Not too long ago, I found myself with two tickets to see one of my literary idols, Anne Lamott. This is why I love her writing so much: in a scene in one of her books, she is in labor, trying to have her baby naturally. When she finally gives birth, everyone is dead silent, staring at a space between her legs. Later, her best friend told her that as she was pushing the baby out, she was also pushing out a tiny turd. Both the baby and the turd were playing peek-a-boo. Apparently she was able to push out the baby, but not the turd. It was still stuck there long after the baby had been whisked away.
Anne Lamott has no shame and writes it like it is. I want to be like her when I grow up.
I found myself with the two tix and no one to go with. My sister was out of town, and really, you have to be selective when you're trying to pick someone to share this type of experience with. When you have the chance to see someone you love on stage, the wrong person next to you could mess everything up, you know? Like if they're yawning the whole time, or worse, FALL ASLEEP! Can you imagine? For the rest of your life you'll remember seeing one of your idols... with this dead beat next to you.
I happen to mention to my mom that I would be getting to see one of my favorite writers that night, and that I would get to go alone. Alone, after all, was a luxury when you had two small kids.
"I'll go with you!" my mom said.
I hesitated too long and she quickly recanted.
"Never mind," she said, "it'll be too much of a hassle to pick me up. You have to go way out of your way..."
"No, no...it's fine!" I said, "It'll be fun."
But as I drove over to her house to pick her up, I started to panic. What if Anne Lamott said something that would offend her? What if my mom ended up being the dead beat next to me, yawning and nodding off?
"Thank you for coming with me," I said as we sat in traffic.
"Of course," she said. "When you mentioned you were going by yourself I thought 'finally I can spend time with her by herself, with out the kids',"
I sat back, a bit stunned. It never occurred to me that she wanted to spend time with me. Ever since I had Eli and Savvy, our conversations had revolved around them. And before the kids? For the life of me I couldn't remember one conversation we'd had Before Kids. She actually wanted to spend time with me. Huh. It was truly one of the most tender things she'd ever said to me.
When we finally got to enter the auditorium, my mom marched straight to the front rows, even though they were roped off.
"Mami..." I hissed. "I don't think we can sit..." But it was too late. She had already climbed over the velvet rope and sat down, putting her purse in the seat next to her. She didn't even glance back to see if I'd followed. I rushed to the front trying not to make eye contact with anyone. I expected a security guard to call out any minute.
"You see," she said after I'd sat down, heart pounding, "you just have to act like you belong somewhere and people will assume you do."
Anne Lamott spoke from a podium just steps away from us. I couldn't believe our luck! I could see the spray of sweat on her upper lip, hear her gulp down bottled water. It was more magical than I could've imagined. My mom was mesmerized. She'd never been to a poetry reading or seen a writer--let alone a great writer--speak. I had my notebook out, like a net ready to catch her precious gems. I glanced at my mom. She was jotting down stuff all over her program. A lump caught in my throat. There I was: Anne Lamott just mere steps before me, my mother next to me. Two of the most influential women in my life, within arms reach.
When Lamott was done talking, it was announced that she would be signing books at the table across the stage. When my mom heard this she pushed me out of my seat.
"Gogogogo....while she's still right there, " she said.
As I started grabbing my jacket and purse she yanked them out of my hand and shoved my book into my chest.
"Go NOW!" she said.
And so I ducked under the rope and stumbled up on stage.
to stand before
And I did just that. Just stood there, dumbfounded. I am not ashamed to admit I had actually thought about what I'd say if I happened to get such an opportunity. OK, I actually kind of rehearsed what I'd say. But standing before her, I started to mumble something about what an impact she'd had on my life...
She interrupted me. "Great dreads. How old are they?" she said, reaching out to touch the tips.
"Uhhhhbout three years old," I said.
"Yeah, I just cut mine. You should bleach some of them, I think they'd look good..." she said, holding out her own bleached dreads to demonstrate.
She signed my book before the guards could lead herto the table where a winding line waited.
"Mami..." I said with a tear in the corner in my eye when I finally found her outside. "Did you see that? She touched my hair!"
We beamed as we walked to find my car.
On the ride home she talked non-stop. She said she couldn't wait to read all her books. She said she kept thinking of experiences she'd had growing up as she'd listened to Lamott speak. She shared stories about herself I'd never heard. Story after story came tumbling out until the inside of the car hummed with them.
She said that when she was a teenager and everyone had gone to bed, she would sneak out of the house with friends.
My jaw dropped, because of course I would never even entertain such thoughts. "What did you do, where did you go?" I said, anxious to hear the dirt.
"I just couldn't wait. I'd think about it all day:we'd go to the best burrito stand and have a burrito and a big soda..."
"You were such a rebel!" I said as I cracked up.
I resisted the temptation to pull over right there on the freeway shoulder and start writing the stories down. I didn't want to forget one word. This night, I knew, was once in a lifetime.
When I dropped her off, she gave me a long hug and thanked me for taking her with me. She said she loved getting a glimpse into my world.
And then, as is her way, she quickly let go of me. "OKbye," she said over her shoulder. Soon she'd closed the door and the night was over.
It was a new reason to love Anne Lamott. She inspired me beyond words, but more importantly, she gave me a piece of my mother's raw heart, such a rare treasure.
...if only for a night.