“This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad on it.” (Psalm 118:24)
About a week ago I received an e-mail from the Free Library of Philadelphia, which is a stone’s throw from our apartment, and where we spend a lot of time listening to wonderful authors. The flash announced that Hilary Clinton would be at the Library signing her new book, Hard Choices, on Friday, June 13th.
When the e-mail came across my screen we were biking and hiking in Yosemite (which is another WOW for another day), and internet access was spotty. Besides, we had planned to be at the Jersey shore
for the day, on the 13th after we returned. But things change as they do. Our granddaughter, Sage’s Gymnastics Showcase the day before became good enough reason to stay home in Philadelphia. So I went on line to secure a ticket for the Hilary event. SOLD OUT. Small wonder. She’s been The First Lady, a Senator, Secretary of State, and if she makes a hard choice to run for the presidency again, which seems likely, she will become the first woman president of the US. We are not buddies by any means, but I have been in her company on a few occasions and have had mini chats with her while pictures of the two of us that she later signed recorded the connection.
It seemed like a great opportunity to support the Library event and have a chance to say hello, not that she would remember me even if I might remind her of our meetings. No real expectations there.
I walked over to the library on Tuesday morning and asked if there might be anyone turning in their tickets so I might attend the SOLD OUT event. The staff at the library practically laughed in my face. The Hilary Happening was to be a BIG, no COLOSSAL event for them and they were all working tirelessly to make it a COLOSSAL success. I told them I’d check back with them again the next day because, you never know…something could shift… Their eyes looked downward.
On Wednesday morning on the way back from my daily power walk I stopped at the library again in my sweaty exercise clothes. I asked forlornly if anyone had turned in their ticket, and the staff shook their heads apologetically. Sometimes if there’s a sold out event at the library, a generous soul might randomly distribute a ticket. It’s happened before and I’ve done it myself. But hope was not exactly peaking out over the horizon. If you didn’t have a book in advance, which was the price of admission, chances of being present at The Hilary Happening were dismal.
By happenstance, a woman with an e-ticket was buying two of Hilary’s books at the table next to me in preparation for The Hilary Happening, one for herself and one for a colleague. “Listen,” she said to me gratuitously, overhearing my feeble attempts to partake in The Happening. “I’m a lawyer and if either I or my colleague can’t make it on Friday morning, I’ll give you a call…” WOW! “How nice of you to be so generous,” I responded and I gave a woman whom I’d never met before my cell phone number and e-mail address.
In my mind I thought who would pass up the opportunity to see Hilary Clinton when they had already gone out of their way to buy tickets and come in advance for the books? Prospects fading. OK. You can’t dance at every wedding, the Yiddish proverb tells us, though I try my darndest. Admitting defeat, I decided that Friday would become an editing day for my own book that I’m working to produce. Time well-spent. I also had to write a speech for a family Bat-Mitzvah slated for Shabbat morning. All good. I reasoned, Hard Choices is such a large book anyway, 635 pages to be exact. I’d order it to read on my iPad. By necessity, I was over missing The Hilary Happening.
At 6:42 on Friday morning I saw an e-mail from Nancy Ezold. It read, “Rabbi Targan, we met in the book line at the Library. My colleague cannot make the Clinton event today so if you would still like her book you may have it.”
Well if that wasn’t Divine Providence!
“Yes, I’ll meet you there,” I replied immediately, dashing to change out of my walking clothes having just returned from Maxx’s on 20th below Locust, where I buy the most delicious Rollin’s challahs for Shabbat every Friday morning when we’re in town. What would I do quickly with my hair on this really awful hair day? Where could I find a decent scrunchie post haste to tame the frizzy mess before facing Hilary, the self-effacing Scrunchie Goddess?
Before long Nancy and I met on line, a line that extended around the corner and up the block, and there we waited to have Hilary sign our books at The Hilary Happening. For two hours we stood under the shade of a tree dripping with the early morning rain’s residue with my friend BJ who I found serendipitously on line further back trying to call me for a catch-up conversation. You can learn a lot about people in two hours, but what I learned I already knew. On a day when the news about Iraq and Syria and international terrorist organizations, and domestic gun violence seemed particularly daunting, my faith in goodness was fortified by a really terrific person—Nancy, who didn’t have to call me but she did–who kept her word when she said she would–who was nice and kind and thoughtful and made standing in line in the humidity with my friend BJ, another terrific person, a genuine pleasure.
Eventually, Hilary signed my book, one word exclusively, “Hilary.” How many of us are celebrated enough to be recognized by our first names only—Cher, Beyonce, Madonna, Gwyneth, Shakira, Hilary? She shook my hand, and engaged me with her clear blue eyes and charming smile in a brief exchange as she did with the hundreds (thousands?) of people waiting to catch a glimpse of her at The Hilary Happening. For about 10 seconds I had a slight aphasia, which is what occurred when her husband, the President, came to speak at our synagogue years back. A rabbi with nothing to say is an oxymoron. To wait two hours in the heat and clam up in a small air-conditioned room where the gracious guest of honor, a potential US President was willing to trade a few lovely words was pretty ridiculous.
Hmmm…Then I mumbled something about blessing her with discernment to make good choices for all of the “hard choices” ahead of her. And I told her that I hoped she would enjoy the incomparable blessings of grandmotherhood, which I consider to be on the upper echelon of God’s stellar gifts. Hilary’s smile widened broadly under the apple cheekbones in anticipatory delight.
It was already a WOW of a day and Shabbat wasn’t even arriving for six more hours…