If Birds Could Fly, Then Jenna Elfman would Cuddle Max the Foster Cat

movie star bookstoreRunning a bookstore can be a surreal experience, but last night might have set a new standard. About 6:30, as we were preparing for a quiet evening with the Needlework Night gang, the door opened and a tall young man walked in. “Vould you mind iff ve shot a music fideo here?” he asked.

Uh, no, we said, and his German accent deepened with his smile. “That iss vunderful! Dank you!”if birds could fly Out he went. Ten minutes later two people we’d never met before introduced themselves as “If Birds Could Fly.” Her name was Brittany. I didn’t hear his name, but we’d heard of the band; they had a good reputation among our music-loving friends, so we just said “our house is your house and please don’t let the dogs out” and let it roll.

With Brittany and her mystery musician husband were Meghan-the-photographer and Sebastian-the-producer, he of the lovely accent. They set up some lighting equipment, did some furniture moving, and sat back and waited.

For what, we weren’t quite sure, but Sebastian had said something about a woman called Jenna Elfman….movie star book

Now please keep in mind that Jack and I don’t have a television. We lived in Scotland for the first seven years of our marriage. So we only knew that this was an actress in town to film the Big Stone Gap movie, and that Sebastian said she’d agreed to do a video for If Birds Could Fly. Yeah, okay, let it roll; they all seemed like nice people, and Meghan was showing us her beautiful portraits of children and moms, so time flew by as we waited. She does fantastic photography.

Ms. E showed up about 8 pm and suddenly the bookstore was full of people, laughter, cats, and cameras. The band filmed and pronounced it good, and we passed around celebratory libations. Yeah, we didn’t know them, but they seemed like nice people, and fun artistic types. Any excuse for a party, right? “Cuppa? Glass of?” All was mirth and merriment.

pumpkin barsHere’s where it started to get surreal……

Down from the kitchen came Kelley, our master chef at Second Story Cafe, with fresh-made pumpkin bars. Those got passed around amid enthusiastic delight at their flavor and abundance. Max the foster cat wandered in, and next thing I know he and Jenna were cuddled in the armchair, carrying on like old friends. I think she fed him a pumpkin bar. People were swapping stories and having fun: just another night in the bookstore, with a movie star, two band members, a batch of fresh baked goods, a bunch of tripods, and a foster cat, all held together by a bottle of Scotch.max and jenna

Yeah, bookslinging is a crazy business, but we love our life here. If Brittany ever brings back that nice musician that is her husband, I’m gonna get his name. We like people who make good music. Jenna Elfman was sweet, and we are glad artists who run around filling the world with happy things exist. Max and his sister Chloe were adopted the day after he got the tummy rub shown here. Life is good.

You can check If Birds Could Fly out on Facebook. And they seemed like really nice people, so I think we’ll get their CD. And someday, Brittany, please introduce me to your husband!

A Real Person

Last week Jack and I headed off to do a book club event. Carolyn got in touch via Facebook, and asked if we would visit two in combination near Wintergreen Resort (a high end retreat in Northern Virginia)

Since we were driving up on a beautiful Spring day and had “all the time in the world” Jack and I did what fools do: turned off our GPS and started back-roading. At 8 pm, twenty miles off target, we left the Blue Ridge Parkway via a dirt road I am pretty sure was an irrigation service track for someone’s cow pasture. (We rehooked the gate after we went through.)

Carolyn and her husband live in a community of DC refugees. The book club’s women were either retired from work in Fairfax or Richmond, or keeping gracious, spacious homes open for men still making the daily commute. Those of you who do author events will recognize the underlying intimidation factor: that gig where, as you stand to speak, you realize the people sitting in the front row could pool their changepurse contents and buy your car.

But they asked such insightful questions amid repeated offers of “Would you like a cup of coffee/tea/juice/wine” so often, we had a great time. One of the attending clubs was called “Needs and Deeds.” They support causes they feel need quiet yet swift attention, donating their own discretionary income but also holding fundraisers, often involving books or handmade items.

The night before the club meeting, we took to our hostess Carolyn right away; she’s the kind of woman who opens her arms and the world walks into them. She cooks and makes things better, maintains graciousness with an effortless grace. She has magnolia-blossom white hair and blue eyes that, when you look in, are just looking for ways to make your day better.

Here’s the kicker, though: as Carolyn was making us a breakfast of fresh ground coffee, cheddar scrambled eggs, homemade bread and jam, and fresh raspberries, we started talking about a book idea I’d been kicking around: “Invisible? the lives of American women after 5o.”

I didn’t bring it up, though; Carolyn did. She was trying to write her family history for the publishing market, and thinking of going back to school. Among other things, she said, she wanted her three daughters to be “proud of her,” to feel that she had “done something with her life.”

I looked at the spacious home full of grandchild spaces, the tended garden, the bread, the dogs – one of whom was a Hurricane Katrina rescue. “Done something?” I repeated.

“Well, I mean, yes, I used to work in a bookstore,” Carolyn said, bunching eggs with her spatula. “In your book, you talk about dreams, living a real life. And my life…”

“Your book club is called ‘Needs and Deeds,’ right?” I asked, blinking.

She smiled. “I know. But I want my daughters to know I was a real person.”

We talked a long time that morning about what a “real person” meant for women with white hair in America, swapping stories, and having some good laughs near tear territory.

And Carolyn, if ever there were a real person, hands and ears and eyes tuned to what’s going on around them, it is you. Whether the outside forces of American society see it or not, you are not invisible, but radiantly transparent. Different thing. God Bless You for it.