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