Two significant things happened the second week of July, 2009. The first was that I shared a cab with Katherine Willis Pershey on the way to a writing retreat in Collegeville, Minnesota. Katherine and I had never met, but we’d been instructed to meet up at the tiny St. Cloud airport, where a ride would be waiting for us.
It was, by far, the most interesting cab ride I’ve ever been on. Katherine and I soon realized that we had a lot in common – both Disciples, with young daughters (Harper was not quite two, Juliette was 17 months). We’d both just read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and had new bread machines. Drowning out our chatter, though, was the cab driver, who spoke in the lilting accent of northern Minnesota and insisted that we watch an episode of The Family Guy on the cab’s built-in TV. I had never seen The Family Guy and had no desire to start; Katherine seemed to feel the same way, so we ignored the television and kept talking. The cab driver interrupted a couple of times, with “Isn’t this hilarious?” or “This is a funny part!”
When he finally got the hint that we did not share his particular sense of humor, he turned off Family Guy and switched to something he thought we’d like better: a documentary called Life After People, which imagined what would happen to the world if humans instantly disappeared. It was decidedly not funny, and just as weird.
By the time we arrived at the Collegeville Institute, I had a new friend.
Commercial flights don’t fly into St. Cloud anymore. Now, you have to take a shuttle from the crowded Minneapolis airport. I wonder what that cab driver does with his time these days. I’ll always be grateful to him for providing us with the best first-friend-date memory ever.
The other significant thing that happened that week was that my good friend Bromleigh McCleneghan and I sat down at a picnic table one afternoon and hammered out the table of contents of a book we wanted to write. It would be about hope, and fear, and anxiety, and the grace we’d found in the first years of being parents. (Her daughter Fiona was born just five days before Harper; Jonathan and Fiona’s little sister Callie were not even in our imaginations yet.) It took us awhile, and a few rejection letters, but we finished that book this spring. It’s at the copy editor now and will be published later this year.
My new friendship with Katherine and the table of contents Bromleigh and I came up with actually pointed to a something bigger, more abstract, that happened that week: I stopped thinking of being a writer as something I wanted to do someday. I started thinking of myself as someone who writes, a writer, now. It was a beautiful change.
Katherine’s book, Any Day a Beautiful Change, came out last month. I read it all, in one evening, and sent a copy to my sister. It’s beautiful and wise and funny and gracious. I’m sure glad we shared that cab.
In celebration of the release of Katherine’s book, read about other beautiful changes here.