If you live in Western New York, you spend a lot of time at the mothership. It’s just a fact of life, and probably one of the best parts of living here. On average, we have over 200 cloudy days a year, our winters are long and hard, our summers can get really hot and humid, and if we want to climb stuff we have to take a trip (it is flaaaaat here!). But we have the most awesome grocery store in the history of grocery stores. So there.
When I’m shopping at Wegmans, my favorite activity, of course, is to visit the book section. Many a pint of fro yo has gotten good and melty while I parked my cart and checked out all the covers and imprints, author photos, blurbs, acknowlegements and dedications. And many a grocery bill has been jacked up by the addition of an utterly delicious hardcover.
I came up with the title of my book at Wegmans. I had a very long, rambling title that I loved and apparently everyone else hated (I realize now it was a ridiculous title). On a late night run to Wegs to buy saline solution, I stopped in the book section and noticed that a lot of the titles were one or two words. STAY popped into my head suddenly on the way to the register, and by the time I got out to the car, I’d already sent texts to J and Neil to see what they thought of it.
Yesterday, I went to Wegs to get groceries and picked up the new Pat Conroy book. In high school, I read everything Pat Conroy had written, and read THE LORDS OF DISCIPLINE so many times that the cover fell off my beat up paperback copy (several times, because I kept trying to glue it back together). I had lines from the book scrawled on index cards, taped to the wall next to my bed. I had no idea I wanted to be a writer at the time. I did, however, feel very much like a square peg in a round hole, and that book spoke to that feeling so beautifully. That book made me feel a little better about being me and got me thinking about the benefits to not fitting in, which, at sixteen years old (and really, at any age), is an enormous gift.
I was in a hurry yesterday, and didn’t linger long in the book section. I grabbed SOUTH OF BROAD, threw it in my cart and made my way to the registers. There was one person ahead of me in line. I unloaded my groceries, but I held the book so it wouldn’t get ruined by ice cream sweat. It hit me (again) that next year I will be holding my book in my hands, and I lost it (again). Gasping, tears down the cheeks, kind of lost it. I put my head down and wiped my eyes on my sleeve. Luckily, the person in front of me had a slew of coupons that were too crumpled to scan and both she and the checker were too involved to notice. I slid my sunglasses on, checked out, and cried the whole way home.
I was that kid who didn’t feel like she fit anywhere and now I’m an adult who’s carved out my square hole, and I wrote a book, and maybe next year, I’ll be able to walk into Wegmans and buy a copy of my book, hold it while I’m checking out so it doesn’t get ruined by ice cream sweat, and probably make an ass out of myself all over again.