I should warn you that I used to do these open letters all the time (or once a week for about a month), but they became kind of dangerous. See I really just do them for laughs, never expecting that the addressee will ever actually read them, but it turns out this here internet-thingy is a public forum, and sometimes moving truck companies and basic cable television networks will stumble across my amusing little letters, and weird stuff occasionally follows. Once I began to understand the might of the open letter, I sent them into semi-retirement, only using them in safe and controlled conditions. I've always known that the time might once again be right to send an open letter out into the world, but no offense, I didn't anticipate that it would be for you. The open letter is my secret final weapon against the one person who I hope to lure into friendship (and marriage) through the blog. But I'm not going to devote that letter to FHDM until I'm sure I'm ready for us to happen because as I think I mentioned a few sentences back, the open letter is a powerful tool with unexpected and far-reaching effects. But now that you and I are friends I'm not afraid to send this open letter out into the internet-void. I mean I'm assuming you were going to look me up and start following the blog anyway now that we've met, right?
Thanks times a million for coming to the Arkansas Literary Festival on Saturday! It was kind of the best work-related thing that's ever happened to me. I tend to avoid Lit Fest because it's so busy and chaotic, and all the people make me crazy. And honestly, if I'm not working, I don't really dig hanging out at the library. It's a great place, but I feel like I spend enough time there without devoting leisure time to it. But you were totes worth the crowd and chaos and hanging out where I work without getting paid. Even the line waiting with the rabid PW fans was mildly awesome.
To tell the truth, I'm the reason you were invited in the first place. I've been a fan for a couple of years now, and when you were on the cookbook tour (was that 2009?), I may have become a little obsessed with talking about you at work. It helped that I won a $75 amazon gift card in one of your Geography quizzes (Kansas City, if memory serves). The cool thing about the folks I work with is that I'm the young, hip, fun girl, so anything that I like, they buy into--not that it was a hard sell. They fell right in love with you too, and because I had brought you onto the radar of my boss (maybe you met her today? Lisa, but not the Lisa who moderated your session), she suggested you to Mr. Lit Fest, and the rest is history--or the beginning of our awesome friendship. I don't typically use the word awesome so much. Forgive me.
You already know the highlights of the day as you were there hanging out with me and stuff, but let me take you through the good times you missed out on. I worked the Book Fiesta in the morning before you got there (remember I told you about making the salsa and getting it on my shirt?), so everyone else got there at various stages, but by a few minutes after noon we were ready to head for the line. We were in a pretty decent spot too.
In that brief time while I was gone, the line was growing and growing. Some sweet lady behind us offered to take our picture all together since someone was getting left out of all the ones we were taking ourselves. I know it's confusing, but Martha's holding Jackson, who's really Amy's baby. That's Luke you can see in the stroller, but sweet Calla got cut off--but of course, you remember what she looks like anyway.
The vestibule where we waited was airless and sticky with all those warm bodies, so I was quite ready to get inside the Darragh Center which I hoped would be pleasantly cool. You may recall it was not. We were melting in there too, so I speculated then about how many paper towels or tissues you were using to soak up the sweat from your armpits and wondered if you had enough to share. If I'd gotten to ask my question during the session, that's what it would have been.
Oh look, Calla's in this one--but now Luke is in the stroller. I think he was asleep by this point maybe.
I was trying to take a picture of Calla who was down the row being really cute when my camera batteries died. Can you believe the horror?!? What would I do if we couldn't have a our picture made together later? I had not come prepared for that possibility. Luckily Nichole had. She gave me new batteries and saved my life.
Jackson waited until he was inside and sitting down to eat, but out of respect for Amy, I'm not going to show you that picture (though thanks to the Hooter Hider/Modest Mommy/nursing bib it's a perfectly respectable photo).
Later while we were standing in line waiting for book-signing, Nichole said, "wasn't she just like you thought she'd be?" I had to agree. Your warmth and genuineness and humor were exactly as I'd pictured them. I guess everyone else thought so too since we waited and waited and waited for the line to wind around for us to see you. Poor pregnant Monica just had to sit down, so we actually had a folding camp chair that she sat in and moved and scooted as the line meandered. The babies held up like champs through all the waiting. Both boys took naps and Calla only got a little fussy.
And then, at long last, we made the last corner and saw you, wearing those boots you've talked about so often, sporting the haircut you got last week (is it creepy that people know so much about your life sometimes?), and charming the socks off everyone whose book you signed. It was interesting to hear the sorts of things people brought up to talk about with you as they had their moment: homeschooling, being from Oklahoma, favorite recipes. I could tell that everyone felt as I did, that she'd known you long before she handed your her book to sign and that like me, she'd considered carefully what to say in her brief time with you to make a connection--to help you know her in some small way as she knows you. Everyone might as well have said, "Hi, Ree. I think you're great, and more importantly we're alike. If I lived down the gravel road from you, we'd be friends, great friends, inseparable. Instead let's be long-distance friends. You won't regret it. After all, all those things you say, those funny things that happen to you, those foods that you love, I do all those things too. We're alike, you see." But saying that would come off just a shade stalkerish and desperate, so instead we honed in one one detail, one thing to tell you that would make us special, make us important to you, if only for a moment, because you're important to us. And you delivered for us, listening to those snippets and details, responding with your sweet smile and appropriate questions, and acting for all the world as though you had all the time in the world to talk to us.
When my moment came, it was no different. I was grateful to Lee Ann (the Lit Fest girl who was opening the books and handing them to you) for telling you that I worked at the library so I could act like I was a little more special, a little more in-the-know than all the other folks who had passed through the line. I got to confess to you that I had salsa on my shirt, a splatter from earlier in the day when I had made your restaurant-style salsa (best salsa ever) for the Book Fiesta in the children's department. We got to bond for a moment on the perfection that is your salsa, and I felt the residual glow of your admiration for the cute babies in our group.
If there was one thing we could have done differently that would have made the moment pure, over-the-top perfection, we would have all crowded around you for a group picture. It would have been a lot like that first picture up at the top (but with Luke and Calla out of the stroller) and with you as our new friend right in the middle. When I think back on the day, that's how I want to remember it, that's the picture I see in my heart.
From all of us who have had those moments with you, thanks. Thanks for being everything we imagined you would be: the ordinary girl who loves butter and hates laundry, who delights in her kids and feels nervous about her weight, who does embarrassing things and owns up to them, who finds beauty in quiet everyday moments of family, food, and friends. Thank you for giving us your attention, for treating us like long-lost friends or new friends you'd been waiting to meet, just as eagerly as we'd been waiting to meet you.
Thanks for it all,
Ellen (your new best friend)
P.S. I didn't tell Amy or Martha or Monica about that second extra conversation we had as I saw you on your way out. They don't know how we talked about our fall Getaway and the Lodge. So once you figure out the details of how that might work, let me know. I can't wait to tell them.
P. P. S. I'm sorry it took me so long to get this posted. I got it mostly finished on Sunday, but then internet vanished from our home until today. It's not because I wasn't giddily excited about reliving our day together. Don't let my technological issues come between us. Please.
P. P. P. S. To anyone reading this who doesn't know about Pioneer Woman and her amazing-ness, get out from under your rock and go here. You won't be sorry. Promise.