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Sunday, July 16, 2017

(11) SHE BOUNDED NAKED INTO THE KITCHEN.

March 26, 1989
West Cornwall
Memo from Ed Brecher
      I have now read the "Marriage Anecdotes" and "Of Unexpected Pregnancies and Reluctant Grandfathers" drafts you sent me, and I'm sure there is usable material there.  However, not for Phase One.  As I stressed in a memo on phases I sent you a year ago, Phase One should be only a hundred pages or so‑‑ enough to capture an agent's or editor's interest and secure her/his help in organizing the remainder.  Too much at this phase is a fault.  We are already well over 100 pages.  Let's terminate Phase One while we're still ahead.  The same goes for the Kathie chapter and for other potential additions.  Remember that what we  are presenting here is a sample, not the book. 
     Have a wonderful trip.  I expect to.  Call me when you get back from your visit with Ed and Aliceann.
                                                                        Preface
     Barbara Malley is a compulsive diary‑keeper, letter‑writer, and letter‑saver.  Her files stretch back to a letter she wrote on Friday, October 3, 1930, when she was nine years old.
     Through the decades since, in addition to copious diary entries and voluminous correspondence with her husband‑to‑be, her husband, her ex‑husband, her lover, and her family and friends, Barbara has occasionally written to complete strangers.  Hence, this book.
Acknowledgments:  Edward M. Brecher is one of the complete strangers to whom the author wrote.  In the course of the year‑long correspondence that followed, he helped to extract the memoir that follows from more than a thousand pages of documents.
     Portions of this memoir, in different form, have appeared in Yachting, Plane & Pilot, and Air Progress.
NOTE TO EDITORS:  Letters, diary entries, and photos are available for a wide range of additional chapters, including the  following:
BING! BING! BING!
     Back in 1938, when I was a 17‑year‑old high school senior and dating Ed Malley, I told him over an ice‑ cream soda that after I was married, I wanted four children, bing! bing! bing! bing!
     "What a coincidence," he said.
      The first bing!, Kathie, came sooner than we expected.  She was conceived in December when I was an 18‑year‑old Smith College freshman and born in August, eight months after a New Hampshire Justice of the Peace mumbled the appropriate words on New Year's day.  Kathie remained a delight from her first gooh! through her graduation from Swarthmore College; her marriage to Dick White in 1964 was one of the happiest days in my life.  Then an automobile accident crushed her spine at T‑5‑6, leaving her permanently chairbound and terminating her chances, Ed and I feared, for either a fulfilling marriage or a career.
     We were marvelously wrong.  Today, still happily married to Dick, she is a tenured professor of psychology at Boston University.  Endowed with worldly wisdom and scientific knowledge she provides judicious advice and emotional support for the rest of us.  etc., etc., etc.,
April 2, 1989
Weymouth
Dearest Breck:
     My sister and I had a grand time reading Chapters 2‑5, agreeing with most of your emendations but "ganging up" occasionally.  I wouldn't be so bold if I hadn't learned during the past months how very tolerant and open to suggestion you are.  It was about a year ago that you made a comment about my ear being better than yours, "and if you think you are right, you unquestionably are."   I don't have that much faith in my ear, but I am awed by Janeth's. 
     She was pleased with the compliments you sprinkled through our latest draft.  I do hope you will meet each other some time soon.  It would be fun to take you to the golf club for dinner; we could sit on the screened porch, where it's quieter and more private than the dining room.
     Here are the memos for Chapters 2‑5:
     Chapter Two, p.23.  Re "Let's not forget the Blue Hill," I said uneasily.  Your change to "I remarked" suggests that I was calm and relaxed, but Ed, it's scary up there at night.  The pilot's alarm is contagious and lingers even after reassurances.  I guess you have to be there.  (See enclosure for a description of another frightening instrument‑weather flight.) 
     Chapter Four, p.2.  I didn't need to ask Jan about "naked."   I already knew she preferred it to "nude."  But I wanted to save "naked" for Patty in the next chapter.  I had jotted "unclothed" with a question mark for Jan.  I was in my study when she called, "How about saying `Jack and his wife never saw each other without their clothes on' or `with their clothes off''?  I know it ends the sentence with a preposition, but it's the way people talk."  Jan also suggested "undressed" but added, "I do like `without their clothes on' and devil take the prep at the end!"
     p.6  I prefer to "lose" Henry on my parachute ride, rather  than "shake" him.  Seems dryer to me.
