All That You Leave Behind

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by Erin Lee Carr

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780399179716
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 04/09/2019
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 69,531
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Erin Lee Carr is a director, producer, and writer based in New York City. Named one of the “30 Under 30” most influential people in media by Forbes, Carr most recently directed At the Heart of Gold, about the USA Gymnastics scandal, and I Love You: Now Die, about the Michelle Carter murder-by-texting trial, both for HBO. She also directed “Drug Short,” an episode of Netflix’s critically acclaimed series Dirty Money. She lives in New York City, where she enjoys petting dogs on the street.

Read an Excerpt

1

The Blue House

When I think back to my early childhood home in Minneapolis, my brain conjures up a dim outline of a blue house on Pillsbury Avenue. While it is hard to remember the exact details of the house, the memories of its inhabitants come quite easily. I can picture my hands on the furniture, always trying to spread my mess out onto our sparse belongings. I see my dad putting one of our purple tutus on his head and declaring to no one in particular, “I am TUTU MONSTER,” as he scoops my sister and me up in his arms while we shriek and try to scramble out of his grasp, giggling the whole time. He had a gift for creating worlds.

Our parents shape and create our reality. For a long time we have no sense outside of their worldview.

A while back I spent some serious time digitizing hundreds of decades-old photos tucked away in ancient red photo albums so that I could pull them up in a moment’s notice. The images tell a familiar tale. Two little girls encased in baby buckets, looking up at the bad hair and fashions of the 1980s. Sometimes we are smiling in the photos. More often, though, we are not. We were born without so much as a wisp of hair, so naturally my grandma JoJo took to scotch-taping bows on our heads. She needed people to know that we were baby girls, not boys.

My mother is absent from these photos. It’s just a flurry of aunts and uncles and Mountain Dew cans. My arms are chubby, and I am often reaching out for more. There is no baby book that recounts my first words or steps, but when I asked my dad in my teendom what my first utterance was, you better bet he said DaDa.

Meagan is so tiny in these early images, her body so small it looks like she could evaporate. Our nicknames mimic our stature; as luck would have it, I am known as Beefaroni and she, Noodles. I am often captured with a bottle in hand, and in a couple of photos, trying to grab the bottle from Meagan’s hands.

There’s one photo of my dad in these albums that I studied carefully. It’s not like the others. He is in some sort of rec room, and he is standing up at a podium. He looks like he is clocking in around three hundred pounds, and he has a beard. Not exactly in fighting shape. Other men fill the room. He looks focused and nervous, photographed in midsentence.

I called Uncle Joe. He is warm and charismatic with a bald head and small circular glasses. I’d been remiss in calling. Life had gotten busy.

“Do you remember this photo?” I asked, after describing it to him. “What was he like then?”

Joe paused to think about it. I could tell that he was placating me. This was the second time in ten years he’d had to revisit a past that was very dark for his entire family. My dad spent some serious time excavating the facts of his life for his own memoir, The Night of the Gun. “Well, your dad was a mystery to us. He tried his hand at treatment on numerous occasions, and it just never seemed to stick. We knew—and I think he knew—that this time had to be different. Must have been at a meeting.”

We were the stakes. These little babies needed a parent, and my mother was not going to magically reappear from Texas or Mexico or wherever she was at that time. We needed him. “But didn’t that intensify the pressure?” I asked.

“Well, didn’t your dad always thrive under pressure?”

Why, yes, he did.

As Meagan and I age in the photos, our hair begins to grow and we go from looking like little old men to looking like little girls. Starting around age four, a soft white-and-pink checkered baby blanket starts appearing next to me, as if it were surgically attached. As I sought out other archival material from this time, I came across his column in the Family Times, a local paper that had given him some space to muse about life as a single dad. The column was aptly titled “Because I Said So.” In one installment, he told of how he’d turned away for a second to look for my ever-quiet sister, and before he knew it I had gotten myself into our junker of a car and started backing out of the driveway. The minor heart attacks that surround the life of a young parent astound me.

In those early days in Minnesota we were poor. We needed government assistance just to get by—something I have no shame about and am frankly grateful existed at the time. You can tell our circumstances from the backgrounds in the photos, but you definitely wouldn’t know it to look at Meagan or me. Grandma JoJo was a hawk at rummage sales and would find matching outfits (plus bonnets, no less) for us to wear for family photo ops. My dad, on the other hand, looks pretty ragged. I can see in his face that the financial fear was alive and well. He, alone, was responsible for these two little beings. Sure, his family could help here and there, but they needed their money to stay in their own pockets.

In the photos, he’s always looking at us—his daughters. He isn’t mugging for the camera, like he did in his early party-boy days. Instead, he is watchful, careful, and looks exhausted as hell. Someone caught him cracking a smile in one photo. We are at our grandparents’ and Meagan and I are standing on top of the picnic table. There are garbage bags that hold something bulky underneath. We are told to open the bag and OH MY GOD we each have our very own tricycle to ride! The next photo is me on my trike, in my Easter bonnet, grinning from ear to ear. Dad watches us with parental glee but also relief: Good, something to keep them busy.

Table of Contents

Author's Note ix

1 The Blue House 3

2 Rain Check 12

3 The Night in Question 16

4 The Ghost in You 23

5 It All Starts Somewhere 29

6 The Other Woman 38

7 Rites of Passage 41

8 How (Not) to Intern 46

9 Something New 58

10 Holiday Party Advice 66

11 Far from the Tree 74

12 The House of Many Felled Trees 81

13 Stories Are There for the Telling 87

14 Tyranny of Self 94

15 Choose Wisely 98

16 The Criers Get Nothing 107

17 Sometimes You Get Both Barrels 118

18 Gut Check 125

19 Liability 133

20 Ninety Days 138

21 SOS 143

22 Jelly Beans 151

23 The Experiment 155

24 The Water Has It Now 163

25 The Wake 168

26 His Second Act 185

27 Traces 193

28 The Upside of Getting Fired 198

29 Chatter 201

30 The Castle Without Its El Key 205

31 If It's Not Getting Better, Consider the Alternative 209

32 Resentments 214

33 Sad Girl's Guide 220

34 A Glacier First Melts at the Edges 229

Things I Learned from David Carr: A List 235

Books I Read While Writing This Book 237

Acknowledgments 239

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All That You Leave Behind 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Erin Carr is a celebrated documentary filmmaker and the daughter of the late David Carr, a well-known New York Times writer (and infamous, longtime addict) who died suddenly in the Times newsroom. In the memoir, the younger Carr looks back on her somewhat tumultuous life with her larger-than-life father. And though she recalls some harrowing moments throughout the years when her father fell victim to his addiction, what really stands out are the moments when he was just being her dad. And it’s clear that Carr was an incredible father. He was unfailingly encouraging and effusive in his love for her. He was constantly telling her how proud he was of her and how much he loved her. They had an extraordinary relationship, and as readers, we get to be privy to it with Erin Carr’s amazing collection of conversations via email, text, and G-chat that she has saved and shares in the book. This book surprised me. I had expected it to be a dark tale of addiction (something that, unfortunately, was passed on from father to daughter), and though those moments are certainly there, the book is ultimately joyful, uplifting, and inspiring. You are able to witness an incredible father/daughter relationship, and two people that likely lived in a way that would not leave room for regrets. Carr’s early passing was certainly tragic, but at least there were no “I wish I would have told him this” thoughts. They loved each other and were open about their love. They said what needed to be said, and in that way, the book is really an unexpected model for the way parent/child relationships should be. And it really makes you want to call your dad. :)