This is Gloria. I first met her twenty years ago. I’d written a book and it had been published. I was at one of my very first group book signings. The event had been arranged by the head librarian at the Velma Teague Library in Glendale Arizona. Her name was Shelley Mosley. Shelley is a writer. A librarian. Mostly she’s a lover of people and books. And she could sure throw a party. I felt like royalty a I sat there among some of the romance industry’s greats. USA Today and New York Times bestsellers. We signed books right outside the library. We had our own door into a private room where we kept our things. And where Shelly had laid out a catered spread of lunch foods. And there I was. A brand new author. With one book to sign. I didn’t figure I’d sell many books. I didn’t think anyone would know me. I wasn’t one of the greats. But a small woman with a big smile came right up to me. She’d read my book already. She was happy to be able to meet me. She was the first person who had ever approached me simply because of my writing. She didn’t know me at all. We’d never met. My writing connected us.
I have felt connected to Gloria ever since. That signing in Glendale has changed over the years. Shelley Mosley retired. The library no longer hosts the group of authors. But he city of Glendale still welcomes us as part of it’s annual Chocolate Affair. I still attend every year.
This year I sat among great authors. Bestsellers. And now I am a bestseller. A USA Today Bestseller. I don’t just have one book to my credit anymore. I sat there with seventy-three titles to my name. I was happy to be there. I watched. And I waited. Would Gloria make it?
Every year since that first signing, every year for twenty years, Gloria has walked from her apartment in downtown Glendale, to the Chocolate Affair to buy romance novels. Every time she comes, she asks for me. And if I’m not there, she comes back when I will be there. Last year she’d been in the hospital for almost a month. Had gotten out not long before the Chocolate Affair, and that morning she got up, got dressed in one of her colorful outfits, did her hair and walked up to see me. She told me about her hospital stay. And she grinned as she had me sign books.
This year it was cold. Drizzling on and off. I didn’t really expect to see Gloria, but I thought about her. As I always do. And then…there she was. By herself as always. With her hair done and her pretty clothes and that smile on her face. She uses a walker, but keeps pace with the crowd. And she comes up to me and smiles. I’m ninety now, she tells me. She has me sign books. And she tells me she hopes she’ll see me next year.
I don’t know Gloria’s last name. I don’t know what family she does or does not have. I don’t know what she did, who she was. I know what she is. A very special spirit who is an angel in my life. She is my talisman. My reminder that my purpose is to write because my writing goes out into the world and touches people. My reminder that every single one of us have something to offer. That we all are equally important and our jobs our equally important. Gloria might have been a senator. Or a janitor. She might be the mother of a president or might never have had children at all. And she is one of the greats. She taught me to get up every day and walk to the table. And that smiles are worth more than just about anything.
Thank you, Gloria. I hope my stories give you a small bit of what you’ve given to me over the years. You are here with me forever.