Calvin Trillin's ode to his wife, About Alice, remains one of my favorite snapshots of a marriage. Alice was a frequent feature in most of Trillin's writing and a muse and lodestar in his life. This slim, unabashed love letter of a book makes clear that he was smitten in a very real, long-lasting way. It's not a weepy, maudlin elegy but a funny and poignant tribute to the woman he clearly adored and still does.
He writes, "I once wrote that tales about writers' families tend to have a relation to real life that can be expressed in terms of standard network-television fare, on a spectrum that goes form sitcoms to Lifetime movies, and that mine were sitcoms. Now that I think of it, maybe they were more like the Saturday-morning cartoons. Alice played the role of the mom--the voice of reason, the sensible person who kept everything on an even keel despite the antics of her marginally goofy husband. Years ago, at a conference of English teachers where we were both speakers, the professor who did the introductions said something like 'Alice and Bud are like Burns and Allen, except she's George and he's Gracie.' Yes, of course the role she played in my stories was based on the role she played in our family--our daughters and I sometimes called her T.M. which stood for The Mother--but she didn't play it in the broad strokes of a sitcom mom...she was anything but stern. She had something close to a child's sense of wonderment. She was the only adult I ever knew who might respond to encountering a deer on a forest path by saying 'Wowsers!'
"There was one condolence letter that made me laugh. Naturally, a lot of them made me cry. Some of those, oddly enough, were from people who had never met Alice. They had become familiar with her as a character in books and magazine pieces I had written...about traveling or eating or family life. Virtually all those letters begin in the same way, with a phrase like 'Even though I never really knew Alice..." I was certain of what Alice's response would have been. 'They're right about that,' she would have said. 'They never knew me.'
"...Still, in the weeks after she died I was touched by their letters. They might not have known her but they knew how I felt about her...I got a lot of letters like the one from a young woman in New York who wrote that she sometimes looked at her boyfriend and thought, 'But will he love me like Calvin loves Alice?"
- This made me wonder: Who are your lodestar couples--the ones you maybe aspire to be like, as Calvin and Alice were for the young letter writer? Are they real or fictional? Do you know them personally or from afar?
p.s. On a personal note, I'm celebrating with a happy dance in the kitchen and an afternoon of novel reading just for fun because last night I sent in 70 pages of my dissertation to my advisor! (Technically, it's part of the dissertation proposal but will also be the substantial literature review of my dissertation itself.) Just had to shout that from the internet rooftops. I'm beginning to think maybe this really will happen, folks! Except on the days when I'm ready to throw in the towel, that is. It's a toss-up these days (just ask Sarah, who lets me vent about it on an almost daily basis).