Sunday, July 8, 2012

Not Quite Nora

I have been in a kind of mourning since I heard the news from my husband a little over a week ago: "I'm sorry to have to tell you that Nora Ephron died yesterday". Oh no. I haven't met her yet! I haven't sent her my notes.... I haven't / she hasn't / we didn't.... I was shocked and just so sad.

I have so much to say about Nora Ephron and her influence on me; I don't know where to start. I've seen her movies, read her books, and have been a fan since I was about 12. I find it difficult to sift through all the notes I've made, and all the thoughts I've had about her over the years, in order to tell this story. How I saw things playing out in our future together is now over. Now it's about using her death to propel me into what may be the start of what was really supposed to happen.

Like Nora, I have always been a journalist of sorts. She was the real deal; I just wrote everything down. I have reams of things, mostly snapshots of my life - I assume that I will have dementia, so I am planning ahead - some poems, stories, lists - oh God, the lists! In the journal I started January 2, 2010, I noted that in my capacity as a fake advice columnist and contributor to our neighbourhood newsletter, I had received a total of three fan letters. It was thrilling. Writer friends encouraged me to send letters of my own when I felt so moved, and I had, many times. The very first e-mail I ever sent was a fan letter to a contributor to another local paper, The Examiner, Dr. Dave Hepburn (The Reflex Hammer). I told him I thought his column was informative, hilarious, and that I wanted to write like he did; he said I should be more ambitious. This is what I wrote about Nora in my journal:

Many times I thought: I have to write to Nora. She reminds me of me - OH! I have to send Nora a note - Oh, for Pete's sake! That same thing happened to me! I have to put it in my Notes to Nora blog.

Only I didn't have a blog. I expected that I would some day, and that I would call it Notes to Nora. I was relating this story to my friend, the Film Maker, when we went to see Nora's movie Julie & Julia. Here was a movie about a woman writing a blog about a woman she admired, which was turned into a book, which was made into a movie by the woman I admired, who I intended to write a blog about, who would then discover me, then write a screenplay about it, then produce and direct the movie. Now it would seem derivative. How could this be happening? I was so upset.

Nora's column for the Huffington Post, 'The D Word' on divorce, was the first thing that made me want to join Facebook - just so I could 'like' it, and possibly start our relationship. That didn't happen either. After reading much more about Nora, and listening to her interviews on CBC about her latest book 'I Remember Nothing' and the play produced by her and sister, Delia, 'Love, Loss, and what I Wore', I began to compile notes in earnest.

We are practically twins:

- both Taurus, slight, small-breasted, 5'6" ("At least I used to be")

- both married to our first husbands for nine years, and whose ex's got the houses in the divorces; both had two kids with our second husbands

- we were inspired to write a screenplay about our divorces; I haven't done mine yet

- we are bad at purses, sick of our hair and the maintenance involved, and enjoy the fashion magazines at the hairdressers, though we both bring proper books to read

- we both thought George Bush was a twit; we would never kiss a Republican

- we collect and read cookbooks for fun, sometimes not making anything from them, sometimes treating them like the bibles they are to us

- we love butter, Hellman's mayonnaise, egg salad, champagne, and pate (When asked "Foie gras - yes or no?", she replied "Yes! Are you kidding?")

- we love Julia, Martha, Ina, Nigella, and have long had imaginary conversations with food writers we admired (for me: Judy Schultz and Gordon Morash; for Nora: Craig Claiborne and Lee Bailey)

- we are food obsessive

Some Nora quotes that spoke to me:

I am continually fascinated at the difficulty intelligent people have in distinguishing what is controversial from what is merely offensive.

I don't care who you are, when you sit down to write the first page of your screen play, in your head, you are also writing your Oscar acceptance speech.

Insane people are always sure that they are fine. It is only the sane people who are willing to admit that they are crazy.

With any child entering adolescence, one hunts for signs of health, is desperate for the smallest indication that the child's problems will never be important enough for a television movie.

You do get to a certain point in life where you have to realistically, I think, understand that the days are getting shorter, and you can't put things off thinking you'll get to them someday. If you really want to do them, you better do them. There are simply too many people getting sick, and sooner or later you will. So I'm very much a believer in knowing what it is you love doing so you can do a great deal more of it.

The last quote was written when Nora had been very ill for a long time. Very few people knew about this. I wonder if she knew she didn't have much time left. How would any of us proceed knowing what she knew? Clearly, Nora didn't want her illness to be the focus of her last bit of time on earth. She just kept on working.

And so I will start today. I hereby cast out to the universe that I will write my Notes to Nora. Someday I will write my screenplay, which I will dedicate to you, Nora. Maybe this is how it was supposed to happen: You needed to leave this earth so you could be my spirit guide. I expect that your legacy will inspire people all over the world to jump in and just start doing what they need to do.

Thank you to a Soul Sister that I never met, but felt I knew. I hope we meet in the great dining room of the hereafter. I'll bring the pate, you bring the egg salad.


Shawna Lemay said...

three cheers for jumping in and doing. you go girl!

i'd been wondering your thoughts on Nora's passing.

Deb Anzinger AKA Bunny Cleaver said...

A great read Cathy. More insight into who you are. Lovely reflections. Makes me want to have a sit down with you. Please, will you bring your pate, I will bring something loaded with fruit and that's all we will have, except of course wine.