It’s a good thing I always wanted to be a writer and editor instead of a model, because last Friday, any such aspirations I might otherwise have had were crushed by a little old lady at a retirement community.
It had nothing to do with my diminutive height or my imperfect orthodontia (thanks for nothing, childhood trauma). Nope, it had to do with my eyelashes. My apparently very subpar eyelashes.
It all began two months ago when I reached out to Evergreen Estates here in Lancaster, which, for the record, has some of the sweetest staff ever. I wanted to know if they ever held local author book readings, and they said they had not to date; but when I told them about Maiden America, they were very intrigued.
So I booked the date (pun unintended) of Friday, June 30, and went back about my business until said date came zipping along.
Dressing for the crowd I expected, I put on dark blue jeans and a cheerful floral top, made sure my dark brown hair was suitably a’curl, and pondered on whether to wear heels or flats.
Ultimately, my typical laziness and aversion to pain led me to choose flats. Then off I went.
There were already about a dozen residents of the retirement community sitting there in the beautiful, spacious common room area when I was shown to. And since I was a good 11 minutes early, I went over to chat with some of them before the reading commenced.
Which proved to be quite the hysterically humbling experience.
Introducing myself, I answered their questions about my purpose there…
Yes, I was the one reading to them today.
How long was I going to read? Well, that was up to them. Did they want me to cover the historical author’s note or just the first chapter or two?
Oh, this is my book. I wrote it. Yes, isn’t the cover model pretty?
Perhaps it was that last statement that garnered me the critical eye of one lady I was speaking to. Switching subjects with the alacrity that senior citizens of a certain age seem to manage so well, she stared closely at me.
“You’re a very pretty girl,” she announced.
“Well, thank you very much,” I told her. “That’s so sweet.”
Like a regal queen on her throne, she barely acknowledged my response. “You have beautiful eyebrows.”
Highly entertained by this point, I answered with, “Thanks. I got them from my grandmother. She would be very happy to hear you appreciate them.”
At least I meant to get that last part out. She was already moving on in her thorough critique with, “And your earrings are lovely.”
“Oh yes, I think I got them at Kohls a few years back.”
“Your eyelashes are really short though.”
You have no idea how hard it was not to start laughing. But being the polite conversationalist that my momma taught me to be, I reined in my amusement to tell her about my darling baby niece, who has an outright exquisite pair of eyelashes. “She could be a model with those eyelashes,” I explained.
“But not you,” she declared.
“Nope,” I agreed. “Not me.”
My subpar eyelashes and I still managed to impress her, however, with my reading, starting with the introductory quote:
“The time is now near at hand which must probably determine whether Americans are to be free men or slaves; whether they are to have any property they can call their own; whether their homes and farms are to be pillaged and destroyed. The fate of unborn millions will now depend under God, on the conduct and courage of this army… We have therefore to resolve to conquer or die.”
– General George Washington to his troops before the (disastrous) battle of Long Island, August 26, 1776.
And then with the first lines of the actual story:
“Stay back, Abigail. I swear those bloody lobsters are everywhere,” Garrett snarls, looking out the sitting room window through the heavy, floral draperies at what I have to imagine are dozens upon dozens of British soldiers tramping past in their bright red coats.
Hence the reason behind the nickname, “lobsterbacks” or “lobsters.”
It isn’t the most polite language to use in front of a lady, but I don’t correct him for a whole host of reasons. Numbers one and two are that I’m not really a lady in his eyes. I’m his younger sister and therefore a completely different category of femininity altogether. Moreover, I’m a sister who has kept him from serving under General Washington for the last several months.
In fact, when I stopped at the end of Maiden America chapter 1, she was quite insistent on me reading another. And then at the end of chapter 2, she wanted to know if I could read the third.
“You have a lovely reading voice,” she informed me. “And such an engaging book.”
Really, I suppose that five out of the apparent six categories of retirement community critique aren’t bad: overall appearance, eyebrows, earrings, eyelashes, reading voice and intriguing storyteller.
Hey, not everybody can be a model. And this writer and editor has long since accepted that you can’t win them all.