Friday, April 24, 2009

My Evening with Anne

Summery Friday afternoon and I'm speeding toward Mercer Island the second I leave work. Co-piloted by my friend Jake, we hope to beat I-5 traffic in Seattle because we've got tickets to see Annie. Not the buoyant, red-headed orphan. You know, Anne Lamott, novelist, writing guru, and accidental spiritual advisor to a generation of Christians. I just call her Annie, for short.

We arrive at the Presbyterian Church where Anne is speaking in time to park in the marshy springtime grass serving as the overflow lot and meet our friends who are holding our tickets for us. I'm dressed in my nice jeans and a green, quarter-zip sweater with a polo underneath. Even early this morning, I wanted to look nice for Anne. This will be my first time ever seeing her in person, and, well, I'm not going to look like a slob. A copy of Bird by Bird lies waiting in the Timbuk2 bag slung over my shoulder. My heart pounds as we take our seats in the gym/auditorium.

When Anne speaks, she has a voice that is the sound of soothing, a soft drone with a sharp edge of humor, and life. She had planned to take this year off from lectures, but a series of events and relationships brought her, specially, to Mercer Island. I feel lucky—lucky to be seeing her at all, luckier that it was not supposed to happen. She talks about faith and writing and life, and I'm elated to discover that this woman has tapped into an elusive ability to write exactly how she speaks. Her pacing and rhythm are the same; the punchlines occur as I always imagine them on the page. Foolishly I had been worried she might not be as funny in real life. Instead, I find her just as funny, thoughtful, and impertinent as ever, going so far as to suggest that those who do not shop for books at independent bookstores will not be allowed into heaven's room of desserts.

Afterward, with Jake, I stand in line, waiting to hand her Bird by Bird for an autograph, worrying about what I might say to her. Jake holds a worn copy of Traveling Mercies. These are the two most important books Anne could have written, in my mind. What to say, what to say?

The point becomes moot the moment we step up to the front of the line where Anne is sitting. She sighs, with the makings of a smile on its way. "You two," she says and the smile arrives, "are the most adorable boys I've ever seen."

I swoon.

She takes our books and pens her name, continuing about the "flush of youth" in our cheeks, but I can only manage incoherencies in response before moving on.

The drive home, I am warm and comfortable. As a writer and a person of faith, I need reminding that the world is not entirely against me, and if it is, then at least I won't have to experience menopause. This evening, Anne let me see life a little bit through her eyes—crazy, tired eyes—and I rediscovered what I learned in Bird by Bird and Traveling Mercies: that she and I are crazy in the same ways, and tired of the same things, and are working out how to cope day by day. And maybe, just maybe, we can let ourselves enjoy the things that are truly, wonderfully good.


L.L. Barkat said...

oh marvelous!

Joelle said...

A bit of jealousy going on at this end of the worldwide web. Too good. Too good. :) Wonderful experience and fabulously recounted.

cindyhan111 said...

what an amazing experience, why wouldn't one be jealous?

Laure said...

very nice.

swooning ... highly under-experienced!