That Never Happened to Me Before

For ten years of my life I sold life insurance. Two of those ten years were spent living with small children in a mobile home parked in my parent’s back yard. We lived in Bisbee Junction and I sold insurance all over Cochise County.

If you’ve read my Joanna Brady books or if you happen to be familiar with Arizona, you may know that Cochise County is a square–eighty miles tall and eighty miles wide. That meant that after an evening appointment in Willcox, for example, I had an almost two hour commute back home. An appointment in Douglas or Sierra Vista made for half an hour to forty minutes of driving after evening appointments. All of which meant, I often didn’t get home from “work” or get wound down to sleep until close to midnight.

My daughter is always comparing her mothering skills to mine. She always assumes that her efforts come up short. She’s wrong.

My kids were little then. After many of those late nights for me, the kids would be up early and ready to rumble in the mornings long before I was. Much as it pains me to admit this, I often let Captain Kangaroo keep them occupied from seven to eight o’clock in the morning so I could grab a few more minutes of shut-eye. (These were the old days, after all, when morning television wasn’t wall-to-wall bad news.)

One evening when I came home, Dolores, the babysitter reported that earlier in the day she had found the kids in their bedroom playing nurse and patient with my four-year-old daughter administering Flintstones vitamins to her younger brother, the patient.

I was both appalled and astonished. The “medicine chest” in our house was on the second shelf in the kitchen cabinets at a height I assumed to be far above my daughter’s reach. That was true, but only as long as she was ON THE FLOOR! Once she used the step-stool to get up onto the countertop, all bets were off.

After Dolores left, I remember standing in the middle of the kitchen, trying to figure out what to do. I still wanted to be able to sleep in the mornings, but I didn’t want the kids having unauthorized access to the pill shelf because there were other things there besides the children’s vitamins. After several long minutes, inspiration struck. I rummaged through the pots and pans and located a lightweight metal lid which I propped on the top shelf of the cabinet–inside and leaning against the cabinet door when it was closed.

It worked like a charm. The next morning, I was sound asleep when I was awakened by a racket as the lid clattered noisily out of the cabinet, landed in the sink, and then did a suitable imitation of a drum roll as it finally came to rest. I charged out of the bedroom shouting, “What do you think you’re doing?” The telltale step stool was still sitting in front of the kitchen counter but my daughter was nowhere near it. When I found her, she was huddled in the far corner of the living room muttering, “That never happened to me before in my whole life!”

It never happened to her again, either. Not ever. I left the pot lid braced inside the cabinet for months afterwards. It fell down and caught me unawares a few times, but my daughter was cured. She never got into the cabinet again.

Which brings us to this week. On Tuesday, Bill, Bella, and I motored over to Whidbey Island where Bonnie Abney and I did one final Second Watch Dog and Pony Show with both Bella and Crackerjack in attendance. It was a benefit to raise scholarship money for the local branch of the AAUW, and it was a full house. Close to two hundred ticket-buying fans packed the social hall of the Oak Harbor United Methodist Church.

Bonnie and I arrived early and started signing books at 5 PM sharp, half an hour before the doors were supposed to open. We signed for over an hour, did the program, and then signed more books. The event was supposed to be over by seven thirty. It wasn’t. We didn’t finish signing books until well after eight.

I knew that afterwards we were scheduled to go to dinner at the Captain Whidbey Inn and that two friends of Bill’s and mine had been invited to join us there. On the way, looking at the clock and realizing it was almost 8:30, I wondered if the restaurant would still be serving. When we pulled into the parking lot and there were only four cars there, total, I figured we were out of luck.

Inside, however, the hostess welcomed us warmly, took photos of all of us in front of a roaring fireplace, and then walked us into the dining room which was totally empty. In the far corner of the room a single table was set and waiting. Individual menus at each place welcomed “The Jance Party.”

It turns out the Captain Whidbey Inn dining room isn’t open on Tuesdays. They had opened it that night for us. Specifically.

Sitting in my robe in the family room, working on finishing Joanna sixteen, it’s hard for me to realize that outside these four walls I’m considered to be a “celebrity.”

The other night on Whidbey, though, that’s exactly how I felt when I learned that the restaurant had opened its doors just for us so we could enjoy a delicious but very private dinner.

