January 12-17, 2009:

Getting ready for a big trip often means that writing takes a back seat to arrangements. (Laundry, packing, lists, bills, cleaning out fridge, stacking piles of things to do on return.) Add to this getting an absentee ballot for the Massachusetts senatorial race to fill Kennedy’s seat, bringing soup to a sick friend, going to the movies (“Avatar” again), dinner with Heidi and Maddison, check over and fiddle with speeches, make sure someone will be picking me up at the airport, meeting with handyman about the forthcoming work on downstairs bathrooms, meeting with the tree man and insurance company about a tree that has fallen on one of our barns, talking to my agent several times, helping a friend find an agent, meeting with the writer’s group, lots of trips to physical therapy and water therapy, etc.

Also mourning (briefly) two rejected manuscripts, working on two poems, revising yet again and sending off the first section of Girl’s Bible to co-author, revising and sending off the first two chapters of Curses Foiled Again to the editor.

In other words, not a lot to show for the run-up to the trip.

And then very early in the morning, in the middle of a January thaw (high 40’s), off I went to the airport to fly to Minneapolis. Luckily I started early. About four exits before my turnoff to the airport, a tractor trailer had jack-knifed across the entire southbound lane minutes before I got there (perhaps the driver fell asleep at the wheel?), closing down Route 91. Police were on the job already and, in the still-dark early morning, sent us all off on a detour through Enfield, Ct. and into the unknown. I was nervous about where I was going, since I didn’t know that part of Ct. Trusting in the sudden increase traffic on route 5 to take me where I wanted to go since there were no shops open to ask, I kept going south until I saw a sign for Suffield, Ct. and that town I knew! Saved, I thought, and right after that was an entrance onto 91. I got back on and, within minutes, was at the airport hoping that little detour was not a warning for the rest of the trip.

Well, yes and no. I misplaced my boarding pass and passport after being wanded. (I am always wanded, since I have a titanium knee! And clearly I profile as a terrorist, being 5’3 and a 70-year-old pleasingly plump white woman.) I discovered this as I was about to sit down at the gate. I raced back to the security area. They looked aroubnd for my missing items, I re-searched my suitcase. Luckily I found both boarding pass and passport under the stuff I had jammed into my suitcase after the wanding. So two minor problems averted. Would there be the necessary third to make the story complete?

My seat mate was an Indian gentleman who slept through much of the only-sightly bumpy ride, only to disappear for far too long into the bathroom, setting off alarms in my mind. But then he returned to the seat in plenty of time. We landed with hardly a bump. I found the Starbucks where I was to meet my ride. But when she was late, I tried to call her only to discover that the return number from her call to me reached someone else’s message machine. It could have been a husband/spouse/son I suppose, but was useless for my purposes. Then I realized there was a second unread message from her that had arrived that very morning. I managed to pull it up. (I am a cell phone luddite.) She said she’d gotten things mixed up and was not supposed to pick me up after all but would get me later at my son’s house. So I called Adam, told him I’d grab a cab. Third small disaster averted. Not much of a story here, but at the time all three mini-disasters loomed large.

Spent time with Adam and wee David. Betsy and Alison were off at her acting class. When Betsy came back from delivering daughter to class, she and I whipped out to our favorite clothing store, Fawbushes, where I bought us each three wonderful tops. I wanted to spend time with her since she was leaving the next day for a week in Cancun, a much-needed vacation. Then home again where I was picked up and taken to dinner with the Hamline University MFA professors/teachers. Then off to the college where I did an hour’s reading to students, faculty, others. It was a full room, wonderfully attentive audience. I read a variety of things–short stories, picture books, poetry both published and unpublished. Got a standing O at the end. Did a signing. And then back to Adam and Betsy’s where I quite literally fell into bed.

The next day (Sunday) was a full day at the university where I did an hour and a half Q&A with the graduating MFA students, and then lunch with them. Got conscripted into (volunteered actually) singing with faculty members for the party after the graduation. Then off to the rehearsal of the songs, all based on well-known show tunes (“Tomorrow”, “Hello Dolly”, “Summertime,” and the like.) Next came the graduation ceremony where along with the other faculty members I got kitted out in a a black graduation robe. Then we marched in and–after welcomes by the dean and an invocation–I gave the graduation speech which was acclaimed by everyone which was very pleasant indeed.

At the party/dinner afterwards, everyone was very jolly. Wine flowed. As did tears. I performed with the teachers and added a fillip to the singing of the “Summertime” song by getting up on the piano chanteusey- style (channeling Michelle Pfieffer in the “Fabulous Baker Boys”) which brought down the house! Luckily, however, it didn’t bring down the piano.

And again, got back to Adam’s house and fell into bed. Asleep before the children.

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