by Vivian Gilbert Zabel
My heart racing, I checked the seat belt. Silly, it hasn’t come loose since the last time you checked. Relax. The flight will be smooth and not too long. You’ll be there soon. I sighed. That’s the problem; it won’t be long before I’ll face everyone. I nibbled my lip. What if no one likes me? I glanced to my left where young Melia sat, her nose already in a book. Across the aisle, Jacque, my best friend for over twenty-five years and adopted sister, smiled when I turned my head that direction. The three of us traveled together from the same state toward the reunion.
”Worried about the flight?” Jacque asked.
I smiled back. “No, just about arriving.”
“At least you’ve visited with most of the people who will be there, Viv. That’s more than I have.”
Maybe, I thought as I faced the back of the seat in front of me, but you manage to have everyone loving you in just minutes. I don’t have that talent.
The plane rushed down the runway and lifted into the air. I still don’t believe these things can really fly, I laughed to myself.
After a brief layover and change in Cincinnati, Ohio, we boarded the plane which flew us the last leg of the trip from Oklahoma to Pennsylvania. In a short time we walked into the hotel at the Gateway Conference Center. The place was stereotypical Holiday Inn, until we entered the door. Once inside we found an upscale hotel with chandeliers, etched glass windows, polished wood, colorful carpets, and marble tile and accents. Since her room was cleaned, Melia decided to take a rest without lunch. Jacque and I stored our pile of luggage in the cloakroom before strolling into the hotel restaurant to order a sandwich. We fearfully picked up the menu after looking around the elegant restaurant.
“Hey, the prices aren’t what I expected,” I whispered across the table for two.
“No, not bad at all,” Jacque answered.
We had just ordered when a teddy-bear of a man walked up and asked, “Are you with the Writing.Com group?” His smile creased a mature-young face.
“Yes, we are,” I answered, as my eyes read the name tag he wore hanging on a cord around his neck. “SM, finally.”
The StoryMaster flashed that engaging smile of his. “I hope you haven’t ordered because we have lunch in the lounge, enough food to feed a herd of people.”
“We just ordered,” Jacque replied.
“If they can cancel your order, would you join us down there?”
“Sure,” I answered. “We’d rather be with the rest of the group, but we didn’t know.”
“Let me check. I’ll be right back.” He strode away. I would notice multiple times over the next four days that he never seemed to hurry, yet he covered much ground quickly.
In moments, SM, carrying my heavy computer bag, led Jacque and me through the long hallway, with its jog left and then immediately right (which the we would soon know so well we could traverse it with closed eyes), to the registration room and the tables loaded with the first of many delicious mounds of food.
Manning the registration table was catwoman , waiting with a hug and a bag of the first goodies and materials needed to help us know how our days would be spent. SMs hustled into the room, and more hugs were exchanged. I looked at the people around me: SM and SMs, a couple who seemed well matched in looks - adorable - as well as personalities and talents; Catwoman, a sprite of a woman, lovely and friendly; JohnAshen, quiet, distinguished; Jacque, who “big-sisters” me and watches over me as if I were her younger sister. Colin, who had ridden in the shuttle from the airport with us, entered. Soon the room filled with chatting, hugging people. I felt as in the middle of a loving family.
“It’s a family reunion,” I announced when someone asked what I thought. The agreements came from all directions. Suddenly I was grabbed in a tight hug.
“Viv, finally!” A voice whispered loudly in my ear. When the speaker pulled back a bit, I saw the smiling face of a lovely young woman.
“Mia!” I half-yelled, and we had to hug again.
“Mom!” I turned to find Lexi smiling with wide opened arms, Lexi with the brilliant smile and sexy eyes.
One after another members of the writing site piled into the room. Wannabe appeared surrounded by an energy field. Laurencia greeted everyone with a friendly dignity. Schwaun’s laughter filled the room as Imagine Love sat beside him, a soft smile on her lips. The crowd grew until I didn’t know which direction to look or from where the next hug would come. The early start that morning finally caught up with me, and I knew I needed a little rest.
I had just entered my room when Lexi joined me, a brightly colored gift bag in hand. “Happy birthday, Mom,” she announced as she handed me the bag, presenting me with more than a gift but another dose of love.
After resting briefly, Jacque and I made our way through the long halls to the room listed on the Itinerary page in the Convention 2004 Yearbook for dinner. Outside the door, SMs, the creative member of the team, asked us to draw one of the small cards from a box, each with a different colored flower. Inside the room lit by chandeliers and mirrored pannels, large round tables held a center piece, each with a different colored flower. I went to my table with the blue flower, while Jacque moved to hers across the room.
Then when six o’clock arrived, each table worked on a “campfire.” We all had our own two-page document with sections to be used for the “story.” Each section would be written to match the music played at that time. As I wrote the first section of my story, I tried to be as creative as possible in the few minutes allowed for writing. Then I passed my story form to the person to my left and received the one from the person to my right. The music changed, and I tried to continue the story as creatively as possible. The jokes started, and the laughter swelled above the music. By the time my story returned to me, it in no way resembled what I started. All was in fun, though, and everyone had a good time. My fingers ached from writing a section for nine different stories.
Mia knelt beside my chair. “I brought this to you.” She handed me a tee shirt that read “I’m Retired” with the words “Do it yourself” underneath. “I saw it in my shop and thought of you.”
“Oh, Mia, I love it.” I hugged the young woman. “I just love it. Thank you so much.”
Across the hall, a buffet waited for the hungry hoard of writers. Everyone filled their plates and returned to eat where we created unusual stories.
“If they have food like this all weekend, it’s a good thing we have to walk so much,” I mumbled.
“That’s a given,” Phil replied, as he rejoined the group at the blue-flower table.
