We drive back to Princeton tomorrow after 6 days of...something in this cottage on Cape Cod. Last night my sister and her husband came over for lobster and we had a feast, corn, lobster, salad. After dinner she and my mother started having a weird conversation about this photograph of my sister at 12. Forty years ago or so this woman turned up at our farmhouse to take "Family" pictures. I was nine, Brigid 12, Catherine 15. The pictures are not like any family photographs I had ever seen. The group picture shows us all in a line (Black & white) we seem related yet very alone. I am staring into the camera and was dubbed "the bad seed" by my parents because I look capable of murder. Brigid (living sister) is looking away and sort of vacant. She's beautiful but really, really detached. Catherine (Deceased eldest) is taller than my parents because she had spinal surgery that put her in a cast for a year. My father looks sinister, my mother brutal. The woman had been a student of Richard Avedon's.
I remember looking at other people's family pictures and wondering what the hell my parents had been thinking. I hated my individual picture because I'm so plain. Now, I see this powerful little girl looking straight into the eyes of the photographer. Her eyes are almond-shaped, her face a perfect oval. Brigid talked about being unconscious, I recall deep lonliness and fear. I wondered how we were going to survive the world's chaos. That was maybe 1967, a year before the double assassinations of Kennedy & King, the horror of the televised Democratic convention, the Manson family, Vietnam, etc. I recall lying in bed and imagining everyone dying.
Okay-More happily, back in Chicago and discovering my lovely husband had a mirror image of my "vacation" complete with grand kids who have no set bedtime and his dad who was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer's. He's as tired as I am. I made record time returning from Truro to Princeton and then left for the library where I ran into Luke. We were about to leave when this amazing monsoon struck-6 inches of rain in 5 minutes. The next morning we drove to Newark at 6 and flew home stand-by on the first available flight. It is so good to be home.
Good news-I won this wonderful month in California for next year-September 14-October 16 up in the San Bernadino Mountains. I'm so happy about that. especially after receiving the rejection from hell from the Harper Editor. A full page and a 1/2 of all the things I failed to do with the rewrite. Djerassi is all expense paid except for getting there. they have a chef and lovely, lovely space. Last time at Djerassi Amy Tan was invited for dinner and she totally ignored me for this other writer, the very cute David Wong Louie. AT put her elbow in my plate and flirted with David when she wasn't screaming at her husband. It was a bit discouraging. David and me went to see Alice Adams in San Francisco and she was so kind to us both. She had been friends with my father. Now, sadly, she is dead. I love her short stories. OK, enough literary name dropping.