Maya says . . . .
Breakfast at Skillet. Thick French toast and a fried egg and coffee. Heading out before the heat. Saying goodbye to Chris and her dogs and her VW bus she is turning into something fabulous for Burning Man. How nice it was to simply get on the bike and go. Going the back way. The flat roads and the rising humidity. Making it to Anamosa before we said "Enough." Grant Wood and American Gothic and the store with the overpriced antiques. An old movie theater getting a second revival as a summer playhouse. The second antique store and the old ice cream cartons and the woman who knew where the Little Free Library was and called the owner and gave us directions. Losing Stef, briefly, to bad reception. The library and its roof of Iowa license plates and the history of a house with such good bones. Finding The Trumpet of the Swan and the flood of memories that came with it - me, just approaching adolescence and finding my voice. Catching a glimpse of our trailer down a side street and waiting for Stef to find us. Agreeing on lunch and the quick drive to Cascade and Maid-Rite and its red leather booths. How the Midwest interprets "salad" and the guilty pleasure of iceberg lettuce and ranch dressing. The antique mall in Dyersville and the armload we came out with - an old accordion, a plug-in Viewmaster, miniature bobbleheads for the boys, unintentionally hilarious matchbooks. The interview with Craig at Country Junction and the absolutely best carrot cake in the world. How his questions had a way of revealing his own story. A broken cookie jar he is still trying to replace. A life he is picking up again and reassembling. How he led us to the Field of Dreams and the unexpected delight in seeing that baseball diamond. How Amy and I raced around it once and how I asked Stef to video us so we could do it again and share. How that second time around the bases I felt everyone with us and the jump on the bag at home plate was the exclamation point.
Deciding on a hotel. How much of a luxury that feels like, the big sprawl and an ice machine and hot water and continental breakfast. The hilarity, each time, of how many bags we carry.
Driving to the library and setting up and Diana hoping for the best. How the chairs stayed empty until five minutes to 7. The tiny books sprawled out on the table. Iced tea and homemade zucchini bread. The words "field" and "dreams" and "community." The little gasps they made at the close of each poem, and how that moment can feel so strange sometimes but it didn't. When Diana asked what room we were staying in so she could bring us her typewriter. A gift, even though she made it seem as if she made this kind of offering daily. How casually generous.
Late-evening chicken noodle soup and biscuits and cinnamon-and-brown-sugar butter. How amazing it is to laugh so many days in a row. This trust we have fashioned out of this journey, between and within ourselves. What it feels like to be able to tell that kind of truth. The relief of that. The healing.
“Do you have a place to stay tonight?” the woman in the purple shirt covered with bunnies piped up from the back row of red seats at the The James Kennedy Public Library. We do, we assured her. She turned to Diana and whispered, “Wouldn’t that have been fun! I would have loved to have them at my house.” And I believed her. The look on her face told the truth. She would have enjoyed spending the evening with us, hearing our adventure stories from the road. And we would have enjoyed getting to know her better.
What I do know is this:
She likes a good joke. She isn’t afraid to wear purple. She has a great laugh. She doesn’t stifle it, she opens her mouth wide and laughs with her whole body. And she laughs at herself, too. She is generous and kind. She has a hugeheart. For 38 years she has been playing Santa at Christmastime for the less fortunate in and around Dyersville. She collects toys all year round. She joked that she accepts anything “but pets, husbands and children.” I bet that nobody within 100 miles of Dyersville has had to wake up on Christmas morning without a gift under their tree. And she’s the reason.
I wish we hadn’t booked a room at Super 8 last night - I would have liked to hear more of her stories. I would have loved to hear more of that great full-bodied laugh.