Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Only Child

The large yellow padded envelope was delivered unceremoniously to the floor of my home office by a diminutive, cranky postal carrier wearing CARSTM pajamas.

"Here, Mommy, there's mail for you," he said, turning on his small heel and running back down the hall in search of more mischief.

I picked up the envelope, curious about the return address label, which bore the name of an unfamiliar contact at a prominent publisher. Unable to guess its contents, I finally opened the envelope. Inside, I found a brand new copy of a lovely book titled "Only Child: Writers on the Singular Joys and Solitary Sorrows of Growing Up Solo", edited by Deborah Siegel and Daphne Uviller.

In the past I've received a new book in this way when I've been asked in advance to review it, but that was not the case this time. I couldn't figure it out: I don't have an only child, I am not an only child. There did not seem to be a professional connection; no mention of autism or speech therapy on the book jacket. I must have stood staring at this book like a fool for quite some time, because Matt eventually took it out of my hands and I continued to get the boys ready for school.

"This might be a clue," he said, coming back to me a few minutes later, holding the book out. Matt had opened the mystery book to a random page and found himself looking at an essay written by a high school friend of mine, Ted Rose.

Previously on L.A. Law, I have alluded to the fact that I attended somewhat mediocre public schools with some fantastically witty and bright high achievers in Middletown, Connecticut (many were the children of professors at Wesleyan University) who are all dear to my heart. Ted Rose was no exception. Here's a recent bio for you; note the essays published in Wired, Slate, Salon, and The New York Times. He's also been an NPR All Things Considered correspondent. Seriously.

(As an aside, I have always been shocked to hear myself described as "ambitious" or "intelligent" because in my growing up experience, I was decidedly not, relatively speaking. It is only in the past couple of years that I've been able to see myself in relation to a more, perhaps, typical and diverse population, and have been relieved to find that I am actually a little bit brighter than the neighbor's schnauzer. But only a bit, mind you.)

Ted is the son of well-known writer and English professor Phyllis Rose, who was, when I knew her son as Teddy, living with Laurent De Brunhoff; the two are now married. Yes, it's true: Babar essentially lived at my friend's house. Anyway, Ted is in good company in this book, which also includes essays by the children of Alice Walker and Erica Jong.

I carried Only Child in my bag all morning and sat down to read Ted's essay "Air Only" as soon as I had a few minutes. It was poignant and beautiful. It's a rare gift to read something so well written that also provides unique insight into the life of someone you know.

Turns out, Ted did not send this book to me; the fact that his essay is in this anthology is mere coincidence. This does not surprise me, as we haven't been in touch. I suspect that, although I discontinued writing for Chicago Moms Blog many months ago, perhaps my name is still on some lists out there. I used to get a lot of review opportunities through them.

Whatever its source, the mysterious appearance of Only Child is a gift in many senses of the word. I'm enjoying reading the rest of the anthology, bit by bit, but the happy surprise of a window into the world of an old friend will be hard to beat.

9 comments:

Heather! said...

I wonder if my sister would enjoy reading it--my nephew is an only. Small world! I grew up in Haddam. My grandparents live in Middletown.

kristenspina said...

Oh, I definitely want this one for my library. Both my son and my nephew are lonely only boys...

frooly said...

Dude, that is a supercool coincidence! I remember you talking about Ted(dy) but didn't know he was up to such great stuff these days. I also somehow never heard about your Babar connection!

Jordan said...

Um, yeah, Jules - you're two degrees of separation from Babar. Enjoy.

Casdok said...

Sounds an interesting book!

Nadine said...

Sounds interesting! And how awesome you get free mystery books! :)

Whatif said...

Thank you for posting about this book. I'm turning 29 on Sunday and have struggled with being an only. And an only grandchild. So I bought it as a birthday present for myself. And thanks for posting about your kiddos. They make me smile. :)

Deborah Siegel said...

I'm so glad you are enjoying it Jordan, however it got to you! I LOVE your logo, btw! - Deborah (one of the editors!)

Cindy said...

I'll have to put this on my list. The fact that I have an only child is one of my greatest regrets. I have such a good relationship with my sister, and I'm sad Sophie will never know that amazing connection I think you can only have with a sibling. Treatment for breast cancer put the brakes on my fertility, but I know I'm lucky to be alive to raise the one kid I'm fortunate enough to have.

And it's always nice to know what people are reading. Thanks for sharing!

Have a great weekend!