Four years ago, we lost a friend and author whose voice echoed in that of Amelia but also of Emerson and Nefret and Ramses — of Vicky and John and Jacqueline and Abdullah. We hear her in the erudite narrator of Temples, Tombs and Hieroglyphs as well as in the silliest of the farcical moments in Naked Once More or The Camelot Caper.
Sensible, wistful, glorying in the ridiculousness of life, horrified by human cruelty, impatient with snobbery — there were many voices in her writings. But no one who knew Barbara Mertz could doubt one key message she wanted to impart: we should celebrate the many gifts we have. Celebrate that we are here. Celebrate each other. Celebrate the amazing variety of cultures and art and music and gardens and … well, it all gets too much to put in a paragraph, let alone a sentence! Chocolate! Gin! Cats! Celebrate that there are dahabeeyahs! Barbara with her arms wide open in welcome and enthusiasm — we celebrate this memory.
We are also celebrating the publication of Barbara’s final Amelia book, The Painted Queen, completed by her dear friend Joan Hess, with help from another close friend, Salima Ikram. It is awesome that the book has made multiple bestseller lists now — but it is even more awesome that it was friendship that carried it there. (At this point, Barbara would say not to get too sentimental and schmaltzy. Of course she did that all the time, while denying it vigorously.)
Toward the end of her life, Barbara said that heaven would have to be pretty great to be better than this life. But this life was great to her because she reveled in all it had to give. So today we celebrate, as she would want us to. The New York Times bestseller list is great! (It’s fantastic! It’s worth an extra glass of gin or several extra brownies!) But so is a beautiful garden, or a book that takes us somewhere new, or even more important, the evil chuckles of friends who have just pulled the greatest prank of all with you…. (no, Joan and Salima and the rest of you — please don’t get any ideas!!) (But …. thanks.)