bouquets of freshly sharpened pencils

Every few weeks on Gchat Katie or I will say to the other “we should do something about the blog” but then we will find a really wonderful movie trailer or polarizing Atlantic article to discuss and the blog will be out on the back burner once again. But the seasons are changing now, as evidenced by the heat advisory covering St. Louis, and new seasons are always good times for starting over.

I didn’t come here to tell you about any of that though, I came here to tell you about why Nora Ephron is the most wonderful.

Nora Ephron died on Tuesday and since then some people have written some really lovely things about her. My favorite one came from the New York Times which characterized her as “an expert in all the departments of living well” which I think it the absolute best thing that could ever be said about a person. Nora wrote You’ve Got Mail which has been my all-time favorite movie since I saw it in theaters when I was eleven. My mom and I could quote the entire movie to you backwards and forwards. In fact, if you really love me you will watch it with me and let me say the lines the entire time but even if you didn’t let me do that you still learn them because I insert them into conversation whenever possible.

  • “Harmless, harmless, meaningless…bouquets of sharpened pencils.”
  • “Meanwhile, I am putting up more twinkle lights!”
  • “I’m going to get some eucalyptus candles because they make my apartment smell moss-AY”
  • “That caviar is a garnish!”
  • “I am a lone reed.”
  • “I said we were a goddamn piazza where people could mingle and mix and be! I was eloquent! Shit!”
  • “We will do it today! They cried. And you will be the one to put the mouse in the jar!”
  • “One hundred and fifty two insights into my soul!”
  • “He ran Spain. The country. He ran it. It was his job.”
  • “Words like thither, mischance, felicity!”

I realize these aren’t even memorable lines; I love it that much.

Kathleen Kelly taught me how to be a whimsical adult, marveling at butterflies on the subway and whether or not her small little life was meaningful. She galavanted around New York in cardigans and read Pride and Prejudice in coffee shops. I liked her because she seemed to spend a lot of her time in loungewear with books and mugs of tea which is all I want to be doing at most moments.

You’ve Got Mail has been the background noise in my life for almost as long as I can remember. I watched it in my dorm room freshman year when I was so lonely I could hardly breathe but for those two hours I felt at home. Later on in college, my friend Colleen and I loved nothing more than to curl up on our couch with a glass of orange juice and bowl of popcorn (the best combination) and watch it on a Friday night. Now, when my roommate is out of town I put it on while I wash the dishes so my house doesn’t feel so empty. It feels cozy and familiar, a little piece of my life that never changes and is always satisfying.

Besides writing the greatest of all movies (and some other pretty great ones as well), Nora was amazing in many other areas. Such as marrying Carl Bernstein, divorcing him, then writing a book about it that was turned into a movie where she was played by Meryl Streep….I mean, come on. She worked her way up as a writer at a time when men dominated journalism. She got hired at Newsweek as a mailgirl because she was told women couldn’t be writers but soon bylines in Esquire, The New Yorker, and New York Magazine. When she was little, her mother, a playwright, told her “take notes, everything is copy.” My parents, also writers, have been telling me the same thing since I could talk.* Making something interesting out of the everyday-ness of life is harder than it seems and I don’t claim to be any good at it, but Nora Ephron was a master.

I think that Nora would have liked our blog and that maybe it would have reminded her of herself when she was our age before she really grew into herself. I hope she might think we were charming, babbling on about best friend rules and the hours of 2-5pm. I like to imagine that she offered this piece of advice just to us and not to the entire 1996 graduating class of Wellesly College. “Maybe young women don’t wonder whether they can have it all any longer, but in case any of you are wondering, of course you can have it all. What are you going to do? Everything, is my guess. It will be a little messy, but embrace the mess. It will be complicated, but rejoice in the complications. It will not be anything like what you think it will be like, but surprises are good for you. And don’t be frightened: You can always change your mind.”

So, to Nora, a woman who truly did everything, we would send you a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils if only we knew your address. Thank you for inspiring us to be the heroines of our own stories, and for telling us it’s okay that those stories include loungewear and witty comebacks via text messages. We will miss you and the lovely worlds you created.


*This led to melodramatic teenage arguments I punctuated with “This is going to reflect poorly on you in my forthcoming memoir.”



Filed under emily, people we like and wish we knew

3 responses to “bouquets of freshly sharpened pencils

  1. Owengirl79

    If you haven’t, you must read Rita Wilson’s Nora piece on HuffPost.

  2. Owengirl79

    Oh…and Tom Hanks’ piece in Time.

  3. holly stephenson

    this is lovely, emily.

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