I crawled into bed that first night, a smile on my face. I’m so blessed. I love being here.
Friday started with a delicious breakfast followed by a morning of laughter, fun, and more campfires . On the back of the name tag, that each person wore, were three letters. Mine were F, D, and B. On the tables in the room where we met stood center pieces, each with a large letter. For the Friday creative sessions, I first went to table F, then table D, and finally, after lunch, to table B. By the time I went to my room to dress for dinner, I felt even more a part of this large, loving, creative, funny family. And I had written over twenty more sections for campfire stories
Finally on Friday evening, I met LifeWriter. Her hug nearly disconnected my head from my shoulders, but I probably returned her hug fully.
After dinner (another meal of unbelievably good food), the crowd gathered in the room set up for “open mic” presentations. Mr. Moo Man took the stage first. His standup performance left echoes of laughter that continued throughout the night. Loti entertained the conventioneers on the keyboard with two original compositions. A comedy routine by Winklett had everyone holding their sides. The list of powerful, entertaining performances continued through the night: LifeWriters poignant reading; Night Owl’s poetry formed from lines from attendees’ material; a series of monologues, all connected, written by and performed by Melissa, Phil, and Moo Man; and, last but definitely not least, Hemp (High Roller) read with emotional impact one of her stories. I know I’ve forgotten some of the performances. *Note to self for next year, take notes.*
The auction of items donated by convention attendees finally arrived. The in-house auctioneer, SM himself, rattled off the bids as Senior Mods The Milkman and Pita held items so bidders could inspect them. Knowing that the amount raised would help others be able to attend next year’s convention, I bid as much as I could, but all my bids were soon left far behind. Well, all were except for the one for a very appropriate tee shirt, “Officially addicted to Writing.Com.” How much more appropriate an item could I have gotten?
Before the auction completed, we broke for another buffet lunch. As I chatted with Lexi, we went through the wrong door before discovering the line formed through a different one. As I hobbled with my cane to the end of the line, Gregory S Willis told me, “Go on up to the front, Viv. You’re the site mom after all.”
The days and nights were packed with laughter, friendship - no, love, activities, more goodies, and excellent food. But the highlight arrived Saturday night: the formal dinner and dance. Ah, but not just any perfectly cooked and served steak dinner (and this is from a person who doesn’t really care for steak), no, the highlight of the highlight came during the dance portion when SM announced that he and SMs would give us first view of the Royal Story first dance as it would be performed at the Story wedding later.
The lights dimmed; the music began; and the dapper SM took his lovely bride-to-be in his arms. They moved as one through the graceful, flowing steps of the dance, each set of eyes never straying from the other’s. As the rest of the conventioneers circled the dance floor, the pair continued the ritual of love with SM dipping SMs, their lips meeting in a tender kiss. *sigh*
As the fun, laugher, and dancing continued after the “wedding” dance, I made my way to my room. Dancing with a cane isn’t the most fun since it can’t hold a partner well, and nothing could match what I watched between the SMs and SM. Anything else would be anti-climatic.
Before crawling into bed, I packed most of my things. Already I felt sad because I knew the time with my W.Com family was ending. Morning arrived too early, and too soon we met for a final lunch. For some reason the food that meal didn’t taste as good, and it didn’t go down well. Tears choked me as final hugs were given. Others said, “See you next year,” but I couldn’t see me there next year since I attended this convention thanks to wonderful friends’ generosity.
So I hugged everyone and told them, “I’m just glad I got to meet you.” Leaving people or watching them leave when I don’t want to caused me to tear up, tough ole bird that I am.
I know I’ve forgotten things and people in this account of the W.Com family reunion, where I met dear and special people. If I do go next year, I will take notes during or after each activity. However, I’ll not forget the people of this year’s convention because each person’s face is engraved on my heart:
A brief glimpse of all there: The StoryMaster the smile, the courtesy; The StoryMistress the elegance, the artist; catwoman the unusual vocabulary in campfires; The Milkman the giggle; Pita The evil/good twin or Fireant the evil/ good twin or both are; archgargoyle friendly and kind; Love is a Mommy (no foolin) lovely and beautiful smile; amermarie loving mother; winklett funny and talented; Wenston fun but shy; Stormy Lady ah, words can’t describe Stormy, my rainbow sharer -
Oh, let me go in alphabetical order:
auric hope he likes my books; The Nameless Hermit Ah, the Nameless Hermit, who wasn’t; bookworm90 young but talented; Jay (*still* away for a while) “pounce”; Colin Back on the Ghost Roads feral chicken originator; Zelphyr bright, young; Eliot powerful poetry; elizm446 Ah, my Mia; Genesisemo got married friendly with a quiet humor; Wannabe The story woman; Tigger thinks of Prancer Oh, the energy!; The HighRoller a powerful writer, another Viv; Jacque Graham dearest friend for nearly thirty years; John~Ashen quiet, distinguished; Mariposa elegant, tiny, lovely; laurencia has a quiet strength; Lexi one of “my girls”: lifewriter a fighter and friend always; Write-fully Loti a good friend; *love2NaNoWriMo* nearly wordless on paper, heheh; master_akura quiet but friendly; Shanachie considering 2023 wherever she was there was laughter; ♥Marvelous Melia♥ a home-state “girl”; missbiggs a lovely smile; Melissa is fashionably late! ah, Mel, special for many reasons; phil1861 talented and fun; ravenz_song a fun but careful mother; Gregory S Willis A gentleman; Sarah Rae companion often, enjoyable always; quiet but friendly; Diane unique; ShelleyA~13 years at WDC fun, lovely, and delightful; Brammy funny and delightful; smplycntnt full of fun
Ah, the memories.