Friday, July 8, 2016

Chillin' in Reynoldsville; yesterday's talk

I’m no longer surprised when one of my talks is a big success.

I am, however, becoming increasingly surprised I’m not booked each and every day now through 2020. That’s how well it’s going.

Take yesterday. 

I was the speaker for about 60 friendlies at a fundraiser for the Reynoldsville Public Library, nestled between Punxsutawney and Dubois where my Mom was raised and where I have splendid memories of heirloom family gatherings back before all our families seemed to detonate.

I was a bit nervous because Mom was a popular Punxsutawney High School Chucks cheerleader, class of ’50. I was worried some old-timer would come up say he remembered feeling her up back behind the bleachers.

If it happened, the elderly grabbers were too polite to point it out.

But nothing could have ruined the day.

Here’s how the organizer introduced me:

“I heard Chris give the fall keynote to 250 attendees at the Pennsylvania Library Association annual conference. It was my 8th conference and the only one I’ve been to where everyone left happy. He had all 250 people laughing. I remember how odd this was because I swore there about 100 people in that room who’d never laughed once in their entire lives”

It’s nearly impossible to fail after such a warm introduction.

Plus — and this was a first —  everyone who was there had already read and enjoyed “Use All The Crayons!” The books came with the $25 tickets.

I remember after one particularly raucous laugh looking out at the audience and thinking, “Well, you’ve always wanted to crowd surf. Now’s the time.”

The line to have me scribble in their books lasted a full 30 minutes until all’d said hello.

All told, I’d sold 72 books, albeit 60 of them had been ordered through a local book store.

Kiss all those bucks goodbye!

That’s being petty, of course.

It was a fantastic day.

I learned all over again just how much that silly little book means to so many people.

I hugged people who recalled my mother and grandfather. The happenstance of their upbringing led the locals to treat me like good-hearted people instinctively treat kin.

I swear, I could have weened my way to about a dozen freebie dinners.

Instead, I settled for the free auto mechanic.

This was a surprise.

One sweet woman in line said she so loved my book she wanted to do me an unusual favor.

I was about to tell her I was happily married man and would need a video deposition assuring future magistrates of her discretion when she said she was going to have her husband/mechanic fix my broken car.

See, I’d casually mentioned during my speech my AC was busted.

Everyone gasped. It was like the April Fool’s Day when I told my bar buddies the doctor said I had to quit drinking.

Truly, I was blown away by her spontaneous gesture. Afterwards, I followed her home, met her wonderful husband, and engaged in friendly chat for an hour while he checked it out (he couldn’t fix it, but told me how and saved me hundreds of dollars in diagnostics).

While he was under the hood, Darlene told me about the troubles she’s had the last year. A debilitating neurological condition has baffled experts, nearly cost her her job and her very ability to function in any setting where electronics are present.

I said, yeah, but your car air conditioner works, doesn’t it?

I’m joking. I didn’t say that.

I made so many new friends yesterday but, of course, she’s the one I’ll remember most.

Despite her challenges, she is pure sunshine. She is cheerful, persistent, buoyant and convinced better days are ahead.

In fact, they are. She said she’s enjoying dramatic improvements.

I waved goodbye through the car’s down window (they’re always down these days). Darlene yelled, “God bless you!”

Oh, He already has.

It would be so simple if our lives followed perfectly straight paths. I’m sure Darlene and Dewy wish theirs had.

My path sometimes surges forward one day and drops precipitously the next. It zigs, it zags and often without warning seems to veer into whole other dimensions.

My journey is patiently teaching me that while I’m far from a success I am a man who is bound to enjoy many soulful successes.

And, who knows?

Maybe one day I’ll become more of a traditional success.

That would be cool.

Even with all the windows rolled up.

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