Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Listen to James

I try to ask God every morning what He wants me to do each day. Last Tuesday, He said, "Eat properly, homeschool, listen to James."

Uhhh... I always listen to James. So I was like, "Okay, God. Whatever." Mid-morning, James shared something specific with me, and I listened very attentively, thinking it must be what I was supposed to listen to. Check. Done.

That afternoon, as I chatted online with Jeana, James suddenly gasped from across the room and shouted, "ERIN HUNTER MADE IT TO PORTLAND!!!!!"



Erin Hunter is James's favorite author of all time. She writes the Warriors books.

I told him to see if she was coming to Seattle, and then I went back to my chat. He quickly discovered that she was indeed coming to Seattle. In fact, it was her final stop on the tour. And it was THAT DAY.

"Drat," James said. It was already 3pm, so he automatically figured we couldn't go, beings as how we hadn't planned for it and James is all about pre-planning.

"I'll find out where she's going to be and see if we can make it," I mumbled noncommittally as I continued chatting with Jeana.

James paced back and forth in front of my computer and finally asked, "Did you find out?"

I said I was still looking, and reminded him that I was also chatting with Jeana, which he's supposed to treat like a phone call.

James clapped both hands to the sides of his head and said emphatically, "MOM. This is IMPORTANT. You can chat with Mrs. Linhart ANYTIME. We're on a TIME CRUNCH HERE!!"

The Holy Spirit chose that moment to remind me of His instruction that morning. "Listen to James..."

Oh. Right.

I ended my chat with Jeana and concentrated on my search. It took me a while to find the event because it wasn't listed in any major paper or on Erin Hunter's website. I finally found it in the digital newsletter of a bookstore on Bainbridge Island. It said she was to give a presentation at 6:30pm at the theater on Bainbridge that evening.

Well, we certainly hadn't budgeted for a ferry ride to Bainbridge Island on a random Tuesday evening. I told James she was all the way across the sound and there was really no way we could go see her.

I ain't never seen a more crestfallen look in all my born days.

We had to jump in the Jeep to go pick up Jonathan from school, and as I glanced behind me to make sure James was in and buckled, I saw the tears in his eyes. He hadn't said a word. He was just ridiculously disappointed.

So I called Jeff. "Hey... we just found out that Erin Hunter is having a book signing on Bainbridge Island tonight at 6:30pm... I could use money from the homeschool budget and call it a field trip... What do you think?"

He said I should go for it.

James screeched from the back seat, "WHAT?! We're going to TRY?!?"

I ain't never seen someone vault so fast from the deepest depths to the highest heights in all my born days.

When we arrived at the school, Jonathan was already waiting for us, which never happens, so we were able to get in and out of the parking lot without getting stuck in the sluggish line. When Jonathan got in the Jeep, he took one look at James and said, "What's going on? You're wearing an excited face like we're about to go to Disneyland or something."

"Jon," James asked, "What's your favorite Erin Hunter book?"

Jonathan said, "Uhhh... Darkest Hour, I guess."

James said, "Too bad! That's my favorite, too, and she can only sign ONE!"

Jonathan gasped, "We're going to see Erin HUNTER?!?"

We filled Jonathan in on the details, and as we drove home, we planned what each person would do as soon as we got back to the house. I was to check the ferry schedule, change my clothes, and gather food. James was to finish a collage of all the Warrior cats he just happened to be working on that day, and Jonathan was to find all the Warriors books we own just in case she was willing to sign more than one for each of us.

Talk about motivated children.

We got everything done in about ten minutes and were back on the road by 4pm.

I told Jeff we were headed out, and since he was working in Everett that day, I thought we might be able to drop by wherever he was and pick him up. But he had an emergency service call, so he couldn't make it.

It took us an hour and a half to get to the ferry dock. I'd wanted to try to make the 5:30 ferry, but ha ha. Good joke. We got to the dock at 5:28, just in time to get in line for the 6:20. The book signing was scheduled for 6:30, so I knew we'd miss the presentation, but I figured she'd still be signing books by the time we showed up a little after 7pm.

We took advantage of our wait time to explore the pier a little, which the boys had never seen before. We went into my favorite store, Ye Olde Curiosity Shop. I thought they would really enjoy all the exotic displays and oddities, but it turned out they absolutely hated the place onaccounta all the taxidermied creatures everywhere, which I completely forgot would totally freak them out. Ah, well.

We returned to the Jeep, boarded the ferry, and found seats right up front so we could watch where we were going. We saw what we think was a battleship. The boys went outside to brave the gusty wind, and Jonathan stood at the bow, flung his arms into the wind and bellowed, "I'M THE KING OF THE WORLD!!!!"

My phone was nearly out of juice, so I had a small moment of panic when I realized GPS wouldn't be available to navigate me to the theater once we arrived on the island. "Lord, what should I do?" I prayed silently. He reminded me of the giant kiosk of brochures we'd passed on the way to our seats. I found a cartoon drawing of the downtown area of Bainbridge and mapped my way to the theater, which was all of two turns after leaving the ferry dock. Easy peasy.

When we got there, it took us about ten minutes to find a parking space. Of course. Because of, you know, Erin Hunter being in town.

When we got inside the theater, I saw a woman sitting behind a folding table with a little stack of Erin Hunter's latest release next to her. There was no line at all, save one person she was chatting with. I thought she was Erin Hunter, and I walked right up to her and faltered, "Did we miss the...?"

