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
If you’re a frequent visitor to this establishment, you know that I’m smitten with snark. Today, though, I’m trading that for sentimentality. Savor it, friends.
Each week our company intranet highlights articles that call attention to the business. One such post in June came from the Edmond Sun by way of a weekly column called “As I See It” (the actual post was titled ‘Some Birthdays Outdo Others’). I enjoyed the writing so much that I decided to search
the website for other pieces by the author, one Marjorie Anderson. The more I read, the more I was convinced this delightful woman needed to have a published anthology of her wit and wisdom…
and so, I emailed the Sun‘s editor to offer my suggestion and express praises for a job well done.
The kind editor put me in touch directly with Mrs. Anderson, thus sparking a fast e-pen-pal friendship.
MA has several decades of life experience on me but I feel like we’re very much cut from the same cloth; it all goes back to my being an old soul, I suppose. She regales me with stories of her current adventures with dog Su and of days past, offers insights on a host of matters and obliges my never-ending questioning. We also share a love of cute animal videos. As an aside, you can find her books (This End Up and A Patchwork Sampler) on Amazon, and I highly suggest that you do!
This week, MA gave me a sneak peek of her Christmas column. Her lovely memories made me think about my own “glittering” Christmas recollections. I shared the following with her, so I’ll share them with you too!
I have a hard time pinpointing my favorite Christmases past. My dad was always snapping photos, so I sometimes wonder how many of my memories are actually memories and how many are just things that I think I remember from having seen the photographs all these years.
Mostly I remember a blur of decorations and gifts. Far too many gifts, really. But there is one year that stands out: Christmas 1989 if I had to guess (since I think I was in 1st grade at the time). Among the whirlwind of gifts was a musical jewelry box. It wasn’t anything special in hindsight, just some laminated chipboard in the shape of a circus train car. Regardless, I remember focusing on it that evening as my mom tucked me in and we said our bedtime prayers. For whatever reason, looking at it made me sob. I thought of all the beautiful gifts I’d received and realized, probably for the first time, that there were other little children who had nothing. There are no pictures of that moment, so I am certain it’s a memory.
Another “glittering” moment for me is one that I get to re-live each year as I decorate my Christmas tree. In 1990 or ’91, I received a package in the mail from my great-grandmother in Texas. It contained the yearly check that she sent for my parents to buy me a pretty new Christmas dress (another came each Easter) and a little seashell angel ornament that she had picked up on a trip with my great-aunt and –uncle. Every year, it hangs prominently near the top of my tree though it’s probably one of the ugliest things I own. Its little mop of thinning white curls reminds me so much of my dear
Both of my grandmothers passed before I turned 8,
but Great-Mamaw was with us until my freshman year of high school. I was especially fortunate in that we saw her somewhat frequently despite the vast distance between Granbury, TX, and our home in Missouri. We visited Granbury once or twice a year, and she lived with us for weeks or months at a time while Uncle Dale and Aunt Martha (who passed away this year) traveled around the country.
My Christmas tree also boasts her handmade, crafted drum ornaments. Great-Mamaw’s arthritis kept her from doing much crafting in her later years, but I did get one last ornament that she made at the nursing home towards the end of her lifetime. The little felt mouse looked more like a preschool craft but it came to me with a stack of quarters from her bingo winnings. The mouse’s googly eyes have long since fallen off, but it still touches my heart. Each time I see it, I’m reminded that Great-Mamaw was thinking of me even as her pain was great in those last months.
That’s the point of Christmas, isn’t it?! At the risk of sounding preachy, I feel compelled to mention this: God was thinking of us even as He felt the pain of sending His Son from Heaven down to earth to live among us. Jesus, the namesake of Christmas, is the greatest gift God could have given us. Not only was He the greatest gift at the time of His birth, He is still the greatest gift. It was Jesus who sacrificed Himself for our sins and overcame the power of the grave to afford us the gift of life abundant. Now that is a reason to celebrate!