I arrived at the Mandell JCC at 5pm with my husband. We brought all my books, posters, artifacts, etc. upstairs to the room where the launch was to take place in two hours. The room was hot. There were a lot of chairs. And I was nervous.
We met Kathy, the coordinator for Voices of Hope, and we all started scurrying around the room — there were tablecloths to set out, all my mother’s Holocaust artifacts to lay out safely, posters to display, and the computer with the PowerPoint to connect to the projector. Gregory, the JCC facilities magician, was calm and wonderful. He connected the computer, did the sound check, turned the air conditioning on, and straightened the long rows of chairs. His ability to help get the room in order definitely helped my nerves calm a bit. We even chatted about his coming to Hartford from Jamaica four years ago and how much he loves living in Connecticut.
Dave and I set up side tables with all my displays and then we waited. I tried to keep my anxiety at bay, but as it kept popping up I decided to run through my notes one more time. And then people started to show up. A good friend of my mother. A counselor from summer camp when I was ten. A babysitter from when I was eight. The parents of high school classmates. Former neighbors. My parents’ current neighbors. A high school English teacher. College classmates. My brothers and their families. People started buying books and asking me to sign them. And then it was time to start.
My brother introduced Voices of Hope and its mission. My mother gave a brief overview of her history. Then it was my turn. It was thrilling to stand in front of all those people. When I started talking the anxiety floated away. I told the stories of how Tutti’s Promise grew from a mere idea to a real book and how I met so many people along the way. I could have told the stories all night, because they are my stories. This was the adventure I had been living for five years and I hoped my excitement was contagious. When I was done speaking people lined up to buy more books and have my mother and I both sign them.
A few teachers in the audience asked me when I could come to their schools. I have already booked one. The evening was such a vote of confidence! Thank you everyone for your support.