Thursday, October 28, 2010

Dia De Los Muertos

Today is Tinker Day.  An Old Girl's fancy turns to thoughts of Krispy Kreme and brambles caught on her fishnets.  (That was one fancy school....)    One laptop, one Big 80s playlist, and one pile of letters, and I am holding my own Day of the Dead Ceremony.

I have been slowly reading through a pile of Renee's letters over the past few months.  Slowly because there are not many of them -- that is, there is not an unlimited supply, and I wanted to make them last.  Slowly, because each one is a fat 2-sided multi-page packet of joy and possibility, gossip and panic, art and sarcasm.  And they take 15 or 20 minutes to settle into.  I have been reading them in the morning mostly, as a way to prolong the start of the day, and to see if I can harness some of the That Girl fantastic-ness of 20-ish Renee.

Always more fearless than the rest of us, always more ballsy, and yet (as her letters remind me), also struggling to like herself and the boys who liked her.  This pile is from 1987 to 1990 -- the very last of them is a postcard from Italy where she vacationed with her last boyfriend, who she married, and heart-breakingly widowed.

Reading Renee's letters from this time of our lives has made me so happy -- to hear her voice again, and to spend private time with her.  It has also made me so sad -- to only have this way to write back to her after all these years.

I marvel at what Renee would have made of the Internet, of  "social networking."  She would have been on MySpace first thing, because she was a band girl, and would have loved discovering new favorites this way.  She would most certainly podcast, and probably Tweet. I think she would dig the idea that Google has preserved her contributions to Spin magazine.  She would be a rabid blog commenter.  But thinking of her this way is like playing a game of "What cigarettes would Emily Dickinson smoke?" (1)  When I try to project her on the 21st century, she seems sort of Photoshopped.

But I know these past 10 years would have revealed themselves to be her time -- Free the Music, e-books, Yes We Can!  To have her meticulous handwritten font, in fanciful inks, on linen paper that probably came dear for her grad school budget, but which she thought was right and proper for the intimacies of personal correspondence, also seems True.  When I read her frantic (though confident) voice and the ridiculously age-appropriate (and not at all important) problems of her day-to-day struggle for Importance, I feel the girls we were then, and they can handle whatever we throw at them.

My shrine is in the form of these envelopes by the bed.  This essay is my calavera.  With you forever young, and forever hopeful, I don't dare become (too) old and jaded.

(1) Tareytons: "Because I rather than fight than switch, they kindly switched for me..."


  1. What a wonderful tribute to a friend who left you too soon!! M

  2. What a beautiful post and a good reminder of how important a handwritten letter can be. For those of us who are less disciplined about chronicling our lives for OURSELVES--a packet of letters can serve as that journal we never keep.

    A few years ago, my mom's best friend bundled 30 years of correspondence that my mom had sent her and presented them to her on a milestone birthday. This is a gift that my mom still treasures--especially after the loss of her oldest son (of whom many-an-adventure was captured in her thoughtful scribbles to her soul-sister).

    Your post also reminds me of a book that I'm reading right now, Love Is a Mix Tape: Life and Loss, One Song At A Time.

  3. Readership: please buy Love is a Mix Tape and Talking to Girls About Duran Duran. Both by Rob Sheffield, pictured above with his late wife, Renee.

  4. thank you for writing this.

  5. I found this inspiring. Seems like this Fall has seen the loss of several people from my world. I'm thinking that I would have loved Renee!

  6. A beautiful tribute. Thanks. I thought of all of you on Tinker Day.

  7. I have read "Love Is A Mixed Tape" and saw it as a tribute to a very much loved woman and the very brief life that she and Rob shared. We all remember different things about our friends/family who are no longer with us, but many of us cannot find the words to put it in writing. You and Rob have done that for us and we thank you. M


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