The most important life event happened with my birth as it does with all of us. I was named Gloria because my mother admired movie stars with that name, but I like to think my dad went along with the name because he was religious and thought of his first born child as a glory to God. At least I believe that, and in my egocentric way, every Christmas when the refrain of Christmas carols resound with my name, I like to think the whole church is singing my glory. Of course, there were the birthday celebrations – not elaborate in my family. Mom fixed whatever meal the birthday child wanted and there were a few gifts. The only one I remember was a green parakeet named Petey. Today I receive cards and a few gifts on or somewhere around my birthday and my sister-in-law and sisters take me out to lunch. I’m perfectly happy with that. After all my only accomplishment is living another year.
Then there were the graduation events. My high school graduation included a cake and a few relatives coming with cards and money. Certainly nothing like the high school graduation events put on today. When I graduated from college later in life, my parents and siblings took me to dinner, and my kids put on a party for me with a lot of close friends and family coming. I can’t remember anything when I got my Master’s degree, but we probably went out for dinner.
A wedding is always an important event. I had the white gown – borrowed from an aunt, flowers, cake, reception in a small hall and food prepared by an aunt and uncle. Another uncle took snapshots with his camera. My father-in-law paid for a band that played mostly polkas. The wedding was preceded by a shower at an aunt’s home, a modest house so the guest list was small. Of course, there were cards and gifts for the wedding (3 electric skillets) and many best wishes and congratulations. But thinking back, what major accomplishment was getting married? So I got a man. Big deal. So did almost everyone else.
In a little over three years, the children started coming. Believe me, that was a life changing event with four in less than five years. Of course, I always loved and wanted children so I was happy with each one. Again the cards and gifts of congratulations came, but having children is no great accomplishment, although raising them well is something to be proud of. And I am proud of my children.
Teaching third grade was both rewarding, very time consuming and at times difficult.. After I’d been teaching for 15 years, I received the Portage County Elementary School Teacher of the Year Award. I was both honored and embarrassed by the award because there were teachers in my small school who I felt were just as qualified or even more so for the award, and I knew there had to be hundreds of other teachers in the county just as deserving. There was a banquet that also honored the junior high, high school and college recipients of the award. My family, friends and some I taught with were there. I had to give a speech – my first ever in front of a microphone. The person preceding me was tall and I’m rather short, and I didn’t know I had to adjust the microphone to my height,so only the people sitting at tables close to the stage heard my speech. Oh well, it probably wasn’t that good anyway. I will say when the banner in my school came down at my request and things got back to normal, I was relieved.
When I retired, my kids again had a celebration for me in a banquet room at a restaurant. The only gifts I wanted were stones. I didn’t want anyone to spend money on something for me because I’d quit teaching. I’m a gardener and use stones throughout my gardens. My sister-in-law went to the house my parents had lived in before they died and asked the owners, if they’d be willing to let her get a stone from a flower bed where my dad put every stone he’d brought home from his vacations labeled with the place he got it. I do the same thing so stones were enough to make me happy.
This past Sunday was a very important life event for me - a book launch and signing of my first book, The Blue Rose. This was honoring something I'd worked at for at least 12 years when I started writing it under a different name. It included numerous revisions, a name change, editing, sending out query letters and receiving rejections. It also involved getting critique partners to read and make comments, taking writing classes both in person and online, going to numerous writing and mystery conferences and learning all I could about writing mysteries and the world of publishing. I joined local and online writing groups. But most important of all I was always writing, writing, writing. In addition to The Blue Rose, I wrote two more in the series, a middle-grade book, poetry and numerous short stories, some published, and I started writing for this blog a year ago.
I worked hard planning for the launch and worried few would come. I’d already sold some of my books here and there and received positive feedback from those who read them, but still I worried about not many people coming that day. It had appeared in a short blurb in The Tribune, and a larger one about it with my picture in the Champion Times, a free every other week paper, and I’d put up a notice at a local grocery store where almost everyone goes at least once a week, and at my local post office.
Sunday morning I was awake by 4:00 a.m. and out of bed by 4:30 making more sandwiches in case more showed up than expected. I went over my lists again and when it became light I hauled everything out to my car until it was so filled there was barely room for my daughter-in-law, Pam, and my daughter, Sue, when I picked them up to head for my church where I’d reserved a room. We were there by 11:00 making coffee, decorating, putting food out. It was scheduled for12:30, but at noon when Mass let out, people started filing in.
I had five large tables set up with blue table cloths, blue silk rose flower centerpieces, and eight chairs around each for guests to sit at. As the day progressed, the tables were mostly filled. Some who came at noon or shortly after stayed until the end. I was kept so busy greeting, hugging, signing and posing for pictures, I didn’t have time to eat until almost the end, and even then it was only a few bites. I couldn’t believe all the praise I was getting. People I’d graduated from high school with and only saw at five year reunions showed up. People I went to church with but didn’t know well came.
And, of course, family members came as well as many of my book club members from both book clubs and writer’s groups, too. My son came with Ellie, his four year old granddaughter, and they gave me a bouquet including three large blue roses. A reporter from Champion Times came to take my picture, waited around for an interview and finally had to come back at the end because I always had people around me. There were some who brought gifts, too. I sold 43 books and signed books some people had already bought from Amazon, and I got phone calls and e-mails afterwards from those who couldn’t come, but still want a book.
So how did I feel about this event? Elated, grateful, happy, all the superlatives there are to describe it. One of the best feelings was seeing so many people sitting around laughing, talking with friends, getting reacquainted with people they once knew, or meeting new people. But most of all, I was on a euphoric high that my baby, The Blue Rose, was finally out and being honored. That people were impressed with what I’d done. After years of going to mystery writer conferences and meeting authors, for the first time I had people impressed with what I’d done, and saw me as a real author, too.