Friday, November 2, 2012
Now nearly 50 pages into the writing of this book, a novel mostly about Florence, I stop to post these few words for Alice. There are scenes in this novel that flash back to the University of Pennsylvania campus, where my heroine grew up with her professor dad. We're at the Frank Furness-designed Fisher Fine Arts Library with this small, raw, very new (written an hour ago) scene:
... I remember being five or six or seven. I remember Mom saying, "Let's go surprise your father." I remember her taking Jack in one hand and me in the other and walking us down the wide wood steps of our Spruce Street twin and through the leafy corridors of West Philadelphia until we reached the edge of the sleeping giant campus. We were a parade of three. We were young and smart, and the campus was silver and brick, moss and ivy, castles and courtyards, and at the far end of our forever journey sat the fine arts library, red and round and tall and chimneyed, fantastic as something from the Brothers Grimm. That's where Dad would be—through the heavy notched doors and past the turnstile, in the massive reading room. It was a courtyard space with a roof four stories high. It was arches and arched southern sun. It was big books with thin pages and the smell of old things, cracked pencils, eraser nubs.
"Oh, my loves," Dad would say, "here you are." As if we'd wakened him from something. As if history were now. And my mom would lean toward him and let her long hair fall, like a screen between their love and ours.
My mother loves my father. She's just forgotten why.