I ended yesterday’s blog talking about how much it means to teachers to hear from their former students. I wrote that blog just hours before I hopped in my car and drove to Columbia, SC where I was signing at my hometown independent bookstore. I was already having a rough morning even before I left for SC. First, I walked out to my car and realized that a rock that had hit my windshield the night before on the road between Greenville, SC and Davidson, NC cracked it. I went to the doctor for a check-up and found out I had a sinus infection which meant I couldn’t go see my niece and nephew after my signing in Columbia. My hair dried in a really frizzy way and though I preach the body love sermon, no one wants to go home to see people she hasn’t seen for years with frizzy hair. But there was no time for redoing my hair because my mom wanted me to go hang out with the family for at least an hour before I went to my signing and waiting for my prescription and rearranging my trip to Charleston to see my godchildren had taken some time. So, with about 10 minutes to spare, I ran to my closet to throw on my clothes and the pants I wanted to wear had the security tag on them. 20 more minutes later, I found the receipt for them, hopped into my car, ran to the store, parked horribly, and ran inside to get the tag off. Where there was a big line and then they didn’t bother to look at the receipt that it took me 20 minutes to find. Got the tag off, ran back outside, left a very apologetic voicemail on my parents’ phone that I would be about 15 minutes late. Drove fast. Avoided a ticket. Got to my parents’ house in swampy Columbia, SC (have you ever been to Columbia, SC in the summer? The humidity is unlike anything you have ever felt. You walk outside, and it feels like someone has put a steaming towel over your mouth and nose in an attempt to smother you. I love Columbia, SC but, holy cow, the summers are deplorable.) and impatiently rang the door bell because I could already feel the frizzies on my head taking it up a notch, and I REALLY had to go to the bathroom. No one answered. TEN MINUTES PASSED (I don’t have a key as my parents changed the locks a few years ago and I never bothered to get a key because I only come to the house to see them, and, of course, they should be home when they know I am coming and that I don’t have a key, right?). Now, I noticed that one car was missing but, surely, only my dad was gone. Nope. A couple phone calls to my parents’ cell later, and I learn they had gone shopping and were just leaving the store. 30 minutes away. So 50 minutes after I was supposed to meet them; my parents showed up. I have 20 minutes before I need to leave for the signing, and my mom needs to fit me for a dress (don’t ask). 17 pinpricks later, I am out the door to my signing with only 30 minutes until go time and it takes about 25 minutes to get there from my parents’ house. Not to mention that I have a table I want to set up. I get behind the person who goes 20 in a 35 and then the sky opens. This has been my specialty this summer, doing signings in the midst of the South’s late afternoon and early evening deluge. Picture 0 visibility on the roads. That’s how it was with just 18 minutes to spare. I weaved in and out of traffic, watching the rain pour and lamenting my choice of a silk cream blouse that was already a little transparent. I was going to arrive at the signing in my hometown with big hair and a wet see-through top. Classy. But just as I arrived at the bookstore, the downpour turned into a soft patter. I grabbed my umbrella and my stuff, and I ran! And there, just as I walked into the bookstore with 8 minutes to spare, a woman that seemed vaguely familiar walked up to me from behind the counter. “Rosie Molinary? You don’t remember me, do you?” And, holy cow, it was my 10th grade English teacher, Marcia Watkins. Turns out, she retired right after my senior year of high school (which was 15 years ago) and was now working part time at the bookstore where I was signing. She brought the yearbook from my junior year and then she grabbed a hold of another woman who was there and said, “Look who else is here.” And the who else was Patsy Grimes, my junior year English teacher. Junior Year English—the class and curriculum that changed it all for me. The thing is — I had no idea that Patsy Grimes was still in Columbia. She left my high school around the time that I did, and I assumed her husband’s job in the military had taken them far away. Not at all, it turns out. And it also turns out that Ms. Watkins had not spoken to Ms. Grimes since retirement, but she quickly tracked her down on the phone after she read this part of the acknowledgments in my book, “My love affair with books deepened and grew more intense when I was introduced to characters with whom I could identify. I don’t have any idea where Ms. Patricia Grimes is today, but the books she assigned to my junior year English class were revolutionary for me, and the writing assignments she gave to accompany them were my first exposure to the idea that I might want to be a writer. When I read the pages of Richard Wright’s Black Boy, followed by Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon, I cried because of how much I could relate to those stories. I connected with the characters’ otherness in a way that I hadn’t been able to articulate. The other. It has often been my place, but I have never been able to just it in. I have always had to act from that place, and I am thankful for the educators and role models in my life who fueled that fervor for justice in me.” And so there I was, in front of two of the teachers who helped to make me a writer. And I was just absolutely speechless. And touched. And so terribly aware of how blessed I have been. And suddenly I couldn’t even remember that my hair was frizzy or that my windshield was cracked or that I really had to go to the bathroom from all the water that I drank on the drive to South Carolina. Suddenly, I was just looking around the room at these amazing people that I had shared some of my life with, and I couldn’t believe that I was getting one more chance to bask in the glory of who each one of them is. More tomorrow on Columbia’s signing because the coolest, craziest coincidence relating to the book happened there. Nothing like a good teaser, eh? Picture is Ms. Grimes and Ms. Watkins talking while I sign a poster for Ms. Grimes.