Best American Essays

My sisters and brothers-in-law pull names for Christmas. Over the years, our gifts have grown grander in theme and creativity, though a spending cap keeps cost in check. We email lists to guide our secret givers, so I checked my email from last year to update it. In addition to my staples—coffee, socks, natural immunity boosters—I wrote for 2013, “Best American Essays: the only one I have in print is from 2006, guest edited by Lauren Slater. I would love to own the whole series one day.” Someone told that to my mother, who isn’t on email, and she bought me 2007–2013. I was so excited, like when I opened my first-ever guitar ages ago. Pretty sure I smelled the pages and traced the names of the guest editors.

My list this year includes coffee and socks and natural immunity boosters and BAE issues 1986–2005.

BUT! I already bought myself BAE 2014, edited by John Jeremiah Sullivan, because my essay “The Pearl” from Post Road Fall 2013 was included as a notable essay. I couldn’t wait until Christmas. When I received my copy, I smelled the fresh pages, traced my finger over Sullivan’s name, then traced my finger over my own name, marveling that an essay of mine, which I’d already been thrilled to see in Post Road, was listed as a notable essay. What a thing.

I found out about this honor in the middle of the night, while pumping breast milk to bring to the NICU where my premature twins were spending their first six-plus weeks, An email told me that a good friend had tagged me in a Facebook post, announcing that one of my essays was included on this year’s list of notables. Though exhausted from the twins’ recent birth and toddler care and hospital visits, I didn’t go back to sleep that night. When one of your pieces of art ends up inside one of the things you most want for Christmas, it’s very hard to sleep.