Friday, May 17, 2013

Driving John Rocco

Last week my children's former school, St. Anne Catholic in Bristol, VA, hosted John Rocco as their annual author.  St. Anne's hosts an author every year, which I think is absolutely a fabulous thing to do.  Kids get inspired to read and think about books when they meet at author; if the author's any good at presenting, they also learn a ton.

John Rocco was fantastic.  He's the same age as me, but came to writing through a circuitous route that involved, among other things, helping design rides at Walt Disney World and being an art director for the movie Shrek.  He won a Caldecott Honor last year for his book Blackout.  John was great at capturing the students' interest and taught them a surprising amount about how he uses colors to help carry emotion in his  stories.

I always help out for the author visit, in part because I'm such a nice person and in part because, living in the hinterlands as I do, it's a real treat for me to talk to another person in my field.  So on the second day of John Rocco's visit I volunteered to pick him up at the hotel, get him breakfast, and take him to the school.

You know how you become so totally used to something in your life, and then all of a sudden you can see it from an outsider's point-of-view?  Yeah.  That was my minivan when I was driving John Rocco.  I really am not bothered by my semi-derelict ten-year-old car.  I don't care much about cars.  The thing goes forward when I step on the accelerator, stops when I step on the gas, and doesn't leak when it rains; that about covers my needs.

But when John Rocco--who is completely friendly and very polite, and whom I did not suspect of making snap judgements about people based on the amount of grit in their cars--lest you think the problem was with him and not me--opened the door, I suddenly saw the hay, rubber orthodontics band, and used ballpoint pen sitting on the passenger's seat.  I swept those off, then reached down to move the 200-page manuscript out of the way of John Rocco's feet.  I opened the side door so he could put his bags in, implored him to move the tennis rackets out of the way, not to bother about those horse supplements, and, oh, right, those books can just be shoved farther in the back.  I couldn't put his bag in the very back because that space was filled with a lawn chair, several dirty saddle pads, and two trumpets in their cases.

Meanwhile the driver's side mirror sat on the little platform between the two front seats.  The space under the platform was home to a dressage girth, a broken piece of a bridle, a crushed box of Kleenexes, and the foreign language CDs I listen to when I'm trying to improve my mind.  And six pens.  And a novel or two.  Probably overdue from the library.

I hadn't dusted my dashboard in, oh, forever.  My daughter and her teammates had peeled off their name tags from quiz rally three months ago and plastered them onto the seats.  The cupholders held two hair bands, two bottles of eye drop samples, the keys to the tack room of the green barn, a pretty rock, and a handful of golf tees.  Also a granola bar.  Also my coffee cup, the one with the extremely vulgar statement about writing on it.  But that at least John Rocco understood.

So we drove off to breakfast and then to school.  And, on Mother's Day, my husband and children cleaned out my car.  Now I'm all set for next year's author.