My first school visit happened last Thursday. Then I sat at a booth for two days.
Not everyone bought a book.
Let me tell you about the complete amazingness of those days.
This book, Moon Mail and Star Kisses, is special to me for many reasons, some of them quite obvious. I had no idea how special the experience of talking about it would be.
The concept is brilliant. I can say so because it wasn’t my concept. My sister made up the idea of moon mail and star kisses as a way to feel connected to her sweet daughters when they were apart.
I knew immediately that the concept needed to be a book. That the world needs moon mail.
Choosing a favorite moment from Thursday through Saturday of last week is impossible. None of them compare to each other. They are each their own, and I had the distinct privilege of sharing in them.
At the school event, I felt like a total rock star! The kids were great and the staff were, too. In the throes of standardized testing, they welcomed me into their school with open hearts. Then, everywhere I went for the remainder of the weekend, kids would tug on their adult’s arm and point, smiles big. I might wave. Or the kids might cry out, “Hi, Miss Amanda!” Some of them came and hugged me. A few came up to the table and shyly told me they liked my book.
At the flea market, which happens every year in my childhood hometown, I saw lots of people I know and way more that I don’t. When people walked up to the table, they asked, “So, what’s this book about?”
I would say, “It’s a book for anyone missing someone.” Or I might say, “It’s about a child who has to be away from their adult.” Sometimes I would say, “It’s about two people who cannot avoid being apart.”
Grandparents were pretty awesome. Their little bundles of joy, their gifts for surviving parenthood, live away. A house away. A city away. A state away. Countries and time zones away. Their inscriptions were the easiest, too. For X and Y, Nana/Grandma/Grrrmama/Nanny loves you!
The kids who just thought it was so awesome to have books in the world – they were motivators. I signed a bunch of bookmarks and handed out little static cling stickers as meager repayment for their contagious book love.
Former teachers of mine. So gratifying. So humbling to consider how many students’ lives they impacted over all their combined years.
The haggard parents whose kids stopped in the tent to color in the shade for a while. Who eventually said, “So, what are you selling?” Who excitedly shared the book with others passing by.
So many great moments! But what follows are the ones that simultaneously unwound me and anchored me. These are the people that reminded me that Moon Mail is more than a book I wrote. It’s more than paper and ink and glue. It is a concept my sister designed and allowed me to borrow for the world. These are the ones for whom I will write, even when they have no idea who I am and spend not even a dollar on my words, because they need words they do not possess.
The woman, probably my age, maybe a little older, walks up with a little girl. She asks about the book and picks it up to glance through. I say, “It’s about people who have to be apart.” She begins to cry. She doesn’t visibly try to stop the tears. I say, “Can I hug you? Is it okay if I hug you?” That’s weird. I’m not especially known for my hugging prowess or willingness. But the woman was crying. She nodded her assent and I wrapped my arms around her. She sobbed into my shoulder, “I lost both my parents in the last nine months.” I told her how I wished she didn’t have this pain. She said, “Do you know of any grief counselors in this area?” I said, “No. I mean, I haven’t lived here in a long time. But if you want to write down your email address, I will try to find some resources and send them to you.” She wrote her email address down. She did not buy a book. But that wasn’t the point.
It was getting pretty late one evening as the carnival in the street next to my booth flashed and whirred. A fellow came over. He was probably around my parents’ ages. He wore a soft cowboy hat with leather straps that hung loosely under his neck. He held the book and looked through his bifocals. I said, “This is a book I wrote for anybody who is missing somebody.” He choked back tears. He set the book down on the table and retrieved a handkerchief from his pocket to wipe his eyes. He took a step back and seemed to be deciding whether to tell me something. He stepped up again and took his wallet out. He said, “I recently lost my wife. How much is the book?” I hope I said something kind, but I honestly don’t remember. It’s a rare thing in my corner of the world to see a 65-year-old man come so close to tears, in public no less.
On Thursday, at the school visit, a teacher – a woman I knew from my childhood – asked me to make a note in a book to a 14-year-old foster child in her family’s care. She explained that the young woman’s mother died while she was in foster care and that, obviously, the ordeal had been trying. I don’t know exactly what I wrote, but it went something like this: “I’ve lost someone I love, too. Even though I can’t make things better for you, I hope you find comfort in sending moon mail to heaven.” On Friday, the girl found me at my booth and hugged me. She stayed and visited for a while. She returned on Saturday and visited again. She thanked me for what I wrote and for moon mail.
On Friday morning, a trio of girls came by the table. I think they might be sisters, as their ages were high school, middle school, and elementary. The oldest asked if we knew when the carnival opened. I answered ‘about 5 is what we were told’. She said they were from another town about thirty miles away, that they had just moved to this area because their parent is military, and that they had no idea how to kill so much time. I briefly commiserated with them. They didn’t look at the books or ask any questions related to why we might be there. I figured that would be the last I saw of them.
Friday night, they returned. The oldest said, “Thank you for your help earlier!” I was surprised, mostly because I hadn’t really been of much help. “So, what are you selling?” she asked. I said, “It’s a picture book for anyone missing someone.” She read through the book and said, “I’m going to buy one for my brother who just came to live with us. He has autism and hasn’t been with us very long. When he first came, he couldn’t read at all. Now he is reading a little. I think he would really like this. Can I leave it here and come back for it later?” She paid and left the book and returned as we were taking everything down for the night.
Saturday evening, in the glare and blare of the carnival, a tall youngish man approached the table and asked where he might find an ATM. I directed him to the other side of the ticket construct in the street. He said thank you and went on his way.
Later, he stopped by again. Part of my crew were disassembling the vendor tent, but I stayed at the low coloring table with a few books. He knelt beside the table and asked what the book was about. I responded in the usual way. He bought a book and told me to keep the change.
About 20 minutes later the man stopped again. He squatted in front of the little coloring table where I sat cross-legged. He said, “I really like what you wrote. I don’t think I understood all of it. I don’t read very well, but I think your book will be important to lots of people.”
I was speechless. I actually lost the power to speak. I wish I had asked if I could read it with him. I wish I had said something or done something to show my deep appreciation for his words. At last, I said a feeble thank you. He nodded and left.
I don’t tell you any of this as a form of self-congratulation. What these people responded to, the thing that reached them, isn’t even mine. It is the concept. The idea that we all share the same moon, no matter how far apart we are. The notion that “love, forever I’ll be somewhere, though it may seem I vanish in air.” The idea that, living or dead, the people we love receive our message if only we send it.
And if that helps, even in its smallest measurement, I am glad.
Unwound and anchored. That is the best description of my first event as a published author. I owe it to so many involved in the process of this book and to those who took a moment to share themselves with me. Thank you may be too slight, but it is all I have.