Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Brush With Greatness!!

I have been a member and contributor on the Young Widow Bulletin Board since a few months after Don passed away. It has been a lifeline, as well as an opportunity to communicate with and meet other widows and widowers who share the same journey. It is through this venue I have met and developed friendships with some amazing individuals. Recently, a member of the bulletin board contacted me regarding a thread to which I had contributed. One that she found particularly interesting. Seems she is writing an article for a well-known weekly publication on the topic and wanted to interview me for the article.

Along with the email, she sent a link to her web site to authenticate her interest.
( http://www.jackiemitchard.com/index2.htm ). With a click of my mouse, her web site came up and I immediately recognized her, Jacquelyn Mitchard, author of Deep End of the Ocean, Oprah’s first “Book Club Book”. I was excited and a bit timid (I know, hard to believe) that this famous author would be interested in anything I had to say. Jacquelyn and I began communicating via email a couple times a day for several weeks. We’d share tidbits about family, “the widow experience”, and life in general. We often would send one or two line blurbs, but at other times it would take paragraphs to express our thoughts. I have to say that I felt a connection with her right away.

Last week I received an email from Jackie stating that she was going to be in Bloomington with her son (he was auditioning for musical theatre at Illinois Wesleyan) and wanted to know if we could get together for lunch. I couldn’t have been more excited to meet someone. Not only to bask in her literary knowledge, but also to meet, in person, this new friend I had made. I anxiously responded that I would love to meet with her whenever she was available.

While sitting in Biaggi’s with a very special friend awaiting Jackie’s entrance, I suddenly realized that I wasn’t even nervous—excited, but not nervous. When she walked into the restaurant her presence was sensed in the room—she had a strong, confident persona. I gave her a hug and she sat down. I introduced her to my friend, and we began to talk right away. It was a comfortable exchange. We spoke freely about our history and life story. She was a widow at a young age, so conversation logically turned in that direction. There we sat, the three of us with this shared experience of loss and an instant bond was created. It still amazes me how collective life experiences create immediate friendships.

We listened as Jackie shared her life journey from widowhood to remarriage; how she had survived as a single parent and successfully blended and created her current family (seven children—wow!!). She was honest about the difficulties, struggles and ultimate triumphs of creating her “chapter two”.

We discussed her life as a writer. I was interested in how she researched books, how long it took to write, and in her writing processes. Jackie shared the plot of her next book due out this summer and of the young adult book to be released at the end of this month. She brought copies of her new book, Cage of Stars and a copy of Deep End of the Ocean, to autograph for me. They will be books I will treasure. As we sat enjoying each other's company, it seemed like we were simply old friends meeting to “catch up”.

Jackie spoke of the cheerleader competition that was being held at the college where her son was auditioning. She told of the girls sitting in the front of the building speaking, as teenagers do—about whatever it is teenagers converse about. As she relayed the girls’ conversation to us, it was as if we were listening to them ourselves. It is this writer’s eye that makes Jacquelyn’s writing resonate. She sees the world through the eyes of a writer. Conversations and life activities surround us on a daily basis. We pay little attention to them, yet to a writer each incident is significant---an opportunity for expression. I made a mental note to share this with my students.

Was this a chance connection with a famous author? I don’t think so. I do believe Jacquelyn Mitchard was one of those brought into my life to dance with me (see blog entry: http://mfisteach.blogspot.com/2006/08/lord-of-dance.html ) and I with her; partners on a journey of shared experiences, yet living diverse lives. I am thankful for those who continually are symbols of hope; those who exemplify that through pain, joy can be found—Jacquelyn Mitchard is one such beacon.

This I know for sure.


Evan and Julia said...

What a great experience!

mfisteach said...

I was amazing---how fortunate I am to have such great folks in my life!

your dad said...

Isn't it great to meet someone we consider FAMOUS? Especially one who is a writer and has insights into a lot of life's little secrets. How meaningful that moment, hour in time is.

I remember I met someone famous one time. We were in Florida and we had guest. It cost a whoppen lot to get in to meet this person. When we got through the turnstile (is that spelled right?)there he was bigger than life, red, white, blue, and black. What caught my eye were those enormous ears. It was Mickey. He did not say a word but he communicated with so many in different was...the shuffle of his feet, twist of his body, bend of the head and spinning on his toes.

I had even bought a very expensive watch with his image on it once just to remind me during that time in my life that just maybe life was not a serious as I thought. But to saw him in person...wow. Then to see him in less that 5 minutes in another place in the park. He was every where. I learned a lot that day...children understood his language a lot better than I...they laughed a lot harder than I...they rushed to touch him when I wouldn't (what would the other adults think?).

Sure, I met someone famous and for that moment he help me forget some pain. I caught my self imitating him...I got more laughs than he but I really think they were laughing at me (ouch-more pain). That was ok. Micky was still there to ease the pain.

Marsh, take time to learn from you "famous" freind. It can often help deal with the hurts life give us. It seemed that I heard you saying that as taken back as you were with her "fame" you found something deeper in the relationship. Cherish that thought and memory.