There was a period when I believed stuff meant something. I thought that if you had matching side chairs and a sofa that harmonized and some beautiful lamps to light them you would have a home, that elegance signaled happiness.
Nora had discovered that by herself was a condition she really liked.
It's so much easier to write a resume than to craft a spirit.
Oh, the loneliness, the loneliness. It lived inside her now like an illness, like a flu that could be ignored and then would suddenly overtake and overwhelm her.
Don't ever confuse the two, your life and your work. That's what I have to say. The second is only a part of the first.
Whether talking about addiction, taxation [on cigarettes] or education [about smoking], there is always at the center of the conversation an essential conundrum: How come we're selling this deadly stuff anyway?
The girl was huddled against the door on her side now, all folded in upon herself like an old woman, or like a child who'd fallen asleep on a long journey; she heard the sounds of him as if they were musical notes, each distinct and clear, and her shoulders moved slightly beneath her shirt, and her hands were jammed between her knees.
In the woods it was not so much that it was quiet as that the few sounds were loud and distinct, not the orchestra tuning-up of the city but individual grace notes. Birdcalls broken into pieces like a piano exercise, a tree branch snapping sharp and then swishing down and thump on the ground, the hiss of water coming off the mountain.
Falling apart is curling up into a fetal position and staying in bed for a week. What you were doing is having the emotional response an individual has to the loss of someone they love. We cry to give voice to our pain.
The great motherhood friendships are the ones in which two women can admit [how difficult mothering is] quietly to each other, over cups of tea at a table sticky with spilled apple juice and littered with markers without tops.
No one, not even my father, not even my children, has ever loved me the way that man loved me, that's for sure. There's something satisfying in being loved that hard, maybe more than loving that hard yourself.
I realized that, while I would never be my mother nor have her life, the lesson she had left me was that it was possible to love and care for a man and still have at your core a strength so great that you never even needed to put it on display.
Sometimes I remind myself that I almost skipped the party, that I almost went to a different college, that the whim of a minute could have changed everything and everyone. Our lives, so settled, so specific, are built on happenstance.
Reading has always been my home, my sustenance, my great invincible companion. "Book love," Trollope called it. "It will make your hours pleasant to you as long as you live." Yet of all the many things in which we recognize some universal comfort...reading seems to be the one in which the comfort is most undersung...
It's great to find that one special person you want to annoy for the rest of your life.
I lived within the cover of books and those books were more real to me than any other thing in my life.
It turned out that when my younger self thought of taking wing, she wanted only to let her spirit soar. Books are the plane, the train, and the road. They are the destination, and the journey. They are home.
Maybe crazy is just the word we use for feelings that will not be contained.
You can tell a really wonderful quote by the fact that it's attributed to a whole raft of wits.
People always blame the girl; she should have said no. A monosyllable, but conventional wisdom has always been that boys can't manage it.
What I expect from my male friends is that they are polite and clean. What I expect from my female friends is unconditional love, the ability to finish my sentences for me when I am sobbing, a complete and total willingness to pour their hearts out to me, and the ability to tell me why the meat thermometer isn't supposed to touch the bone.
Raging crime, class warfare, invasive immigrants, light morals, public misbehavior. Always we convince ourselves that the parade of unwelcome and despised is a new phenomenon, which is why the phrase "the good old days" has passed from cliché to self-parody.
He sold his watch to buy her combs, and she sold her hair to buy a watch chain.
The life of a good dog is like the life of a good person, only shorter and more compressed.
For the young the days go fast and the years go slow; for the old the days go slow and the years go fast.
Maybe when you were a kid you were so unsure of yourself that every school year was a time of reinvention; maybe only adults were stupid enough to think they knew exactly who they were.
A fix-it man, they used to call it, when things still got fixed instead of just junked.
All my life I had known one thing for sure about myself, and that was that my life would never be her life. I had moved as far and as fast as I could; now I was back at my beginning.
Out lives, so settled, so specific, are built on happenstance.
Since the age of five I had been one of those people who was an indefatigable reader, more inclined to go off by myself with a book than do any of the dozens of things that children usually do to amuse themselves. I never aged out of it.
There are only two ways, really, to become a writer. One is to write. The other is to read.
Surely an American doesn't want to get it wrong; if there is anything that England stands for, with its quiet central squares, its tweeds and twin sets and teas, the tight-lipped precision of its speech, it is that there is a right way to do things. This is where the right way has its ancestral home.
After all those years of people counting off seconds in her earpiece, I swear she has time wired into every bit of her body, so that it was almost exactly an hour when she climbed out.
Consider the lilies of the field. Look at the fuzz on a baby's ear. Read in the backyard with the sun on your face. Learn to be happy. And think of life as a terminal illness because if you do you will live it with joy and passion, as it ought to be lived.
I would even go to Washington, which is saying something for me, just to glimpse Jane Q. Public, being sworn in as the first female president of the United States, while her husband holds the Bible and wears a silly pill box hat and matching coat.
I conveniently forgot to remember that people only have two hands, or, as another parent once said of having a third child, it's time for a zone defense instead of man-to-man.
Occasionally Rebecca wished her son would not be so very kind to her, as though she was the losing pitcher on a Little League team.
And I don't have to listen to a sermon to know what to think or feel about them. It's almost as if I absorbed completely what mattered most to me, and the rest could go.
Your children make it impossible to regret your past. They're its finest fruits. Sometimes the only ones.
In England I am always madam; I arrived too late to ever be a miss. In New York I have only been madamed once, by the doorman at the Carlyle Hotel.
My friendships have a certain symmetry at the moment: Alice is always asking me what she should do, and Nancy is always telling me what I should do.
Ideas are only lethal if you suppress and don't discuss them. Ignorance is not bliss, it's stupid. Banning books shows you don't trust your kids to think and you don't trust yourself to be able to talk to them.
The ultimate act of bravery does not take place on a battlefield. It takes place in your heart, when you have the courage to honor your character, your intellect, your inclinations and yes, your soul by listening to its clean, clear voice of direction instead of following the muddied messages of a timid world.
She is not what I envied in high school, the popular girl. She is something I'm not even sure existed then, the sure-footed girl. She gives the impression of being completely herself, and only a part of that impression is false.
When someone asks you where you come from, the answer is your mother...When your mother's gone, you've lost your past. It's so much more than love. Even when there's no love, it's so much more than anything else in your life. I did love my mother, but I didn't know how much until she was gone.
Funny, that no one had ever asked what had happened to the dishes, the scraps, the crumbs in the photographs, on the poster.
One of the useful things about age is realizing conventional wisdom is often simply inertia with a candy coating of conformity.