Monday, July 10, 2017

Author Guest Post - The History of Hilary Hambrushina - Marnie Lamb

Marnie Lamb

The History of Hilary Hambrushina 

One of the main themes of my upcoming young adult novel, The History of Hilary Hambrushina, is friendship. For many people, profound and mature friendships, some of which become lifelong relationships, begin to develop in the tween and early teenage years. My main character, Hilary, has varying experiences with several friends, including a few occasions on which friends blow her away with unexpected acts of kindness.

Anyone who is a true friend surprises you occasionally with little demonstrations of thoughtfulness and gratitude, such as treating you to lunch even when it’s not your birthday or driving out of her way to see you home safely at the end of an evening out. But every once in a while, someone blindsides you with kindness, doing or saying something that makes you think, “Wow! You like me that much?” I can recall this happening to me on three particular occasions.

The first occurred during graduate school. One week, I led the seminar discussion in my Canadian women poets course, and it went fine. Being hard on myself as always, I wasn’t satisfied with “fine” and felt that I’d failed to live up to the expectations I’d set for myself after weeks of careful preparation for the discussion. I groused about this to a friend in my residence. This friend was not in the course, but he relayed my unease to another friend who was. She phoned me to say that she’d learned about my worries from our mutual friend and wanted to assure me that I had done an excellent job leading the seminar. I had no idea that my off-hand complaints would so evoke the concern of a friend that she would go out of her way to reassure me. I immediately felt better about myself and my presentation, and I’m happy to say that this friend is still in my life today.

After I’d finished graduate school, I taught ESL abroad, including a five-month stint in Italy. My birthday fell during my time there. I arranged to go out for dinner and then bowling with several of my fellow teachers. After dinner and a few frames, my friends somehow got hold of a microphone and proceeded to sing “Happy Birthday” to me in earshot of the entire clientele of the bowling alley (which included several of my students). To use an expression favoured by my British colleagues, I was gobsmacked. No one had ever sung “Happy Birthday” in public to me. Teaching abroad produces intense yet short-lived connections: my colleagues and I were close in that odd transitory way in which you become connected with people from a similar background who are isolated with you for a short time. A few weeks later, I returned to Canada and didn’t keep in touch with any of the people from that night. But the moment they gave me has remained.

More recently, four of my friends expressed their desire to throw me a book launch party. As someone who works in publishing, I know that splashy launch parties are generally a thing of the past, particularly for small, independent publishers such as mine. I was perfectly content not to have a party and to instead meet friends and colleagues one-on-one or in small groups to hand people their copies of the book—or so I told myself. Yet as soon as I read the email from the chief party organizer, my flushed face and little squeals revealed something I’d not admitted to myself: I did want a party, and somehow these friends knew that before I did. It’s like being prepared to be satisfied with cubic zirconia only to have someone say, “Hey! Here’s a diamond. You’re worth it!” I honestly had no expectations of having any kind of party. So for these friends to demonstrate not only how much they value me but how much I should value myself and my accomplishments was both an exalting and a humbling moment, and I will always be grateful to them for it.

What’s the most gobsmacking act of kindness a friend has done for you?

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