I started The Postscript exactly one year ago. I am more than a little superstitious when it comes to numbers. When I wrote the first draft of my memoir, Blue Yarn, I had an even number of chapters in all three sections. This was probably tidier than necessary, but maybe not terribly unusual. But then I made sure that every chapter had exactly 5,000 words. This pleased me to no end — even as I realized my mania for symmetry was tipping over the edge.
When my agent sent notes to me, one of her comments was, “Chapter Eleven is very redundant and needs editing.”
I thought, “Well, of course it does. Do you have any idea how hard it was to get that chapter to exactly 5,000 words?”
I did not tell her this, of course. I don’t think it’s helpful if your agent thinks she is representing a crazy person.
This column is always 600 words. It is never 598 words. It is never 601. If you are ever reading it and find there are only 598 words, I suggest you march down to your editor’s office and demand your missing two words — or a prorated discount on your newspaper subscription.
I don’t know exactly why I do this. No one has ever told me, “Carrie, we’d love to print your column, but it’s five words too long.” But I don’t think I’m alone in liking the symmetry of a nice round number.
My mother is a quilter. I am not. Theoretically, I should be good at quilting because quilting is all about symmetry. All art relies on symmetry or deliberate asymmetry and the tendency spills into the way we arrange furniture, organize our cabinets, or line up paint cans in the garage. Birthdays and anniversaries are celebrated when the earth has made it around the sun exactly once. I think all these things bring peace and order, and even beauty, to our world and I don’t think that’s a bad thing.
But it’s possible I take it a little too far.
If anyone is to blame, it would be my mother. (Isn’t this always the case?) I don’t feel bad blaming my mother because she gave me a near-perfect childhood and so, in this late-in-life new career as a writer, I don’t have much to write about.
My mother has kept a daily journal all her adult life. This is remarkable because on a spectrum with hoarders on one end and Buddhist monks on the other, my mother leans pretty close to the monks. But she has all her journals going back to before I was born. She insists her journals are not interesting and regularly threatens to throw them out.
“It’s just a record of every dental appointment I’ve ever had.” she insists. But then she’ll occasionally say, “Did you know it was last year on this day when we…” and we both marvel how the time has passed. And I think that is the point, nice, even numbers give us an excuse to mark the passage of time.
Time goes so quickly. My husband, Peter, and I recently celebrated our 50th month anniversary. We went out to eat and made a big deal of it because we know we will never see an actual 50th anniversary.
I don’t know how long I will get to write this column. I hope it’s a long time. But nothing in life is certain and so today, even if it isn’t necessary, even if it’s a little silly, I am celebrating our one-year anniversary.