I didn't want to drive Tom's car to work Friday. My free trial period for XM Radio was on the eve of termination and I wanted to listen every minute I could until it was gone. At $12 a month, I didn't care about it enough to subscribe, but I wanted all the 'free' I could get.
But Tom needed to change the oil in my car and we were heading to Houston as soon as I got home. 'Nuff said. I climbed into his car, resigned to the situation, and turned up the radio. What a surprise to hear a familiar voice on the radio...a distinctive Texas twang talking about sunsets on Lake Travis and a black bird. It was a writer friend, Frances Nail, reading one of her essays on National Public Radio.
Frances had been on my mind lately - I hadn't heard from her in a while and wondered how she was doing...if she was still writing. She's around my dad's age and one of my inspirations - she didn't start writing until her sixties, but when she started - whoa!- she churned out essays and memoirs at a rate that made me green with envy! It seemed every week I saw her name in the Houston Chronicle's Texas magazine's State Lines column. She would have three published before I could even finish one!
We met because of one of those first essays she wrote almost twenty years ago...she quoted a few lines from one of my favorite poems, "Little Boy Blue" by Eugene Fields. She had 'lost' the rest of the poem (the essay was about things she had lost.)
Right away, I typed out the entire poem and sent it to the editor, Ken Hammonds, asking him to forward it to Frances. Soon, she wrote me herself from her home in Lakeway, thanking me. Not long after that, we moved to the other side of the lake. She had published her first book, Crow in the House, Wolf at the Door, a collection of her essays and memoirs, and invited us to the book-signing in an old house downtown. That was our first face-to-face meeting.
When her second book was published, we had our second face-to-face meeting. I sat in the audience of a panel at the Texas Book Festival she was in with Liz Carpenter and Leon Hale, both college friends of hers and successful writers. Afterwards, I said hi to her and she introduced me to Leon Hale, a dream come true for me - I had been reading his column in the Houston Chronicle for as long as I had been able to read.
We emailed a little after that, but it's been a while since I'd heard from her. I'm not sure what made me think of her recently, but hearing her voice on the radio was like an answer to a prayer. If I had driven my car, if I had left a little bit later, I would have missed it. I just love "coincidences" like that.