Recipients honored on March 7, 5:30-7pm, Library Room, The Governor Hotel. 100 guests, greeters, name tags, open bar, asparagus spears, bespectacled women, bearded men in turtle necks and suit jackets, a podium. My sister alerted me to a side entrance. This presented a choice: slip in through the side or shake hands with the executive director and walk through the main door. First thought: run! Second thought: don’t think. Awe and wonder was all I could feel as I handed over my little red ticket and floated through the main entrance of the fun house. But then, oh the anxiety. Speculating on whether or not a table had been claimed was relief from wondering how smart these people really were. I made a beeline for the bar. E-Train raided the buffet. Elo quickly spotted City Commissioner Sam Adams in the house. TC guarded our table. After we’d taken our seats I paused to rewind and review. In the haze I could feel an energy about me. Something carrying me along. It was my People – TC, E-Train and Elo, keeping me safe and centered. They looked at me as if I had a clue, always close, right there to lift me up, take my hand, to follow, encourage, lead and offer to bring me wine, which was very important. I guzzled two glasses of chardonnay before my name was called.
Without lights an audience is visible. But a podium can fill anyone with purpose (I’d love one in our living room). My only concern was getting my message across clearly and keeping it real. Four index cards were in my hands. Hands rest perfectly on podiums; podiums are well-designed. Turns out, I was genuinely prepared (one can never tell). The words rolled off my tongue with conviction and passion, and in no way hampered my ability to see or feel the listeners. They were attentive and responsive. It was great to be heard. But the real greatness came by way of my People. I looked back to them often, because each time I did, I saw a sight that everyone should see at least once a lifetime… three, on the edge of their seats, eyes teary and wide, tails wagging wildly, birds fluttering, hearts bursting above their heads. It was astounding! Rarely does one receive love like that. The irony is, I trusted myself to improvise personal thank you’s. But having felt such satisfaction and relief over hitting my marks, I quit riffing and simply read the last note on my card: “And somehow thank my husband, family and friends…” Terrible! If I’m ever to speak again like that I will write it all out so everyone will know how appreciative I really am.
To my astonishment a tiny queue formed around me after I spoke. I’ve always been in the queue so this was entirely new for me. It was also awkward, bizarre and oddly thrilling. I was asked some thoughtful questions. Several people shared very intimate stories with me. I liked these conversations very much and felt grateful to be part of such lovely exchanges. Some gave me business cards and said they’d look forward to following my work. This makes me nauseous as a few of them are writers who are fathomlessly out of my league. I say this not out of modesty, but simple fact.
There’s no getting around it now – really must finish this play.