On May 6, 2011, my friend Diane Chamberlain posted the following on her blog:
“A couple of weeks ago, I received an email from Oliver in England. He wanted to surprise his girlfriend, Sam, with a signed book from me and asked if he could buy one from me. I can’t sell my own books (nor do I have many author’s copies), but I was so touched by his request that I agreed to send him one. I sent The Midwife’s Confession since I was certain she wouldn’t have that one–it won’t be released in the United Kingdom until mid June.”
Diane even posted a video that Oliver sent her of his girlfriend opening Diane’s present. I don’t know about you, but I can’t watch that video without tearing up. (http://dianechamberlain.com/blog/page/5/)
Fast forward to August. I had received an email from my local bookstore in which a young man wanted me to meet him and his wife somewhere for a cup of coffee or something. "It’s our first anniversary and she's a huge fan of Margaret Maron."
Yeah, right. I’m as sentimental as the next person, but I was on deadline. I'm supposed to get dressed and drive into Raleigh for a cup of coffee so he can look good? I told the store to turn him down gently and suggest that he bring her to my November signing.
Two days later, I got a snail mail letter from him. "She loves your books, she's read almost everything she can find of yours, so please, if there's any way . . ."
I called his cell phone: "Is this R?"
"Do you like Italian food?"
"Uh . . . yes."
"You want to buy me a pizza?" I asked, and then told him who I was.
His yelp of surprise was so loud I almost dropped the phone.
We agreed to meet at an Italian restaurant only five miles from my house. I got there first and when they walked in, the young wife had a very apprehensive and puzzled look on her face. He had told her they were driving out to the country to have lunch with someone who wanted to celebrate with them, but who was this stranger?
When I stood to wish her a happy anniversary and introduced myself, she burst into tears.
First Anniversary is paper and he had scoured the country for a copy of Bloody Kin. "I finally found a paperback in Iowa and they said they could overnight it, but it'd cost about a hundred and fifty." He lucked into one at a local public library. They had an extra backup copy and were willing to let him have it for a donation to the library.
They exchanged their presents at the table. He gave her the paperback copy -- "I told you it was just an accessory to your main present."
She broke into tears again. "I was so sure I was giving you the best one, but you've set the bar too high."
Actually, her paper gift to him was very imaginative, a recreated photograph of the night sky over Raleigh the night they were married—the quarter moon, Orion low in the sky, all the visible constellations for that date. Their story is a sweet one: they met and dated in high school, then went separate ways, married others, had kids; then reconnected after their divorces. They are so dear together, and I have a feeling that they'll be celebrating their golden anniversary one of these days.
I've never been anyone's present before and it still makes me smile to think of it.