Essays, Memoirs, & True Stories  June 2013 | issue 450

The Most Beautiful Raynovich

by Marion Winik

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Marion Winik lives in Baltimore, Maryland, where she is known for her guacamole, baguettes, and kasha varnishkes. Her books include Highs in the Low Fifties and First Comes Love. She writes a column at

“THERE WAS NOTHING that could be done,” said the policeman to my friend Nancy last Sunday at her door. By this he meant, Your twenty-year-old daughter died in a traffic accident on her way to work at the mall this morning. “Are you here alone?” he asked. “Is there someone I can call to come over?” That was enough. She ran across the street and collapsed on the neighbor’s kitchen floor.


A STRANGE THING has happened to me in the last few weeks. In the middle of the night I’ll wake up with a word on my mind, usually a long, unusual word whose meaning I don’t know, and I’ll repeat it in my head for hours, ever more blearily and mechanically. The first time it was epithelial. Then it was perseverate, which I’d heard used a couple of times not long before. I took it to mean the same thing as persevere or persist, and I wondered why there was a need for such a word. Was it just a fancy academic version? Perseverate, perseverate, I repeated.


AFTER THE MOMENT when nothing could be done came an avalanche of doing. People sent messages to the Raynovich family and placed phone calls and made crockpots of chili and bought boxes of scones. They pushed furniture back against the walls. They filled plastic cups with forks and spoons. They filled prescriptions and booked airline tickets and went through photographs. They went to buy tissues, ran to retrieve forgotten tissues, pulled white tissues like doves from the box. There were news items, an obituary, a song, a poem, Internet posts, and eulogies, most written with difficulty and hesitation. Some people were just doing their jobs: conducting official investigations, delivering flowers, printing programs, preparing the body. Some had to wait until the hurricane moved on to make their way to Pittsburgh. A few tried to find an explanation or a cause. They didn’t get far.

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