As my daughter said all those years ago, that never happened to me before in my whole life!

And I’m glad it did.

14 thoughts on “That Never Happened to Me Before

  1. That happened to me once as well. I used to drive a race car as a hobby. Just local sports car stuff. One weekend we had a race event at an abandoned airport in a small town on the southern Oregon coast. The entire town treated us like we were movie stars or something. It was a strange experience but a lot of fun. signed countless autographs! All the best to you.

    Your fan Dan

    • I grew up in Douglas which is a stone’s throw from Bisbee. They were our big football rivals but except for the BIG GAME on Thanksgiving you would never know. We went back and forth often, had tons of friends and relatives in each town and took the short cut through Double adobe to get to and from each other. Now we live in Tucson. Our first daughter lived in Seattle and the surrounding area for a number of years and we visited often. I have LOVED reading all of JA’s books since each one speaks from an area I know well. Maybe some day I’ll run into her at a book signing. I hope so. Till then I will not so patiently wait for her next book.

  2. Love all of Jances’ books but I wish she could write faster! Really miss Joanna! Hope to be able to visit Chocise County one day! Loved this article. Hope everyone in the Jance family has a great Christmas.

  3. You deserve the celebrity treatment for the many many hours of entertainment and comfort you have provided to all of us throughout the years. Spending time with Ali , Joanna, and/or Beau have gotten me through more than one dark day.

  4. How lovely for you, and well-deserved. I used to work in the restaurant business, and I would have been honored to serve the Jance party, even on my day off!

  5. You have such an entertaining writing style, I could read anything you write and enjoy it. Your stories whether fiction or true are so enjoyable.

  6. As of 8:29 PM on December 5, 2013, the next Joanna Brady book, Remains of Innocence was completed. It’s coming, folks. Look for it next July!!

  7. I’m so pleased you had special treatment. Like others have said, you deserve it. Can’t wait for your new book, still catching up on others as I’m a late starter as a fan. Each one has taught me a lesson in some way, some more than one, so thank you for that. It’s nice to be able to read a book you actually gain something from, whether entertainment, life lessons or just plain relaxing enjoyment. How grateful I am to have found and started reading your books!

  8. On 3 December, We attended your book signing in Oak Harbor for “Second Watch”. After listening to you and Bonnie tell us your story about how Second Watch came to be, We must say that you are deserving of any and all “Celebrity treatments” bestowed upon you. As we flew home to Honolulu the next morning, I read Second Watch cover to cover during the flight. As every very chapter unfolded, I was reminded of our 2 hour insight into the lives of Beau, Doug, and Bonnie, and I shared my tears of sorrow and joy with the characters and the creators of this wonderful (Fictional) story. That is something that has never happened to me before in my whole life, and I am glad that it did!!!!
    Aloha John and Maureen

  9. What a treat to have heard the presentation on Tuesday you and Bonnie gave! Fun to see Bella and Cracker Jack acting so cool with the sell-out crowd. Bonnie is my next-door neighbor. She is a member of our writing group and has shared her memories of Doug. Lots of shed tears. Bonnie kept us up-t0-date regarding your recent book-selling tour. I am awed by your energy. As an author, it amazes me that, besides tours, you still have accomplished writing best sellers year after year.

  10. I am a Canadian who winters in Sun City Grand, Surprise AZ (I know you know where I am) and in my travels have visited friends in Douglas, enjoyed dinner with friends in Bisbee and have been to Tucson a few times. I love reading your books. Ali & Jianna seem like neighbours as you write about locations I’ve visited and can see in my mind. It makes it all come to life.
    I can’t thank you enough for the countless hours of pleasure Beau, Ali and Joanna have brought me.
    July can’t come soon enough!
    Thank you, and a Merry Christmas.

  11. We drive through Willcox a couple of times a year on our way to/from visiting our daughter in Phoenix. I think of you and your books every time I drive through. I second the “write faster” idea.

  12. Thanks for a great story. You ARE a very good writer. I cannot put your books down, so am entranced while reading and sad when done, because I know there will be a long wait for a new book. Love all your characters. Hope to see you in Green Valley this year, IF we make it. My husband has developed a rare inner ear problem resulting in acute instant vertigo when set off. Bed rest right now, and then we see what is next. Love you, Bella, and all your special characters

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