As I approached the unassuming entrance to the restaurant, I couldn’t deny the overwhelming rush of anxiety that pulsed through my veins.
It’s a scary thing, meeting someone for the first time; far scarier than plunking out an email and hoping it’s well received. MA and I had exchanged a few photos over the years, but the vast majority of our interaction revolved around the written word. Never had I heard the timbre of her voice—outside of how I imagined it in my head—or seen the mannerisms that accompanied the smooth cadence of her communication.
Did I look okay? Was my eyeliner drawn on too thickly, causing me to look like a tramp? What if I chose the wrong kind of flowers and they triggered allergies or suddenly dropped their petals? What if I didn’t live up to the expectations she had accumulated over our last 3 years of correspondence?
Miraculously, my feet managed courage beyond what my nerve-wracked mind could spare and we ended up at the hostess’ station to announce our arrival for the already-seated party. “I don’t know how people go on blind dates,” I squeaked to my mom. (What, you don’t drag your mother along for an engagement some 350 miles from home?!)
And so, we followed the nice young lady around the corner to our fateful meeting…
I first learned of Edmond Sun newspaper columnist Marjorie Anderson in June 2013 when one of her articles caught the attention of our corporate intranet’s “Buzz About Hallmark” feature. More often than not, the “Buzz” was little more than a mommy blogger’s review of a product we had sent her for free; those posts didn’t get the satisfaction of my click traffic. This particular post, though, caught my attention and held it for many hours as I read through entry after entry of Ms. Anderson’s “As I See It” column.
With tired eyes, a fresh jolt of inspiration and an overwhelming desire to express my appreciation for this dear woman’s writing, I emailed the newspaper editor. “If there’s not already a published collection of these columns,” I urged, “there needs to be one! Marjorie Anderson is a national treasure, and these entries deserve recognition and preservation!” (In truth, this is but the essence of what I penned—the actual message is long since lost to the tragedy of 60-day automatic mail purge.)
Within hours, I was reading a response from the editor with Marjorie Anderson herself copied. Armed with her personal email address, I embarked on what has become one of the most fulfilling campaigns of my life: a budding friendship and digital pen pal connection with a writer whom I greatly admire.
There she sat, in the flesh, before my very eyes. Even with a handful of photos lodged in my memory, I hadn’t been entirely sure what to expect of my octogenarian friend. What I found was a saucy and sweet, bright-eyed lady with rosy pink lips and cherry red fingernails. A woman as tiny as a little bird but not the least bit frail looking, quite possibly even better coordinated physically than yours truly, who happens to be some 50 years her junior.
I set the vase of flowers on the edge of the table and reached out to join hands with MA. She looked full on my face and asked in astonishment, “Is it… is it really you?!” And I’ve never felt so honored and astounded to have someone ask me the words that were mirrored in my own mind.
We settled into the booth with my mom sitting across from Brett Barney, MA’s son, and I across from my mythical-turned-even-better-in-real-life confidant. The anxiety I’d carried quickly faded in favor of warmth and familiarity as our conversation flowed effortlessly from topic to topic. We touched on the journey from Kansas City, MO, to Edmond, OK; the similarities and vast differences between MA’s teaching and my mom’s career in school administration; and how we had all arrived at this very place. I’ll admit I found it hard to concentrate at times with the ridiculously delicious honey-pepper bacon burger on the plate in front of me. If you find yourself poking around the Sooner State, it’s worth your time to seek out an Interurban restaurant.
After lunch, we followed Brett and MA to meet with the writers’ group, and Su-the-weenie-dog(!), at MA’s house. While the group usually meets on Thursday afternoons, a special exception was made for my attendance. A tremendously talented author named Paul Gaines joined us and shared some of his short stories and character studies. Like our mutual friend MA, Mr. Gaines is utterly charming and endearing; I’m honored and delighted to have met him!
There can’t be many better ways to spend an afternoon than sitting around MA’s kitchen table, nibbling on cookies and hearing pieces penned by the group members read aloud. The group shares feedback and suggestions, and I wish I had prepared something to take along. Perhaps one day before too long I will repeat the trip with the express purpose of gaining some criticism on one of my works…and getting some more “kisses” from little Su.
As the sun did its best to scorch the earth in high-afternoon Oklahoma fashion, we decided it might be time to go on our way. I’ll fondly remember this beautiful experience and hope I can one day make such an impression as Ms. Marjorie Anderson. It’s wholly fitting that she signs off on her correspondence with “smiles, ma” because smiles are precisely what she brings to this world!
I’m approaching my 8th anniversary working for Hallmark Cards. When I was brought on board as an on-call proofreader, I never imagined I would transition to working as a technical editor and eventually a bona fide writer (though not one who writes the card sentiments). I’ve been blessed with editorial opportunities I’m not sure I could have experienced anywhere else in this amount of time.
Hallmark is not exempt from the marketplace changes and various challenges that face corporations today, but the Creative division is committed to ensuring we stay the heart of Hallmark and find new ways to help facilitate emotional connections for our consumers. This year Creative decided to start at its core by giving each employee 5 days to use (apart from regular PTO) for finding inspiration and tapping into creative outlets that may not be leveraged in our everyday positions. A day for a trip to Oklahoma to meet MA was at the top of my wish list, and it did not disappoint. #My5Days