We woke Christmas day in a downtown hotel in the city of my birth: me, the husband, and the dog.
Leave aside, for a moment, the simple truth that my beloved hometown, trussed in cedar boughs and twinkling with lights, feels bereft. The people who made it my home are away or dead or busy with their own families, all of which is a heavy cloak for a city to wear at any time of year, most especially at Christmas.
But it’s a lovely hotel, we assured the kind friends who invited us to join them and their families Christmas Eve. The room smelled nice, had soft sheets and a proper bathtub. For $50 extra, which was a flat fee and not a daily charge, the dog could stay too. Not a city dog, he was preternaturally unfazed by his change in fortune—tramping through the double doors head high, as if he’d just tossed his keys to the valet. He’d give an offhand wag to the staff at reception who greeted him by name, straining on his leash in his haste to get to the elevators.
I was impressed by how unimpressed the dog was by the notion of a metal box with doors that clamp shut then reopen to unveil new vistas. When the elevator reached our floor and the corridor before us was carpeted, not tiled, and the greeting party nine floors below had vanished, his eyes were placid lakes.
The only reason I’m telling you this, on my birthday, in the Year of the Pig, is because I, too, have been on the most unnatural of elevators, which I appreciate is hackneyed as metaphors go. I can’t think of a better way to describe the soaring up and the plummeting down, the doors opening again and again in so many unexpected ways. Unlike the dog, I’ve taken none of it in stride; every fresh surprise has swamped me. I have ached with joy and wept until my eyes were swollen shut in the morning, feeling nothing lightly. I never do.
Do other writers feel this way? Did they feel this way when their first books came out but found more equilibrium with their next? Would I?
I wanted to write a book because I have always wanted to write a book. With this book, I believed I’d stumbled across a story that people needed to hear and I hoped I could tell it well. Beyond that, my original motives now seem murkier, eclipsed by everything else that followed. What never occurred to me at the outset was how much the accidental success of this whole endeavor would reconnect me with old friends, relatives, teachers, my father, and even more astonishingly, my mother. Not here to rejoice in all of this herself, she managed to send word to her wonderful friends, so many of them, who came out to events or got in touch by email. These are people I haven’t seen since her celebration of life, if then, and surely would never have crossed paths with again if I and my book hadn’t had this brief and impossible day in the sun. It’s not lost on me how rare a ride this has been.
Back on the ground floor now, the doors sliding shut behind me: I’m checking out from this astonishing year. What little time I can eek out for writing I am spending trying to do this all over again, impossible as that seems in this moment. That means I don’t have a minute to spare for this blog, I’ve only come here to say thank you. To all the marvelous writers and readers I’ve had the chance to meet along the way, to all of my extraordinary friends and family who came out time and again, to everyone who bought more copies of the book than you could ever possibly give away as gifts, and yes, to the best husband and dog: I have never felt so loved. Thanks for lifting me up, again and again and again.