HALLIE EPHRON: Today I'm happy to introduce my sister Amy Ephron to Jungle Red. I played 'good daughter' to her 'troublemaker' -- I crossed at the crosswalk and she danced on the double yellow line. I always wanted to play "school" and she never wanted to be the student.
AMY EPHRON: I'm happy to play school, any time you want to and if you want, I'll even sit in the corner.
HALLIE: Now she tells me.
I love Amy's book of essays, "Loose Diamonds…and other things I’ve lost and found along the way," which is just out in paperback. I was gobsmacked when I read the very first essay, that she and her friend used to play "Secret Garden" (which was my favorite book, too) by conjuring a plan to sneak into our next-door neighbors' garden where they'd dig up weeds and uncover baby crocuses. Of course they found neither.
I would never in a million years have snuck into a neighbor's garden (see "crosswalk" above). And frankly it astonishes me to discover that Amy was going about having a life when I wasn't there to tell her what not to do. And now I get to ask: Where did you get that adventurous spirit, that questioning of the rules that may have driven my parents' nuts but has served you so well as an adult?
AMY: Answer: Total lack of competent adult supervision.
But more than that, I remember feeling very adventurous and confident as a child, which in retrospect makes no sense as we really lived in a somewhat dangerous environment. But curious and interested was a part of my nature (and somewhat mischievous, although I wasn't really a trouble-maker).
I also think in some ways what attracted you to mysteries is somewhat the same thing: that on the outside everything looked fine, but really we were all holding onto a secret that no one else knew, which can be the basis of a very good mystery. AA wasn’t in vogue, therapy wasn’t fashionable, and our both our parents were on a collision course of their own. Secrets.
There is a new piece in the paperback edition of “Loose Diaomonds” called “Secrets” but it’s not really about this – although it sort of is. There’s a section in that essay, if Hallie was upset about the sneaking into the Cabelerro’s garden, which will give her shudders. (Luckily, I didn’t get caught.)
HALLIE: In the opening essay "Loose Diamonds" you talk about losing things but cherishing the memories, which I think is so poignant. I confess, I sometimes deliberately "lose" things -- like an amber glass bud vase that I got as a wedding present. Do you?
AMY: Who gave it to you? Why did you lose it? Did it have a terrible shape or a terrible history?
HALLIE: Not saying who (my secret!) It was, ahem, not my taste and because of who I am I knew I'd have to put it out...somewhere. So I put it out of its misery.
AMY: I think one of the things about “Loose Diamonds…and other things I’ve lost and found along the way” is that it involves questions like that, loss, intentional or unintentional loss, touchstones, tricky relationships, marriage, divorce, post-modern life, the difficulties of being a woman, the difficulties of modern life, and we all have them – and there’s a bound-in readers guide that I spent way too much time on that’s exactly about that.
Confession: I think I once left my Filofax on the back of my car intentionally because someone I was involved with wasn’t calling me back and he had a really unlisted number and I was scared I’d call him four more times. By the way, I inadvertently did lose my Filofax again last week when I was unceremoniously dumped out of a cab in Charlotte, North Carolina in a torrential downstorm, the last night of the DNC and everything fell out of my computer case and I was so upset about my moleskins which had notes in it, I missed that the Filofax had dropped. The convention was amazing. But since I doubt there’s a lost and found – although you never know, I’m going digital.
HALLIE: What I love about these essays is that they sound just like you! You run off with an idea like an meandering stream -- you start with the red patent leather shoes that got you thrown out of The Buckley School, wander through musings about Mom and her egg cups and chutney dishes, and wind up in a very sad place that I won't spoil, and a lovely Aha! moment. Can you tell us a little about how your writing and how you get from the red shoes in an essay to the end?
AMY: I don’t know, it’s all a little elliptical, I love the sort of lyrical concept of starting one place and ending up in another. I hate outlining cause I think it limits where you might end up, what left turn you might take along the way. I have signposts with my work – but I hate to outline.
One of the things our parents used to do, despite dysfunction, is family dinner. The big thing was to bring out the old Louis Untermeyer poetry collection and we would pass it around at dessert and all read a piece and through that, I think we all got a sense of (or I did anyway) sort of lyrical minimalist conceptual writing that in some ways is similar to poetry and it was always so interesting to see what each of us picked and how we delivered it.
HALLIE: Really? I remember mom reciting poetry, but passing around that poetry collection??? Sorry. Go on...
AMY: But I don’t believe in rules, structural or otherwise, I think the ‘you can’t get married after 30' thing is ridiculous and ‘you can’t get a job after 42’ is counter-productive. We live in very changing times. In some ways, I think I got this from our mother who never questioned that she could be successful and that she could break a glass ceiling. Glass ceilings come in all shapes and sizes.
HALLIE: The one thing that all the Ephron sisters share is being opinionated. Amy, did you ever start an essay thinking you were writing with one opinion, and gotten to the end and changed your mind?
HALLIE: (Laughing.) I think I knew that. And let's end with just a bit about how to reach you and your wonderful web site for foodies, One for the Table.
AMY: Thanks for having me! Please follow me if you want @amyEphron (twitter & facebook) or at AmyEphron.com, I’d love to hear what you’re doing. And if you have a recipe or a piece you want to post about emo and food or your mother’s favorite recipe, or a political screed, or a fight w/your iphone, pls pls send it to me at ("Editor" at "oneforthetable" dot com) the on-line magazine I publish that specializes in food, politics, and love, and that sometimes has the pleasure of guesting Hallie Ephron.
HALLIE: So, gentle Reds, did you and your sister inhabit alternate universes? And what "loose diamonds" have you lost?