I wrote the post 'Your story has touched my heart' on Saturday, when I was groggy with painkillers after surgery, and groggy with crying as well, I guess. So I keep thinking about things I should have included about Sarah.
Like the fact that most of her old friends – her real friends, as we used to joke – called her Sally. Like the way she was a really good mimic. (I used to ask her to do the Mississippi mechanic saying “I want to see you” over and over again.) Like the way she was queen of the music scene in New Orleans, and liked to rant about the way Jazz Fest was ruined, or because U2 and Green Day were playing at halftime during the Super Bowl. She was queen of grammar, and queen of etiquette, and loved to tell me, about someone else and their behavior: “That’s just rude!”
She was an ardent supporter and promoter of my books, buying them to give as presents (as her sister, Pat, just reminded me!) and asking me to get copies of the novels published in NZ so she could send them to people. She even published an excerpt from my second novel in the Collegian, the Newcomb-Tulane magazine.
The time I ran out of gas on Willow Street (because early on in NOLA we were broke and running the car on fumes), and after a student, Jeff Colosino, helped push the car to the side of the road, I called Sarah – who else? I knew she’d leave work right away to come and rescue me, and that (of course) she’d have a can for petrol in the back of her car. I knew I could call her anytime and say “be-yatch, get over here” and she would come.
Since I posted on Saturday, this blog has had over 500 hits. Lots of people knew and loved Sarah. They want to read about her and talk about her. They want her back as badly as we do. Of course, many, many people knew her much better and for much longer than we did, and have lots of stories. Please, if you feel like it, will you post them here in Comments for other people to read? Or email them to me and I’ll post them? Not all of us are friends on Facebook, or even on Facebook. Here’s something, in case you haven’t seen it, from the Cincinnati Review.
I’ve heard from Eric Smith, who went to high school with Sarah (who he called Sally) and travelled to Germany with her on an exchange program post-graduation. He described her as “thoughtful, interesting, crass, funny, witty and someone that brought a lot of things to the table without taking anything off of it.”
Hopefully Doug Rowe won’t mind me sharing this: "Cara and I saw her a few months ago, early summer, I believe, when Jay's band was playing at d.b.a. on Frenchmen Street. Sarah was so happy to see us, gave us big hugs and we talked and laughed through the night. It's a cliche to say people were 'so full of life', etc., after they're gone, but she truly was. Every time I'd run into her out at a show at a local club, she'd always see me first, and come up behind me and yell, 'Hey, you!' or something, then a hug."
Our friend Rebecca Lewis wrote: ‘I remembered all those lunches we did, the Christmas party, the last day you were in the house, with Sarah, me and Rebecca [Crawford, Becky’s granddaughter]. Tom was trying to fill all the tiny holes from the pictures you all had on the walls and Sarah was getting impatient, telling you, you don't have to do this. I was thinking the same thing, cause you could have been there forever.’
The lunches! I forgot about them. Becky and Sarah and I did some of those cheap-in-August lunches at New Orleans restaurants, the ones where you get a 25-cent lemon drop or martini in Antoine’s or Commander’s. Our ladies’ lunches, we called them, where Becky and Sarah could discuss their Fortier connection (Sarah’s father was there the same time as Becky and her sisters), and everything that was right and wrong with New Orleans and the world, or the world that was New Orleans. Meghan Freeman came to at least one of them as well. I can’t remember things clearly anymore. (Too many 25-cent martinis?)
In her editorial for the Collegian in the fall of 05, Sarah – a stalwart of the campaign to save Newcomb – wrote very poignantly about the merger of Tulane and Newcomb Colleges, an end of an era in the university’s history. “Loss is difficult,” she wrote. “Those of us in New Orleans are especially aware of that fact right now. Yet the majority of us has also learned that we can get over most any loss, that we are more than the sum of our things, no matter what sentiments may be attached to them.” Later in the editorial she talked about “the New Orleans idiom, which we inherited from West Africa, in which we’ve ‘been knowing’ someone for X amount of time. The present perfect there implies a relationship that stretches beyond time – Einstein’s fourth dimension – it suggests intimacy, ken, the kind of warmth and openness toward others that has contributed to New Orleans’s special culture.”
Sarah was a writer; I don’t know that I emphasized this enough last time I wrote. She taught creative writing with me and Peter Cooley and Dale Edmonds at Tulane.
Dale wrote to me: ‘When I think of Sarah, I smile, and my brain says something like, "She's one of the good ones." We were always on the best of terms, and she was so helpful to me over the years in our many dealings. And what lovely times we had at your parties taking the inventory of everybody and everything . . . guilty pleasures? Probably, but pleasures nonetheless. And her little sly smile that connected with so many things that matter, that really matter. And the way even a brief conversation with her made you think that, yes, there may be hope for us after all, and let's have another drink on that ….’
I’m drinking on that right now.