No, no, no, this can’t be happening.
No, no, no, no, nooooooooo it can’t be, no…not…not…
THE MIDDLE SEAT!
I can’t believe this. I know I double, no, TRIPLE checked. I always, always get a window, always. I would never, ever choose the MIDDLE! Wait, let’s look again…28E. E. Row 28 D, E…F.
Kill me now.
You’d better believe I’m pulling that arm rest down mister, and it’s MINE, you got the window, you lean on it. What? Why is she talking to me? Do I look like a chatterer? I’m in the middle seat lady, what do you think? Talk to that guy across the aisle, and keep that vermin-ridden blanket off my leg. I should have taken an extra Dramamine, and maybe a Benedryl. I am not going to be sufficiently comatose to survive four hours in the MIDDLE SEAT. Oh my God, what is that smell? Is someone, no really, he can’t be, he IS. Who changes a baby diaper in an airplane seat? Am I the only one who SMELLS THAT? I…I must be, she is seriously unwrapping a sandwich. Is she, oh no, ugh, is she going to EAT while he does that?
I’m not trying to sleep to loudly for you, am I dude? How about you turn that Shuffle up one more notch, your ears aren’t bleeding yet.
O.K. it must be almost over, right? Is that still the same movie? Oh no , it is. Aaaagggghhhh it’s only been ten minutes. That’s it, I have died and gone to MIDDLE SEAT purgatory. I’m pretty sure my foot has swollen to three times it’s normal size and I think my spine is telescoping. My neck pillow is overstuffed. It’s perfect to lean against the window with, but I feel like I’m at the dentist in the MIDDLE SEAT.
No, no that was great, hey you tried to cover that sneeze. The fact that it came shooting out the sides of your cupped hand and hit my cheek is really not your fault. Just a few peanut crumbs, no biggie.
Please, please, please put your shoes back on.
Is it over? Oh yes, solid ground. We’re here. Just a few more minutes. O.K. then… alright…O.K…PARK THE FREAKIN’ PLANE ALREADY!
Anytime you want to start moving lady. You’ve got, you know, all that stuff, your giant purse, that pink Harley Davidson suitcase, that half eaten sandwich… I mean, it would help me out if you could get going. I did keep my mouth shut when you kept talking on your cell phone after the flight attendant had said it should be turned off and stowed, soooo…
Sorry, didn’t mean to smack you in the face with my bag, and almost knock you unconscious as I charged up the aisle, but I’ve been in the MIDDLE SEAT for four hours. You understand.
“Write a short paragraph describing an adventure you had as a kid.”
A simple enough task. Pencils began scratching around the room. All but mine. Simple enough unless you were like me and spent the better part of your childhood going out of your way to avoid adventure. Outdoor bathrooms, dirty socks, possible tapeworm infection, poky shirt tags, weird smelling cats, bugs, worms, snakes, unavailable dental hygiene and scratchy sweaters, all these and much, much more occurred on adventures–no thank you.
It isn’t a huge deal to miss the occasional sleepover or camping trip as a kid, but the bigger you grow, the bigger the adventures become and pretty soon it’s either leap or be left with nothing but the story of the one time you switched brands of tomato soup to entertain friends with at parties. And good luck with that.
I managed to scribble out some lame excuse for an adventure, a three block bike ride to my friend’s house in broad daylight, and sat silently thankful that my recent adulthood had brought a new perspective on taking opportunities that come my way.
When I received the Highlights Foundation e-mail describing the “It’s All About Character” workshop, I had recently returned from Honesdale, and was not in any big hurry to repeat the fun that is air travel today. The workshop was being led by Kim Griswell and Lindsay Barrett George. Hmmm…I knew both of them and admired their work. Special guest speakers would be librarian Martha Vines, author Pat Thomas, and one of my personal heroes author/illustrator Suzanne Bloom. Hubby had been giving me pointed “poop or get off the pot” looks whenever I whined about wanting to write. I went for it.
