Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Your signature

What does it mean to write well? I've come across several things lately that have inspired me to believe in the importance of writing. It's our signature, a legacy of memories, a picture of thoughts, impressions and a self portrait. Through the process, it becomes an adventure lived by others; when we allow others to read what we have written. Much like painting or singing, we give someone perspective when we allow them to read our words.

I am finishing Julia Child's las
t book, "My Life in France", a book co-authored in 2006, two years after her death, by her grandnephew, Alex Prud'homme. He finished something she had already started, a memoir of her beloved years with her husband Paul Child, living in France after World War II, and learning to cook. Her style, like her cooking, is relaxed and warm. She is as refined and bohemian as I always imagined her. Lord, this woman loved to live, and lived to love well. The book honors her relationship with her husband, as much as it honors the country they lived in together. She simply writes a visual and olfactory memoir that makes your mouth water. One lesson gleaned from her reflections is that ideally, we all need to slow down a bit and take in the people and culture that surround us. Our daughter, Shannon, recently spent several weeks in Italy, and this was one of the impressions she came home with; savoring surroundings, people and time.

In that same vein, I've admired the attempts of my friends and family as they chronicle their own lives in the blogosphere. One friend close by is chronicling the emptiness of her house as the last child in her house begins his senior year and her two oldest move out to attend college. Likewise, my sister in law is exploring her own empty nest ambitions of writing for her local newspaper. A friend of ours who recently lost his wife, used to keep us informed as to how she was faring in her final days, and my fondest wish is that he continues to write, for himself and for his grandchildren. I find that those of us who are getting older need to put our thoughts down in words, and it's a beautiful thing to read what others write, and the common bonds we have at this time in our lives. Writing is truly our signature.

t the suggestion of a fellow blogger, I logged onto a moving photo essay a few days back, and was literally spell-bound by the beautiful photographic tribute of artist, Phillip Toledano, to his aging father. If you are looking for inspiration today, it falls into the "don't miss this" category. You will be touched beyond words-at the depth this man has for the remaining days left with his Dad. A sheer tribute of love and grace. Toledano's father is photographed, but the pictures tell the story of the relationship. See the website at: www.dayswithmyfather.com

Randy Pausch's Last Lecture stirred quite a discussion in our house, after news of his death last month. We not only watched the Carnegie Mellon lecture online, but we are passing around the book in our family. When someone is facing their final exit, especially someone as young as Professor Pausch, the words he imparts are more about living than about dying. That's the message he left. His signature indelible, his legacy secure.

How are we to signature our lives? I'd like to think we do it with our children, our charity, and by our example. As I finish Julia's last incomplete book, I am satisfied that she was 'signed' off at the end. So impressed was I by her casualness, joviality and love for living, that I promise myself when I have a little extra time this Fall, I'm going to dust off my old copies of "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" and try my hand at a few of the recipes she perfected while living at the Roo de Loo, as she affectionately called her old Parisian apartment.

I'd like to continue my own promise to journal as I've done with Family fare, as I believe it is the one place where I can express what is most important to me; much in the manner that Toledano's father's signature is manifest and sculpted in the heart of his son. Our signature may be all that's left us, like a book that has been shared, well worn and ear marked with favorite spots where the coffee spilled and the crumbs piled high; as evidence that one was there and simply loved the ride.

Tammy Maher is a biweekly columnist for the Mountain Democrat. She can be reached on the web at www.familyfare.blogspot.com

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