Maggie, the Sweet Moon Baby herself, was in her school’s entry in the Minnesota State High School League One-Act Play Contest. Because they won at sub-sections (Hurrah!), they moved to sections (Oh, no!). This meant her performance in Milaca and my CLN event in Plymouth were both scheduled for February 2. Because they drew an afternoon slot, I had a small chance of making it, but I almost never drive anywhere successfully the first time.
I left early that snowy morning with pages of MapQuest directions. Somewhere in Minneapolis, a passing car splashed my windshield, and I discovered I had no wiper fluid. Driving practically blind, I missed my exit. Finally realizing I was lost, I pulled into a convenience store, where both teenaged clerks were baffled. I cleaned my windshield and raced to the next store where a clerk my age understood panic and directions, explained my error, and warned: “Don’t go into the tunnel again!” Dodging all passing car splatters, I arrived at the hotel with little time to spare.
Nancy Loewen, who I’d met at another CLN event, gladly distributed my table tokens; a gracious CLN volunteer fetched my gift basket from my car; and Michael Hall, sensing my nervousness, promised it would be a friendly audience and that I would be just fine. I drowned my stress in coffee, only to realize a restroom call was necessary. The line was long, so I sprinted back to the ballroom as the podium turned empty. Everyone waited for me.
Clipping down the aisle, I climbed the steps and struggled to catch my breath and talk at the same time, not easy to do at my age. (My speech is in the previous post.) More and more people spoke longer than the allotted two minutes. I feared I’d never make Milaca because I still had the wiper problem to solve.
Then the last words were spoken, and we went to the signing tables. Seated by Sheila O’Connor and Lois Walfrid Johnson, I explained my dilemma. They looked at the clock and said I truly needed to go NOW in order to see the play. Torn about leaving my post, Lois took my hand and whispered a lovely prayer. Sheila, who had met Maggie at another author event, declared her “magical” and urged me to support her. (Later she admitted to almost offering to trade cars to help me!)
As promised, the dedicated desk clerk had printed directions to the nearest gas station. Fearing it wouldn’t have an attendant on duty, I appealed to Steve Palmquist, who said he could add the fluid if I returned to the hotel. I set off. No attendant. But at the neighboring Jiffy Lube, they discovered the fluid was frozen, and understanding my time frame, three people with hoses and picks descended beneath the hood. When I tried to pay, they waved me away, shouting, “Drive, lady!”
I reached Milaca with twenty minutes to spare. It was their strongest performance yet. They won. Maggie had never received a medal for anything, and I was there to see it happen.
Because of the kindness of many.
I’m waxing thematic here, but my adventure to Milaca, was not unlike the journey in my book. Goodness and inexplicable magic saved the day—in China and Minnesota. Fate does not turn with this kind of precision without angels a’plenty.
On that February day, more than I was the author of Sweet Moon Baby, I was the mother of the Sweet Moon Baby.
The cast went on to receive a Starred Performance, the highest possible rating, at State. Congratulations.
The fabulous people seated at my CLN table that morning gave me a great idea for my next picture book. Bless them.