Authors: Christina Haag
Tags: #Social Science, #Popular Culture, #Motion Picture Actors and Actresses, #Entertainment & Performing Arts, #General, #United States, #Personal Memoirs, #Biography, #Television actors and actresses, #Biography & Autobiography, #Rich & Famous
“I have a surprise for you,” he says over breakfast. We’d flown up commercial, but he tells me he’s chartered a plane back, and now we have more time. Over the years, he will say this when he does what pleases him.
A surprise for you
. And for a long time, I will find it charming. Like when he orders three breakfasts and tells the waiter two are for me.
The pilot greets us at the shingled terminal and drives us to the plane in a cart. It feels glamorous. “You’re lucky,” the pilot says. “Gonna be a great sunset. Clear skies all the way to New York.” It’s a single-engine Cessna with three passenger seats. Blue-winged, with a striped nose. The pilot checks wheels, pressure, flaps, gauges, and John follows him around the plane. He’s had lessons before, and they talk shop.
When they’re done, the pilot pulls me up the wing into the tilted plane, then John. Something breaks. I reach inside the pocket of my coat; there’s his stone and pieces of a scallop shell I found near the cliffs the day before. We buckle in and the tower clears us. I’ve never been in a plane so small, and he holds my hand for takeoff. His face—all of him—it’s eager. Once we’re up, he gives me the headphones. I listen for a moment to the monotone jumble of numbers and letters and codes I know fascinate him, then hand them back.
I’m entranced by the shapes from above—the coves and cliffs and ponds, the yellow borders of beach against the deep dark sea. I try to memorize and tuck them away like my life depends on it: I must have this snapshot of now. The pilot was right—the sky’s clear, only a thin bank of violet at the horizon. The din in the cabin is a dull roar—like you’re underwater. We can’t hear each other and speak in an amalgam of excited gestures and facial expressions. Below, there’s Gay Head and the empty islands we saw the day before from the cliffs—only now, from the sky, they’re complete.
Naushon, Nashawena, Pasque
. I say the names to myself to remember. In case this is the last time. In case it’s all we have. Just then the sun drops and floods the plane with ruddy light.
He lets go of my hand. He wants me to see.
The camel coat’s on my shoulders. The sky’s shot with red. And there’s something I’ve never seen. Small lines—the creases at his eyes, when he’s happy, when he’s smiling. Like bird wings.
irst: Without the love and encouragement of Jennie Moreau, Fredrika Brillembourg, and Mia Dillon, this book would not have been written. They knew that going back would not be easy, and like many of my friends, they had faith when I faltered. They persuaded me to tell my story and reminded me of the heart when I veered away. In addition, I have endless gratitude for Elizabeth Auran and Tom Diggs, who read so kindly, so carefully, and then shed light. And for Bernadette Haag Clarke and Rebecca Boyd, who knew, and always said, “Keep going!”
Profound thanks to Gary Murphy and Kirk Stambler for their counsel and keen insights; Paulette Bartlett, Rachel Resnick, and Erin Cressida Wilson for their thoughtful reads and good advice; Asaad Kelada, Arye Gross, Cordelia Richards, Daniel McDonald, and Andrew Haag for braving early drafts. And to Lynne Weinstein for her beautiful photographs and her friendship.
Heartfelt thanks to my agent, Suzanne Gluck, whose steadfast belief in my story and whose guidance at every turn have proven invaluable. And to her assistant, Caroline Donofrio, who answered my questions with cheerfulness and clarity. I am enormously grateful to the fabulous Julie Grau and the superb team at Spiegel & Grau: Sally Marvin, Avideh Bashirrad, Erika Greber, Richard Elman, Dana Leigh Blanchette, Greg Mollica. And to Evan Gaffney. Special thanks are due to Hana Landes, who kept things running smoothly, and to Dennis Ambrose, whose patience and good humor during the copyediting process meant so much.
For beginnings, I will always be grateful to Mary Jemail and Mary de Kay, my inspired eighth and tenth grade English teachers; and to Will Scheffer, Lisa Glatt, and the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program. And for the beginnings of the book to playwright and actor George Furth—he badgered until I began. A big thank you to Lainey Papageorge, who provided prayers and made a cherished return possible, and to Roger Miller for Daruma.
For keeping a place at their table and, when I needed it, generously offering a quiet room to write in, I must thank Matt O’Grady and John Shaka, Matthew Sullivan and Harriet Harris, Victoria Tennant, Keir Dullea, and Jason La Padura. Your friendship and love have meant so much. Thanks also to Jonathan and Helena Stuart for providing a glittering view of the sea for several crucial weeks.
For tireless help with facts and for sharing their memories, I am indebted to Anne Korkeakivi, Tom Dunlop, Tim Monich, Laurence Maslon, Spencer Beckwith, Billy Straus, Robin Saex Garbose, Lisa Curtis, Stephanie Venditto, Katherine Swett, Sarah Miller, Susan Burke, and especially, the quicksilver Ultan Guilfoyle, who responded to each and every one of my emails, no matter how trifling.
Cumberland Island: A History
by Mary R. Bullard and
Convent of the Sacred Heart: A History in New York City
by Timothy T. Noonan were books that inspired memories of my own, and I am grateful to the authors.
Many thanks for the kindnesses of Mikel and Margaret Dunham, Karen Watson, Laney Fichera, Lynn Blumenfeld, G. Marq and Karen Roswell, Robert Haag, Elizabeth Reed, Jessica Queller, Kari Catalano, Adam Green and Elizabeth Fasolino, Stephen DiCarmine, Bob Morris, Samantha Dunn, Richard and Louise Paul, Elyn Saks, Jennifer Fraser, Christopher Clarke, Karen Balliet, Robert Levithan, Debby Stover, Diana Berry, Spencer Garrett, and my manager, Christopher Wright, who has always shown patience and support. I would also like to thank Mujah Maraini-Melehi, who made a respite happen, and Donald Antrim, whose honest words at the right time meant a great deal.
I am deeply appreciative of the Monday Night Writers Group, especially for the support of Sara Pratter, Kathleen Dennehy, and Fielding Edlow; the John Jermain Library; and the communities of Montauk and Sag Harbor, New York, which provided the welcome, seclusion, and peace I needed to complete the book.
To Father Daniel and the monks at the Hermitage: The gifts I received on the hill remain. To the nuns at Sacred Heart who encouraged us to keep journals: I listened, and years later found I had boxes full.
Finally, I would like to thank my brilliant editor and friend, Cindy Spiegel. I am humbled by your gifts. When we met again in 2006, I sensed we shared a vision. Now I know this to be abundantly true. As you once said, this was meant.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
is an actress who divides her time between New York City and Los Angeles. She is a graduate of Brown University and the Juilliard School.