Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Real-Life Heroes

Heroes--Hercules, Michael Jordan, Thomas Edison, Malala Yousafzai.

Very few times in life do you have the opportunity to meet one of your heroes.

Micah loves to read. He reads for hours, feverishly devouring multiple books a week. His favorites are fantasy--trips to other worlds with mystical creatures, unbelievable odds, and superhuman powers. He has an adventurer's heart, growing up in adventureless suburban Mesa, Arizona. Recently, his focus has been the Five Kingdoms series by Brandon Mull, a story that begins with an ordinary boy growing up in . . . Mesa, Arizona. Pretty cool, right?

When I found out that Brandon Mull would be signing books at our Barnes and Noble to celebrate the release of the second book in the series, I knew Micah needed to be there. It just so happened that it was an extremely busy Wednesday night, but I thought we should be able to squeeze it in between Hyrum's piano lesson and Lily's Young Women's activity that night. We own most of Mull's books (maybe even all of them, including both of his Pingo picture books--love them), but Micah only brought the two from the current series for Brandon to sign.
We got to the bookstore about five minutes before the signing was scheduled to begin, and I was a little surprised to see all of the cars in the parking lot. The store was packed with families, their arms stacked high with multiple copies of Brandon's books, waiting not so patiently for the author to appear. We walked to the service desk where an employee explained how the signing would work. Brandon would come out and talk for a little while, then fans would line up according to their assigned group. She handed me a yellow ticket that had a depressing letter D in the center and moved on to the next customer.

I tried to hide my own disappointment as I explained to him that this yellow paper probably meant that we would be unable to get his book signed before I had to leave for Lily's meeting. Right at that moment, a wave of chatter began as Brandon Mull--in the flesh!--approached the signing table. Micah didn't have time to be disappointed.

We were so far back in the crowd that Micah's height-challenged self couldn't see. He kept vying for a better spot, but we were just too far back. One kind lady and her teenage daughter next to me moved out of the way and pointed in front of them. "You can stand there to see better." As Micah moved to the indicated spot, I thanked the stranger. "This may be as close as he gets to Brandon. We have to leave very soon, and with so many questions, I don't think they will get to the D passes." Without even thinking, the daughter said, "You can trade us passes. We have an A." Mom added, "I don't think we need to trade. Just be our best friends for the night, and you can go to the front with us." I didn't know what to say, I was so surprised. "Thank you so much. That will mean a lot to him."

Brandon Mull gets kids. He fielded as many questions as he could (including one from Micah, who asked if Patton would be brought back in the Fablehaven sequel. To Micah's delight, the answer was yes--Patton had been named after Brandon's grandfather and is one of his favorite characters.), even though it took over 30 minutes. I loved how he explained to the kids what it takes to be a published author--how hard it is to get your first book published, how hard it is to work 8-10 hours every day on the computer, and how hard it is to be by yourself a lot so that the stories can come out of your brain. Micah listened closely, and I could see the cogs moving in his brain--"Do I have what it takes to be an author? Hmmmmm......."

By the time he passed the mic off, we had less than ten minutes before we had to leave. Even with our new-found friends' A pass, we were many, many people back in line. There was no way Micah would get his book signed. With nothing to lose, I maneuvered my way to the front of the line, bent close to the nearest harried employee and whispered, "My son has been so excited to have his books signed, but we have to leave in five minutes. There is no way we will make it to the table before then. Is there any way he can . . . "

The kind employee looked at me and said, "It's not really up to me. Well, that should be fine. Well, these people have been waiting, too. Well, it can't hurt to ask them." She then turned to the mom of three tween kids who was second in line and explained our situation quietly, as I waited and hoped. She looked over at me and kindly nodded. Maneuvering back through the crowd, I found Micah next to our new (and never to be seen again) best friends, and thanking them for their kindness, I told them that people had made a place for him at the front of the line.

I felt really bad about taking too much advantage of the strangers' kindness, so I told Micah that he could only have one of his books signed. He didn't react--he had 23 pages left of the second book, and he was determined to finish it before he got to the desk.

He didn't. And he didn't care.
A quick greeting. A quick name check for correct spelling. A quick photo.

And we were back in the Suburban, headed home with a few minutes to spare.

Micah may never forget the time he met one of his heroes. He may treasure that signed volume for years. Who knows? Maybe that 53 minutes in a Barnes and Noble on a warm November night in Mesa, Arizona, may have launched a chain of events that lead to Micah becoming a famous author one day.

Although I couldn't ever pick them out of a crowd again, I know I will never forget the strangers in that noisy bookstore that night. Strangers whose kindness made this meeting possible. Micah wasn't the only one who met heroes that night. Heroes don't need to possess superpowers or develop the incandescent lightbulb. As Brandon Mull's Five Kingdoms illustrates, heroes can and do live here in Mesa, Arizona. To those unnamed faces who allowed my boy to meet his hero--you were one mom's heroes that night. Thank you.


  1. This gave me chills! I am so grateful that there are still some genuinely kind people out there. I LOVE Brandon Mull!! Congrats Micah on meeting one of your heroes. Congrats Jenny on being the recipient of such kindness.

  2. Another great story in the life of your family.