     p.9. I made a change in the "bittersweet" conversation.  To define it more explicitly than Jack did, it's a wild vine with bright orange berries, often used in fall flower arrangements.  I think most women‑‑and few men‑‑ would know what it was.  If you would like further clarification in the text, Jack could say,  "It's that flower‑arrangement stuff you pick up off the floor when it dries out."  But does that slow down the line too much?
     Is your blood pressure still low and your tolerance high?   
     p. 10.  Jan sees a way to preserve the hidden meaning in "I didn't know I would miss her so much."  She knew I intended readers to assume I was referring to Mother's leaving for Florida.  She inserted "Mother died of a heart attack day before yesterday" after the first paragraph.   
     Jan preferred to retain the "enormity" of my loss.  And, though it may be a cliche, we liked the "rock" I had known for 32 years.   However, I now notice Jan's afterthoughts in the margin of her notes.  "partner"?  "comrade"?  If you still feel negative about "rock," I wouldn't mind a change to "comrade."
     Still with us?  Then on to Chapter 5:
     p.2.  I talked with Jan on the phone about my response to Ed's "You're perfect" and reminded her of your "He sure knows how to needle an ex‑wife."  I also told her what I had actually said in my letter to Darrell McClure:  "He sure knows how to hurt a guy."  She laughed aloud.  We like this answer because it's clearly a joke.   To speak of "needling" is sharper and might give the impression that this was something Ed often did.  To refer to myself as a guy is okay, I think, in modern parlance.  Vonnie and her friends  used to refer to each other as guys, whether male of female.
    p.14.  We were on the verge of accepting "captain of the Ed Malley Management Team then decided we still liked "president."  When I asked Kathie a few weeks ago if committees ever had presidents, she said, "No, but people are always forming teams these days, and the leader of a team can be called the president."   Pretty please, Breck?  It's my first and last chance to be president of anything. 
    p.17.  Jan thinks most readers will know I was referring to Aliceann, not her recipe for cheesecake, so urges me to keep the warmth of "this treasure."  Would it help make it clearer if I said, "Ed, you gotta keep this treasure in the family!" ??  
     p.19.  Jan said I should ask you to make a choice between "bounding naked into his kitchen at odd hours" and "bounding naked into his kitchen while he was making cocktails."  We couldn't decide.
     Still love us?  We love you, too!!!!!!!!  
     To turn to a personal matter, I have been rereading the part of your letter to Ed (he sent me a copy) concerning sex and aging women.  I was looking for courage.  I'm expecting Jack to show up in a few weeks for a brief visit before he joins the Peace Corps.  You've heard of cold hands, warm heart; my problem is:  warm heart, cold feet. 
     In your letter you said many women view a flaccid penis as a sign that they are aging and losing their attractiveness.  That isn't my dilemma.  What turns me off ‑‑ indeed horrifies me‑‑is my own flaccid body.  If I am shocked at what I see in the mirror, what will Jack be?  I will not, of course, parade around  in the buff as I did so unconcernedly when I was a mere fifty or sixty.  Which reminds me of an episode in 1978, a month before I turned fifty‑seven:
     I was stepping out of the tub when I heard my condo buzzer.  Jack, arriving early.  As he came through the large door facing my apartment at the end of the hall, I waved to him from my doorway and called, "I just got out of the shower.  I'll be with you in a minute."  I left the door ajar so he could walk in while I put on a robe.
Jack:  "When you first opened the door, I thought you weren't wearing anything‑‑at least that's the way it looked from the end of the hall."
Me:  "Were you wearing your glasses?"
Jack:  "Yes, thank God!"
     In 1987, nine years later, my self‑image wasn't so sassy.  I wrote Jack about a pleasant fantasy.  "I picture your arrival outside my door at 8:00 p.m. (with two or three months notice).  I am wearing something that modestly covers my aging self‑‑a burnoose with a veil might do it‑‑and you are wearing as usual your white shirt, blue slacks, and best sneakers.  You tell me I look beautiful by candlelight.  Jack, it works in a movie like "Same Time Next Year" but in a real‑life fragile situation?" 
     That's how I felt two years ago.  Now even my cold feet have wrinkles. 
     Dear Breck, I know you have no magic potion that will release a willowy temptress trapped in a hag's carcass.  But it helps to talk to you, anyway. 
 P.S.  I've just picked up Love, Sex, and Aging at the bookstore. I'll read it in Florida.  Will it teach me to accept what can't be changed?  As does my uncomplaining Kathie?

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