It was an exhausting and intense four days. Kim’s talk “The Picture Book Hero” was especially interesting and informative for me, and I highly recommend the full workshop she does on the “hero’s journey.” She is an editor and writer who knows her stuff. Lindsay gave us an honest insight into the lengthy and sometimes futile process of developing a book (eighty-four dummies does not guarantee a sale), but the process is valuable regardless, something important for those of us who get discouraged after…well…ONE.
The guests were all wonderful and Suzanne even hung around the next day listening to readings and offering her two cents, which if you’ve ever paid a small fortune to a certain national organization to be kept away from the speakers like the great unwashed, you know what a hoot this was for everyone. Add on wonderful scenery, a cozy cabin complete with coffee and mini-fridge all to yourself and oh the food, three scrumptious gourmet meals a day; I take my eats seriously, and my palate was deliriously happy. The workshop was limited to twelve, and we encompassed the full range, from newbies to the much published, and both Kim and Lindsay were thorough and honest in their critiques, with long one-on-one conferences and meticulous notes for each attendee. No false praise or hand holding. I came away inspired to get to work.
My adventure was not without mishap: almost missing my connection in Philly, where they put you on a bus and drive you to what appears to be an abandoned warehouse in Jersey to catch your plane, a couple of warmth-seeking centipedes invading my cabin’s bathroom (see aforementioned bug aversion), forgotten dental floss, and the apparent onset of decrepitude which seems to mean I cannot sit for long periods without my knees locking up, but despite, I was very glad I went. It was an adventure worth taking.
“I can’t breathe, call an ambulance.”
“You just hit a flock of ducks!”
“You have mononucleosis.”
Family reunion time when I was a kid could always be counted upon to bestow some crisis, usually involving firemen, diarrhea and/or a hospital stay. I grew up far from my parent’s families, so each summer the doors to the house would be wired shut (to prevent theft of the two ton 1969 console TV), the car would be loaded with my parents’ matching Samsonites crammed with two weeks’ worth of clothes and cross-country we would go. My Dad insisted it take no more than a day and a half to get from Ohio to Colorado. If he could have done it in one and saved the cost of stopping at a hotel at midnight, which he reluctantly agreed to only because my mother was threatening to leap from the car, he would have. Once in Denver, the “visiting” would commence: Mom and Dad going from relative to relative, sitting and chatting about weather and the lawn watering schedules while my sister and I played with rocks and slowly died of boredom. Sometimes the trip would culminate in a huge gathering of my Mom’s aunts, uncles and cousins at a century old lodge that could only charitably be called “rustic”. There was more chatting, great-aunts and uncles my sister and I were sure we had never met, commenting on how much we had grown, no television for miles, and every weekend the lodge held a square dancing night, which was just too dorky to be suffered, even for a geek like me. Given the addition of an aforementioned calamity (the last time I went it was the mono), I could never understand why my parents insisted on the summer ritual.
Fast forward a few years. O.K., more than twenty-five, and I will admit to a new glimmer of understanding. I recently returned from the annual fall party that Highlights for Children throws for its illustrators. There is food, a workshop, more food, a costume party, more food, and, yes, square dancing. It is warm and fuzzy to have such appreciation shown, but for me, even more meaningful is the sense of community the event has fostered. I don’t have to pack two kids along, but many do, and I have watched some grow up, and often comment on how big they have gotten, not minding the “why is this old lady talking to me” looks. There are marriages and divorces, births and sometimes a death, successes and failures, all shared over and over, connecting everyone to everyone else in one big messy family. I am fervently hoping to avoid ever having to be hospitalized or involve the Honesdale fire department in the festivities, but I did board the plane one year heavily medicated for a severe bladder infection, not something you want to have on a five hour, one teeny tiny bathroom flight, and another year left the day after a root canal that required six, that’s right SIX shots of anesthesia to complete. It is THAT wonderful a weekend. A family reunion I don’t want to miss.