The other day, I was leaning over my Mead composition notebook brainstorming topics for my column. Usually, this means reflecting on the past week and wondering if I noted anything interesting that might be interesting to you. Sugar snap pea season? Great summer slaw recipe? Chipmunk hunting starring Tilly and Hugo? This Nars blush shade called “Orgasm” that apparently everyone has heard of for years except for me?
Staring at the list, I realized I’ve written versions of every one of these things already. And that’s when I knew. My column had come to its end. It took me 17 years, but I can now say I’ve written about — and celebrated — every mundane topic I can think of.
My column started in May 2005 shortly after I’d moved to Kentucky. I remember sitting at my makeshift desk in the newsroom at The Sentinel-Echo and feeling extremely grateful to be there. A few weeks before, I’d approached the publisher, Willie Sawyers, and asked if I could volunteer at the paper since I didn’t have an immigration Visa that would allow me to be employed.
“I’ll do anything,” I’d said. “File, run errands, make copies, whatever anyone needs.”
Willie sat there rubbing his chin. “Well, would you be willing to write?”
It was like the clouds that had been hovering over me since my move suddenly cleared and sun came pouring through.
Hell yes, I would be willing to write.
Pretty quickly, I was volunteering full-time and, eventually, Willie went through the process of getting me an immigration Visa so I could officially work at the newspaper. I’ll never forget that kindness.
But the biggest gift was not just getting to write but getting to write this every week. Having a space to explore just about any topic and seeing that analysis published week after week never stopped being a thrill — and an honor.
Of course, my column has never really been a column. I didn’t often take stands and didn’t often make arguments. Usually, I just celebrated and tried to write about my life in a way where readers would think, “I know exactly what she means.”
So, instead, these have been personal essays and, boy, they’ve been personal. You’ve read about my marriage, when the long unnamed “boyfriend” turned into my husband William. You’ve read about my infertility. About my mom and Peter’s marriage. About William’s scary bout with viral cardiomyopathy. About the day I became an American citizen. About the death of my dad.
You’ve also read about my sweet stepdaughter Gabrielle. Her pet hamsters, love of Junie B Jones, shopping sprees, driver’s license, high school graduation — they all became topics for discussion in this space.
Food and cooking, of course, has been another major theme. As has weight loss and bathing suit season. And my dogs. My god have I written about them.
Put together, columns like these are an interesting compilation of one’s life, and I saw that plainly in black and white about a year ago while scanning the archives to assemble a tribute to Ike Adams, a beautiful columnist who always inspired me. It even has the ability to capture the age. For example, I wrote about the first Sex and the City movie. Do cultural moments get bigger than that one?
Whether I was writing about Carrie Bradshaw or Joan Jett, William Baker has been with me the whole time. Having a columnist for a wife isn’t the easiest gig, in part because I didn’t always tell him what the week’s topic was before it published. But he took it in stride. He’s always pushed me to write, even when I don’t push myself, and I’ll never stop being grateful for that.
I also need to thank you, dear readers, who have likewise encouraged me, even when I wrote from my perch in Somerset instead of London. When my column started showing up in the Commonwealth Journal a few years ago, l was gifted with a new set of readers and you guys have likewise been kind and generous.
Finally, thanks to my mom and her tight pack of friends in Winnipeg who always cheered me on from afar. I don’t think my mom has missed reading even one column, which is so symbolic of the dedicated parent she’s always been. Getting to hear that she picked up what I put down? It doesn’t get any sweeter than that.
Still, the time has come for me to sign off. I wish you lives full of sweet memories, funny moments, and, even when times are darkest, gratitude. Just as the last 17 years have been for me.