The woman nodded, "Yes, you missed the presentation, but she's in there autographing books, so you might still get a chance to see her. Go on in," she said, gesturing toward the theater hallway.

"What room is she in?" I asked.

"Theater three."

"Thanks!" called James as we hurried away, hoping we hadn't missed the book signing.

We hadn't.

But we were dead last in line.

A line in which we waited for over an hour. Not unhappily. We counted ourselves fortunate to be last in line because we had brought 16 Erin Hunter books, and we really hoped she would sign them all. We figured that if we were last in line, we'd have a better chance of getting them all signed because our giant stack of books wouldn't delay anyone in line behind us.

James had finished and printed his Warrior cats collage before we left, and he held it very carefully for the entire hour, standing as still as possible so it wouldn't wrinkle.

Jonathan busied himself by pacing up and down rows of theater seats, sitting on the chairs while they were folded closed, sliding his book down the banister, swinging his coat around, and talking about dodecahedrons.

When we finally got to the front of the line, the first thing James did was hand Erin Hunter his collage. A gift to her.

She seemed genuinely impressed. She told him, in her British accent, that it was brilliant, and she studied it for quite a while, noticing details about it that only James and Erin Hunter would notice. James later said, "Brilliant is the highest compliment a British person can give."

Then she signed James's favorite book, The Darkest Hour.

After that, we were able to set our entire stack on the table, and she signed them all. She even inscribed one to me.

When I got home and looked at Erin Hunter's tour blog, I discovered that she mentioned a lot of kids on the tour by name and gave them "purrs" for various things they could do at book signings. There were Awesome T-Shirt Purrs, Terrific Twins Purrs, Amazing Artwork Purrs, etc.

As she signed our stack of books, James gestured to the collage he'd given her and asked, "Do you think I'll get an Artwork Purr for that?"

She said, "You will most definitely get an Amazing Artwork Purr, and a Stack Purr, too."

We'd been all concerned that she wouldn't sign all our books, and here she was giving out acknowledgments to people who brought the most books to sign.

Jonathan's favorite book was the very last one, and he held onto it until he was able to hand it to her himself. When he stepped up to the table, she said, "Are you the very last person in line?" He nodded. She continued, "Because you're last in line, I will draw you a picture. Would you like a cat or a sheep? I'll tell you that my sheep is slightly better than my cat."

Jonathan made his "duh" face and said, "CAT, of COURSE."

So she drew him a little cat.

Then she showed it to him and said, "This is why I don't do the covers."

The boys were able to ask her several questions, and they chatted for a few minutes while I put all of our books back in our backpack. Both boys felt like they really bonded with her and were able to have an intelligent conversation about her work.

As we waved goodbye to her and started to walk away, James looked at her very seriously and said, in his best British accent, "May Starclan walk your path."

Erin Hunter grinned hugely. "Awesome," she said.

James turned and walked quickly out of the theater. When he reached the hallway, he cheered as loudly as he could.

We floated down the sidewalk back to our car and drove back to the ferry dock, just in time for the 8:55 ferry.

James said, "I wonder if Erin Hunter will be on the ferry ride with us."

I didn't think we'd see her even if she was on the same ferry because I knew she was exhausted, and I thought she'd probably just stay in her car.

We didn't stay in our car, of course. We went back to our favorite seats, right in front, and sat down to watch the lights of Seattle sail toward us.

Just as we settled in, low and behold, James's face suddenly lit up like a house afire, eyes big as saucers, mouth shut tight trying to hide a huge grin, dimples breaking through anyway.

I turned in the direction he was staring.

There she was.

James waved at her.

She waved back.

And then she walked toward us and sat down RIGHT IN OUR ROW.

The boys were completely beside themselves.

I wouldn't let them go talk to her because she looked so exhausted. I knew I'd made the right decision when she immediately put her head back against her seat and closed her eyes.

James repeated to himself, "She's just a normal ferry passenger. She's just a normal ferry passenger..."

I told the boys that if she initiated conversation with them, they were welcome to respond, but my guess was that she was probably going to sleep the whole time. She only rested her eyes for about ten minutes, and she spent the rest of the ride chatting with her traveling companion.

Meanwhile, we sat two seats away from her, whispering about her the entire time.

Finally, I took the boys out on the deck to lean into the wind and see the city lights.

Their movements were extra large and exuberant.

Knowing she could see them through the window.

When we got close to the dock, I asked James to run to the Jeep and get my camera so I could take some pictures of the skyline. Around the same time, Erin Hunter went back to her car. That was the last we saw of her.

The skyline was totally amazing, and I got a couple of great shots.

On our drive home, the boys both chatted for a few minutes, and then they both got really quiet, and then they both announced that they were going to sleep. So I sang old hymns all the way home.

When we walked in the door at 10:20pm, we discovered that Jeff was still out on his emergency service call! We went all the way across the sound and back, and we still beat him home!

This little detail was an extra special bonus from God because one of Jeff's heartaches about his new job is that when he has emergency service calls, he has to be away from his family in the evenings. He was so thankful we were able to spend our evening away from him by going on such a grand adventure.

Our favorite part, however, was the compliment Erin Hunter inscribed to James. A talented graphic artist. She had no idea how much that would mean to him. But God knew. And He worked out every detail, just like He always does. Right down to giving me a specific instruction first thing in the morning.

Listen to James.

Thank you, Abba.