So, Friday was a day that will live in infamy for a long, long time- if not forever. I tried very hard not to know too much about what happened in Newtown on Friday, I tried very hard not to over educate myself just yet, because I was headed up to San Mateo to hear my favorite writer in the whole wide world speak, and I didn’t want to ruin it. Fat chance. I got stuck in traffic somewhere between San Jose and my destination, and I couldn’t resist the pull of the radio while moving four feet every hour. So, I sat in traffic, and I cried, and I worried that Anne would cancel her speaking engagement due to depression or something.
She didn’t. But let me back up a little and tell you that, up until I was in my car and driving, I really didn’t think I would go. It seemed ludicrous to me that something I felt was so incredibly wonderful was even marginally probable as an occurrence in my own little life. I left so early, and I brought my laptop, just in case, and I checked fourteen times to make sure I had my ticket, and I worried like crazy when I couldn’t remember where my glasses were (they had fallen between the bed and my nightstand) and when it started to rain as I drove over the windy and dangerous highway 17. I was pretty sure that at any moment, something big and theatrical would happen, preventing me from realizing this small but important dream of mine.
Instead, what happened was that I got there pretty much before anyone else, except for the people who were actually paid to be there. I stashed my belongings on a seat in the second row, center, used the bathroom, purchased my book and then perched in a chair in the book signing area for a really, really long time, waiting for her to arrive (she was a little late, but I was super early, so it was fifty-fifty, fault wise). I felt a little weird because I was alone, but when I thought about it, I really don’t have one friend to speak of that I could have brought along- at least no one who had read her books and adored her the way that I do. Maybe my mom, but she lives far away. Anyway, I’m glad I went alone, because now it is 100% my experience, made possible by me, carried out by me, a gift from me to me. I am one of those people who will, if other people are around, surrender all control to them- not because I am a follower, but because I am lazy as hell, so I end up feeling like without them, none of it would have been possible. So, I was alone, and I did a lot of observing, listening, small talk with people I didn’t know and will probably never see again.
It was already a wonderful night before she even arrived. The people around me were mostly older, mostly women, lots of them in recovery, many Christians, intellectuals, thinkers…different, at least for me. The best part of all was that I felt completely at home. I called my mom afterwards and told her “These people were exactly like me.” But I think what is more true is that these people are exactly who I want to become. Who I feel my best self would be, given a little prodding.
So, Ms. Lamott came right in the front door, with no body guards or anything. I mean, I didn’t really expect body guards, but I really thought she’d at least come in the back door, like the celebrity she is in my mind. No doubt, in that room, she was a celebrity of the highest caliber, so when she walked right by me in her jeans and sweater, I felt my eyes get big and she looked right at me, and I said something incredibly clever, like “Wow. That’s HER.”
I stood in line, and had my book signed, then stood in line again, and had my picture taken with her, and by the time I got to her the second time, I could tell the signing was becoming a bit of a strain- her smile was a little less smiley, and she seemed to want to get this whole thing over with. I can’t say I blame her- the line was just going on and on and on, and everyone wanted to say something to her or give her their card and talk about the book THEY were writing (which, I will have you know, I did not do, I just told her how excited I was to meet her and what an honor it was).
But when she got up in front of the room to talk, I knew that my adoration for her was well, well deserved. She must be the most calm, most thoughtful, most devoted human being I have ever been lucky enough to be in the presence of. She speaks more beautifully, maybe, than she even writes, which just floored me- for me, it takes so much quiet and so much thought and so much privacy to access that part of myself that allows me to be beautiful on paper. Even now, I am ready to strangle my daughter who will not shut up while she is making Ramen here, in the kitchen, though I have asked, demanded and howled at her to zip it. I feel like it will ruin my day if she doesn’t stop chattering.
Anne Lamott radiated a sort of peace that made you think even a troupe of tap dancing gorillas could not ruffle her, if she was writing. I can’t finish a blog that ten people will read because my teenager is making ramen in the room beside me. I don’t know, guys…I have a long, long way to go. But I keep thinking that I am on my way there, every time I do something like this, meet an author that I adore and hear her speak, attend a writing event in San Francisco that blows my mind…even putting it all out here for the world (all ten of you) to see, just to keep the machine in working order. I am on my way. A gift from me, to me.