Charleston smelled like sweetgrass and honeysuckle. I don’t know what sweetgrass is, exactly, but there were women on street corners weaving it into elaborate baskets. And the honeysuckle seemed to burst from every alleyway and climb up every wrought-iron fence. And the palm trees – now I get why South Carolina is called “The Palmetto State.” They were everywhere! I’ve always had a thing for palm trees. I’ve decided that S.C. has the coolest state flag ever. Maryland’s seems a little clashy and cluttered in comparison.
I went to Charleston to meet a friend. I’ve known Angie for years. We’re both writers, our boys are the same ages and have the same interests. We both struggle with work/life balance and finding purpose in our lives and work. We read and comment on each other’s blogs. We talk about books and publishing. We’ve had long discussions over email, the phone, and Skype during naptime, in the carpool line, and in interrupted intervals while our kids clamor in the background for snacks and TV.
Last weekend was the first time Angie and I have ever met in person.
If you’re wondering why on earth a grown woman would hop on a plane and fly to another state to visit someone they met on the Internet, the introduction Angie gave at the beginning of her show explains it:
The show you’re about to see today started with an email. My friend Abby, who lives in Baltimore, sent me a message one day and said, “I just saw this stage show in DC called Listen To Your Mother, and it was incredible. Angie, you have to bring this show to Charleston.” That day, she planted a seed that wouldn’t let me go.
This year, Abby auditioned for the Listen to Your Mother show in Baltimore and made the cast. Their show was held last weekend. And today Abby is here in Charleston, in the audience. She flew here just to see the show. And when I picked her up at the airport yesterday it was the first time we’d ever seen each other in person.
This friendship of ours was formed online. We’re both writers, and we met and connected over the stories we told about our lives on our blogs … I tell you this to give you one example of the amazing power of stories and storytelling. Stories — especially true stories about real life — have the immeasurable power to connect us all. To remind us we’re not alone. Stories entertain, they inspire, and they heal.
I know what you’re wondering: what if Angie had turned out to be a teenage boy or a serial killer? Oh, well. YOLO! I’m kidding! But I do have that bucket list, remember? And in addition to leaps of faith and acts of courage it includes doing things that are just for me.
Back in the day before I had a husband or kids, I loved to travel. I traveled to France solo, and spent a summer in Montreal by myself. I took trips to San Francisco, New Orleans, the British Virgin Islands. I heard seals barking off Fisherman’s Wharf, rode on a streetcar beneath Spanish moss, and drank potentially hallucinogenic mushroom punch in a beach shack. I met musicians, self-proclaimed voodoo priestesses, and a guy called King Fish.
At times all that feels like another lifetime ago. Especially when I’m doing my endless 5-mile circuit of school-gym-grocery store-home, day after day after day in my crumb-filled SUV strewn with worksheets and granola bar wrappers. That I was ever wild and free enough to dance on tabletops and fly off to music festivals on a whim seems astounding. Who WAS that person?!
And yet, I got a tiny piece of my old adventurous self back last weekend in Charleston. I traded dancing on tabletops for drinks at a rooftop bar, and sleeping on the beach for a nice hotel room, however. I AM almost 40, after all. But standing on the pier under the Ravenel Bridge, the sun warming my skin and the scent of honeysuckle in the air, I didn’t feel 40. I just felt like myself. It’s good to know I’m still there.
LAUGH O’ THE DAY: Proof that my mom and I are kindred spirits — she clipped and sent me the same comic strip I had cut out myself: