My birthday comes and goes with celebrations each day of the week. Whereas I do not generally discuss my age, I am grateful for it and for the folks who celebrate with me. I line my birthday cards up on the piano just as my grandmother used to do. Her birthday was also in July and so the race was on to see how many cards we each received. She, of course, always won, proudly displaying her cards for weeks. I wonder if she would love Facebook? I think a great deal!

The weather turned it’s face to the North on the day of my birthday which assured me of a beautiful campfire for the evening. Friends gathered to just sit by the embers watching the stars appear and Jupiter rule the night skies. My piper friend, Mark Gropp, paid me a birthday visit in his full Scottish regalia and came piping down the driveway. My friends and I were treated to the loveliest of Scottish tunes around the campfire. When he finished Tom Adamson brought out the guitar and we sang Wood Guthrie songs until the midnight hour. With the fire dying and friends leaving, Kathy and I sat out past midnight until my birthday was over. I am mostly grateful to her for making this week spectacular. In the wee hours of the morning, she rode her bike home, I closed the garden gate and went inside to count my birthday cards.

Not much time in dawdling with a flight ticket to California in my hands. It was months ago I had applied for the Fringe as part of the National Storytelling Network Summit, and I was in! Packing was a huge process as, not only did I take regular clothes for the Summit, but my ukulele for midnight sing-a-longs.

Watered my plants, said farewell to the old purple house, drove around Miss Columbia for luck and headed out. The day was long with flights and delays. My seat partners and I had conversations that could have been held in the old curiosity shops …very interesting and maybe not believable (on their part, certainly not on mine!). As I sat in the Dallas airport, I found myself wondering about all the stories of the folks whizzing by me. I had a book, of course, but people watching was much more fun.

By 1 a.m. I found myself hauling my worldly goods around San Francisco and into the back of an Uber. My driver was a young man from Brazil. He pointed out the sights as we drove around San Francisco. He told me he loves Uber driving at night because of less traffic. It was great to have my own personal tour guide even if it was in the middle of the night!

Arriving to the Summit, I crashed without unpacking. The day was long. The bed was gorgeously soft, and I was out. By morning I was out and about meeting and greeting storytellers from around the world … U.S., Thailand, Australia, Ireland.

Tonight “Mary Shelley goes to California.” Is that like “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington?” I have planned and rehearsed so I am ready. My hotel closet holds all the necessary tools to bring Mary Shelley to life: dress, boots, journal, shawl, Percy Shelley’s heart (can’t go anywhere without his heart!), but the story remains with me. There are a few folks here who saw the show in Indianapolis. The first thing they ask is if I brought Jacob with me! No, this time Jacob stays in Angola and I go solo, but I will miss his presence and his voice between the segways. As it is, I had to change the show to keep it all in Mary’s voice.

As with all fringe shows, I hawk my cards which, were printed at Printing Place. Thank you, Caroleann. And this time thanks to my California guru agent, I am wearing custom made T-shirts that say, “Who is Mary Shelley?” and “I am Mary Shelley.” Special thanks to Angola Sports Center for these glittery T-shirts. In a way I am a walking billboard for my show. (Why didn’t I think of this before?)

As always, when I travel with my work I feel I have you with me … in my pocket and on the stage. And, as I have told you before, I will be nervous. I will sit in the shaft of light waiting for my cue and then “six steps and a door” and I am Mary Shelley.

Lou Ann Homan-Saylor lives in Angola at the White Picket Gardens where you can find her gardening or writing late into the night under the light of her frayed scarlet lamp. She is a storyteller, teacher, writer, actress and a collector of front porch stories. She can be contacted at locketoftime@aol.com.

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