Before I Go …
A bucket list by Atlanta debut novelist Colleen Oakley.
In my debut novel Before I Go, my main character 27-year-old Daisy Richmond is dying. In the time she has left, she decides to find her intelligent but charmingly helpless husband Jack a new wife — someone to care for him after she’s gone. I came up with the idea about five or six years ago, after interviewing a young woman who was dying from stage 4 breast cancer. It was a tough interview and one that I thought about for days after. I remember lying awake at night wondering what I would do in her shoes — and perhaps more importantly, what would my husband Fred do?
He’s a smart, competent guy, but his idea of making dinner is opening a can of tuna and mixing it with a box of Rice a Roni. Would he eat nutritionally deficient boxed meals for the rest of his life? Would he date? Would he marry again? What would she be like? What would I want her to be like? That’s when the concept for the novel hit me — what if a woman was dying and decided to pick her husband’s next wife?
And now, of course, that’s one of the first questions I get asked by readers. Would you do the same thing Daisy did? Would you want to pick out your husband’s next wife? The short answer is: No. The long answer is: Heeeeeeeeeeeeck no. I’m way too jealous.
But there are plenty of other things I do want to do before I die. In honor of the book and New Year’s resolutions, here, in no particular order, is my abridged bucket list.
1. Master a magic trick that baffles children and adults alike at parties. I grew up watching David Copperfield specials on ABC. My parents bought me a magic kit when I was 7. I could pull a scarf out of a fake plastic thumb like nobody’s business. And I knew two solid card tricks. But they’re not really fooling anyone. I want to know a trick that gets that slack-jawed, “How did she DO that?” reaction. I’ve emailed David Blaine for some pointers, but he hasn’t gotten back to me yet.
2. Finish knitting a scarf that I started making for my son when I was pregnant with my son (he’s four now). About five years ago I went to a knitting conference, because a friend of mine was displaying her wares there. And even though I’ve never been a crafty type person, I was convinced after spending one hour there that I WAS GOING TO BE A KNITTER. I bought 4,028,876,553 balls of yarn and 8 fancy pairs of knitting needles. I came home, knit four rows of a scarf and haven’t picked up a needle since. (But if there is ever a nation-wide yarn shortage, I am going to make a lot of money on the black market).
3. Learn how to tell when a watermelon is ready to be picked. My husband is the gardener in our family. I kill things by looking at them. But every fall, when the watermelons start getting big and beautiful and green, he asks my very novice opinion about when we should pick them, because he has no idea either. We’ve watched Youtube videos, read articles and thumped more than our share of melons listening for the correct pitch that whispers: Pick me now. But apparently we are both tone deaf. We’ve picked watermelons that are still yellow inside and ones that are falling apart from over-ripeness. We did get one right this year, due to dumb luck. But I am determined to become a watermelon picking expert.
4. Eat a 9-course meal at The French Laundry in Napa, California. I like food and theirs is supposed to be pretty good. I also like wine, so this item is really killing two birds with one stone.
5. Watch an entire horror film without closing my eyes or my ears once. I am a bonafide wimp. I do not like scary movies. But I would like to be able to say that I’ve seen one all the way through— and not just the ho-hum parts before the eerie music starts up and I ball up into myself like a Popple (who remembers these?).
6. Hang out with Jason Bateman. He’s adorable and funny and my No. 2 celebrity crush and I just want to have cup of coffee with him. Naked. Is that too much to ask?