Part 2: Pioneer Woman
(Read part one here)
It isn’t every morning that you’re sitting there like a deadbeat in your bamboo lounging clothes and, in between your 14th and 15th sip of coffee, you get a facebook notification from Ree Drummond, THE Pioneer Woman.
That’s right. Ree had seen Gabbie’s photograph, and she had responded:
“Oh my gosh…absolutely adorable. I might want to borrow that wig sometime. ;)”
In the span of 4 seconds, our quiet house and our uneventful day erupted like a super-happy volcano. I felt like Anne Hathaway in the Princess Diaries when she finds out she is princess of Genovia and Julie Andrews is her Grandmother…
Ree had seen Gabbie’s picture?!!
Gabbie had received a message from Ree?!!
Things only escalated from there as something phenomenal happened; once Ree commented on the photo, her droves of fans began to see it, and the ‘likes’ and comments started flying. It reminded me of that scene from Harry Potter where the letters from Hogwarts start shooting into the Dursley’s house, and Harry is dancing around, trying to catch them…
But I was Harry, and I was only mentally dancing around the room (because you know I wasn’t getting out of bed), and the notifications weren’t for me, they were for a starry-eyed little girl who likes to cook with her Mama…
and I could only think one thing: Gabbie and her mom and dad (Megan and Brian) are going to DIE.
For the rest of the morning, my husband and I were held captive by our computer screen, watching the ‘likes’ on Gabbie’s photo rise, reading all the comments, feverishly messaging Brian and Megan (both of whom were at work) with updates….
we were atwitter and my goal to catch up on homeschool was kicked to the curb. Classes were cancelled!
And if I wasn’t thrilled enough for Gabbie, my joy tripled when Mr. Gore got this text from Megan: ”Gabbie is going to be so excited. She was so distraught that she didn’t win the costume contest yesterday…”
I pictured our quiet little friend, dressing up as her hero; donning her PW costume, she probably expected to be recognized by every person she passed, and would have excitedly lined up for the contest, sure that she would win because, duh…she looked like Ree Drummond! How could she not win?
I well remember those types of bitter childhood disappointments, and it made me hurt for Gabbie.
But even for little girls with childish dreams, joy comes in the morning. Any disappoinment she had felt on Halloween night was sure to be forgotten once her Mama told her the good news!
And that alone would have been a very happy ending to Gabbie’s tale…
but as it turns out, her very special day was just beginning.
“You know what?” I asked my husband as we continued to hang out in bed, “I think Ree Drummond is doing a book signing in Tulsa in November…”
He immediately hopped online and started looking.
“She is!” he exclaimed. “For the release of her new cookbook…”
“When?” I asked.
“Tonight.” he replied, grinning. “5:00.”
Our texts with Megan went into sonic-speed, and Megan was thinking what we were thinking, and no, it wouldn’t be weird at all, and pretty soon it was official. We were going to the signing…
and mini-Ree was going with us, red, shiny wig and all.
This day was so bizarre it was beginning to seem providential!
I decided to take Rebekah Sunday along, who, though too young to be a superfan of PW, really, really likes her cooking show and all those horses she has.
When I broke the news to her, her face lit up and she exclaimed “Are we going to bake with her?”
“No, it won’t be like that…” I informed her.
“Well then can I play with the boys?” she asked, clapping her hands.
“I doubt if they’ll be there…” I replied.
But she decided to be excited anyway, and by 3:00 that afteroon, we were all on our way to Steve’s Books in Tulsa to purchase a cookbook and meet the Pioneer Woman, Megan and her three following behind me and my Mom, Baby Shep and Rebekah.
After a slight glitch upon our 4:00 arrival when Rebekah woke up from her nap, looked out her window and, seeing a Dollar Tree rather than a sprawling ranch, began to wail ”I thought we were going to her house!!”, we began unloading and scurrying toward the bookstore to get in line.
And here’s how popular Ree Drummond is. Arriving an hour early, we were still in the 9th group of 25 people to meet her.
Let’s see…that meant we had approximately 16 more hours to wait. With 5 children between us.
But we were determined to stay, and I assured my very sweet and docile friend, Megan, that I would storm the castle before Gabbie went home without meeting PW.
The next several hours were spent in various pursuits as I mentally kicked myself for not bringing one snack, drink or distraction. (As far as celebrity book signings go, we were definitely amateurs).
First, we sat on the curb and I played guessing games with the big kids while Megan wrangled her toddler boy and my Mom kept an eye on sleeping Shep.
Then we played some more games.
Then we took pictures of our shoes.
Then we flipped through Ree’s new cookbook.
Then Rebekah started getting hungry and begging me for food…
then I told her I didn’t have any and she started hanging on my scarf and begging harder…
Then I started fanning myself. It was 5:00 and an ever-growing crowd was starting to swell around us, hemming me and my hormones in.
