By Rosalie Tirella

Terrific! photos: R.T.

Today is a Nora Ephron afternoon for me. It was a Nora Ephron week – reread my favorite essay, re-watched Sleepless in Seattle and got three of her books. Did you ever read my favorite Nora Ephron essay??? the one about breasts? “Shaping Up” or something like that… It’s about when Nora was 13 and flat-chested and wore falsies – three different sizes! Ephron so wanted those big breasts – badges of womanhood to her. The essay is so girly and so funny! I remember those days!

Like I said, I checked out three of her books at the library on Friday, making sure her breast essay was in one of them. I’ll probably reread it for the 20th time after I finish writing this post. Right now I am watching You’ve Got Mail for at least the 25th time. It was inspired by the James Stewart black and white classic, The Shop Around the Corner, but it stands on its own. It stars Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, the prince and princess of my favorite Nora Ephron romcoms, but really it’s Nora I’m thinking about as I watch Meg Ryan write to Tom Hanks in an anonymous email that autumn is her favorite season and he writes back to her: mine too…a bouquet of just-sharpened yellow #2 pencils for you. So beautifully written. Dreamy.

Tom Hanks in the Nora Ephron movie You’ve Got Mail.

But Ephron’s voice – through her screenwriting and magazine writing – was always more than dreamy. Her columns are wise, elegantly written and sophisticated – but hard-nosed as well. Her childhood was marked by her mother’s drinking, her adulthood by cheating husbands – one was the famous Washington Post Watergate reporter, Carl Bernstein. Ephron’s parents, both Hollywood screenwriters during Hollywood’s golden era, were in love and tried to raise their kids responsibly in Los Angeles, with mom being one of the few full-time female screen writers back then. But mom became a full fledged alcoholic when Nora was 15. She screamed and passed out in her bedroom every night and wasn’t there for her family anymore. She died of cirrhosis, never getting to see how her daughter blossomed into this amazing writer and director.

In Heartburn Ephron chronicles her second marital breakup… this time from the WP’s star reporter, Carl Bernstein.

Ephron’s Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan flicks are such cozy fairy tales…wickedly funny, upper middle class urban professional soul mates missing each other and then finally finding each other. In real life you, as a young woman, soon learn, the hard way, that you can’t rely on your dream guy. To sustain you. To even buy you a cup of coffee. In Nora Ephron romcoms you can get the man of your dreams. Which is why I continue to rewatch her movies! When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle, You’ve Got Mail. The dream guy may not be a cute, young Tom Hanks. He may be an older Billy Crystal wearing a series of bad toupees in Harry Met Sally, but the point is: Sally gets Harry. Romance lives!

Ephron died around 10 years ago of cancer and I took it very personally. Mourned her passing. I realized I’d never get the chance to read a new Nora Ephron column or story again. Ever. Or watch a new Nora Ephron movie. To get that wonderful Nora world view that especially spoke to us Baby Boomers, us women’s libbers, us career gals, us bloggers, writers and dreamers. I dragged the old beau years ago to see her final flick, the Julia Childs movie, Julie and Julia, starring Meryl Streep and Stanley Tocci. We both really liked it! We both really got Nora Ephron!

I still feel the void. The world – or my world – lost a spark, had gotten smaller. It continues to shrink: just found out an ol’ gal pal of mine – very smart and sharp and independent and stylish a la Nora Ephron – has sold her house in Worcester. In what used to feel like a neighborhood in a Nora Ephron movie – cute shops, including a futon store – nice restaurants and a corner coffee shop, independently owned, boasting locally sourced ingredients for their croissants. Very Upper West Side Nora Ephron territory. But that’s all changed as Worcester, like all cities, changes. My pal and I and our peers had our time in this once special Worcester neighborhood, but now it’s not so special. So my ol’ gal pal may be on her way to another state, southwards. And it hit me: another loss for Rose! Another good-bye!! Not a death, nothing so heartbreaking and permanent, but still … A leave taking, a farewell … The late Peter Stefan, Barbara Haller, my mom, my favorite aunt, Ron S., Tony H., Shirley F., my second favorite aunt, even Ken, my old landlord, all final farewells. My list goes on and on and more names are added to it weekly. Last week Sinead O’Connor died. Next week, who will be next???

Mass commercial media tells us women that losing our baby soft faces and our perky full breasts are the saddest signposts of aging. The real tragedy. So you trudge to the makeup counter to buy that jowl-firming night cream or that potion to restore elasticity in your lined puss. How stupid. The truth is aging sucks because everybody you love and lived your life with keeps dying on you. And one of these days you’ll be next to go – and make someone else’s list.