And here comes a young woman headed straight for me. She looked excited with wide-eyed brown eyes behind horn-rimmed glasses, her reddish-brown hair pulled tight in a ponytail, revealing a fresh young, round face, and dimples like parenthesis around her lipstick-stained lips.
She stopped in front of me where I was sitting behind a table and behind copies of my memoir, Under the Birch Tree at a recent Lit Fest in Chicago. Picking up the book to closely look at the front cover, she delighted, “Oh, I’ve heard of this . . . ”
Talk about excited eyes. I thought I had written a story for an audience older than she, for those who had found their familiar and comfortable places to be, and who wanted to read in reflection of their journey to self-discovery. But now, I was surprised to think I might have been wrong.
“You have? Do you know where?” I asked. It wasn’t necessarily the “where” I wanted to know. What had gotten my attention was that she had said she heard about it.
“I . . . don’t know,” she said smiling, distracted by turning the book to its back cover.
I studied her as much as she was studying my book with her feet together in Dijon colored flats. She was all style and personality, a full figure, outfitted in Crayola burnt orange skirt and a crème fitted knit top, a statement in itself that said she was ready to pursue a place to be. I stood from my chair as she pulled me into her world. It was if she wanted to join in, to maybe belong with others who had known about my book.
I paused to let her read the book’s synopsis.
“I wrote about finding my place to be, my home . . .” I said.
“. . . how I’m familiar with that,” she giggled.
. . . and how a birch tree helped me to do that,” I added.
“Cool. I really like it.”
“All my experiences I write about are relatable, and I write about how I navigated through them to give inspiration and hope.”
“Sounds interesting. I’ll take it.”
“How ‘bout if I sign it? Your name?”
“Oh, yes. It’s ‘Madison.’”
She beamed shyly and continued to smile as I handed her my book.
As she took another look at the front cover, I explained to her how the image was metaphoric. Small child-like hands hugging the trunk of a birch tree, shows how I learned what home is, how I learned to embrace it and how a seemingly everyday connection to a tree promotes our search for belonging. Madison shook her head in agreement as if hoping to discover a connection too as she ran her hand over the image. I wanted her to talk more about how she just finished school and where she wants to be headed or maybe doesn’t know just yet. But she seemed eager to move on, to discover more of what was ahead of her.
Madison showed me that I shouldn’t predict who will pick up my book. Where she had heard about it remains unknown, but what I now understand is how my book can engage with someone who might be on a journey of her own self-discovery, who is driven by a search for her place to be, who wants to be at home and not necessarily with someone who has already found her place to be.
Madison, if you’re out there, wishing you many discovered connections.