The first time I was in the Pearson Airport in Toronto this year, 4000 km from home, I was on a stop-over on a cross-country flight with all my immediate family members. There were seven of us but, suddenly, only six boarding passes. It made for some exciting air-travel fun.
The second time I was in Pearson Airport this year, I was by myself. It was a bit too quiet but at least my passenger to boarding pass ratio was a solid one to one. This time, I was stopping in Toronto, staying for a book event at the venue my publisher calls “the bookstore of our dreams.” Maybe it’s a good thing I didn’t bring along anyone to pinch me.
I booked a room downtown, not realizing until I saw it jutting out of the skyline, that I’d be staying two blocks from the CN Tower. In the hotel lobby, I wondered if I’d be able to see the tower from my tenth floor window. Not so much…
The book event – which was for all five of the 2013 authors of Linda Leith Publishing — was on Bay Street at Ben McNally Books. In every city, long-established, well-known stores are sometimes called landmarks but Ben McNally Books really is picturesque – pillars, carved woodwork, chandeliers, and books, even my book.
In the shop were people I’d been working with for the past year whom I had yet to meet in real life. What puts the “Linda Leith” in Linda Leith Publishing is a real person: a lovely, bold, accomplished writer, teacher, editor, and publisher. She’s a fellow mother of boys, the eldest daughter of a large family, a survivor/beneficiary of her parents’ many relocations during her years at home. It’s no wonder she was the publisher to look at my work and “get it.”
Here’s something I know about myself. I love doing readings. I love audiences and microphones and voice-acting my way through my story for people to hear. The storytelling part of a book event is always my favourite part.
Meeting the other LLP authors was another pleasure. I already knew they were formidable people. They’ve written multiple books, worked in publishing and academia, lived and studied abroad, eschewed car ownership. They’re multi-lingual and speak with cool accents. They don’t get lost traveling on foot in downtown Toronto. And they are very kind to the dippy little sister figure in their midst.
The consensus at the casual dinner after the event was that I should spend the time the next day, before my return flight, visiting the Royal Ontario Museum. It was a long walk to get there – one that kept getting interrupted by women about my size asking for directions I couldn’t give. In a big city, little girls gotta stick together.
Even after the rave reviews, the museum far exceeded my expectations. It was vast and fascinating.
And up on the third floor, in a dim room with stone mortared to the walls, was a mummy taken from Egypt. There he was, as the narrator of my novel would say, “caught in a bad funeral that threatened to go on until the end of the world.” Dry and brown and desecrated with his face, neck, and toes exposed from the bandages — dead people, there’s no one more helpless. Take that zombie garbage and grind it into compassion.
The book I wrote – it’s small and it’s only paper, but it’s a museum for the dead too, complete with all the ambivalence pent up in the display cases.
“I’m sorry,” I told the dead man from my side of the glass tomb.
Sorry but standing there anyway, seeing, knowing I would go away and tell. This mummy and I – we were in my book together, part of the original art that brought me here, and made me this.
The circle closed. It was time to go home.