Reflections from a cabin porch, Saturday night
I am at the KoA in Saco, Maine, and it’s past dark on a sultry summer night. My daughter and I are staying in one of the small camping cabins along with nine other Girl Scout families and their kids, daughters mostly, plus two little boys, plus ten moms. I have enjoyed talking to the moms all day, but now, as the air temperature finally begins to cool, I am happy enough just sitting on the front porch of my cabin, rocking gently in a porch swing, reflecting, reading a little, drinking a little wine. The girls themselves – I don’t know how many kids altogether, I’ve heard the number 27 total – there is a throng of girls, my daughter among them, at the cabin next door, so in the fading light, I see their profiles and hear their voices, squealing with joy at nothing in particular.
I think about the year we all had, our crazy Covid year (that seems to be still in progress) and I think about what these kids endured. It was a lot. There was a lot of loneliness, anxiety, fear, pain. There was illness and loss, there was school time that will not be returned, there were friendships that ended, and friendships that deepened. I wonder about the scars these kids bear, and I wonder about the stories they will have to tell later on. I wonder if they will be able to tap into these feelings and remember and use them to tell other stories, ones that have not yet been dreamed up.
A golf cart full of young women, all of them toting wine glasses, pulls up in front of the girls. Music is blaring from the golf cart, and suddenly, this giant throng of girls is calling the shots. They want to hear the Beatles? Beatles it is, and suddenly they are all singing along with Yellow Submarine. Then a string of Taylor Swift songs; it seems like every girl knows every word and hearing them sing at the top of their lungs is a thing of beauty.
Casually, I check Facebook. There’s a post that I almost scroll past, but then I stop. A thing I was worried might happen has happened – Lynne Favreau has died.
I am overcome. On my dark porch, behind a wall of girls and music, I am crying. I met Lynne twice, both times in her home. The first time I met her, late October 2018, I was carrying something that I needed both hands to carry – a tray of lasagna maybe? Something like that – and I walked into her kitchen and introduced myself to a tall silver-haired woman who seemed to be running the show. She said she was Lynne, and I wanted to shake her hand but every surface in the small kitchen was covered with food and there was no place to land my lasagna. She exclaimed “Around here, we don’t shake hands, we hug!” And she pulled me and my lasagna (if that’s what it was!) in tight.
We were gathering in her home that night to celebrate the impending kick-off of NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month. Writers of all kinds make the pledge to start a book on November 1 (I believe the idea is that you start with 0 words in your MS, but you can also work on something in progress) with the goal of writing 50,000 words by midnight on November 30. It’s a funny thing – NaNoWriMo is the great equalizer of writers. Experienced writers start at the same place as first-timers, and we all share the same struggles, the same hopes, the same challenges. The people who take this on are a quirky gang– some do it as a practice every year, some do it less regularly. But either way, the awesome thing is that it is a team sport, and we are all on the same team, and in the end, everyone wins. There’s a lot of love and support; we all gear up and climb the mountain together.
Lynne and her family had been opening up their home to wayward NaNoWriMo participants for years. That month, there would be a kick-off party, a post-NaNo reading potluck (which I also attended) and an all-night writing party where some number of folks would gather at Lynne’s house, eat dinner, write through the night, (napping as needed in whatever corners were available) then take a walk to the river to see the sun rise. Lynne and Paul celebrated every moment of this adventure, and all the wacky kids (kids of all ages) willing to give it a go. Every single person was included, invited, celebrated, respected. It was a beautiful thing.
As the girls sing “Shake it Off,” and the ladies with their wine and their golf cart and their speakers wrap up to continue merry-making in another camp neighborhood, I am thinking about those people in the world who hold our fragile hearts in theirs, even for a moment, and look at us and say “I see you. I hear you. You matter.”
Thank you for being you, Lynne Favreau. Our meeting was brief, but the world was so so lucky to have you.