Last night when the phone rang and I saw that it was my mother calling, I knew what she wanted before I even picked it up. I had seen the news and knew what was on her mind. Immediately after I said hello, she told me to tell her the time I went to lunch with Ann and Molly.
Some people can go through their whole lives and not meet anyone famous or see something significant. For some reason my life sometimes seems like Forrest Gump. Yes, I work in an industry where I see celebrities and such, but those are not the people or the moments to which I am referring. I grew up middle class so important moments and people were not a part of the scenery of my life, but for some strange reason they just occur. The only time I actually tried to pay for the privilege of meeting someone was when I met Muhammad Ali at a Parkinson’s disease dinner. I paid a ridiculous sum of money to get my photo taken with him and then the photo did not develop properly. I met him, but there is no record of it and I think someone was trying to tell me something. I think a great deal of my run ins with people are as a result of all the traveling I do and have done. The long blind item I am working on is a result of some of those trips.
This however is a story that is not blind and would never want it to be blind. It happened a couple of years after law school. I was flying from LA to Austin and as I approached my gate there was a woman in a lovely pink Chanel suit with hair in a beehive 2 feet high. It was Ann Richards, the former Governor of Texas and one of my heroes. At the time we met, she was actually still the Governor, but was traveling alone.
It turns out we were not only on the same flight, but also sitting next to each other for the entire flight. As soon as I sat down, she said “tell me about yourself darling.” She put me at ease and talked to me about this and that for the four hour flight. She was charming and funny and laughed really loud. At some point during the flight, she told me that if I wanted I could take her to lunch when we landed and she would even bring a friend. Not even thinking of saying no, I agreed. When we landed in Austin, the people in the airport treated her like the Queen and yet she just would keep talking to me and at the same time carry on conversations with everyone who came up to have a few words with her. It was amazing how many people she knew by name and how pleased they all were that she remembered them.
We went to this great Mexican restaurant and her friend was already waiting. Her friend was Molly Ivins. At that time Molly was really starting to make a name for herself nationally. It was about two years after her book Molly Ivins Can’t Say That, Can She? which was a national bestseller. I loved that book and had been reading her columns in Texas newspapers and magazines throughout my time in Texas. I was enthralled. It would have been wonderful to meet either of these women separately, but to meet both of them the same day and to be with them during a lunch was something I will always treasure. Over the next two hours I heard cussing, laughing, screaming, and some of the best stories about people and situations I have ever heard. Each was a natural storyteller and they knew everyone and where every skeleton was hid. I did not know half the people they were referring to, but it did not matter. As other customers would make their way to the table, the story they were in the process of sharing would inevitably end up including either the customer or someone the customer had mentioned. It was amazing. To make things even better, they were incredibly warm and caring people to me, a person they had just met. They asked me about my Texas experiences and life and I shared with them some stories and how I grew up and how my mom had a similar life. Molly actually knew of my mother, but did not know her. She had very flattering things to say about my mother, and I confessed that Molly Ivins was at the very top of my mother’s list of great people as well.
At the end of lunch, Molly asked for my mother’s address and phone number as well as mine. I did not think much of it at the time. For the remainder of her life, when Molly published a new book or at Christmas time or if she had run into me somewhere, she would handwrite my mother a letter just to keep in touch and to ask a question or two for which she was looking for an answer to some problem that my mother could solve.
I was always amazed that she could find the time no matter her schedule, or her illness to keep in touch with those that were close to her and those like my mother she knew primarily through correspondence. I saw Molly on the average of once a year at some function or other. She would always find time for me, and she expected me to have time for her as well. Believe me, that was not a chore. When I would see her on television or read something funny she wrote, I would always try and write it down so I could bring out my list when I saw her and let her know I was thinking of her. The last time I saw Molly was in late 2005 after her breast cancer came back. She was not worried and she said she had plenty left to say and was not going anywhere until she had said it all. In early 2006 it looked as if she had beat the cancer and I sent her an e-mail saying she had been right again.
This past Christmas she sent my mother a letter and did not mention that her cancer was back again. It was not until a few weeks later that we heard that news. When we learned she was fighting cancer again, we both sent her e-mails, but there was no reply. I know she had a chance to read them and I hope they made her smile.
My mother met Molly a few times, but the only time they were going to meet for lunch, something came up as is often the case. They thought they would have the chance again soon, but never did. My mom never got that lunch with Molly so last night I was happy to tell her about the time I did.