I don’t buy pens very often. The serious pens that were once a requisite for a writer’s life have been overshadowed by the computer. This is all the better, since small objects are hard for me to keep track of. Pens and reading-glasses slip willy-nilly out of my purse, getting plopped in odd places whenever I’m distracted, which is most of the time. They vanish, then show up unexpectedly in my glove compartment or on edge of the washing machine.
This occasion called for a real pen, just the right one. I grazed the pen aisle at Rite Aid, peering at nib size, ink type, grip girth. Gel or ink, blue or black, thick or thin? I fingered several, feeling their weight, imagining their flow. I finally chose a silver pen with a blue floral design that was slightly embarrassing in its floridity, but had a cushioned grip with a slim but substantial tip.
I realize the above sounds like selecting a love object, but I was simply choosing the right implement to sign my new book, Bringing Bubbe Home, A Memoir of Letting go Through Love and Death. After sixteen years of working on it at the computer, I’d hardly taken pen to paper, but now I would be celebrating its publication at a book launch party. In retrospect the phallic resemblance was perfect since the event turned out to be serious lovemaking.
At the party my friends, who’ve listened to me talk ad nauseam about my book project for sixteen years, arrived to help me make it official.I’d envisioned eating, schmoozing and drinking wine, a reading, then signing afterward. But right away people were buying books and before I knew it I was standing at a table with a glass of wine (ok, whiskey with soda and lemon) holding the flowered pen with the slim ink tip.
I looked up at the first person, my dear friend Sylvia who has walked through the woods with me for sixteen years, and offers me emergency advice wherever I am in the world at any hour of the night. I couldn’t just sign my name. I found myself writing a blessing, a mini love letter. Next, my old friend Elisa, whose life has been mysteriously intertwined with mine for forty years… another blessing. I had to focus (slightly difficult with whiskey) reach into my heart (somewhat easier with whisky), find the right words for each person, and then move on.
It reminded me of the ritual at an orthodox Jewish wedding when the bride and groom dole out blessings to their friends who stand in a long line. At an occasion when they are so full of joy and life, their blessings flow forth with special power. For me, it was an unexpected love fest of gratitude.
I’ve had a few more signings in the weeks since then, albeit none quite so moving as the first. Keeping track of my special pen hasn’t been easy. Like all small things, it slips in and out of my grasp, but so far it has appeared when I really need it, the ink flowing along with the blessings.
Just like lovemaking, waiting a long time for the book to be done has made the celebrating all the more delicious.