Monthly Archives: January 2009

My Grandmother

January 21, 2009

Maria Handler 1911-2009 A beautiful life has come to its earthly end. And though my grandmother, Maria Handler, was 97 years old, it is never the right time, a good time for someone you love to die. She lived a remarkable life, because she was a remarkable woman. She endured a revolution, a civil war, a world war, evacuation, famine, illness and tragedy. And yet you would never know she had borne any hardship at all from the way she carried herself: she was a good happy person who loved sweets and her friends, who loved her sons and her grandchildren and great-grandchildren, who took care of me and my sister and my cousin when we were young and maintained that one of her regrets was that she wasn’t strong enough to take care of the great-grandchildren also. When you were in her home, you felt loved. You came in, you sat down, she served you, she cleaned your plate, and then she sat across from you and wanted to know all about your life.This is how she treated everyone, not just her family.  She was curious about everything.  She understood everything. You could count on her to have a righteous reaction to sorrow, to joy, to heartbreak.  To your every success and failure she bore an empathetic and enlightened witness. She gave you always what you needed. When you were hungry, she fed you. When you were thirsty, she gave you drink. And then you went away and lived your life, and she went on merrily and lived hers. She loved TV, and her newspapers and her books, and my grandfather, not necessarily in that order.  She lived joyously until she saw you again.  Sometimes she complained you didn’t call her as often as you should have, but it was a superficial complaint, because you knew that you were profoundly loved.  She remembered salient details about all the relatives, she had the memory of Matteo Ricci and the intuitive understanding of a sage, and she gave you all of herself, freely, liberally, always. For seventy five years she lived side by side with my grandfather.  The two of them came to America in 1979, seemingly in the twilight of their life and yet we were fortunate enough to have them bring us joy, and food, and conversation and love for thirty more years.That is astonishing, and I never forget how blessed I feel having had her in my life for this long.  Still, it wasn’t long enough. It never is.  She brightened every room when she was in it, you felt yourself striving to be a better person in her sainted presence, led by her example, and the world is a smaller, darker place with her gone.  Like my grandfather, my grandmother had every gift, including the gift of a long and magnificent life.  She died peacefully, at home, in her bed, in her sleep, unsuffering, surrounded by people she loved.  In a struggling, conflicted world, she, as my grandfather, died as they had lived, simply, and yet extraordinarily.



Return of the Prodigal Writer

January 14, 2009

My dear readers: Hello! How have you been? Someone really must teach me the definition of blogging. Blogging: website, usually maintained by an individual, with regular entries of commentary, descriptions of events, or other material. Emphasis on “regular”. Would you call one entry a year “regular?” I didn’t think so. Honestly, you’d think I was writing a book or something. And losing my babysitter. And raising four kids, including the near 22-year-old, who’s back home after a successful college career. And trying to lose twenty pounds. And desperately trying to finish the Bronze Horseman screenplay. And getting ready to return to Australia and New Zealand in November. But still. I find it inexcusable that I couldn’t find time to write and apprise you of my goings-on.  I promise to do better in the future.  In the meantime, another book, the ninth novel, is finished.  Whew. It’s called A SONG IN THE DAYLIGHT. It’s a story of a woman in the middle of her happily-ever-after life gradually embroiled in a passionate mess of her own making. I can’t wait to have you read it and to hear what you guys think of it.  To celebrate its arrival in the stores in New Zealand and Australia on October 27, 2009, (with England to follow in the spring of 2010, and the U.S.  a little later), I will be returning to the Land of Oz and NZ for three weeks in November. I’m excited about seeing you all. I hope you come to my shows, readings, signings. Details to come shortly.  As soon as we have a definite itinerary, we’ll post it either here on in News. But I know I’ll be in Auckland, Christchurch, Queenstown, and Wellington, in New Zealand. And in Australia, we’ll visit Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Hobart (!), Adelaide and Perth. I do hope you all can join me for some wine and talk.  I’ll try to bring pictures and music, like last time. Do you know how hard it is to work without a babysitter for your kids? Pavla was like a wife to me, but after six years she left me home alone with the children.  It was like a divorce, amicable, but no less heartbreaking. And all the things she did for me, picking up the little one from school, carpooling the older ones, doing homework, laundry, food-shopping, all the little errands, the dry cleaning, the post office, suddenly was placed squarely in my overburdened lap, and meanwhile my editor is emailing me every day, saying, Paullina, done with the book yet? What about now? And what about now? Done now? So the day was halved and stressed, and the work was doubled and stressed. Is it any wonder I’m just coming up for air now. The children have started school again, today, but I see that it’s almost time to pick up the little one from school again. What’s funny is, this is what most of you have to live through every day.  I know that.  I always knew it.  I didn’t know how you had time to read my books. But I had been so lucky, because since I finished Tully, I’d never been without some domestic help. At first it was for four hours, then six, then a full day, 9-5.I’ve been with 9-5 help for the last thirteen years. Imagine my shock last March. We tried to find someone great, but failed.  No one could be as great as the girl who left me. I must run, the third-grader is waiting, but I will write more tomorrow, and I will tell you about Jindabyne, and also about my beloved grandmother.