I Could Write a Sonnet…

When we were five: that's me, the tallest, in my patriotic Easter outfit circa 1970.  My youngest sister had not yet arrived.
When we were five: I’m the tallest in the back row, euphoric in my patriotic Easter outfit circa 1970. My youngest sister had not yet arrived.
Or perhaps not, poetry not really being my thing, although I’ve been known to throw down some choice song lyrics when it serves me (or a character). But about two and a half years ago, I believed I could write a book, and put metaphorical pen to paper.

What emerged was close to two thousand pages of blood, sweat and tears, if you total all the sheets in my teetering stack of rubber-banded drafts, output that placed me on a first-name basis with the Staples copy center clerk.

Guided by thoughtful first readers, gifted editors and a diligent hands-on agent, Elisabeth Weed, “Deliver Her” is today a taut 88,000 words and about to reach a wider, more influential audience.

With no work left to do (although any future editors will surely argue this point), I envision my manuscript heading out to the literati the way my sisters and me, and eventually a brother, blossomed on Easter Sundays of our youth: preening and grinning in holiday finery, ignoring the nip of elastic cleaving bonnets to our heads and the pinch of new shoes.

Like all mothers of that era, mine worked slavishly to assemble just the right outfits, dragging us up and down Route 17 in Bergen County, New Jersey, the promised land of shopping. The outsized graphic mural on the wall of Alexander’s department store (now departed) heralded our arrival. When we were just four girls, my mother paired us off and buttoned us into complementary suits in jelly bean shades. My brother’s arrival offered a new sartorial challenge; he debuted in short pants and knee socks, setting the bar for fedoras at four.

With such a large family, Easter was one of the rare occasions when new clothes were purchased for all, although straw bonnets were exhumed from the attic, punched back into shape and rebanded with fresh grosgrain.

This coordination could only last so long. The oldest, I moved into junior sizes. Under my mother’s tutelage, I chose a red, white and blue houndstooth suit with large brass buttons. My shoes were navy that year, with ribboned roses at the toe, the entire ensemble emitting a distinct stewardess vibe.

With the birth of my youngest sister, less effort was expended at Easter. In subsequent years’ photos, communion and confirmation dresses reappear, recycled for Easter. With the exception of a random headband, heads are bare. Teenagers’ downcast eyes replace the unbounded joy of younger holidays.

But now, paraded across my sister’s Facebook, these Easter portraits evoke Polaroid memories: foam rollers dropped on dressers before church, annual boardwalk parades, licorice patent bags, crisp white gloves. I toiled to create similar stories for my own two daughters until they, too, aged out of the experience. They have their own photos now.

So while I wait for feedback on my novel, I cross my fingers this discriminating audience will embrace all its wrinkles and view my manuscript as I do: all dressed up with someplace to go.


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