AUTHOR | SPEAKER | PHILOSOPHER | DESIGNER
My long-time spiritual advisor and close friend, John Bowen Coburn, who married Peter and me 35 years ago this May, had a motto he lives by: “You never know.” I’m certain that rings true for you.
On Tuesday February 10th, my new book Things Good Mothers Know officially went on sale in bookstores across the country. I was excited and called my new editor Caroline to thank her for seeing my book through the production stages. My editor for my past thirteen books, Toni, left HarperCollins last year and edited my book for freelance. As I’ve often expressed, the relationship between an author and editor is close and extremely important. Caroline didn’t come to the phone; she was packing up her things and leaving HarperCollins. The Collins Living publishing imprint, who published all of my books, suddenly vanished – on the very day my book was “on sale.” Utter chaos. The dire economic crisis hit home.
My joy was short lived. Many phone conversations later, plus a long walk, I knew the publishing business is in trouble economically because people are reading less, and buying fewer books. The same is true of journalism. Newspapers and magazines are going through hard times. People are being laid off, offered early retirement, asked to leave, booted out… Everything at Collins Living happened within a few hours. No warning. Out! Entire floors of empty offices. Phone calls not returned. Bad news is never convenient. But, it is my nature to see a silver lining, and when I look for one, when I seek to find the light at the end of the tunnel, it is always there.
We’d planned weeks beforehand to take a mid-winter break. We decided to go to New York City, then on to Chevy Chase, Maryland, to spend time with the “grands,” Nicholas, Anna and Lily, as well as their beloved Golden Retriever, Homer, to spend time with Alexandra, to take a break. We needed a change of scenery. There was sawdust everywhere inside our cottage and ice all around us outside.
As I was packing our bags to leave in a taxi for the train, the telephone rang in the study, and something prompted me to run in and answer the call. It was my publisher! Mary Ellen told me she is going over to my former publisher, William Morrow, and asked me what I thought of Anne as my new editor! Anne. Wow. Anne was a beloved assistant for Toni, and when Toni left, Anne was promoted to being an editor. As a free-lance project, she has been doing all the computer work for my books and articles. I love Anne. My happiness returned. I was jumping for joy. My spirit energy returned as well to high levels.
I put the Nikko blue hydrangea plant in the refrigerator, packed some Aristotle books and left the cottage. The entire train ride felt invigorating. There was excitement in the air.
That night we went to our favorite restaurant, La Grenioulle, for a celebration dinner with our friends, who had become our partners in purchasing Roger Mühl paintings in Paris. Cathy and Bill thought it a fitting ending to a successful partnership to go to this elegant restaurant where we could eat delicious food, sip fine wine, and honor the late Roger Mühl. He and his wife Line always stayed at a hotel next door to La Grenioulle and we went there with them often over the course of thirty years.
Toward the end of the evening, Cathy, who is a huge collector of Mühl, said he was the spark. “I can’t believe he’s dead.” Without being conscious of my reaction, I said, “Maybe he isn’t dead.” Every time I look at one of his paintings, he is very much alive. For a year his pictures were stored in a room we called the “art room.” They were in cardboard, hidden from sight. I’d been deprived of the beauty and colors of his work. And, as we were enjoying ourselves in this great French restaurant I’ve been going to since it opened in 1963, we toasted our new granddaughter Cooper, who was in Paris with her parents – age four months to the day…
New York was magical, and our visit to be with the gang couldn’t have been more fun. We are heroes because we stay at a hotel that has a pool. The ritual is breakfast at the Daily Grill, then up to our room to change clothes, then up to the pool on the top of the roof. We then go from pleasure to pleasure, including making pottery, writing love notes and short stories, designing scarves and rugs, reading, and shooting some hoops. At last count Lily, age five, got 38 baskets in the net almost rapid fire without missing the mark! After a delicious barbecue supper, the children performed an Irish dance presentation for us, with Homer wagging his tail wandering around the performers.
We left for New York, they went back to school and work, and we had the distinct pleasure of going to see Cooper upon her return from Paris. She was a champion and slept through her parent’s romantic evening at the Ritz, sipping champagne on Valentine’s Day, celebrating the anniversary of their engagement.
Our cup runneth over. Upon our return, there was a nasty snowstorm with sleet and ice and the weather was so foul we didn’t even go to the cottage to check the progress. The next morning the sun came out and we were able to see all kinds of transformation. Our dreary dark attic with thousands of nails protruding from the roof was converted into what we affectionately call “the silver room.” We have a score of bright lights running the length of the house and silver insulation material has covered the dangerous bad energy nails. In the back of the house a rotted window was replaced with a new Anderson one with a half circle at the top to echo the antique fan window in the front of the cottage. Something clicked… I could create an art room for the grandchildren.
We’ve placed a low table and some chairs in front of the new window that overlooks Narragansett Bay. This area of the attic is cozy with the gables, and a white plastered chimney closes in the otherwise open place. We’re saving all of Peter’s white shirt boards for their art work. How Zen is that?
At the other end, in front of the 72” wide fan window, is the best view in the house of the harbor. We now have a huge silver table supported by saw horses (the surface is an insulated panel) with two high swivel bar stools that we bought twenty-two years ago thinking we’d use them at a kitchen island only to discover we didn’t want to look at a black microwave oven. They were relegated to the attic and are now perfect to use at our huge project table. We go up from our writing rooms to sit there and gaze into the sunsets when available.
This renovation is thrilling. I’m definitely going to write about it. We have turned the corner… Peter and I spent a weekend at the cottage to test the water and put one toe in to see how we like it. It was a tease, but a romantic one. We were at home, even if temporarily. More cottage news soon…
Happy march. Great love to you.
Love & Live Happy
Have you taken photos at one of Alexandra's events that you'd like to share? If so, you can email them to AStoddardInc@aol.com. Please be sure to include the names of those in the photo and where and when it was taken! We will try to include them on the website in the future.
Love is Timeless
Alexandra and Peter in the doorway of their beloved cottage.
Alexandra with Ann and Michele.
Alexandra autographing The Gift of A Letter to a dear friend.
Peter admiring the hand marblizing in The Postcard as Art at the cottage
For all of the mothers that you'd like to give an autographed copy of my new book, please send your order (including inscription information) to:
Bank Square Books
53 West Main Street
Mystic, CT 06355
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Now I know what love is