Worcester Telegram & Gazette - June 17, 2002

Whimsy, wisdom blend in 'vacation' guide

Monday, June 17, 2002
By Pamela H. Sacks
Telegram & Gazette Staff

'Vacationing in My Driveway' book signing
Where: Tatnuck Bookseller & Sons, 335 Chandler St., Worcester
When: 7 p.m. tomorrow
How much: Free and open to the public

Newspaper columnist Terry Marotta set the theme for her writing during the time she had little children. She knew she wanted to cross what she calls “that invisible moat” that people keep around themselves.

      Back when Ms. Marotta started to write the column 22 years ago, encounters with people in the outside world came during visits to the dentist or trips to the supermarket.

     “Every one of those interactions, which may seem like the dullest, most ordinary errands, were really opportunities for great exchanges,” Ms. Marotta said.

     She decided she would recount her true life stories and perhaps her readers would share theirs with her. She was looking for the same sort of connection she had made with her students when she taught high school English after graduating from Smith College. In grappling with powerful ideas and life-changing moments, she and her students had shared their own experiences.

     Sure enough, the responses to the column came via mail and, later, by e-mail.

     “It's that same kind of electrical connection,” she said, referring to the one she made with her students. “You tell your story and someone says, 'This happened to me.' ”

     Now, Ms. Marotta has published 52 of her columns, one for each week of the year, in a collection she has titled “Vacationing in My Driveway” (Ravenscroft Press, $12.95). She will be at Tatnuck Bookseller in Worcester tomorrow evening to discuss the book.

     The title speaks to the thread that runs throughout the columns, which are full of whimsy, wit and Ms. Marotta's own brand of wisdom.

     She provides the explanation in her preface.

     “You can't set out to find the joyous vacationlike moments in life. ... Instead you must let those moments find you, as they will surely do if you can but recognize them when they arrive, catching you as likely in the busy press of Obligation as in the easy peace of Leisure,” she writes.

     “I have learned to do that, finally in my own life, and so take my 'vacations' as they come now, an hour here and an hour there. A great many I take when, pulling my car at last into the driveway, I realize that maybe I don't really have to tear inside and start banging the pots around to make dinner. Instead, maybe I can just sit for a spell, and think nothing, do nothing, plan nothing for once, but only look and listen, and maybe really hear the faint pulse of the seasons' slow turning.”

     The fulfillment that comes with writing the column is one thing, Ms. Marotta said, the selling of her work to newspapers is another. She is not syndicated and sells the column to 30 newspapers on her own. Several newspapers, among them the Brockton Enterprise, have been with her since 1980.

     Ms. Marotta, 53, credits her husband, David, with making it possible for her to be a columnist by underwriting her vocation.

     “You couldn't write a column like this if you had to live on it,” she said.

      Years ago, the Marottas made a pact. She would put him through Harvard Business School, and then she, in turn, would get a master's degree in English. By the time Mr. Marotta earned his M.B.A., she had started writing the column and the vision of school had faded.

     The Marottas, who live in Winchester, have two grown daughters and a son who will enter Harvard College in the fall. They have helped raise half a dozen other children, several of them through A Better Chance, a program for inner city minority youngsters. Naturally, family members pop up with regularity in the columns. Since the collection spans 10 years, the children are sometimes little and at other times teen-agers.

     Although she intends to write her column indefinitely, Ms. Marotta's efforts to reach out to other people have recently taken on a new dimension. She has just become a licensed massage therapist, after two years of intensive schooling in anatomy and physiology.

      “I had this strong notion that I should do this,” Ms. Marotta said. “Everybody bears the scars of their experience right in their flesh. We are all these slightly crooked, broken kites walking around. Massage offers comfort and healing.

      “It was another way of doing what I wanted to do in my columns, which was to cheer people up,” she said.

Copyright 2002 Worcester Telegram & Gazette Corp.

©Copyright 2002-2012 Terry Marotta, All Rights Reserved.