This is odd. I’ve never written a thank you note to 150 people at once. I’m not sure how to begin.
Dear Friends, Beloved Coworkers,Cool Authors I Had Not Yet Met, Assorted Family Members, Canadians, Book Clubians, Iowa Bear Guys and, well, Everybody.
How are you? I’m good thank you, I had a very nice Easter.
Listen, I wanted to drop you a note thanking you for coming to my book release party two weeks ago. Thank you. It meant a lot to me that you came.
Normally at this point in any thank you note, things get awkward because its decision time: how sloppy am I willing to get? Is this a polite thanks for dropping off blueberry pie or is this wow, I’ve been really wanting a Cuisinart, so thank you.
Or is this the type of thank you note where you explode everywhere, gushing superlatives and as you mail it you wonder if you conveyed heartfelt thanks or did it come across as a veiled threat to stalk you if you’re any nicer to me.
Me, I always err on the side of stalking, so I am going to gush a little bit. But I won’t come to your house and look through binoculars into your living room. Don’t think about that. Don’t even bother to turn around right now, looking out your dark windows. For pete’s sake, there’s way too many of you and I’m too lazy.
But it’s important to let you know what you did for my heart.
I’ve been writing for over 20 years mostly in secret, or if not exactly secret, behind closed doors. I’ve never published anything. I didn’t think I could write very well, not the kind of writing other folks would want to read. Honestly, I don’t think it was a low self esteem problem.
I believe my problem is that I’ve read too much writing I love. I grew up snarfing down Charles Dickens, Victor Hugo, and literature my father loved. My mom read to us at night. Naturally, I became an English major in college. To this day, I read for pleasure as much as time permits. My friend Chris writes for the Pioneer Press and the amount of beautiful sentences and wistfulness he imbues into movie reviews astonishes me. I’ve read poetry by friends that made my heart leap. After I finished The Known World by Edward P. Jones, I thought, “Well, screw writing as a hobby. This guy already nailed it.”
So, I know good writing.
For much of my closeted writing career, I simply wasn’t ready; I wasn’t there.
And hey, whether I am or am not there is quite debatable. But I’m ready to show the world what I’ve been doing on my back deck all those summer nights with low-burning candles and a glass of milk and another glass of wine. (Don’t judge me.)
So anyway, last week you guys ripped me apart.
Saturday night, during the nonstop madness of signing books for two and a half hours, I looked up and found myself surrounded by favorites: cold beer, joyful laughter, fat-frosted cake, balloons, onion rings, and the radiant smiles of dozens of great friends beaming at me, expressing, “You did it. Proud of you.” I cried a few times when I thought nobody was looking because it’s not possible to be loved this much, to survive staggering under the weight of such kindness as if each of you thugs were carrying a brick of solid love and you had no problem wrapping it in a pillow case and showing up at a bar called Grumpy’s.
Wow. That’s a little more violent than I had intended, but you get the message: I was dazed, dazzled, lambasted, shocked, disoriented, and then flabber and ghasted both at the same time. I had five dozens intense conversations over the evening, which was both heaven and hell, heaven to be delighted by every next person in line and then hell to end a new conversation scant minutes later.
I’m not sure, but I think I saw:
An ex-boyfriend with a shy, winning smile. He brought me a book on our first date.
An apartment building friend I knew 13 years ago when our paths crossed daily on dirty hallway carpeting.
My book club pals, whom I guess I should simply call ‘beloved friends’ because after 10 years of loving these people, I think we’ve moved beyond book club. Allison showed up despite an exhausting flight from Hawaii earlier that day. People the next day texted me to say, “Your book club friends are cool.”
My family, Mary and Heather, hugged me hard. With a smirk, Heather said, “Next time, your goddaughters would like you to write a children’s book so they can attend the party.”
We laughed together and then I told Heather, “Seriously, they can never read King Perry. Not even at 30.”
Too often the conversation ended with my brain pleading, Wait, don’t go! More to say! Don’t go — oh, hello, oh hello! How amazing to see you standing there, I didn’t know you were right there — thank you for coming!
When it was his turn, my quiet friend Erik raised his eyebrows at me to say, ‘way to go,’ and then followed it up by saying, “Way to go.”
I was touched that he decided to make a speech.
Especially since the night prior as he and his amazing girlfriend and I ended an evening of giggling together, I proposed a three-way. They were not shy in their rejection, which only spurred my greater advances. I promised to “do things” and I used air quotes, prompting all three of us to groan and turn away in disgust. In my final seduction, I unbelted, unzipped, and dropped my camo pants to the sidewalk saying, “This is what you’d be missing.” They remained firm in their resolve.
Actually, considering my behavior, Erik and Rosa, thank you for coming. Seriously.
My younger brother who lives in Chicago appeared at my side at one point in the evening, unannounced. He sipped beer from a frosty mug and nodded at me, saying, “Hey.”
I really should introduce him to Erik.
Zipping through the crowd, my friend Stephen held the night together. When more than eight people showed up at the party’s beginning and I started getting wide-eyed by the prospect of talking to more than eight people, Stephen took charge. With no prior notion that he might have to help out, he made everything happen. Stephen sold every book, demanded $5 bills from the Grumpy’s bartender as needed, flirted outrageously with our server to keep drinks and appetizers flowing, and at one point he briefly appeared at my side with the giant cake and commanded me to “Smile.”
After a dizzying array of photo flashes, he darted through the crowd to cut and serve.
I don’t know what I would do without him, without his love. I didn’t even chat with him until the night was over and he was exhausted.
I spent four minutes with one of my best buddies from high school. I miss him.
I spent three minutes with a man who I see twice a year for chicken pad thai and cranberry cream cheese wontons. It’s never enough time. I love his big heart.
My friend Tony flew down from Canada. Shortly after he read an early copy of King Perry, he told me his king name. He had always known his true name but never thought he’d get the chance to say it aloud. My king, my king.
When I came out of the closet a few decades ago, there was no party, no joy. Relief, and yes, a new chapter of life. But no balloons, no cake. Maybe I should have rented a bar and thrown a bash. Because the night I came out as a writer, so many people showed up to love me, and through their joyful party chatter and beaming faces, they loved each other. All these amazing people.
I would like to thank you in advance.
When the day comes that I must close my eyes for the last time, if I get a few seconds to let life pass before my eyes, I am going to replay this night, this golden, sparkling night that you showered me with an insane amount of love, so much that I think you possibly broke me. In those final moments of life, you’ll be right there with me, but this time, we’ll have a lot more available time to hang out.
I hope that doesn’t sound too stalkery.
I get a little gushy in thank you notes.