Elizabeth Berg, a man named Andre, and writing true

Thank you, Dani, for this post – a reminder of where we were a year ago – meeting favorite author, Elizabeth Berg. What a pivotal weekend! xoxo

bloomingspiders

On August 16, 2013, I kissed my husband curbside and anxiously entered the lobby of the Hyatt Regency Chicago. I was wearing my favorite jeans, a polka-dot blouse and my black pumps, the ones with the large leather bow near the toe. But the space felt wrong, like the cafeteria on the first day of school: a virtual minefield of social suicide and no map to guide.

I looked around, knowing full well I would find no familiar faces, but hoping I could spot aspiring writers, that perhaps our hearts would seem familiar to one another. And after a few trips up and down the stairs, I spotted them. Comrades in pen. Soldiers of prose.

We were all nervous. Sizing up the space and each other, then scanning the large area for a face we’d seen only briefly, if at all: that of Ms. Elizabeth Berg.

I had met Elizabeth…

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“Somewhere else…”

Prompt: 10 minutes: “somewhere else…”

Somewhere Else

Somewhere else is where I went when I tried to relax yesterday. Get it? Tried to relax! Who else has to try to relax? Have I been uptight my whole life? Has the need to appear confident, in control, “together” ruled my life all these decades?

No, surely not. There must have been some times before the self-conscious playground days when I loathed recess for fear of looking stupid or getting hit with the ball I had no natural athletic ability to either hit or avoid. I do remember moments, faint moments … of something else, somewhere else…

At the Quaker Church where I went to kindergarten in 1964, there was a delicious, sweet clover-smelling grassy hill we used to play on while our mothers held babies and chatted before collecting us to take us home for lunch and naps. We’d look for lucky four leaf clovers, of course, that would grant us fantastical wishes. We made clover chains to wear as crowns upon our heads, necklaces around our necks. And sometimes, if I’d worn pants that day, which wasn’t often for girls in 1964, I would seek the rush of rolling down the big, scary hill like the boys.

With my hands by my bony hips, my arms pressed to my sides, I pretended I was a log, let myself go, and I rolled and I rolled down that bumpy hill, eyes closed, losing myself in the exhilaration of the feeling of green, earthy freedom, innately trusting gravity to keep me safely tethered to the ground. With a thud, I would come to a stop at the bottom, giggling, spent, just resting there, opening my eyes to see puffy, white clouds. I’d make pictures in my mind of their ever-changing, cotton ball shapes against the deep blue background of the sky, while other kids hopped up to make the climb to do it all over again. images

I wonder how long I stayed there, allowing myself to go somewhere else? To enter the cloud castles or climb the cloud beanstalks? Or did I hurry back to Mama to see what I’d missed that day when I was at school and my little brother had all of her attention?