Recently, my good friend Gretchen McCroskey was named the Poet Laureate of the Poetry Society of Tennessee. It was done in a Zoom meeting. It was to remain a surprise to Gretchen; Gretchen hates surprises. Really, Gretchen loves surprises. She is like her friend Chrissie, though (yes, me), and hates not having enough control over a situation that she knows what is going on at all times. Yours truly was enlisted to get Gretchen to the meeting and keep her in the dark about what was going on. In the midst of some pretty chaotic activities in my own life. I said yes — a few other things, too, because it was a busy week. But yes, nonetheless.

Gretchen had never attended a Zoom meeting and doesn’t have it installed on her home computer. I invited myself to her house for the meeting, telling her that we really ought to try to make the program that day, as neither of us has been to a meeting pre-Covid. She informed me curtly that there wasn’t room downstairs at her computer for two people, and that the steps were getting difficult to manage. I offered to bring my laptop over, but she doesn’t have wifi at her house. I have wifi, but our porches aren’t visitor-friendly, and I didn’t have time to clean the house.

Enter, the public library. Actually, enter, the public library parking lot! I knew that we would need to listen and speak, so being inside the library to use their wifi wouldn’t work. We would need to be outside. The weather has been rainy lately. Dreary, cooler. Fall arrived quickly with no looking back to Summer this year; I’m hoping that it hangs around for quite a while, though, as long as it’s here, not being a fan of Winter. Trying to predict the weather for the day of the meeting drove me crazy all week! Lots of things drove me crazy all week. I was trying to keep up with work in two writing classes. One of our feline children was diagnosed with lung cancer in mid-August, and her issues were becoming more pronounced. And Gretchen continued asking more and more questions… She knew something was up and was determined to find out; in a battle of wills I wasn’t sure I could win, I was desperate to keep her from finding out!

In the end, we logged on from both my laptop and my phone. The wifi connection at the library failed us as much as it connected, I think. But Gretchen made it to the Zoom meeting. She thrilled to so many friends and colleagues congratulating her on her richly-deserved honor as we sat in a pleasantly warm public library parking lot.

As I watched the sparkle in her eyes and heard the lilt in her voice, I shamed myself for ever making one moment of the preparations about any minor inconveniences I might have encountered. This was a lifetime achievement. Truly, a crowning glory! I often say that I believe in surrounding myself in excellence, for that is what I hope to become. And I believe that, wholeheartedly. Friends like the exceptionally talented Gretchen McCroskey are living examples of what I strive to become.

Congratulations, Gretchen! And thank you so much for being my friend and mentor. Here’s to so much more to come!