A generation's memories and forgettings

Women of my generation could do worse than to have Nora Ephron doing the voice-over narration of our lives. Our Sarah Jessica Parker, but in slimming black and sensible flats. Our "Sex and the City," but with coffee instead of Cosmopolitans.

She has been there for us since our twenty-somethings, when Harry met Sally and we learned that friendship can morph into comfortable love, even for those, like us, who once blithely dismissed commitment.

I was feeling bad about my neck, but it was Nora Ephron who said it out loud in a book by the same name. And she is here for us now, apologizing for forgetting our names in "I Remember Nothing," a memoir about forgetting.

There have always been writers who have spoken for their generation, who have captured it — perfect pitch — in literature.

John Steinbeck and the desperation of the Depression. John Cheever and the malaise of the suburbs. Ken Kesey and the pre-hippies, when the government was passing out drugs for free. Tom Wolfe and the greedy social climbers of the go-go 1980s.

But Nora Ephron is ours, reflecting our lives in films and smaller, essay-sized bites.

She was hired as a mail girl at Newsweek, despite her Wellesley pedigree, and was trapped in what she calls "girldom," like so many of us who were trying to have a career back in the day. It was luck as much as talent that freed her to succeed.

Woodward and Bernstein were journalism gods after Watergate, and she got to marry Carl Bernstein. He cheated on her, and she exacted the revenge every betrayed woman envied in the book and movie "Heartburn."

And, like many of us, she dealt with the smoldering rivalries among adult sisters and what happens when the illness of a parent fans the flames in "Hanging Up."

She knows we will always be suckers for romance and a happy ending, so there's "You've Got Mail" and "Sleepless in Seattle." But she is best when she talks about herself, about us. Instead of nodding ruefully at how far we have fallen, we laugh out loud at where we have landed.

"I Remember Nothing" is a memoir about aging, written during the process instead of reflecting back on it because it is clear that if she didn't get it down on paper fast, she'd forget most of it.

No, she is not suffering from dementia — at least, we hope not. It is simply that her life has been so crowded with events that some have fallen out of her memory, like too many oranges in a grocery bag. (That's our story, too, and we are sticking to it.)

Ms. Ephron doesn't remember some very memorable things, such as meeting Eleanor Roosevelt, seeing the Beatles on "The Ed Sullivan Show" and the entire Vietnam War.

"I was not at Woodstock," she writes, "but I might as well have been because I wouldn't remember it anyway."

Her past is slipping away, and the present is a challenge. If only there was Google for the names of people standing right in front of her.

She can't remember that new drink or the title of that movie or "the name of the song that was sung by that singer, the one about love. You know the one."

Having Nora Ephron along on this journey into twilight is like taking a trip with a really funny friend instead of one who has food allergies or a weak bladder. She is even funny when she is sad, listing all the things she won't miss when she dies — dry skin and "bad dinners like the one we went to last night."

And the things she will miss when she is gone: Twinkle lights, baths and pie, among them.

Susan Reimer's column appears Mondays. Her e-mail is susan.reimer@baltsun.com.

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