I found out via tweet last week that Nora had passed. What an incredibly lame but effective way to find out important news. I immediately toggled over to the internet on my phone to confirm and then called my mom (she was downstairs). She had just read it on Facebook.
There have been many icons who have passed away in recent years but I don’t think any one of them has impacted me the way that this one has. I started looking up all of the tribute articles, photo galleries of the stars’ responses to the news, anything that might tell me more about Nora and her life and her presence in others’ lives. I both loved and hated Lena Dunham’s piece in The New Yorker, “Seeing Nora Everywhere.” It was funny and elegant and I’m sure Nora would have been proud. What I hated about it was how jealous I was. I wish I had had the opportunity to have a relationship with Nora. My relationship with Nora was short and sweet and she didn’t even know that it had happened.
When I lived in Los Angeles I had a “fabulous” job. The type of job that it feels really cool to tell people that you have, especially people from your tiny high school in Connecticut. The job may not feel like “I’ve made it” but telling people about it kind of does. Not that the job wasn’t great. It was. And I loved the family that I worked with. But personal assistant to Hollywood director and his family sounds shinier than it really is. But lets back up a little.
When I first moved to Los Angeles I thought I would turn my social work degree and my love of the written word into a break-out writing career. I would drop off my essays on society, my experiences and views at LA Weekly, send it into the LA Times and wait. I never heard back. Of course I didn’t. You don’t become a literary star overnight. But I looked for inspiration. I was given the book Crazy Salad and I devoured it. I laughed, I used a highlighter and I shared passages that I just couldn’t keep to myself. And I wrote. I wrote a piece called Nora Ephron based loosely on her Dorothy Parker, because she was my Dorothy Parker. And I was proud of what I wrote.
When I started my job as a personal assistant I couldn’t believe my luck. This was one of my favorite directors as he had made two of my all time favorite movies. Nora Ephron had even written one of them. And as I soon found out, they were friends. When an event was held at the household, Nora and her husband Nick would be invited. Sometimes the couples would have dinner out together. I would make the reservation and then confirm the reservation. If I was lucky, I would have to confirm with Nora. My palms would get a little sweaty and I would be overcome with excitement and nervousness. Somehow I kept it together while on the phone with her, even though every moment I felt like I would going to sputter out nonsense about how much I loved her, how much she meant to me and how inspiring she was. Oh and I wrote something about her, would she like to read it?. Thankfully, for my job’s sake, I kept my poise on every call. But what if I had sputtered a bit? She would have thought I was slightly spastic I’m sure. But maybe she would have read what I had for her. Maybe she would have been flattered that the girl on the phone at her friends house idolized her, or would it have been creepy? Maybe she would have taken me under her wing as she did Lena Dunham and I would have been receiving real estate and relationship advice.
I never did say anything to her aside from: “yes, your dinner reservation is confirmed, they will see you there. Have a great dinner” or “wonderful, they will see you at the screening! Have a great day!” I would then hang up and sigh, “oh, and I love you.”
In the years since my time in Los Angeles I haven’t seriously pursued my writing career. I have blogged and blogged about everything and anything. A couple of years ago I realized that it was the thing that really made me happy. My mom sent me a condolences card. If it were my job it actually wouldn’t feel like work. I’ve heard that people can feel that way but I’ve never experienced it.
In the meantime I had to work. I worked and worked and worked and then I got pregnant. And now that I have Luca I have found time to start to think about writing again. There was one thing in the Lena Dunham piece that really struck a chord with me. It was when she was discussing the movie screening and Q&A of “This is My Life.” She said that Nora explained to the group: “you cannot wait around for someone to give you permission to tell your stories.” Maybe that is what I’ve been doing. But hopefully I won’t be doing that anymore. I’m sad that I won’t be able to invite her to my future movie screening, book reading, other big lit event, and telling her that I was on the other end of the phone all those times and thank you.
Thank you, Nora. You did more than you know.