A writing prompt I came across recently was to write about someone you know meeting someone famous. What resulted is a story about my Mom, Loreen, meeting Georgia O’Keefe. I hope you enjoy it. Who would you write about?
(Love you, Mom!)
After standing in line for an hour in the crowded, noisy bookstore, Loreen was tempted to give up and go find a place to sit. Tempted. But she could see that she was tantalizingly close to the front of the line now. Through the crowd she could even see the artist sitting at the table just ahead. She checked her watch. 11:52. No wonder her stomach was starting to growl! At 92, her commitment to meet her favourite artist was more than just her time, it was physical, mental and spiritual as well. This was a once-in-a-very-long-lifetime opportunity and she was determined that creaky knees, some hunger pangs and having to turn down her hearing aids would not deter her from meeting THE Georgia O’Keefe. She shifted the strap of her bag. She was thankful that Annalisa had insisted she borrow her cross-body bag. As awkward as it had felt at first, it was a godsend now. Despite choosing one of the smallest and lightest books of her favourite paintings, after this long, it was feeling heavier and heavier. She shuffled forward a few more inches.
Finally, it was her turn!
“Ms. O’Keefe, I’ve loved your work for so long! You’ve inspired me, not only as an artist but as a woman, to find my voice and not be afraid to explore and create. Could you please make this out to Loreen? L-O-R-E-E-N.”
Their eyes met, each face alive with the signs of a life well-lived: wrinkles, age spots, laugh lines. Spirit recognized spirit immediately.
“Call me Georgia. Please.”
Ms. O’Keefe looked behind her to the woman standing there.
“April, I’m going to take a break for lunch.”
“But Ma’am, there are still so many people…”
“I know. Please tell them that I’ll be back. An old woman deserves a break.”
Loreen turned to go. It had been a short exchange, but she, of all people, understood the needs of an elderly body. Then she heard that melodic voice say the most beautiful thing she’d heard in years, “Loreen, please stay. Let’s have lunch.”
The two women sat comfortably across from one another amidst the subdued conversation of other diners and the smell of something grilling. Ms. O’Keefe’s people had chosen the restaurant carefully for one vintage artist; adding another was simplicity itself. The spoke easily, these kindred spirits, each experienced in the art of meeting someone new. They began from a shared passion of course: painting. But they soon found more. Both farm girls. Both part of large families. Both born in the autumn. It was natural to gravitate to what they shared. As they spoke, through the topics of colour and perspective and expression, through girlhood chores and family traditions, ran a deeper chord, a resonance unheard and unfelt by the younger people around them: life. We think life and vitality are the purview of the young, vibrating with energy. But here, at this small table, tucked into a quiet corner of a tastefully comfortable restaurant on the Canadian prairies, the potency of life lived to the full thrummed around the two women. It wasn’t just their considerable ages added together, it was an exponential intensifying of love, loss, passion, and expression that tapped into and reverberated with thousands of years of lived womanhood. Time, marching so quickly in their physical bodies, stood still for this encounter.
“Thank you for this,” Georgia said.
“For what?” asked Loreen, surprised (she was the one who was truly thankful).
“For the gift of another version of myself. For knowing life intimately. I see you, I understand you, I appreciate you.”
Loreen laid her hand gently on its mirror image across from her and replied, “And I you.”