This past weekend I traveled to Chicago to attend the celebration of the 60th anniversary of the clinic where I worked 30 years ago. The clinic sets the stage for my memoir: Playing Sheriff: A Nurse Practitioner’s Story. The formal function on Friday had 500 in attendance but it was to the intimate and informal Alumni Luncheon on Saturday that I brought a prepared presentation: a short intro and a modified chapter to read during open mike.
I write, as writers do, in isolation. Over the years, my book gradually disconnected from the reality that spurred its inception. At the luncheon, when I stood in front of the room with microphone in hand, I realized this was not a time or place for a formal reading. The tightness in my throat surprised me. Here among the alumni were those who worked with me back 30 years ago at a clinic that defied the establishment by using nurse practitioners and midwives as primary providers and hiring doctors who supported the nurses by ignoring their ultra-egos and espousing the team approach.
I decided last minute to tell the story of the Pigeon Lady. Characters who peopled my book morphed into living, breathing individuals sitting at the tables before me, nodding in agreement about the series of events I described because they were there. At that moment, my book came to life.