Day 18, 19, and 20: I added a couple of more pages to my draft. It is now 111 pages. I resisted the urge to go back and re-read the manuscript. I started to write something new, possibly a new chapter. I thought about my grandmother. She pops up when I feel especially insecure. She died in an accident in 2003.
My grandmother tried to teach me how to use a sewing machine once. I was twelve and awkward. My hands were shaky. My grandmother was a seamstress by trade, but she also cut her own patterns and sewed clothes for the fun of it. She let me sit in her chair and run the hem of a skirt she had designed based on a Princess Di suit. The red, stretchy fabric got caught between the presser foot and the feed dog. My grandmother shoved me off her chair. She said, “Stop, stop. You’re too nervous. Let me finish it.”
About two years before she died, she said this to me again. We were sitting in a McDonald’s about five blocks away from her apartment. It was the week after 9/11. Her apartment was a block away from the Port Authority. That afternoon there was a bomb threat at the terminal. At the time, I was a receptionist at an office near Grand Central Station. I rushed to my grandmother’s as soon as I heard about the bomb threat. I bought her a cup of coffee and small fries. She was not happy to be pushed out of her apartment. “You’re just like your mother,” she said to me. “You’re too nervous.” I just knew I was a disappointment to her. When I was screwing around as a teenager, being antisocial, depressed, and sometimes under the influence, my grandmother loved me. But once, I was in a loving, stable relationship and paying closer attention to my choices, my grandmother disliked me. She was a complicated woman, but in all ways a constant influence on my writing.
I felt her in my studio. She watched me as I wrote. Smacked my head when I second guessed myself.