The invitation came out of the ether, and straight out of the blue.
Waterline Writers, a “live lit” series held monthly in a lovely art gallery in Batavia, Illinois, was planning a holiday-themed night of readings in late December. The organizers knew that I had written an essay called “The Tale of the Christmas Axes” about the strange and humorous turn that baking traditional Christmas cookies had taken in my house the first holiday after the divorce, and wondered whether I could join them that night.
I wanted to jump at the chance—Waterline Writers has become quite the coveted “destination read” for the literary crowd in and around Chicago these days. But the three-hour distance proved a big hurdle since I had to work the next day. No worries, however, since they had floated the alternative idea of having me read my essay on video to share amid the “live” readers that night. I needed no further coaxing.
My artist daughter Sarah and I converged the next day on my favorite state park by Lake Michigan with her fancy camera and a tripod, and set up in a quiet spot in front of an evergreen tree lit by the afternoon sun. Despite the sunlight, it was entirely too cold to contemplate doing more than one take. I never foresaw what a challenge it would be to keep my game face on and keep reading as first a buck with a good-sized rack, and then two does, went scampering across the grassy field behind my daughter who stood there filming, unaware!
The video was sent, the Christmas show was a hit, and I am awestruck at the thought that I somehow managed to do a “live lit” performance by virtual reality. And that it all came about because of the very first essay I’d written years before, when I heeded some friends’ good advice to resume writing and launched my Running with Stilettos blog.
Six months after downsizing and moving from my large empty nest, this Christmas is different in some ways from many that have preceded it. For the first time in decades, I’m without a Christmas tree in my living room, or a crackling fireplace, or stockings hung by the chimney, or room to host a holiday dinner for a dozen or more people. I think my multitudes of ornaments are still in storage fifty miles away. I fully expect I’ll have a tree up again next year when I’ve unpacked a bit more.
In the meantime, this year I get to tell my kids “Merry Christmas honeys, your mother is on YouTube!” We may have just started a new holiday tradition.