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    Bridge Ladies Sometimes I think a meteor could strike the earth and wipe out mankind with the exception of my mother’s Bridge club — Roz, Bea, Bette, Rhoda, and Jackie — five Jewish octogenarians who continue to gather for lunch and Bridge on Mondays as they have for over fifty years. When I set out to learn about the women behind the matching outfits and accessories, I never expected to fall in love with them. This is the story of the ladies, their game, and most of all the ragged path that led me back to my mother.
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How Could So Much Love Be Inside of You?

I ruin another morning yet again. Downstairs, my husband reads Delillo’s new novel. He’s been up since dawn, reading, making notes in his tiny Catholic trained script. He is completely energized by some idea or sentence and he wants to talk about it. I make a face that can only be interpreted as: you’re not going to make me talk about writing. He wonders aloud how I do this for a living given how much contempt I have for most conversations about writing. He says he’ll never bring it up again. I say, good.

Agh. I really am a bitch. Sometimes, I just hate talking about writing. I’m worn down by certain kinds of conversations I have all day long. I try to apologize to the man known as my husband, but he has turned to granite. I try to make the stone smile. Too late. How we met? A poetry workshop. Then, every Friday night dinner at the Second Avenue Deli followed by St. Mark’s Poetry Workshop followed by hours in the Cloisters Cafe talking about the poets, poetry, writing, every inch of it.

Is there a greater bond than the love of language, unless it’s love of numbers, or music, or breeding Samoyeds. When we married many years later, we joined two formidable poetry libraries with very little overlap. It is now a grand collection. I dream about who to give it to when we’re dead, with the hope of keeping the collection together. Later, he asks me if I want to hear a poem. I do.

Any good stories about living with writers, i.e. your sweet selves?

36 Responses

  1. I love hearing my nine-year-old charges tell me what they want to be when they grow up. Doctor. Lawyer. Indian chief. I’ve heard them all, I think, sprinkled like the warmth of summer’s rain over our daily conversations. It’s like peering inside their lilliputian worlds and witnessing firsthand the birth of courage, independence and aspiration. Not necessarily in that order. Gone is the dreaded fear of judgment. Departed is the burden of expectation. Erased are the mountains of boundaries and the miles of limitations, both real and imagined.

    Stifled is my urge to preach, “Be practical,” “Be sensible,” motherly vocalizations which will surface all too soon.

    Not surprisingly, my kids deem all things achievable when dreaming big—especially as it relates to something career-ish. Nothing is out of the realm of possibility. No obstacle insurmountable. No amount of passion, too great. So I draw near and listen hard to what each heart whispers, mindful not to quash that which is held sacred and dear. If nothing else, “Be happy,” is the message I hope to impart, even though my logical, left-brained self screams in protest.

    So when each child shares with me a secret wish to be a writer “…like you, Mom,” I catch my breath and pause to wrap my mind around the notion, filled impossibly with both sorrow and pure joy—for the path ahead will surely lead to both. As it should be.

    • This reminds me why I hated being a kid. Even when I was 9, I knew when I was being patronized. Not that Planet Mom is shoveling treacle or anything. I’m just reminded of a third grade teacher I couldn’t stand.

      • Dear Displeased Folks:

        I’m sorry you were offended by my comment on this lovely blog. Perhaps you would have been happier if I had chosen, instead, a decidedly darker (and far less syrupy) tack by telling you about my brother–the one who committed suicide–the one who lives inside my head every damn day serving as editor in chief of literally every syllable I crank out. Oddly enough, he inspires my humor. Makes it better, I hope.

        That said, I sort of live with a writerly individual (the topic of Lerner’s post)–even though he’s not actually here.

        Yeah, maybe I should have submitted this in the first place, precluding the likelihood of snarky commentary. Then again, I’m a realist.

    • Planet Mom… are you serious? If you’d like to get Betsy’s attention, as a serious writer, why don’t you right her a query letter. Or better yet, offer her a valium and a martini. Dousing your comments w/ syrupy sweet words is going to make us all diabetic.

