The day after always feels quiet, even if there are podcast interviews or books to sign or, as there is today, a book release party this coming weekend to plan for. The day after feels still and perhaps a little bit empty.
Yesterday, the day of, was full of congratulations and goodwill and tags and shares. The kids hugged me and wished me well. I received kind messages from so many of you. Maile and I talked for a while on Instagram Live about what it means to release a book.
In the afternoon, I took Leo mini-golfing, mostly as a belated birthday gift to him, but to me it also felt like a good way to celebrate the release of a book. We walked around in the heat and humidity, cheering each other on, laughing. He proclaimed, “Jelly!” after every putt I made. I asked him why.
“The older kids say it instead of jealous,” he said shrugging, and we both burst out laughing. It felt good to slowly walk the course with him, to eat a little ice cream in the tiny shop afterwards. His long, sweaty hair clung to his temples.
I dropped him off at the house and drove 30 minutes to Aaron’s Books in Lititz to sign some preorders they were preparing to mail out. Todd was, as usual, kind and encouraging. He set up a table for me, and I made my way through the stack, signing each one, recognizing most of the names of the people who had preordered. That’s the fun part—seeing your names, knowing you’ll read this story, remembering how often you all have supported me and my writing.
In the evening, Maile and I took the kids out to Wasabi to eat, our favorite local suchi place. One final celebration on release day. It isn’t often anymore that all eight of us are together. We told stories and Cade told us about his new factory job and we talked about books and movies and there were a few miniature spats but mostly everyone was on good form. We bought some ice cream at the grocery store on the way home for root beer floats.
Then, the day after.
I woke up and stared at the ceiling. Maile was already awake, getting ready to take one of our kids to have their wisdom teeth pulled. I wandered downstairs. The house was still. Inside, I felt still. The waiting is finished. The book has released.
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On the weekend of July 4th, the Smucker side of my family got together, as we have become accustomed to doing. We set up camp at my uncle’s property, and we sit around, watch the kids play in the stream or fish or go down the water slide, and we talk about life. We catch up.
There’s well over 100 of us now, four generations since Grandma and Grandpa have passed. Around 80 of us showed up this year. And on Saturday night we did something a little different.
We took some time to remember the seven who have died. Grandpa. Grandma. Aunt Shirley. Angela. Justin. Maddox. Dean.
I thought a lot about Dean this year. He died right around New Years. The last time I saw him was two years ago, at the 2019 reunion, and we had a chance to catch up a bit. He was a gentle soul, a kind man, and 55 years old when he died, leaving behind his wonderful wife and four children.
I think a lot about Dean these days, when it comes to my life, how I’m spending my days.
My Uncle Aaron, Dean’s father-in-law, told me how Dean had drawn up the plans for his house renovations, and also for Aaron’s son’s kitchen, and now they are building things to Dean’s specifications. Even after he’s gone. In this way, Dean’s creativity and collaboration continue on, after him. What a legacy.
Maile and I began to wonder, are we so focused on bettering ourselves here, now, that our view has become inward-facing?
Or are we creating things that will outlive us? And I’m not necessarily talking about only books. I’m also talking about collaborations and encouragement and working together with others to change the world, even in small ways.
Can we go on living in the days and weeks and months and years after our death?
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This is the morning. The day after. The book has been released. Winnie lays on the floor of my office looking up at me. Normal life has returned.
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