notquiteold

Gracefully Aging – With Resistance

My Favorite Days – Part Four

The fourth in a series recounting the best days of my life (so far) – leading up to my very best day.

Triple Great Days – The Book

An essay I wrote ten years ago provided me with three of the best days of my life – over a span of seven years.

One day while surfing the net, I came upon a call for entries for short essays for inclusion in an anthology. A few years before, Marlo Thomas has published a book of essays written by a hundred famous people (like Jimmy Carter, Muhammad Ali, and Steven Spielberg), The Right Words At The Right Time. Each short essay told the story about the difference that can be made in one’s life by hearing just the right words at the right time.

The book was a best-seller and all the proceeds went to St. Jude’s Hospital. So a few years later, Marlo Thomas and her editor wanted to publish another edition – this time with non-celebrities.

Well, I am certainly a non-celebrity – probably I’m in the very top echelon of all-time non-celebrities.

And I had a story.

So in 2004, on a plane, I wrote my essay in the tiny notebook I kept in my purse. And when I got home and typed it up, is was twice as long as the maximum length, which was a measly 1,500 words.  That’s nothing for a meanderer like me. So I edited, and edited, and edited. Which I know now is a very good thing to do after you write (although I hardly ever do it).

I sent in the story and I didn’t hear anything for a very long time. I forgot about it.

In the meantime, I quit my job and was feeling pretty low.

And then a YEAR later, I got a phone call. It was Bruce Kluger, Marlo Thomas’ editor.

“Remember that story you sent us about a year ago?” he said. “We are finally getting around to that book, and your story is one of our first selections.”

My First Fabulous Day!

It took a year to get the book published. It came out in May, 2006. I went to Barnes and Noble on the day it was released, and THERE IT WAS!  On the center table. With my story on page 69.

rightwords2

I bought five copies and at the checkout, I said to the clerk, “Look right here! That’s my story! I wrote that.”

My Second Fabulous Day!

I had written about my sixth grade teacher – who was the very first person who made me believe that it was okay to make a mistake. One of the most important things a teacher has every taught me. I shared this story on my blog in celebration of teachers after the Newtown tragedy. (“Teachers”)

It was amazing to see my story in print. And I figured I had it made. That was the first bit of writing I had done in thirty years, and it was published. Writing is EASY, I thought. Ha, ha on me.

But anyway, I had published a story. Life went on.

And FIVE YEARS later, in 2011, one night I received a phone call.

The caller asked, “Is this Nancy Roman, who wrote a story about a teacher named Sister Regina Marie?”

When I said I was, she said, “I have someone who would like to speak to you.”

And there on the line was Sister Regina Marie!

She said that a few years before, an acquaintance found the book and the story, and showed it to Sister. Her order of nuns had long since gone back to given names, and she was now called Sister Anita LeBlanc. But she knew the story was about her. And Sister said she’d been bragging about it ever since – telling everyone she met that a story had been written about her. And the day she called me, she was bragging to a new resident in her retirement community, and her new friend suggested they find me. And so they did.

She was ninety-two, and had taught school until well into her eighties. She had been a teacher for sixty years.

Imagine all the children who experienced the kindness she showed me.

My THIRD fabulous day. And the best of the bunch. I got to say Thank You.

sisterreginamarie.jpg

Sister Regina Marie, nee Anita LeBlanc. She died a year ago. I was blessed to have had the opportunity to thank her.

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18 Comments

  1. How wonderful, and I do remember your earlier post. What a thrill that must have been to be published! And then, to be able to say thank you to that wonderful teacher.

    • When I wrote that piece, it never even occurred to me that she could still be alive. It was such a delight to hear from her.

  2. Congratulations on your publication, to begin with. I think it’s wonderful that you and Sister Regina Marie, nee Anita LeBlanc connected after all those years. If nothing else this would be exciting for me, however, Sister placed you on a higher level by contacting you.Exciting, me thinks, as well as being published *Yowza*.

    • I had never even tried to contact her, because I assumed she had passed away long before. But she was still going strong at 92. She was living in Lowell Massachusetts, where she had been teaching school for many years.

  3. One of your best posts!

  4. That’s a precious story – one small act of writing a short essay brings so much joy!

    • It has been a joy for me, and Sister Anita told me she had some terrific bragging rights!

  5. What a great story! Life is made from those kinds of incredible moments. We only need a few to take out and remember.

    • Thanks. We need to treasure those special days.

  6. You really rock, wonderful story, I’ll look up for this Story on your blog. The World needs positive stories like that. Bisous *kisses* from Paris.

    • Thanks! Merci from Connecticut.

  7. What a wonderful group of days!

    (And writing is pretty easy; the hard part is getting folks to read it!)

  8. Oh my gosh, I love this post! It is wonderful in so many ways. Marlo Thomas has always been someone I admire. I have a copy of both the 1st & 2nd version of “The Right Words…” and also her “Thanks and Giving” book and CD. So I am off on a treasure hunt to find the book and check out page 69.
    Thanks for sharing this one with us, it made my day.

  9. For some reason this brought tears to my eyes. What fabulous days. I loved this one.

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  1. “I Coulda Been Somebody” | notquiteold

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