“The truth will set you free. But not until it is finished with you.”
- Infinite Jest (1996)
As I wrote about briefly on Instagram - the holiday season tends to get the best of me. Mixing sadness with all the other (more joyous) emotions that come with the start of November. I woke up last week heartsick and missing David Foster Wallace, for instance. A man - a writer - I discovered back in college that came to redefine the way I looked at life, and family, and society in general. I was dutiful back then and could consume a book like Infinite Jest with the kind of love and leisure I haven't known since becoming a mother. I had the time and will to see it through and let it marinate in my whole being the way a novel of that stature should. A luxury I never knew I would miss so much. I went with a small group of writing peers to a reading of his in L.A around the release of the Girl with Curious Hair. Afterwards we stood in line to have him sign our copy and I can never forget how kind his face was. The infamous bandanna wrapped around his head, his brawny athletic frame tucked into a fold away desk in the middle of the lobby, seemingly oblivious to the line of pretty girls (literature groupies) waiting to flirt and fawn over him, clenching books, fidgeting nervously. He was nice, in a typical way, and welcomed each of us to stop by his office in Claremont should we ever have any questions about writing. "I'm basically there, all day long gazing at my navel" He would tell us with a smile. Though it was hard to swallow - one of the best writers of this lifetime lazing around in his office, with a brain that shreds that sharp didn't seem buyable. Still, terribly tempting. Though the opportunity never arose.
A few years down the I was recovering in a hospital room after giving birth to my second son when I saw a news flash on CNN announcing his suicide and felt the weight of my high shift. How? Why?
The rest of that morning I sat questioning so many things, particularly, my choice in name. Even toying with the idea of "Foster" as a middle name to my sweet Leon. But decided ultimately against honoring a man who took his life in that manner. Genius or not, it didn't seem fair to lend to my boy's fresh start.
The book he signed I still can't find. It's here, I just don't know where. But waking on a random Tuesday to find yourself missing a man you met once, will push you into blue feelings of strange despair. Stuck remembering all you read and learned from him. Wishing he stuck around longer to explain so much more. Cursing yourself for not being able to find the damn book. Worrying that somewhere along the way it could have been lost just as easy as plainly as anything else.
And then, as it goes those feeling dissolve and you get back to feeling overwhelming thankful for what surrounds you:
For the handful of friends that gathered here at our home on Monday evening, bearing a giant pot of spaghetti sauce, fruit bowls, and cases of beer. Laughing together, toasting the season of our last shared holiday before a move across state splits us yet again. For the late night pumpkin pie run in my pajamas with Arlo and Jaylen singing top 40 hits on the drive up. For the dinner at my mom's crowded with a house full of cousins I never knew as a kid. For the teepee factory that manifests in our drive way about this time, leaving traces of endless sawdust trails marking the entry way, newly employing Arlo who's refined fourth grade skills and steady determination are earning him real money for this first time in his life. For the cold bus ride that took us to my mother in law's for turkey dinner - the best on this planet which called for a short nap by the fire after two helpings wore us out. For the wedding that came Friday evening after the rain stopped and united two people I've watched blossom from kids to grown people taking vows across the ocean at dusk just before a red burning sunset in San Clemente gave way to red wine and a lively dance floor that played "old" Elvis that made me stay an extra hour.
For the head cold that struck without warning Saturday and stayed with me until Sunday, ruining all plans to pull Christmas decorations from the attic like I had promised them, but amplified my gratitude for familiar feelings of health come Monday morning. In which I otherwise tend too often to take for granted.
For good friends, old memories, fresh starts, health, and happiness. And all the absurd complexities that manage to sneak in there between. The kinds of stuff DFW filled a few big, beautiful books with.
Happy seasons of Thanks. Hope your weekend was a full and restful one too.