A week ago today I drove to Winston-Salem with the seven paintings I've completed to illustrate a book. I was meeting the author, who is also the promotional side of our collaboration, for dinner at the West End Cafe (a favorite of our family).
The evening got my attention as downtown Winston came into sight, round a big curve on I-40, and the radio station I was listening to announced that they were going to play the overture to a piece with the name of the lady I was driving to meet. I laughed for half a mile. It was like the previous set of coincidences that led to our accidental first face-to-face meeting, at Ollie's. And it was Ollie's that connected us in the first place.
Dinner was wonderful, with us each sharing our backgrounds - finally getting to know each other more. I'm surprised I noticed the food, but it was too good not to notice (as usual). Then she couldn't wait anymore and asked me to please go get the paintings.
Her reaction was everything I could wish. She had seen photos of them on-line as I finished them, but they are brighter and warmer in real life. She knows so many people, including most of the wait staff and owners of the restaurant, so she invited three of them over to look. As she spoke the lines of the poem, I revealed each painting, and the waitresses' reactions were also gratifying - one even cried, she was so touched. A good sign for the book.
It was also the first time I heard the lines out loud. I've carried them in my head a few at a time, and have meditated on them as I worked out the illustrations, but I'd never read them all at once out loud. I was surprised to realize that. The three stanzas all sounded like the best old nursery rhymes - the ones no one forgets - and it was whole, complete. I was, once more, delighted to be part of this.
So now the paintings are in her hands, as is the rest of the project. Ii took me a little over a year of elapsed time, and I learned and grew as a painter as a result of the work. My partner wrote the poem 15 years ago, and has been looking for an illustrator all that time. It now has to find the right home - it may take a while, but it will happen. It's been such a long while growing it has to finish now.
And besides, it's not every book that can make a waitress cry happy tears.