I didn’t have the kind of traumatic upbringing that often leads to a life of writing. Instead, my childhood was boring — it was perfectly happy. I was born in New York City and brought up on Long Island. My father commuted to Wall Street every day, my mom was a director of a nursery school. We didn’t live in the lap of luxury, by any means, but I never had to worry about where my next meal was coming from.
I also had a good relationship with my older brother, and I did well at school. I had a nice boyfriend at college, I didn’t do drugs, I didn’t drink. I really was such a good girl. No dirt on me!
My parents also came from a really tight, happy family, so in many ways this was all I ever knew. Why rebel against it? That’s probably why I was so happy to settle down when I was still quite young. I met my husband, Tim, while I was at college, and I was 23 when we got married.
I had a nice boyfriend at college, I didn’t do drugs, I didn’t drink. I really was such a good girl. No dirt on me!
We moved to New Hampshire and I became a mother for the first time when I was 25. It was around the same time as I’d published my first book, so in one sense it felt like it should have been my moment in the spotlight, but that didn’t happen. My baby boy, Kyle, had colic and screamed all the time, so motherhood demanded my full attention. I didn’t shower, I never got dressed properly, I never went out.
It wasn’t the beautiful first years with your child that Hollywood and TV promises you. I felt I’d been duped. I had postpartum blues, long before the term was ever coined, and it took me a good while to fall in love with him. But eventually I did, madly, and then Jake came along two years later, followed by my daughter, Sammy.
Kyle’s 21 now, and studying Egyptology at Yale, and then I’ve always been close to Jake because when he was 6, he was diagnosed with cholesteatoma, tumours in his ears, which in Jake’s case were benign. They can grow into your brain and kill you, but thankfully Jake’s healthy now, and also at Yale — he wants to be a lawyer.
My daughter, Sammy, is now 17 and we’re very close. She confides in me all the time, and I love that we can still bond so emotionally. It’s not always easy for mothers to bond with their teenage daughters, but we do. Since she is my youngest, I guess I’ve always been somewhat protective of her, but I think you can do that without smothering a child.
I’ve always informed her about life and I’ve never shielded her from the worst aspects of human nature. When she was 11, I explained to her what date rape was. It was something I’d been writing about, and, of course, I did it in a way that was age-appropriate. I’ve tried to help her and my sons digest things, prepare them. Keeping your kids in a bubble is what we would all like to do, but it just doesn’t work that way.
Sammy has just been accepted to Vassar College, which is in Poughkeepsie, in New York State. So we’ll be sending our last child out into the world, and when she’s gone the house will feel very empty, very quiet. I’ll start to think about all the small day-to-day things that will stop, such as our conversations in the morning and sitting around the dinner table at night.
I don’t think my own life will change that dramatically when she goes. I will certainly still be writing. It will be harder on Tim, because he’s spent a lot of time being a stay-at-home dad. But I’m still only 46 and we’re both looking at this as a new chapter in our lives. There are still plenty of things we want to do, such as travel, but I’m also looking forward to the time when Sammy and her brothers have families of their own and we become the proudest of grandparents… I’ve already seen the cutest baby clothes.