So, I’m hanging at my parents’ house in Boston this week, sleeping in my childhood room, sitting on the radiator in the dining room to do work and basically transforming into high school me minus the weird crushes and all-bagel diet.
I am one of those people whose rooms are still more or less how they left them. My kitchen apron from summer 2000 at Chimney Corners Camp (Yippie Ai Aides forever!) is still hung over the door. A photo collage of the Newton North gymnastics team is still on the wall. There are framed pictures of friends I haven’t seen in a very long time and a somewhat creepy double exposure photo of 16-year-old me taken by my then-boyfriend (who did not, as it turns out, become a professional photographer).
And on the bookshelf next to the bed, I just discovered a true masterpiece: I Can’t be Late!! By: Sarah Feldberg.
Yes, I am a published author. Excuse me while I update my LinkedIn profile.
This hardcover, fully bound book was the culmination of some school project from 1996 or thereabouts. It has a plain blue cover with the title and author printed in gold on the spine (although now that I look closely, they forgot the second exclamation point, whatever). It actually looks pretty fancy before you open it and realize that I decorated most of the pages using a glue stick and cutouts from Seventeen magazine. I vaguely remember taking the book incredibly seriously, and by that I mean collaging and decorating the pages of a story clearly typed and mostly written by some very accommodating adults.
The story is about an exceedingly stressed out bride named Marie Ann who’s obsessed with not being late for her own wedding. She is also under the mistaken impression that you can call your florist and make day-of changes and that purple eyeshadow is perfectly acceptable. But let’s cut her some slack. I was 12 and it was the ’90s.
Unfortunately, grown-up me has some bad news for successful children’s book author me. As anyone who knows me is well aware, I am always late. Perhaps in my preteen wisdom I was trying to fend off this eventual reality, but immortalizing a preference for punctuality in book form did not, in fact, prevent me from being one of those people who is five to 10 minutes late for everything. I, quite literally, can be late.
The other darling little oddity of this fabulous work of fiction comes on Page 8, when Marie Ann starts having some unexpected car trouble on the way to the hairdresser:
“The blue Honda stopped humming and with a click the engine died. Tense again Marie Ann tried to restart her car. People began honking and feeling helpless and frantic Marie Ann grabbed the dress and ran… and ran….. and ran.”
(My love of literature did not extend to commas, apparently.)
So, here’s the thing. Four or five years after I wrote about Marie Ann abandoning her dead car by the roadside, I actually did that. Only I had just hit a small tree in my dad’s Subaru Forester, and I was late for a date to go see a play in downtown Boston. To be fair, I did leave my father a voicemail letting him know that I’d had an altercation with some flora and that his vehicle would probably need to be towed. He was not overly pleased.
In the end, Marie Ann hops a city bus, bonds with the other passengers and invites them all to join in her nuptials. She makes it to the church on time, and, once happily married, takes the bus everyday.
I guess it’s really an homage to the magic of public transportation thinly veiled in a tale of bridal freakout. Prepubescent me was so wise.