Tuesday, May 19, 2009

I'm So Glad You're Not Famous

When I picked up Neil Gaiman's picture-book called Blueberry Girl, I read through it and thought, "It's nice enough, but it doesn't grab me." Then I listened to Gaiman read the poem for the book's animated trailer, and the words began to circulate in my mind:

Ladies of light, and ladies of darkness
And ladies of never-you-mind
This is a prayer for a blueberry girl.
First, may you ladies be kind...

As I began stitching a Blueberry Girl doll as a companion to a Strawberry Girl doll, I started thinking about how cool Gaiman is, not so much because I enjoy his writing (I do) but because how kind and thoughtful he has been with his fans. Like many others, I wish we were friends, but he is now way too famous for me even to show up at a booksigning to chat. It's not that Gaiman wouldn't want to chat with everyone who showed up, but that the lines are so very, very long.

I suddenly remember now how I would show up for the book-readings of the author Jane Hamilton, who was a college friend of my aunt's. I didn't really care for books in Hamilton's genre, but she was such a splendid person to talk with that I wished everyone else would go away. I would wait while people got their books signed so I could have Jane to myself for 45 minutes after. She reminded me of my aunt, who was not famous but seemed to be equally busy with all of her commitments.

As a child, I assumed that everyone I loved who came to visit was coming specifically to spend time with me--remember, we were living in a remote location, and there were long stretches of time when we didn't get any visitors. Our nearest neighbors were an elderly couple who lived 1/2 a mile away, and they were wonderful, loving people who understood how much I craved undivided attention. When our visitors came to stay, I was incredulous when they would want to spend time talking to my parents instead of playing with ME. As I got older, I had to learn to pretend to realize that most of the time I wasn't going to be the center of attention. By the time I was an adult, I didn't want to be the center of attention at all unless I was presenting a storytime. Even now, it's not so much that I want you to pay attention to me as much as I want you to enjoy my stories and songs. But I digress....

There are those of you who are not famous but yet you are "micro-famous" or otherwise sought after by a bunch of people. I would love to have your undivided attention for a significant amount time every now and then, but when you're beloved by so many people, it's hard to have more than a quick, passing conversation with promises to sit down and talk "really soon". This is why I'm grateful for the truly wonderful, thoughtful, funny, delightful people in my life who are not famous and have time for me. Of course I wish for you to be as successful as you want to be, but selfishly, I don't want you to become famous or overly sought-after. I really appreciate those one-on-one conversations we have, and I am grateful that we can sit together in public and drink our coffee without your adoring hordes descending upon us. I'm thrilled that we can have those internet chats (which are no excuse for real, live conversations, but are better than no conversations) and when I ask, "Do you have a moment?" you respond, "For you, always." Thank you for that.

Most of all, I am grateful for my husband, who is the best friend a person could ever hope to find. I think of the line from Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are: Max grew lonely and wanted to be where he was loved best of all.... Bede is that place.


tanita davis said...

Gaiman does seem lovely, doesn't he?
I sometimes have that feeling about famous people -- Wouldn't they be awesome to hang with? But then, I know that probably one or the other of us wouldn't be the same in real life.

I love the thought of a person being a place one was loved best of all... I think I have a fundamental selfishness from being one of many children, and have never gotten over my wish to be loved best of all. Hard to admit, that! Here's to undivided attention and being gifted with those who have what we need.

GraceAnne LadyHawk said...

Subscribe to Neil's blog. He writes so very well about so very many things. I can tell you, though, that a day I stood in line for many hours to get him and Charles Vess to autograph my copy of Blueberry Girl he actually asked about my son, a writer acquaintance of his, and I found out later Neil's father had died that morning, and he had decided to go ahead with the signing anyway. Wow. He is an amazing guy.

adrienne said...

I really like quietness in my life and being able to focus and pay attention to things. I think I'd make a very, very bad famous person.

Saints and Spinners said...

Adrienne: I think I'd make a bad famous person, too, though sometimes I wouldn't mind the challenge.

GraceAnne: I do indeed subscribe to Neil's blog and follow him on Twitter... and we're even friends on GoodReads. Someday, I'm going to meet him, present him with a copy of Ruby Slippers, Golden Tears, and say, "Hey, guess, what, we co-authored this." Yes, I'm savoring that one. That's great that he asked about your son and was able to keep everything together despite his father having just died.

Tanita: Well, I know for a fact that you're awesome to hang out with in real life. By the way, Seattle Public Library bought 6 copies of Mare's War. Yay! I hope the YA librarians booktalk it along with Flygirl.

tanita davis said...

Ooh, good to know!
I'm hoping to be IN Seattle in August, so maybe I can visit... Hm.

Tony said...

You are very kind! Let me make you some tea.

Schelle said...

lovely :D I am so glad you are not famous too, as I love our rare moments to connect across the ocean. I feel the same about Yeti too... and I think Wombat is *just* getting to the stage where Sendak will appeal to him... may have to buy a copy though, as the 3 at the library are ALWAYS on loan :)

Jules at 7-Imp said...

I'd also make a bad famous person, mostly 'cause I like to watch people. I think it was Meryl Streep once who said that when she got famous, it hurt her acting in that she couldn't just sit on a park bench and watch people anymore (since everyone knew her face and wanted her autograph).

This post makes me think of this, in a roundabout way: http://www.amyjanecheney.com/famous.html. One of my favorite poems ever.

As for Blueberry Girl, I think it's wonderfully written. Things got kinda ruined for me when I found out at the end that it was written for Tori Amos, but I eventually managed to look past that and appreciate the text for what it was.