Mom, Thank Goodness. (Essay Contest Update.)

posted in: PaperGirl Mailbag 10
Mom, you, and the mailbag at the Merchandise Mart. Photo: Me.
Mom, you, and a few of the letters from the mailbag while at the Merchandise Mart today. Photo: Me.


This paragraph has been written and rewritten so many times, at this point, it’s just a line.

Because I’m speechless.

Today I picked up the PaperGirl mail. It was time to collect any stragglers for the PaperGirl Leaders & Enders Essay Contest and read all the entries.

Sixty of you entered the contest, which is to say sixty people took the time and energy to write their lives down on paper and then, as if that weren’t enough,* those people took the time and energy to stick that paper in a stamped envelope and send it across the country (or around the world in a number of cases!!) to someone who really, really wants to know. The life, love, sorrow, joy, and electricity in these letters has overwhelmed me in the best possible way.

And not just me, it turns out.

I didn’t plan to have a buddy in the review process, but it just so happens that my mom is in town today. Because I’m on a hiatus from TV, Mom and I haven’t has as much time together as we usually do, and we miss each other. When Mom learned I’d be in town at the big quilt show this weekend, signing books and giving tours (as opposed to being out of town teaching or in production for the school paper) she suggested she come in for a night to see me and go to the show with me. I yipped with happiness, and so it was that the one and only Marianne Fons arrived a little after noon today.

I was so happy to see the woman I nearly forgot I had my tax appointment this afternoon. When I remembered, I wailed. To have to go do taxes instead of hang out with Mom?? The fretting about that turned into fretting about all the other things that I want and can’t have, including a second me, a personal chef, and enough time in the day today to go pick up the PaperGIrl mail at the Merchandise Mart before the post office closed.

How quickly I had forgotten that the mighty Marianne Fons was in the room.

“Well, now, let’s see,” Mom said, looking at her watch. “I know where the Merchandise Mart is. It’s a quick train ride away, isn’t it?”

“Yes.” I raised an eyebrow.

“Well, you go to your tax appointment — it’s important and won’t take too long — and I’ll go to the Merchandise Mart and get the mail. Just come to me when you’re done. There are good places to sit and work there and I have plenty I can do while I wait for you. It’s perfect!”

Pretty much, yeah. That’s Mom for you.

When I got to the Mart —I’ll tell you about the tax appointment another time — Mom showed me the huge bag of mail and I just couldn’t believe it. A big canvas totebag full of mail is truly my bliss. I dove right in and of course every letter I opened I had to tell Mom about. She was editing a friend’s manuscript and trying to concentrate but it only took a couple letters before we were both marveling and laughing and getting weepy and I said, “Mom, you’re in this thing, now. Get to reading.”

Sharing the stories with Mom made the whole thing sweeter. We both read everything. I hope you don’t mind the slight change in judging; the final decision is mine and I think it made the whole thing more fair, having a second pair of eyes. I’ve decided there is a winner and two runners up. That announcement and more on the essays — much more — to come.

You people. You people are extraordinary. And I think of everyone who didn’t enter!

*it’s enough

10 Responses

  1. Norah Bono
    | Reply

    I’m always inspired by you. I love your relationship with your Mom. I miss my Mom, she was wonderful, the best !I look forward to watching you grow in the quilting world. Love us Norah

  2. Trena
    | Reply

    Oh. That is sooo cool. I am so glad you were able to hang out with your mom and she helped out on choosing your winner.

  3. sue
    | Reply

    Hi Mary…I loved this idea from the start, even wrote a draft of an entry (there may be hundreds who did that) and did not send it in. I would have loved to include a sample of one of my favorite quirky blocks and pictures. But time available for me and a little insecurity kept me from entering.

  4. sue
    | Reply

    and encourage more entries….you’d get so many you’d have to publish a whole series of books!!!

  5. Beverly Letsche
    | Reply

    I was so pleased you had the contest. I needed a good kick to make me do some writing again. Thanks for providing a little boot to my rear. Bonus points for me knowing that your Mom read what I wrote!

  6. Sue S
    | Reply

    Yes do! I forgot to mail mine in, and I was so psyched by the writing that I wrote more stuff about other subjects and may have started a book of my own. Mary Fons Rocks!

  7. Linda Duff
    | Reply

    Someone …or SEVERAL someones … just took a closer look at your Mom poring over the entries, and certainly let out a screech when she (or HE) recognized their card, their green envelope or enlarged the picture and, upside down, read their return address on an envelope!
    So fun!! The essay contest was a great idea… Sue (see previous posts) had a neat idea, as well, about a book of the entries, entrants agreeable, of course.
    Stow away with your Momma and come back to Winterset to visit!
    Looking forward to seeing you again whenever you get back here!
    The Bag Lady

  8. Christine Houghton
    | Reply

    I would have sent something in for you to read, but I thought you’d end up getting too many, so I decided not to send anything this time. If there is another opportunity in the future I would definitely send you some interesting reading. Glad you and your mom got together for this project.

  9. Mary Lynn
    | Reply

    I so wanted to enter. I’m not a writer or even a great sewer/seamstress/quilter (ha ha looks like sewer) but I do love the long lost art of sending snail mail. It was not meant to be. We had two solid weeks of family company here for my husband’s retirement and my alone time was mostly gone for the month of March. Anyhoo, if you have another contest I’d love to participate. Looking forward to the results of this one!

  10. […] What my reading partner and I read in these sixty-or-so accounts is hard to describe without sounding dramatic and sentimental on account of the humanity on display. As we read, phrases such as “life’s rich pageant” came to mind, as did Thoreau’s observation about lives lived in quiet desperation. And then we’d laugh because one of you would be so charming, so fierce, so Unsinkable Molly Brown about it all. […]

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