In all the years I worked in Hollywood, I never once asked for an autograph.
The first time I do?
It’s for the Supreme Court Chief Justice, John Roberts.
Roberts graduated from my high school alma mater and was giving the commencement speech there a few years ago, and my fourth grade son, who had done a Power Point presentation about him, wanted his autograph.
“Mom,” he said.
“Will you get Chief Justice Roberts’ autograph on my presentation when we see him on Saturday?”
“You bet I will!” I blurted, without hesitation.
I couldn’t say no to that and I didn’t want to lose face.
But my body broke out into a cold sweat and my heart began racing.
It was a hard ticket to get, even as an alum.
But I regress when I go back to my high school!
Worse, when I’m nervous, I giggle and say stupid things; things I can never take back.
Things I try to convince myself that I only said in my head.
But when the highest judge in the land finished delivering the commencement speech and I got my one chance, this is what came out:
“Hi, Mo Vear, this is my Llama Mater too.”
I’m pretty sure I said Llama Mater to the highest judge in the land.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
There was the question of how to address him.
I hadn’t thought that through.
Is it Your Honor?
Your Honorable Numero Uno? Chief Chieftan? Chief Justice Honorable Sir?
There wasn’t much time.
I had to decide.
He had just finished speaking and was being escorted outside where a receiving line was forming.
I had to seize the moment, or be seized.
Roberts’ security detail was closing in, getting ready to whisk him away.
One guy looked like a mall cop named “Chuck.”
I think at one point, Chuck was talking into his cufflink – as if I wouldn’t notice. Please, I grew up on Get Smart.
He wasn’t going to stop me from getting the autograph I needed for my son.
Guns of any kind scare me, especially when bullets are involved.
I kept one eye trained on Chuck, as I’m sure he had both of his eyes trained on me and I focused on getting my autograph.
Then I made my move.
After telling the Chief Justice we shared the same Llama Mater, I just kept talking, leaving him to wonder perhaps:
“Did she just say, “Llama Mater,” or have I been sitting the bench too long?”
To make matters worse, I think I followed it up with the wonderful:
“Has anyone ever called you Chief of the Supremes?”
It rolled right off my tongue; like I was merely stating the obvious – which of course, is in the interest of serving justice.
Why didn’t I stop at Llama Mater?
Because I’m an idiot.
I quickly showed him my son’s Power Point presentation and whipped out my “Sharpie” for him to sign it.
But then he did something unexpected.
He started reading it.
Every page – asking me questions about my son.
It was understandable.
It probably appeared as if I produced a black “Sharpie” from thin air, and, I did have a suspicious flower on my hat, which I imagined was squirting him in the face with ink.
But I felt compelled to answer the Chief Justice’s questions – of all people.
He had been so warm and gracious to me too, so I told him the truth, which was:
“My son wants to be president someday and frankly, he thinks your signature might help with that. Ya know, an endorsement.”
“And, I think he wants to impress his teacher at school!”
The Chief Justice smiled and said it was his pleasure to sign my son’s report and that he wishes him the best of luck on his future presidential run, but that I might want to talk him out of it.
I told the Chief Justice, since he is in the business of “fairness,” he might want to talk to my son because my son doesn’t really listen to me.
I thanked him for his time and his words of wisdom and then gave Chuck a knowing nod, as if to say:
“I know that you know that I know that you know you’re watching me watch you.”
At least I didn’t ask the Chief Justice to sign his “John Hancock.”
It was on my mind, but I was able to contain it.
The Things We Do For Our Kids
I’m paraphrasing, but Chief Justice Roberts gave two tips to the graduates that day that I will always remember and that I will now, always remind my kids to remember no matter where they are on their journeys in life:
“When you get to college,” he said, “take the time to say hello or good morning to everyone you pass.”
“You’ll be remembered as the friendly new guy or new girl and that’s not a bad reputation to have, nor is it a bad thing to be.”
“Secondly, give your faith a chance.”
“For the first four weeks, go to church or your corresponding place of faith.”
“At a time when things are changing quickly, how you respond can affect your future indeterminably so have a familiar time and place to reflect.”
Letting Yourself Be Seen
I didn’t know how I was going to get Roberts’ autograph that day, I just knew I had to.
I contemplate good intentions and consider other people’s time, but I don’t always have good timing or perfect words.
I’ve assumed – mostly – that people will forgive and forget my missteps because mostly – I have always felt forgettable.
But loving my kids more than I love myself is the antidote to that.
It forces me to be seen and forget about feeling forgettable – mostly.
I try to trust the process.
So here’s to small steps.
To reaching out with a warm hello and a smile to the people we pass everyday, because that is always a good way to be.
And to making eye contact with them, because in that way we’re practicing letting ourselves be seen too.
And here’s to giving ourselves a familiar time and place everyday, to quietly reflect on how we’ve done and how we can do better tomorrow.
Just do today.
Today is all we have, so make the best of the rest of it – even if you misstep – it’s okay.
It has to be.
Just press on.
Cheers – to loving someone more than you love yourself and to letting yourself be seen.
Photo Credit: Humor Me With Mo