Supporting cast

As I've blurbed in the sidebar, I'm reading a biography of (Nelle) Harper Lee, the author of To Kill a Mockingbird (and childhood/lifelong friend of Truman Capote). I love bios for the same reason I love going for walks at night and getting glimpses of other people's homes, the interiors illuminated in the evening dusk (hmmm...probably another reason I love reading blogs, too)--a view of life I wouldn't otherwise get.

In biographies, I always notice key, fork-in-the-road, defining moments. The person doesn't, of course, always know that they are defining moments at the time but it's breathtaking to see the sometimes arbitrary hand of fate (like it's playing "I have a little doggy and it won't bite you, won't bite you, won't bit you...but it will bite you!") that makes all the difference.

Harper received an incredible gift as a struggling aspiring writer in NYC. She had met and befriended Michael and Joy Brown, a married artistic couple and when they received a windfall of good fortune they gave her for Christmas *the gift of a year off from her job* to follow her writing dreams. This generous gift made To Kill a Mockingbird possible, financially and (maybe more importantly) as a gesture of faith in her talent.

It's delicious to think about, isn't it--a gift of a year?

These great friends never receive any of the credit for the book; after all, they didn't write it. But they were supporting players in its creation. Supporting actors in films don't get as much screen time but usually carry the more instrumental or complex roles...I think to win a supporting award means more because you've done more with the limited amount of time onscreen.

Being a mom is one of those supporting roles. So is being a teacher, a friend. There's not a lot of glory in being Ethel to someone's Lucy, in being Ma Ingalls to someone's Laura. In fact, sometimes I think I'm not a principal player in my life at all but that I hold bit parts in a lot of other dramas (especially when the dramas include the middle school life of a 13-year-old daughter, for instance...).

But if I'm honest with myself, I have had instrumental, crucial support from a lot of wonderful people--stars in their own right in their own stories but willing assistants to my dreams and development. Here's an beginning list of those without whom my life would have been completely different (such as I am!):

Naturally Mom and dad & sibs--faith in and support of me all along the way. Plus laughter. (Sorry this is starting out sounding like an acceptance speech.)

Mrs. Hall, my first grade teacher--made me feel like her favorite (probably all her students felt that way)

Mr. Eames, my 6th grade teacher--when he chose me for little responsibilities I thought "really? Me?" and it gave me confidence as a student.

Mrs. Johnson, my HS history teacher--encouraged my writing. Plus cried when she taught us about Joan of Arc.

Mrs. Stock, my HS English teacher--Classic grand dame of a teacher. Demanding; never let me skate through.

Grandma B--Helped fund my study abroad in London from her own "pocket money" account. Opened new worlds.

Brian--because when I got a little rebellious he said "this isn't you" and he was right and I stopped.

Greg--has bridged the gap between my "I can't do this anymore" and "I'm thriving doing this!" countless times.

Shelly/Debbie/Jen/Deirdre/Alane/Christie--nourishing, confiding, hilarious, smart friends have made all the difference.

My kids--magnify what's important, minimize what's not, reveal my shortcomings and make meaning for what I do.

Who's on your list?