by Debra H. Goldstein
I never met Nora Ephron. Unlike the beautiful tribute Liz Smith wrote about her, I can’t say I personally experienced her wit, humor or cooking. But, I feel that Nora Ephron intimately knew me.
Essays like “I Feel Bad About My Neck,” “On Maintenance,” and “I Remember Nothing” capture the feelings and emotions I feel as I hide my once toned arms under sleeves and jackets and quietly discuss with my friends whether plastic surgery really can make us look “gently refreshed.”
Because of our ages, my friends and I find pieces by Anna Quindlen and Kelly Corrigan mirroring exactly what we are going through. We find comfort or at least familiarity in their words as our parents become our children, our children become the stars we once were, or we find ourselves having to take our parents, children or both into our homes until they regain their footing. Being a decade or two older, Nora Ephron’s works take us beyond our present experiences – and are there to comfort those of us who unfortunately have been precocious.
A few years ago, when my dear friend, Judy, was facing terminal cancer, I wrote about my anguish at having become my mother and my helplessness in knowing what to say or do for Judy in “Maybe I Should Hug You.” A year later, reading Ephron’s “Considering the Alternative,” a chill ran up my spine when I read the words about everything being fine one day, her friend Judy finding a lump on her tongue and being dead from cancer within a year, and having to move forward knowing the big “D” is out there.
It was at this point in time that I explored more of Ephron’s works. I laughed at the truths she incorporated into her ostensibly light romantic comedies like “When Harry Met Sally,” “Sleepless in Seattle,” and “You’ve Got Mail.” After reading Heartburn, I wondered what she could have done with the Bobbitt case, but then realized it would have lacked the personal quirky tie-ins that she managed to include even in remakes of movies or story ideas.
Nora Ephron managed to express my inner thoughts with a clarity I didn’t know existed. Through words and scenes, she reached into my soul and said the things I only whisper to my husband or dearest friends. Her death at merely 71 silences a voice that I looked forward to following for a long time.
It is our loss that we won’t know what else she knew about us, but in going forward, at least for me, I’ll look back at the body of work she left behind, paraphrasing one of my favorite Nora Ephron lines: “I’ll have what she’s having.”