And so this week’s moment of happiness despite the news.
Over the weekend, I made an appearance at the Edgerton Sterling North Film & Book Festival. On Friday night, there was a very nice dinner and all of the presenting authors had to get up and say something. So I did.
The last time I was at this particular festival was 6 years ago. At the time, Olivia was 12 years old. She was in 6th grade and she’d just written her first story – in the horror genre. She was so proud of it. The day she finished it, I was out somewhere, and she called me on the phone, asking me to please hurry home because she couldn’t wait for me to see it.
Yes, it was THAT important. And you know what? It was GOOD.
I didn’t know that she decided to bring the story to school. She showed her English teacher. Without calling us or telling Olivia, her teacher showed the Special Ed lead. Who showed the principal. Who showed it to the school psychologist. Who hauled Olivia into his office, without her aide, without anyone, and still without calling us.
Olivia was grilled. Without an aide to help her understand what was going on and what she was being asked. The psychologist made her feel as if she’d done something wrong, something horrible, he made her feel, she said, “evil”. She was told that only mentally ill people wrote this sort of thing and that she should stop writing it immediately.
Olivia’s father writes mystery and horror. And I suppose the psychologist had never heard of, say, Stephen King. And to further the irony – the school was all reading Edgar Allen Poe, who was being read by the entire city for the Big Read.
That was when I was called. Before I even went to pick up my crumpled daughter, slumping her “evil” shoulders and feeling like she should never write again, I went ballistic and demanded a meeting with all parties concerned, on the next day. THE next day. No other options.
The psychologist did not show to the meeting, though he received quite the email from my husband. Olivia was given an apology, but she was told she could not show her stories to her classmates. She was devastated.
That weekend, I appeared at the Edgerton festival and when I had to speak at the dinner, I told them what happened to my daughter, who was sitting right at my table. “Please,” I said, “at some point this weekend, everyone, talk to my daughter and say, ‘Please just don’t give up. Don’t give up.’”
And they did. The response was incredible. The story spread and even visitors to the festival who weren’t at that dinner found my daughter and spoke with her.
At the dinner this past Friday, I told them the rest of the story. “Olivia is here,” I said. “6 years later. She’s 18. She’s a senior. She’s been accepted at every college she applied to. She is an accomplished artist and an accomplished musician. And she’s working on the second draft of her novel. She didn’t give up. Thank you for helping me to raise my daughter’s voice. I will be forever grateful to this festival.”
Oh, amazing what people can do when they come together.
The next day, after my presentation of Today’s Moment, I went to the table where I was to sign books. A woman came up to me. Olivia was standing by my side. “I heard you speak last night,” the woman said. “You’ve been through a lot. You’ve raised an incredible daughter.” Olivia giggled and said thank you. Then the woman turned back to me. “And you’ve been through a lot in the last year too.” She reached in her purse and pulled out a little plaster statue of an angel. “This is the angel of perseverance,” she said. “I’ve had her for a long time. But I want you to have her now.” She smiled and walked away.
I was speechless, holding that little angel.
That night, driving home, a car three up from me on the freeway hit a deer. The car behind him bounced off. The SUV in front of me swerved into the next lane. I couldn’t see anything, because of the SUV, but when he cleared my field of vision, there was the deer, stretched out right in front of me. I couldn’t go to the right or the left. All I could do was go over. In my beloved Hemi, my 2006 Chrysler 300C Hemi. Oh, the bump. Oh, the bang. When I spoke to the insurance adjuster today, he said he’s amazed I didn’t become airborne.
But you know what? None of my tires blew. My car kept moving smoothly, to the point where we all said, “Is it okay?” But then we heard things falling off the bottom of my car and he began to smoke. I pulled Hemi over, shut him off, and we all stepped away.
But we’re all alive. We’re all in one piece. Except possibly my car. I love my car. Anyone who has read Today’s Moment knows Hemi.
But we’re okay. Whether it was the angel tucked in my suitcase or the brute of a car wrapped around me, I don’t know. But we weren’t airborne. I didn’t lose control. Hemi and I worked together.
It’s amazing, what people – and cars – can do when they come together. Angels help too.
Wherever you are, woman who gave me the angel, thank you. And if there is an angel of cars, please watch over my Hemi. I honestly don’t know if I can handle another loss. But I do have the angel of perseverance by my side. Maybe that’s what she’s for.
And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.