      Just write. We’re good readers here.

  2. Sometimes I’m so smitten with your prose that I can’t come up with anything to say — except to say that I’m smitten.

  3. I have been a published novelist for seven years and my husband is the glue that holds it all together. When I am tired of publicity, he answers my emails. When I am called to a conference, he is ready to go with me – for fun, for companionship, for moral support. And yet, he’s a far better writer than I am, but with no interest in publishing. He reads more than I do and can turn a better phrase, but the interest simply isn’t there. It drives me insane, when really, I should just be appreciative that there are two people focused entirely on my career. At dinner, we talk about books. At conferences, we get to gossip about the crazy attendees. I would love to repay him in kind, and I keep waiting for him to tell me… I have an idea… but it hasn’t happened yet.

  4. Okay, I wasn’t living with a writer – but my brother was a writer (yes was – he has since passed). We were the perfect complement as brother and sister. He loved to read and write and I love to read. So I would listen for hours to his ideas and actually give feed-back. I married an engineer who hasn’t even read a book since I married him. He took a John Le Carre novel with him on our honeymoon and read maybe 10 pages of it. So to say I miss my brother (my marriage misses my brother). I do have lots of friends that I can discuss books etc. with but my brother and I had an unspoken understanding and passion for the written word. Hey, when we were kids I finished all my Nancy Drew’s so I raided his room for all his Hardy Boys!

  5. My husband is pulling double time teaching & coaching to keep us going since I’ve been laid off. I’m home alone and then with the kids in the afternoons. He usually gets home around 8:00 p.m. I must remember to not hit him immediately with this up or that down about the manuscript I’m working on the minute he walks the door. I’m sure he’s as thrilled to hear about that as I am when he attempts to talk math to me. This was a great reminder.

  6. My daughter is also a writer. Every summer for eight years we go to a writing workshop together. She is a poet, a performance poet . I am in our room writing about my beloved mentor who died that year. I am furiously pounding on my lap top and sobbing, tears and snot dripping onto my computer. Another writer walks in our room and whispers to my daughter “what’s a matter with her?”My daughter replies “Oh that’s my Mom she’s just getting in touch with something.” She’s my favorite room mate.

  7. None of the 3 boyfriends and husband I’ve lived with have been readers: they all thought my reading and writing was wasted time. They couldn’t connect my focusing on a page with activity: my journaling came across as nothing. I’d have to publish for the click to be made between writing and accomplishing something tangible.

  8. I don’t have any advice about talking about writing, but I wanted to volunteer to take the poetry library after you’re gone.

    Just being helpful.

  9. Bookgirl2 and I must be married to twins. My husband also hasn’t read a book since we met, and we’ve been together nineteen years. I try to tempt his rock-n-roll heart by buying him Bob Dylan’s autobiography, Eric Clapton’s, anything, but it’s a no go.

    Parsing out sentences for hidden meaning? No. Irritable wife making amends? Yes. Overwhelming collection of books taking over the house? Yes, but mine only.

  10. My partner and I have been together 16 years this coming July. He’s read two books since I’ve known him. Hey, perhaps opposites do attract. The good thing: we don’t have to talk about writing. The bad thing: when I’m writing, it’s obvious I’m writing, he comes up to me and says ‘what are you doing?’ Okay, I’ve been known to make a snarky response or two or a dozen, or a gazillion . . . but he puts up with me, so I keep him around.

    • What are the two books he read?

    • Yup. Been there. A thousand times and counting … like at night I am sitting in bed furiously scribbling, my nose almost on the page of the yellow pad because I took out my contacts, and he starts asking me all sorts of questions …

  11. Scott, I could have written that post! Going on 16 years with a guy who works in the construction field. Most people in my writing circle are married/partnered with other writers. If I were to do it all over again, I wouldn’t change a thing. Being coupled with another writer sounds like a nightmare.

