maybe i should pretend….
i’m typing this a day before i usually type. because tomorrow, friday, at this lovely hour, i’ll be feeling my heart plunk though my chest. i’ll pretty much be wishing i was anywhere besides where i’ll be: sitting in a grand dining room, with white-jacketed waiters scurrying like flocks of plate-bearing birds. knives and forks will be tinkling. i’ll be wishing that every wine goblet at every place was sloshing and swiftly being drained. i’ll wish for delirium to sweep across the room, and everyone in it to drift into ether-land. i’ll wish, quite frankly, to be knocked out myself.
it might extinguish the angst.
as the clock ticks toward 40 minutes after 12, i’ll be calling on angels and saints to lift me and carry me through the next 35 minutes.
you see, i’m slotted to get up, before a crowded dining room, in an old-guard chicago club, and unspool a few wisdoms.
which — if you know me even a wee little bit, this should come as no surprise — scares the behoozies right out of me. oh, i’ve been practicing a good bit of late. it’s what comes after you spend a few years sitting alone in a room, typing your heart out. all of the sudden, they (those faraway someones in the towers of publishing) glue all that typing together, put a pretty cover on it (in my case, a vase of what my little one calls “the dead flowers”), and then they make you get up and talk about those words. out loud.
which, pretty much, is my definition of living-breathing fear. it’s so far outside my comfort zone, i find myself dreaming of rocks i could hide under. examining closets for the extent of their “hide-ability.” my recurring nightmare, just before i wake up on the dawns of the days when i’m slotted to “book talk”: it’s me being toppled by tidal wave after tidal wave. complete with slimy sea shimmerers.
but then, each and every time i stand up — certain my knees will give out, especially if i’m teetering on the skinny little “kitten heels” my fairy godmother in book touring told me i needed to buy (“everyone looks at your feet while you’re reading; you need something excellent for them to look at,” she instructed, in no-fooling terms) — each and every time (so far), i’ve been overtaken by the intoxicant that swirls through the room. the one called love, pure and simple. i look out into a crowd peopled with faces i love, even faces i’ve never seen before, and suddenly i am soaring. no longer the terrified typer, but suddenly afrolic, to make up a word, one that for these purposes we’ll define as in the midst of frolicking. frolicking in waves and waves of laughter and tears and words tumbling on words.
but here’s the problem: i can tell, by the toxins that build by the hour in the hours and days leading up to every one of these podium moments, that i have clearly not inherited the microphone gene, the one double-dosed in my father, that jolly fellow above, the one who looks as if the mike is a plug that literally fills him with high-voltage current.
my papa never met a podium he didn’t love. heck, he traveled the world seeking out podiums. told us umpteen thousand times his fine little podium trick: just look out and picture everyone in their skivvies (that’s vintage 1920s talk for undies).
frankly, it’s never worked for me. i’m too scared to picture anything, let alone fruits-of-the-loom, and tattered stretchy sports bras (if my undies drawer stands as template for this).
so it came as something of a surprise — perhaps a hand reaching down from the heavens — when, a few hours ago, hard at work rinsing gunk from the kitchen sink, i suddenly was struck with a novel idea. one that in alllllllllll my years of being allergic to podiums and microphones has never before leapt into my braincells.
what if i pretend my papa is sitting there? smack dab in the very front row, all pink cheeks and twinkling gray-blues, drumming his fingers in that way that he did, that way i still can hear in my head.
what if i channel that jolly old soul who lived to tell a great tale, who wrung every drop of guffaw out of a punch line, who couldn’t care less how corny it was, long as it erupted the room in knee-slapping, tear-swiping, catch-your-breath laughter?
my papa lived to make people laugh. my papa lived to delight the ear with the tricks of his tongue and his tale-telling superpowers.
i’m a dialed-down version of my papa. what i’m aiming for, first and foremost, is to make it through alive. or at least not collapse in a heap, my little black dress and kitten heels the only discernible survivors. oh, i love a good laugh. i swell to it, like any living-breathing soul of irish descent.
