StoryCorps EXTRA: Remembering Amy Krouse Rosenthal
Michael Garofalo (MG): Hey listeners… This is Michael Garofalo for StoryCorps with a podcast extra for you.
You might have recently seen this piece from the New York Times’ Modern Love column; it was called, “You May Want To Marry My Husband.”
It was written by children’s book author Amy Krouse Rosenthal, who had been diagnosed with terminal ovarian cancer. The column is a moving, funny, and bittersweet meditation on her marriage and a loving tribute to her husband, Jason.
Amy Krouse Rosenthal died on March 13, just ten days after her Modern Love piece was published and went viral.
Turns out that Rosenthal had recorded a StoryCorps interview in July 2016, with her then 19-year-old daughter, Paris.
Her cancer had been in remission until shortly before they sat down for this conversation.
Paris Rosenthal (PR): So my first question I wrote a couple weeks ago so it doesn’t apply as much but gonna ask it anyway. Now that your cancer is over, do you ever have moments of fear of the unknown future or do you try not to let negativity cloud your mindset?
Amy Krouse Rosenthal (AKR): You can imagine when we got the news Wednesday that the cancer was back, there’s nothing that feels worse out of this whole journey than having to squelch the place that you were when you wrote that. How good you were and happy that the cancer was over. So the mental thing now for me is mostly thinking about you guys, you and your brothers and dad and your grandparents, and it’s just the worst thinking about that for you guys. Like, I do everything I can as a parent to put you in a place of springing you upwards and out and into a good space, and this feels like doing the exact opposite. And it’s very hard to reconcile those feelings as a Mom to know that obviously very inadvertently, not intentionally, that I’m doing that again.
PR: I want you to know that that’s the last thing we think about. We just think about you. And how you are the least deserving of all this to happen. It’s totally out of your control and you shouldn’t feel bad about that for one second. We just feel bad for you because you deserve everything.
AKR: Everything that we had planned last year and having to cancel so much. It became like Plan B, right? And then I realized one day, oh, it’s actually the the word b e, it’s plan be. Just be. And … (sigh) somehow that just helped. I want to talk about your tattoo though.
PR: Okay. Amy: It’s so moving and amazing.
I’m so glad I have it, like even more so now.
AKR: You surprised me in the hospital when you showed up with that tattoo, the words that were from the Beckoning of Lovely video that I had written, what, eight years ago? “Make the most of your time here.” And those words, you know, have been a part of my work for a long time. I feel even like raising you guys I kind of drilled that into your heads when you were younger, to the point of annoyance maybe.
PR: I just love that I have your handwriting on my body forever.
AKR: You haven’t heard me sing this in a long time but this was a song I made up for you in the hospital.
PR: Let’s hear it.
AKR (singing): Paris, Paris, you’re my little girl Paris, Paris, you’re the best girl in the world I wanna give you everything Like sunshine and laughter and songs to sing I’ll help you become just who you are Stay true to yourself and you’ll go far Paris, Paris, you’re my little girl I love you so much.
PR: Love you.
MG: That’s Paris Rosenthal and Amy Krouse Rosenthal in Chicago.
This story was produced by Dan Collison. You can read Amy’s Modern Love column and her obituary on the New York Times website. Also check out the Modern Love podcast from WBUR in Boston.
That’s all for this podcast extra. Until next time, thanks for listening.