It’s always been Kathleen Kelly.
She taught me how to dress, how to be kind yet firm, how to be funny. Because of her, I read Pride and Prejudice and fell in love with Elizabeth Bennett. I got my first AOL account, and I still associate the name Kimberly with cocktail waitresses. Daisies are my favorite flower, and whenever autumn rolls around, I always want to buy school supplies.
When I was 13, I saw You’ve Got Mail for the first time, and I realized what I wanted to be when I grew up. I realized it was okay to like books; it was okay to fail and to close up shop; it was okay to recreate your dreams and start over and try again. I watched that movie — the first “grown-up” movie I’d ever seen — and it forever set the high standard for movies starring, for, and about women.
Kathleen Kelly of the little bookstore taught me a lot, and I owe her creation and the words of her mouth to Nora Ephron.
Ms. Ephron passed away yesterday, and I feel like someone punched me in the gut.
I’m sure there will be countless memorials all over the Internet today, most, if not all, of them better than mine.
But I remember the first time I saw Sleepless in Seattle, remember the first moment I realized I could quote You've Got Mail in its entirety (including song lyrics). I remember sneaking to watch When Harry Met Sally, long before I even knew what Meg Ryan was doing in that scene in the deli, remember my brother bringing me a bouquet of sharpened pencils for Valentine’s Day. I remember crying in the theatre watching Julia Child open her newly published cookbook in Julie & Julia. I remember the night I went to the Hoover Public Library, trying to work on my honors thesis, only to instead read a collection of Ephron’s essays in its entirety, laughing in the corner all by myself.
A lot of people can write and write well. But I feel like Ephron had a knack for brevity, had this ability, in one short sentence, to totally change a scene or make an essay.
This world has lost a lot of literary greats lately, and as the times change and paper fades away, I get a little nervous about what the future holds.
But then I think about Kathleen Kelly, how her world changed, how her livelihood changed, and yet it all worked out for the better.
Last night, as I fell asleep, I said a little prayer for Nora Ephron’s family, for their grief and their mourning. I thanked God for writers, for books, for words, and I prayed that heaven would still have all those things, so one day, I might be able to sit and laugh and have dinner with Nora. We would talk about the books and the city and the career she loved so much, and I think we’d have a pretty grand time.
image by George Rose, 1978