but when i feel heaven and earth intermingling is when it’s so very quiet you can hear breath flowing in, flowing out. when you look into faces, rapt. maybe a tear, maybe streams of tears, messily making their way down cheek after cheek.
that’s the magic that propels me out of my seat. that’s the one and only reason i’m mustering whatever it takes to stand up and teeter on wobbly knees, wobbly ankles, curled-up toes: i’m aiming for the pulsing heart inside each and every one of us. i want our hearts — for as long as we can stretch it out — to beat in the blessed unison, the deep-down understanding that we all, every one of us, are searching for the sacred stitch that draws us together, that animates the whole of us, and lifts us to a plane of higher purpose.
and, maybe, if i pretend my papa is there, in the very front row, all dapper in his brooks brothers suit, the one with the buttoned-up vest, the one he wore on the most special occasions. maybe if i pretend he walked across chicago’s loop from the glistening tower where he typed for all those years — maybe, just maybe, the god-awful worry will melt away.
and i can pretend, tomorrow, that me and my dad are sitting alone in a very big dining room, and i am looking at him, straight into his heart, telling my very best stories, and unspooling a wee bit of wisdom.
miss you, sweet papa. see you tomorrow….
how do you talk yourself through the things that scare you to jitters?
I love the picture of your dad. I’m sure he wouldn’t want to miss seeing his daughter on stage. 🙂
That was a wonderfully funny story! Can you read it tomorrow instead of a speech?
ummmm, maybe?!? maybe we should keep it a secret that i am not picturing them in their undies, AND i am having visions of my dear sweet papa.
I cannot thank you enough for not imagining me in my underwear when I was in the audience. I think seeing your dad will be beautiful. I also hope there are people in this next audience whom you already know so that will help too.
I will also call on the angels and saints in your honor, including your father who only looks adorable!
Let us know how it goes!
All the best,
bless your HEART! (and your un-imagined undies!!!!)
thank you for angels, saints, you name its….
what a wonderful problem to have! and extra special with your pop sitting there, right in the front row where only you can see him.
great trick- it will loosen you right up when you hear that unison-longing in laughter. make those people laugh, say something funny- picture your pop giving you the look that says-“she’s a chip off the old block, by golly!”
if you make them laugh just once, they’re with you all the way…touch their funny bone, you’ll get straight to their hearts. (mention the dead flower line- that’s good. I had to pick up the book, then I busted out laughing. perceptive kid! dried flowers…dead. oh my.)
good luck, shine on.
for you, i will make them laugh. you who inspires me to the ends of the earth…….
You know what I’m going to say … but I’ll say it anyway … you got this! I think that is GREAT idea, because he really WILL be there, you know, your papa, as he has been for all the others, beaming with pride. Do try to remember that all those people tomorrow will be there because they want to be there …
Gosh, your papa was even younger than mine when he passed … it’s hard to lose them anytime, but especially when we haven’t had them very long. Yes, miss them we do … always will.
So proud of you, Mahany, for doing what scares you. Some of us don’t, you know, we just cower. Be proud of yourself. We all are! Remember to breathe … love xoxoxo
1.) i LOVE that you call me mahany. and i don’t know if that’s your intuition knowing that’s the name i like best, or maybe once i let it slip.
2.) you KNOW you are my flag-bearer on this. i even passed on the pardo proclamation to a very-scared friend the other day. YOU GOT THIS! i enthused, wholly crediting you with the marching cry. it worked for my friend. and it’s worked for me every time since i first heard you exclaim it. xoxoxo
oh, tomorrow night is looking so sweet from where i sit right now….
According to research, public speaking is the number one fear in America, (number two is death) and as I was reading this I kept thinking about how writing about what you fear is a great way to diffuse the tension and how wonderful that you invited you father’s spirit to rally your time at the podium.
I loved reading this post and I think so many people can relate to the anxiety that builds before the actual event.
Yes, it’s no wonder that this is the outcome of your wonderful book, which by the way I couldn’t wait till Christmas and ordered it early.
I’ve always enjoyed books that are written around the seasons and I love that you started and ended with the season of Winter! A spiraling out and a spiraling in.
