I want to preface this post by acknowledging that a lot of people, a lot of families are struggling and suffering in terms of physical and mental health and finances due to the COVID19 outbreak. This post is in no way meant to be a “woe is me–I couldn’t do the thing I want to do” kind of thing. On the same note, I do believe we can complain and sit in our own self-pity about whatever we want. Our lives are constantly affected in new ways and I do my fair share of complaining these days, especially about the country’s toilet paper situation.
But no complaints here. This post is a “thank you,” a tribute, an acclamation to my wife.
Any fantasy I’ve ever had about releasing a book and throwing myself a party to promote and announce the work (but most importantly, to receive pats on the back and congratulatory nonsense from friends and family because hey, I did this and I’m allowed to be thrilled about it) died on March 13. That was the day the state of Michigan started promoting staying at home, and it was eleven days before my book was set to be released. Should I change the date? I thought about it for a little while but decided I didn’t want to do that. Too much time and energy and late nights and editing and revising and creating had gone into getting it ready for that date. The release was already delayed a few times for technical reasons. I was sticking with March 24 knowing that none of my fantasies about the launch would be realized.
And trust me, I’m a dreamer, so I have fantasies about everything. I imagined all of it: the miraculous sale of millions of copies of my book; #1 spots at the top of best-selling lists; the dreamt-about-too-many-times instant contract with Disney to turn my work into an animated short or feature film; and a friendly invitation to appear for a guest spot on Sesame Street. None of those things were going to happen, you know, because of COVID19 (and only because of COVID19, right?).
But something I never imagined took place instead: I got a surprise book release party with my wife and my kids.
I knew my wife had something in the works when she ordered me to spend an hour or two away from her and the kids and quarantined me in another part of the house (which I have to admit was nice in and of itself since alone time for any of us is rare these days). But I didn’t know exactly what they were up to until the big reveal that night.
What I didn’t know is that something greater than anything I imagined was going to take place.
When I was called to the basement for the big surprise, my kids jumped out of their hiding spot (after I pretended not to see them hiding under a desk, of course). They were wearing purple shirts, the same color Flora wears in my book, Moon Puppets. And they taped yellow cut-out stars to their shirts to make them look even more like Flora. I couldn’t believe it. Not only were they just as enthusiastic as I was, but the fact that they left the paper stars on and didn’t destroy them right away (the younger one lost hers while dancing a little later) and were genuinely excited to wear and show them made me feel better than any contract with Disney could have made me feel. So I felt emotionally richer, obviously not financially richer, okay? Let’s not kid ourselves.
My wife hung banners that she made with the kids to celebrate the release of the book. And she baked chocolate chip cookies to represent the moon and made star-shaped grape Jell-O cutouts.
Then my older daughter presented me with a gift. When I opened the box I found a small pipe cleaner model of Flora herself. I couldn’t believe that she made the fragile little doll. It made me so proud to see that she was inspired by something I created to create her own special thing. The moment captured the true essence of the whole self-publishing process for me: create something positive and put it out there without fear of judgement.
I couldn’t believe the detail to their party, it didn’t matter that no one else was there, that I wasn’t sharing the moment with more people, strangers even. It mattered to my family, to my wife, to make sure I got a book release party for my first book. A party so good, I’m not sure I deserved it.