Meeting Melissa Fay Greene (warning: long- but worth reading)
I realize that Friday is usually "Ethiopia Trip Post" day, but I thought it would be more important to recount how my meeting with Melissa Fay Greene went!!
On Wednesday, my mom and Sasha kidnapped me from school after my third period class so that we could drive to the library of a town that was five minutes away where MFG was speaking. (I know, I know. Why I would be missing school when I felt perfectly fine is a question a lot of people wouldn't be able to answer, but those people don't know how much it meant for me to meet her. As some of you may remember, I have been corresponding with MFG throughout our adoption process, and her responses have meant a lot to me. Here is my letter to her (she responded, much to my great surprise, flattery, and excitement, the very next day!!) Looking back, I shouldn't have been surprised by her generosity and compassion to respond so kindly to a young fan (and with such promptness!) I could see what a great person she was when I was able to speak with her.
We went into a room where a buffet lunch was set up, across the room where a desk piled with paperback versions of There Is No Me Without You. When I saw Melissa Fay Greene talking and smiling to another woman there, I felt like I was seeing a Hollywood actress! I couldn't wait till everything had settled down so I could meet her.
My mom and I then ran into another woman there with an adorable Ethiopian-adopted baby, and we soon found out that they were the Daileaders! They had arrived home TWO DAYS BEFORE with their sweet Sophie, and I immediately was overcome with admiration to coming to the talk fresh from a long, exhausting trip. Sasha was fascinated by Sophie and kept staring at her throughout the talk, and would time to time point at her and say "baby, baby." They're pretty much exactly a year apart and the Daileaders live just 15 minutes away, so I can see a new friendship developing in the future for Sasha.
When we were seated at one of the two long tables in the room, we began to talk with some other families who had come. We met several families who were in various stages of Ethiopian adoptions, many of them waiting for referrals. One family was waiting for their travel date and brought the referral picture of their extremely cute two-year-old daughter with them, which was fun to see.
Right before the talk started, Melissa Fay Greene walked by me on her way to the front of the room. She stopped, somehow recognizing me right away! MFG asked if the cutie sitting next to me belonged to me, and I said yes; she then proceeded to ask a few questions before she had to go up to talk. When the host was introducing the guest speaker, MFG leaned over and asked me if I would do her a favor and get her a glass of water. I was more than pleased to perform the task, and I thought it was very sweet and considerate to ask me since she probably knew that was something I could brag to my friends that I did later on. Also, as my mom pointed out, it probably would have been something she would have asked her own kids to do if they had been there, which made me feel a bit special :-).
She spent the next hour reading excerpts from There Is No Me Without You and talking about why/how she wrote it, including funny personal stories not included in the book as well as updated statistics and news. The stories carried me back to our trip and our adoption adventure, and I felt a twinge of nostalgia I hadn't felt before. I have been so caught up with my life now that I don't think about Ethiopia or the adoption process, and all of my memories started flooding back. I resolved myself then and there that I will go back to Ethiopia, and I will visit the children left behind there, even though I can't definitively say when now.
I loved listening to her; even though she's a famous writer, she's so personable, down-to-earth, and warm. Sasha was a very good girl throughout the talk, remaining fairly quiet and disruptive, although she did often lean over me to get a better look at baby Sophie. When MFG was done speaking, the adoptive parents with their Ethiopian children were asked to introduce themselves (there were three, including a family that had come in with their one-year-old baby boy.) After questions were taken and answered, we were able to talk a bit more with the other families and discovered that there were more in our area than we had thought. I hope that Sasha will be able to interact more with these children in the future and form many close friendships with Ethiopian-adopted kids like her :-).
I then asked MFG to sign the family copy of the book I had brought, as well as the copy we had bought there for a relative. She asked me what to write, and caught a bit offguard, I said that she could write what she wanted. When she had done this, we talked a bit more before it was time for us to leave. I honestly felt like I could have been having a conversation with anyone else I know; she was so casual and easy to talk to. I hope she will go on more book tours in the future, because I would love to have more time to speak with her- I have so many questions to ask her. What she has done is really an inspiration (I've found myself thinking that I want to grow up to BE her) but the fact that she seemed like such a regular person was equally admirable- it gives me hope that maybe I can grow up to do what she does in the future.
On the way back to school, I finally got the chance to look at what MFG had signed in the book. She had written, "To Susanna, My youngest and most eloquent correspondant." Wow! She is such an amazing woman. I hope that all of you will have a chance to meet her- it's so worth it.