Enjoy this part of your journey. I’ll be rallying with you in spirit 🙂
bless your heart, dear ramona. i actually love knowing that i’m in the statistical majority here, hardly alone in my jittery knees.
i also love that you picked up on the spiraling out and spiraling in. and, as always always, i am SO truly touched that something about the book called to you, and that as these days darken you have something with which to curl up…..
blessings….and here i go!!
So… How was it ?
Andrea Lavin Solow
dear darling: it was so so so heavenly. i brought the book with my dad’s picture on the back, and i tucked it right on the podium, at my left hand. so he WAS right there. xoxox
thanks for asking. i was wandering over here to make this my last stop of the day before collapsing. just to say thank you to the chairs for all the holding me upright.
Wonderful!!! Have a relaxed weekend 🙂
They’re going to love you, just like we do!
But I’m with you — public speaking is the second scariest thing on earth. What’s the scariest? Singing a solo. I used to be a song leader at our church, and I sang duets with a nice fellow parishioner named Syd. Occasionally, Syd was ill or out of town, and I’d have to stand in front of the congregation all by my lonesome and sing. Scared me out of my mind, every single time. Have never gotten over this fear. Momma always said that shyness is inherited. . . I genuinely commiserate with your jitters. Imagining your wonderful dad out in the audience is brilliant, and just lovely. Loved reading about him. He sounds bigger than life, and entirely marvelous. What lovely memories you must have of him.
It’s scary to stand up to speak, but look at all the love and beauty you’re sharing. All those people are so very fortunate to be there with you. All best wishes, and much love. As my Momma used to say: Keep your pinfeathers stiff! xo
Ha! Amy, love that “keep your pinfeathers stiff!”
i love the pinfeathers too! love those farm wisdoms….
i cannot even begin to imagine opening my mouth to sing….just plain talking nearly knocks me under the table. i would LOVE to hear you sing. by the way, i know there are a few magnificent singers who come to the table — just saying pjv and i’m pretty sure nancy p. too!
Oh, heavens, you do NOT want to hear me sing! 🙂
You were wonderful today and I was blessed and honored to be there listening.
bless bless bless your heart. i MELTED that two tables of family schoolers were there, and it’s not like it was in your backyard. it took some travel to get there. bless you! i loved today. i loved everything about it. cusick, my affectionate name for my dear pal who calls me simple “mahany,” is hilarious, and his phone call early this morning started the day on a note that only got better. walking in that gorgeous elegant room, with the humongous wood-burning fireplace, and the mahogany columns, and the great tall windows looking out on chicago’s hustle and bustle, and the christmas tree that practically reached the ceiling. AND the great good souls gathered there…..
i am wafting my way into dreamland. g’night and sleep tight and thank you…xoxo
So, so happy to hear that you had a wonderful time, and it sounds like your dad did too. I was thinking he probably had been to the Union League many times for business lunches etc. and was just spiritually busting his buttons to have you there sharing your gorgeous words and wisdom. Sent up my prayers from little health office that you were relaxing in all that artful beauty and adding to it. Congratulations! I think your dad will have fun traveling along with you.
your prayers from the nurse’s office must have shortcuts to heaven!
bless your heart. i wish you could have been there, only because the room was SOOOOO breathtaking! so christmas-y! i am still tingling from it.
my papa actually went with the ad-biz crowd to the tavern club (of course ad men go to a place called tavern, they of the three-martini lunch, though i don’t think the union league shirked in the cocktail department, back in the day!).
Of course it went well! Your papa was right there! Of course you already knew that he is always there, your fellow teller of great stories.
oh, honey, i wish i could get it through my thick skull that i needn’t make myself sick with worry every time. i’ll keep tryin’….in the meantime, i am forever grateful to those who pray keep-her-up prayers. xoxox.
it seems to take me a few days to catch up but having been in the room and NOT having read any of this before hand, I would never have known that you were the wee bit worried…You were amazing and our souls left that gorgeous room much much lighter than when we had entered. You are a gift to us all!
[…] here’s a bit of the back story: a couple weeks ago, i wrote here about my quivering knees as i was about to get up to a squawky microphone in a glorious downtown chicago old-guard club, the […]