I attended because I like spending time with Chris and because a couple of years ago, the first time that I thought I had almost finished my memoir, I met with Mary and her partner Kate, and they were generous with their time and their ideas. It seemed like good Karma to go.
As so often happens when I attend something that I don't want to attend, I'm so glad I went.
Mary's an excellent reader and writer and something of a ham.
The book tells Mary's story of researching one of our country's worst superfund sites, a river in the town where she grew up in New Jersey.
The first anecdote that she read was of a childhood memory of a touch football game on a field by the river. The small town's bad boys and their leader the bully (every town has them), harassed a passing football player, tossing his shiny white helmet into the river's dark sludge.
That opening establishes the book's two main characters: Mary and the river. Mary is aware of the river's menace from this beginning, but in this telling, she is naive, a kid, unaware of the beauty that she lives so near. The river is at times the beauty and at other times, the beast. It is that dark place that we fear as children, a place that didn't have to be so dark--like Darth Vader, it might have had a different destiny, but it went awry. it was mistreated.
As Mary read, I thought, "I wonder if I will be able to write this way one day: seemingly a simple story simply told that is neither simple in its narrative nor its artistry."
Like attending this reading, I have done so many things in my life that I did not want to do, but turned out to offer great gifts:
I held Sister Jen's hand as we roller skated around the rink when I wanted to hang with the bigger kids, and the roller rink goddess awarded me with my first album: Chicago 9.
I watched The Sound of Music with my cousins because my Aunt Mary Ann forced me to (though the title sounded more like a lecture, or the longest and most boring thing I knew at the time: a sermon.); for a decade I couldn't wait to be sixteen like Liesl, because then I would be beautiful and dance and sing--and have a boyfriend (the fact that he ends up being a jerk, didn't disturb my young dream. Neither did the fact that I didn't really like boys other than for playing sports together. )
I had brain tumors even though I didn't want them, and from them I have new hobbies, new friends, new insights. (Though if given the choice, I'd still say no thank you to the tumors.) Because of these tumors, I'm writing this blog. And several books. And I’m meeting lots of new people with interesting stories. And I'm going to start a new career. And tough kids strolling down the street see my vulnerability and are kind to me.
I wonder what gift the next thing that I don't want to do will bring. I can hardly wait.