A Letter to Nora

Friday, June 29, 2012 / 3:36 AM

Dear Nora,

My autographed You've Got Mail poster from the raffle
at Housing Works' "We've Got Mail" event in February.
It's taken me more hours than I'd like to pay proper tribute to you after your passing, but here is my attempt now: a letter to heaven, and I hope it finds you well. You may wonder why write this to a woman I never knew, but as Chris Matthews put it the other night: "Because this is about us."

Your writing was more than words on a page, on a screen. You were a storyteller in every sense of the word: it's because of you that I know that complicated matters of the heart can indeed be put into words, and that none of us are ever alone in loving, losing, or learning to begin again.

I was only a child the first time I saw one of your films. I have loved them ever since. There was something different about the heroine of your stories--the way she laughed, the way she spoke (so eloquent, so real), the way she rolled her eyes and brushed the hair from her face. I so wanted to be Kathleen Kelly (part of me still does today) because even though she lost at some things, she won too, and isn't that the message we all need? You can fall and you can fail--in fact, you will fall and fail a lot--in love, in work, in friendships, in life...but pick yourself up. See, I've had falling outs with friends, and I've made mistakes for 23 years, and I fell for the wrong person once who's since broken my heart every day for two years now...but it'll all pass. I believe it.

Yes, let yourself grieve, and feel every emotion of the pain of what you had and what could have been, but you'll be okay. And, please, don't be afraid to start over.

The themes of your films strike a timeless chord, and even though future generations will never know that familiar dial-up sound, there's still something about the characters and their journey that captivates hearts and souls. "I always recognized in those stories pieces of people I knew and conversations I had had," Linda Holmes wrote on NPR after learning of your passing. "They were like choral compositions where everything else is just pretty sounds, but you can pick out the alto line because you sang it in choir fifteen years ago. You could never reproduce the entire thing without amplification and help, but that one part makes sense."

Sleepless in Seattle taught me something about loneliness as much as When Harry Met Sally taught me about growth. The way I write, the way I speak, the way I think has been subtly influenced by your writing, and you share the credit (and, let's be honest, the blame)--along with Didion and Plath--for the messy and emotional basket case I can be, and the messy and emotional words that have led to these blogs.

From your films to your essays, and your forays into topics of friendships, romance, feminism, aging, and more, the pages of the book you created truly never tired. Charles McGrath's obit in the Times for you ended with a bit of your writing that brought forth the simplicity of why people--why I--adored you:

Ms. Ephron’s collection “I Remember Nothing” concludes with two lists, one of things she says she won’t miss and one of things she will. Among the “won’t miss” items are dry skin, Clarence Thomas, the sound of the vacuum cleaner, and panels on “Women in Film.”

The other list, of the things she will miss, begins with “my kids” and “Nick” and ends this way:

“Taking a bath
Coming over the bridge to Manhattan

You saw New York differently than so many, I'm sure of it. You saw life so differently too--not that you lived it differently, but that you knew how to express it differently, and more authentically than most.

Nora...it was nice to have met you.


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  1. This is a beautiful tribute to Nora. Well done, she will be missed.