read more...]

Elsa Blue and Frozen Power

ElsaFrozenFor Chad Thomas Johnston

Along with Kermit green, Barbie pink and—Lord have mercy—SpongeBob yellow, we can now officially add another color to the commercial childhood color spectrum:

Elsa blue.

Not the uninspiring medium light-blue of the golden-haired Disney Cinderella, the color of hard-sided Samsonite suitcases and redolent of 1950s animation, but a far more rarified shade, mixed with white and the tiniest drop of yellow-gold. A color that is just a step closer to Tiffany blue, and I bet you anything that this is not a coincidence.

In case you have no idea what I’m talking about, and have been preoccupied with your life of craft beers and reading Teodor Adorno, “Elsa blue” is the chief signifier and synecdoche of the 2014 animated film Frozen that recounts the story of two orphaned princesses in the Norwegian-inspired kingdom of Arendelle, the older of whom—the now-Queen Elsa—has the lethal and hidden power to create snow and ice.

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Apocatastasis at the Essex

bostonessex-400x600“You have to choose the places you don’t walk away from.” —Joan Didion

This one’s for Sarinah Viya Kalb, who was there. With love.

And so the season of death returns: the leaves now in their last burst of red and gold before starting their descent, and at night, sometimes, a stiff wind scuttling down my hilltop street. From now until Easter—Pascha, as we Orthodox have it, signifying both Passover and passage—is the evocative time of the year for me, and I’ve written about it on “Good Letters” so many times before that I’m afraid I’ve become an annual broken record. (But Mommy, Anna Maria asks, What is a record?)

I want to tell you about a religious experience I had, in this season, about thirty years ago.

I say “religious” in contradistinction to the more acceptable, these days, designation of “spiritual.” (More than one friend of mine and I have joked about our desire to print Café Press T-shirts that avow that we are “Religious But Not Spiritual.”)

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Holding the Blade of Sacrifice

isaacI had fallen asleep thinking about the Sacrifice of Isaac: The account, given in Genesis, in which patriarch Abraham is called by God to venture to Mt. Moriah, and sacrifice his young and beloved son—the son born to him and Sarah in old age, for whom he had longed for decades. And as the Genesis narrative relates, at the very moment Abraham has steeled himself to bear the knife, a ram appears “in a thicket,” and Isaac is saved, and the ram is sacrificed in Isaac’s place.

I’d gone to bed mulling over what I was going to write in the very post you are reading now. At that point, I intended to focus on how the compact of parenthood has seemed to expand since I was a child: Whereas my older siblings and I had been more or less “thrown” into the world to survive by our own devices, young people today, middle-class and above, seem so tethered to their parents—by cell phones, by cars that parents pay the insurance on well into their children’s twenties, by the occasional checks for thousands of dollars meted out for Christmas and mortgages for sons and daughters closing in on forty.

Mostly, I’m just envious.

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