AS CHRISTMAS CREEPS EVER CLOSER on its little cat feet, I’ve been thinking back over 2022, and I find myself filled with gratitude.
So many wonderful things happened to me this year, and after several really tough years, I think it’s worth celebrating them. The most exciting thing for me, of course, was the publication of my novel, The Walled Garden. So many wonderful things came from that—not just the joy of seeing my book FINALLY in print after 15 years of work—but many connections with lovely people I would never have met otherwise.
One of the most amazing things that happened because of the book being published was that I was reunited—after 40 plus years—with one of my best friends from childhood!
Susie and I met in first grade. We went all through elementary school together, walked to junior high and high school together every single day, wrote stories, exchanged Nancy Drew books—and later, Agatha Christie novels—celebrated our birthdays together, and slept over at one another’s houses (though most often, I stayed at hers). Her parents called me by my childhood nickname, took me out to dinner in exotic places, and hosted me at their beach house many times.
After we graduated from high school, Susie’s parents sold their house and moved to the beach, so when I went home from college to see my family and friends, she wasn’t there. She came to my wedding the year after we graduated from different colleges, and except for one other meeting at the wedding of a mutual friend, we never saw each other again. But I thought of her every year on her birthday, August 16, and as the years went by, I read with sorrow the obituaries of her parents and wished I knew how to get in touch with her.
In July, having seen my husband’s announcement of a book signing on Facebook, Susie sent me an email through my website. I recognized her voice instantly. We met for lunch in early August and talked for three hours. We still have much to catch up on, but we’re in touch now—and that’s an amazing, wonderful thing that came from the book that I could never have anticipated.
Another really wonderful thing about 2022 was being able to travel again. Seeing new places, making new friends, and feeling like part of the wider world again was so sweet after these difficult lockdown years. Being back in London—and especially Oxford, seeing Paris again, and traveling around Normandy and the Loire Valley were pure JOY. (Not that I don’t love my garden!) As I’ve written in previous posts, I took a copy of The Walled Garden back to Oxford (where it all began long before), and I finally got to see Claude Monet’s garden at Giverny. I can’t even tell you how deeply happy these experiences made me.
Jet-lagged but happy in Piccadilly
Giddy in Paris
The only not-terrible selfie I’ve ever taken in my life was on the outdoor patio of the Old Parsonage Hotel with a glass of pink sparkling wine on a perfect September day.
Blissed out in Oxford
I want to express my gratitude to people I’ve never met who’ve read The Walled Garden and taken the time to send me lovely emails and social media messages telling me how much they enjoyed it. You’ve warmed my heart every time! I’ve also had the great pleasure of visiting with two book groups—one in person (thanks to my sister-in-law, Robin Benner Maass) and one online (the fabulous Benda Book Club), which were pure fun. I would LOVE to speak to your book club, so if you’re interested, please get in touch!
In addition, I’ve met a lovely group of book-loving people on Instagram, and another great pleasure of 2022 was joining a group of Mary Stewart fans reading through her novels and discussing them. I’ve been so touched to discover all the Agatha Christie fans on Bookstagram too.
I had delightful times with my family and friends, danced at three weddings, and enjoyed another beautiful summer in the garden.
I drop the dying year behind me like a shawl / and let it fall . . .
wrote Carol Ann Duffy in her beautiful poem “New Year. As New Year’s Eve approaches, I’m realizing that it’s going to be harder to drop 2022 behind me than it was in 2020 and even 2021. All I can say is that I’m hoping for some of this joy and excitement to spill over into 2023!
I want to say a huge THANK YOU to everyone who supported me this year by buying and reading my book, coming to book signings, sending me encouraging messages, and inviting me to their book groups. Seeing how you’ve embraced Lucy and her story means more to me than I can ever express. Thanks for keeping me company on this amazing journey.
I’m praying God’s richest blessings for you and yours at Christmas and Hanukkah, and on into 2023.
After the holidays, I’m going to try to get back on my regular twice monthly posting schedule, so look for my next post in the second week of January!
And here’s the lovely last stanza of Carol Ann Duffy’s poem to cheer your holidays:
This love we have, grief in reverse, full rhyme, wrong place,
wrong time, sweet work for hands, the heart’s vocation, flares
to guide the new year in, the days and nights far out upon the sky’s
dark sea. Your mouth is snow now on my lips, cool, intimate, first kiss,
a vow. Time falls and falls through endless space, to when we are.
All photos: Kurt Maass or my own