On Laura Snyder


Laura Singing Tide and River Rising


My words at her Memorial Service

I’m Richard Snyder.  I’m Laura’s older brother.  Needless to say, I’ve known Laura a long time.  I want to share 4 brother-sister moments that we had together .

  • Moment 1  late 1960’s. Laura, my brother Danny and I are in the basement of our house at 105 Dunsany Drive in Longmeadow, MA. We are sitting on the red fake tiled floor amidst a city that we’ve constructed of wooden blocks, hot wheel tracks, and tinker toys.  Each of us are voicing multiple characters and we are creating, if may say so, fantastic and entertaining drama.  We did this nearly every day and Laura was very good at it.
    • After we grew up and moved to different cities, Laura continued to play with me, but not with blocks. We played in the realm of books and literature. I would suggest a vampire book to her, she would suggest an article by Adam Gopnick in the New Yorker.  I would suggest a self help book, she would suggest “The Bone People” by Keri Hulme.  As you know, she owned a book store her in Astoria. She hosted important writers there, like Dan Savage and children’s book author Petra Mathers.  She wrote a newsletter for her bookstore and invited me to write book reviews in it.  She even let me write a piece on why my junk books were superior to her “good books.”  She didn’t believe it but she published it anyway.
  • Moment 2 mid 1970’s, still the 105 Dunsany Drive house. Laura is in late middle school or early High School. I’m in High School.  She has come home late from a party.  She looks sick.  She is unsteady on her feet.  She stumbles into her bedroom.  My father puts a waste paper basket near her bed and I hear her throwing up into it over and over.  She’s not sick, she’s drunk for perhaps the 1st
    • When I saw her drunk and heard the barfing, I knew that she was successful as a teenager, more successful than me or my brother. We never went to parties.  I knew that she was popular, that she knew how to have a good time, that she was in demand as a friend.
    • Some years later, she was a Freshman at Bowdoin College and I was a senior. (My father, Sam, me, Jon and Laura all went there.)  I went to visit her in her Freshman dorm and learned that she was one of the founders of an invented fraternity she and her friends called “Hafta Tappa Kegga”  They even had Hafta Tappa Kegga T-Shirts.  Just like in High School, she was popular and loved.  She had that authenticity that people wanted to be near.  I used to say and it’s still true, she has always been the most socially successful of the Snyders.
  • Moment 3 late 1980’s. She’s standing in a wooden paneled room of a community center building in Palo Alto next to a wedding cake and vast selection of food.  It’s the wedding cake and food for my wedding and she made all of it. Smiling, long curly blond hair, proud and exhausted.
    • I don’t think she had ever made a wedding cake before but that didn’t stop her. Not having done something before never stopped her: whether it was learning guitar, being a ship’s cook on a Tall Sailing ship on transatlantic voyages, being a baker at Grand Central Bakery in Seattle, being a radio DJ, being on the Astoria School Board, opening an independent bookstore, running triathlons, being an activist for metastatic breast cancer research and so much more that I’m sure I don’t know about.
  • Moment 4 is out of chronological order. But it’s the most important one to me.  Early 1970’s, Longmeadow, MA.  Laura is 7 years old.  My mother put her into a modern dance class.  Laura did not like the class.  She loudly and repeatedly said how much she did not like the class to all the other little girls and to the teacher… during class time!  After a few classes the teacher asked my mother to take Laura out of the classes.  Even as a 9 year old child myself, I knew that Laura had some kind of power of fierce honesty that was very effective and very appealing.
    • And Laura has been opinionated and honest with me for her whole life. I know that with other people, she could give carefully reasoned arguments to convince them of her opinions, but with me, she preferred the quicker technique of what I called, “the look.”  I might say something like “Yeah, I would sure like to have more money.”  And then, “the look.” She would lock eye contact with me with wide open unblinking eyes and the left corner of her lip dropped.   I would feel heat on my face and my heart would speed up. I feared “the look” and I loved “the look.”  She was fierce and I was proud of her for it.  I liked it when she gave “the look” to my kids when they talked about something dumb they were doing.  I liked it when I asked her what she thought of one of my boyfriends and she told me “no, not him.”  There was never malice, just pure honesty coming from a place of wanting the best.
    • I imagine I’m getting that look right now… for not getting these memories exactly right, for bringing up “the look” in a public forum.   I’ll do better next time.

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