She has an actual book published and everything, which of course, makes me absolutely chartreuse with envy.
As it happens, Jess was having a book signing in the town where I grew up and where my parents, as well as my heart and soul, still reside.
Coincidentally, the bookstore where the signing was taking place, was once owned by people we knew very well. I thought they still owned it, but I have since learned that it has changed hands. It's not one of those industrially sleek and carefully decorated chains that although undeniably well stocked, lack warmth and character.
No, this little store is full of funky little angles, dead ends, and sloping floors that creak pleasantly when one trods upon them. It smells like bookstores should smell. Not of frothy coffee confections, but of musty pages, full of mystery and promise.
I spent many, many afternoons there as a young girl. They carried the best selection of stickers, which were quite the rage when I was 11. Rainbow stickers, glittery stickers, stickers with lips, hearts, unicorns. They also carried all my favorite authors; Betty Smith, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Madeline L'Engle, and Judy Blume.
There used to be, in a far, dim corner near the back door near, where the academic tomes were housed, a big overstuffed chair; old and careworn, but still comfy. I would sink into that big chair and sit for an hour or so, looking at my bright, shiny new stickers and delving into worlds unknown. Sometimes those worlds were fictitious and fantastic, but sometimes I would take with me a pile of books about all the real places I had ever, in my short, rather myopic life, dreamed of going.
Ahhhhhh. One of my better childhood memories, even though the children of the family that owned the store were spoiled and snobby and looked at my sisters and me as one looks at piles of dog poo upon the ground. Sometimes they would come in while I was there, loud, obtrusive and wrong in the dusty silence of the store. Then, I was forced to sneak away lest I be discovered and have to face their scorn and derision.
I had hoped to maybe meet up with Jess on our trip home next week, but our schedules just don't jive, unfortunately. So I called my Mom and asked her to go down there and score an autographed copy of Jess's book "Driving Sideways".
My Mom knows all about the internet, of course. She's savvy and smart, and not one to let any opportunity to simplify life pass her by. Because she's disabled, the internet is a boon for her. For many of us, it is only a convenience and a crutch, but for my Mom, it can be a real life saver.
She's never really gotten into the social aspect of the internet, but I think she understands it well enough.
In the '70's, there was CB radio and my parents were big into that. I can still recall their respective "handles". My Mom was "Honeysuckle Flame" because she has red hair, and because we once lived on a street called "Honeysuckle Lane". My Dad was called "Useless Duck" because he was an airplane mechanic in the army.
They talked to people all over the United States on the CB and even held dances and get togethers to meet. Not unlike the internet at all, this harbinger of world wide connectedness.
So I don't think she found my request all that strange, and I didn't have to explain overmuch how I "know" Jess. She went down there and purchased two copies, one for me, and one for herself.
She was really quite tickled by the experience. And I, quite frankly, was envious and sad. We could have gone down there together. Those are the kinds of simple silly little things that I miss everyday. A trip to the bookstore with my mother. A walk to the park with my sister and her kids. A family meal. A sleepover with all the grandkids.
I'll be home next week. And for just a little while, those things will be mine. But it will be too short, too fleeting, and too long in coming. I get to go home once a year.
And it's just not enough.