Atlanta Oct 26-29
I'm worried that this whole book tour thing is starting to seem a little silly. My bookstore event was spottily attended and it’s been awhile since there was someone in the crowd that I didn’t know was coming and almost every time there are people who I think are coming that don’t show. I am starting to wonder if touring means anything… if I get any exposure just by being on their calendars or having my books and poster up in the entry as a coming event, even when it’s the wrong photo. (Happened again—another Borders, another photo of an older blonde who looks angrier, drinks harder and is more beaten down by life than I have ever felt.)
But then there are the book clubs; they make it all worth my while. These are by far my favorite part of touring and I have to believe that this is they way a writer builds her career, a handful of dedicated readers at a time. They run late, the conversation is always interesting and I am fascinated by the different perspectives readers bring to the story.
This time I also had the special treat of being a guest lecturer at Woodward Academy and I just have to say, if this is an example of teens today, then the kids are all right. What a courteous, interested, bright group of individuals!
Then there was the travel itself. This morning I got up at 3:40 am to leave my wonderful host’s house to drive to Atlanta and return the rental car, take the sky train and airport shuttle train, hustle through security, chew on a breakfast biscuit that was likely prepared two weeks ago and board a plane in hopes of being home with the rest of my family before they’d even rolled out of bed. It’s not glamorous or fun anymore, air travel. Hayden told me there was a man in the restroom with his pants around his ankles washing his man parts in the airport men's room sink, and added, “I so did not need to see that at five o’ clock in the morning!”
But this, sharing a horrified laugh as we jog to security, him still in his pajama bottoms and hooded sweatshirt looking every bit like a sweet, sleepy-eyed forest creature from Star Wars is what makes this trip and all of the others worth my while, beyond the book clubs and the classes. Experiencing moments with my kids, and in this case, just the one, has been pretty magical.
I have enjoyed just being able to focus on my oldest these past three days, to be able to really listen to him when he tells me about the intricate plot twists of the cat clan book series he is reading these days, to watch with pride as he carries his rental skateboard out to the ramps and pipes at the indoor skatepark where he knows nobody, and sets up to drop in with the big boys. Nothing beats standing in front of that huge glass window at the aquarium for an hour as he pressed up against it and let the whale sharks--WHALE SHARKS!—and manta rays brush by him.
We will laugh over the memory of us casually strolling around checking out the Civil War monuments, the cannon and statues on the strangely empty campus of Woodward Academy, because unbeknownst to us, there was a tornado in the area and the whole school was in lock down. I loved walking through Olympic Park in downtown Atlanta with a son who is not yet too old or too cool to hold my hand. I loved being able to run with him down the ramp at the Aquarium because he had spotted, from the Beluga viewing deck, that in the tank below the Pacific octopus we had seen in her cave was surprisingly out and about. “This is really rare, Mom! She’s nocturnal!”
Traveling with Hayden is now easier than going alone. He has become an excellent navigator, unruffled so long as I stay on the blue line, able to switch easily between written and visual maps on my iPhone and tell me what to do next with more reliability than my Garmin.
I was proud to have him at my events, sitting through the classes as I talked and doing the creative writing exercises alongside the students, making easy conversation with adults and teenagers we met throughout the week. It touched my heart when we were at a bookstore in Lawrenceville and he found gifts to bring home to his little brother and sister, that he spent his own money at the Lego store to get something for Max.
Did we do all the busywork in his folder for the week? Not all, not yet. Did we stay on the gluten-free straight and narrow? Not even close. (0ur first-ever Cinnabon; utterly disappointing!) But we’re flying north and the sun is rising outside the airplane. We have the day ahead of us at home, and good memories tucked away in our hip pockets with our boarding passes, experienced travelers that we are. And I'm thinking, maybe this whole book tour is more than just the sum of the events...