  12. Come on! Ruining things? I’d flip the tables on that one pretty quickly. I can understand the need for a cool down period after being barraged with crap all day. Isn’t that what our 1950’s counterparts were trained to do for their husbands? Hand them a martini and let them unwind without ‘bothering them?’ I’d much rather wait and have someone sit down with me when they’re in sync with my passion. It’s usually worth the wait – in more ways than one. If you think you’re a bitch over that one I have some people to introduce you to.

  13. I feel so guilty sometimes when I’ve been home writing all day while my husband is at work, often emailing him about my loneliness or frustration. Once in a while he walks through the door just when I’ve just been seized by inspiration and am madly typing away.

    My greeting on those nights is nothing short of dismissive. Why is he here? Why is he trying to kiss me when he can see I’m writing? So far my husband has forgiven me these cold, distant moments when I seem to be sitting at the computer but am in fact in another world entirely, where he can never follow me.

  14. My wife seems a little phobic about writing. I’ve often times written on cards for her that she sends to family, friends, etc. I’m phobic about vomiting. She has no anxiety about vomiting. She handles it like sneezing.

    • I’m phobic about vomiting too. I’ve only done it twice in my life and the last time was at camp as a kid. I gave up smoking grass because it always made me nauseous. Can’t understand how it relaxes people or gives them the munchies. I’ll stick to drinking any day.

  15. Not only do I never get to talk about my writing with friends and rellies (my husband tends to line-edit everything I show him [so I don’t] and my friends and I have more important things to discuss, like American Idol and life-long regrets) but sometimes, after reading this blog and comparing it to whatever I’m working on, I don’t feel that I’m even worthy of calling myself “a writer”. Today’s post, however, is in its own category of Splendid Stuff From Betsy. That was beautiful.

  16. This is why I come to your Blog, Betsy, because I have no writers and no readers at home. The man I have been married to for 26 years has two doctoral degrees (MD, PhD), but has not read one novel or short story in the 28 years I have known him. The only poem he has ever read (and still recites for me on our daily runs) is “Invictus.” What does he do in his spare time? Watch World-Wide-Wrestling on TV with our 15-year-old son, who is smart and a good reader, but flat-out refuses to read anything. He is a great husband and a great father. I gave up the “soul mate” myth a long time ago.

  17. My wife is a professor and a writer. She will be on sabbatical next year: her project, writing a novel!! We’re gonna have our own little writers group.

  18. I met my husband in a writing practice group in Austin, Texas. He told me he’d read all the novels of Anthony Trollope and said he liked Jane Austen. I melted. We still attend writing practice. He’s moved on through Tolstoy to Stephen King. I’m working on a novel. We discuss neither books nor writing, but we did just finish watching twenty-six episodes of “The Pallisers” on DVD.

  19. The last thing on earth I want to talk about– after doing my freelance work and blogging all day– is writing. So I really don’t care that my husband has (almost) zero interest in it.

  20. Still, from your husband’s side, I gotta say there aren’t many things that compare to being knocked out excited about a sentence or paragraph and then being able to actually say it out loud to someone who gets it. Not an article or book– a single word or sentence that kicks ass. Rare being able to share that, I think, especially in the moment. Mood or no mood.

  21. This is my favorite post of yours, Betsy.

    • This is my favorite comment of yours. THANK YOU. (It’s funny because I struggled with it far more than most. Probably because breaking sacred rule of not writing about him.)

  22. I work in publishing. My husband is a writer. One of the biggest fights we ever had was over a book idea. He asked me what I thought, and I gave him my honest professional opinion. After the dust settled, I told him I could be his wife or his editor, and I would prefer to stay married to him. I read his published work with pleasure, but won’t go near it before then.

  23. I would imagine living with a writer would be gruesome to someone who isn’t a writer. To tell you the truth I wouldn’t know. I love the craft myself, although I suppose it would drive me crazy after a while to talk about it incessantly. I know it drove my younger sister crazy when we were kids. I would make her read everything I wrote. She did too, even if she didn’t want to but I told her how it would mean so much to me. And she loved to read anyway, I figured why not read my stuff. To this day she still reads what I write.

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