Oct 12, 2023

That fall was the beginning of a second Renaissance in my life. In the first place, Ella moved to Berkeley; instead of rare long-distance telephone conversations that I could ill-afford, at long last I had my best friend close at hand.

In the second, I’d always wished I’d been able to go to a small college—some place that wasn’t as impersonal as Cal. Now, a dozen years later, however improbably, I was being handed a second chance—an opportunity I was finally ready to embrace. As an employee, I could take classes for free. With a decent salary and no rent to pay, I could also afford the private lessons I’d hankered for. And working part-time, I had the time to pursue…well, classical guitar, jazz dance, photography; I even joined the Berkeley Women’s Writers Group, despite my abiding conviction that I couldn’t write fiction—and wound up penning my first short story, “In Her Own Time.”

It seemed like there was always a three-ring circus of cultural events going on at the college, so I went to guest lectures, art shows, music and dance concerts—the latter with Nan, a ballerina and the slide librarian of the Art Department, who became a friend. I felt exhilarated in a way I hadn’t in all the years since I lived in Spain. I took American art history from a visiting professor, Roberta, who was one of the most exciting lecturers I’d heard—and even began singing lessons again with one of the college voice teachers. I could tell she wasn’t doing my voice much good, but her approach was gentle enough that she didn’t seem to be doing it much harm either, and I continued to hold out hope that one day my body would wake up, like a dreamer from a long sleep, and remember how singing was done.