We escaped to an empty portion of the sidewalk far from the bookstore and spread out a bit. Here’s me and my Mama and Rebekah, definitely loitering in front this boutique.
Once we had some wiggling room though (and thanks to Megan’s amazing sister, Jill, who drove over straight from work to help us with the kids), time went by a little faster, and we stayed happy and amused…
mostly by the fact that we had a little Pioneer Woman with us. Similar to the costume contest, no one really knew who Gabbie was or why she was wearing a bright red wig; it was fairly obvious from the constant sympathetic glances she received that many assumed she had a serious illness. The entire situation reminded me of my night out with Peter Pan.
And I’m sure it didn’t hurt that our giddiness about all that had happened that day made everything reach a new level of hilarity…
especially when an elderly woman stopped by Gabbie and said “Oh, there you are! That girl with the beautiful red hair.” She reached down to finger Gabbie’s obviously fake tresses. “That color!” she exclaimed, “and it is just so thick!”
We were loathe to embarass her by explaining that it was a wig, plus the backstory would have been so long, so we just thanked her, all while Rebekah was piping up “It’s fake! Her hair is fake!”
I clamped my hand over her mouth and continued to beam at the effusive woman. “It’s fake!” her words muffled against my hand.
And speaking of Rebekah, it was pretty cute…
while Gabbie is the superfan of Ree, it soon became apparent that Rebekah was the superfan of Gabbie dressed as Ree.
“I’m taking a picture with The Pioneer Woman!” she chirped, laughing.
By 7:00, after the kids started running in circles and we were becoming far too bold with the food truck (PW had provided snacks from her new cookbook!), I knew something had to be done. Grabbing Rebekah’s hand, I decided to go ask if we could look at children’s books in the store where Ree was signing.
Surprisingly, the answer was ‘yes’ and I was reminded of why my husband always gets good deals and free shipping: he’s not afraid to ask.
I walked tentatively in to the small store carrying Rebekah on my hip, and I couldn’t help but feel like a trespasser. It was as quiet as a library in there!
And there, at a table near the cash register at the front of the store, in all her red-headed glory, sat Ree. I stopped for a minute to look at her and, in a whisper, pointed her out to Rebekah…
big mistake. I must have forgotten who I was holding and, before I could stop her, my little girl started waving frantically and broke the silence of the store by yelling “hi!!!” to Ree.
Like a ninja, I jumped forward and ducked behind a shelf before whisking her to the back of the store where she sat happily on a stool and perused the books. It was a good distraction for both of us, tucked away into the corner, right behind the snaking line of fans. But I was antsy and needed to converse with someone.
I made eye contact with one of the ladies waiting in line.
“Do you remember what group you are in?” I asked, probably a bit pathetically.
“575-600…” she replied.
“Oh…” I sighed, “Well, we’re getting closer…”
“What number are you?” a second woman asked.
“660,” I reponded, forlornly. “And we just have so many kids here! They’re so hungry…”
I couldn’t really comprehend what I was doing as this sob story involuntarily rolled off my tongue, but this, too, seemed providential as it apparently worked in my favor. The second lady held up a ticket. “I’m not using this one,” she said, “it will help you get in a little faster.”
610. Gasp! That was the next group!
I kissed her feet (in my mind) and Rebekah and I took off to get everyone packed up. Within minutes, our group was called into the store. T’was a gloriously fun and unexpected frenzy, and a blessed turn of events.
But even in our haste, my heart stopped to recognize that this was it: Gabbie was about to have the moment of a lifetime, one she would never forget.
The little girls entered the store on our heels and I watched with glee as Gabbie craned her neck to get her first glimpse…
and although we were at the back of the line that wound through the store, it wasn’t long at all before our turn came up. Gabbie was next!
Ree had been notified that Gabbie was coming (apparently some nutcase had tracked her Mom down on facebook and paid a dollar to send her a private message? People these days!), and was SO sweet and welcoming to her little twinkie.
and Gabbie was precious to watch. So tongue-tied…
but so very happy.
I was just taking it all in, snapping pictures for Megan when I heard Rebekah’s chirpy voice once more: “I saw you on TV!” It was at this moment that I realized Miss Sunday needed to take a hike so Gabbie could have her moment with Ree.
and here they are, Ree Drummond and her mini-me…
matching hair, matching tunics, matching earrings, and would you look at this, even matching cheeks, chins and smiles.
The fondest dream of Gabbie’s young heart had come true…
and you know who it really all comes back to?
A loving mama who made mountains of Pioneer Woman food for a 6-year old’s birthday party…
who was running all over Tulsa with 3 kids the Tuesday before Halloween looking for a red wig and a tunic…
who scrambled home during her lunchbreak to get Gabbie’s costume to wear to the signing…
who left work at 3:00 with those same 3 kids and drove staight to Tulsa to stand in line for 4 hours…
who loves her daughter, with all her heart, and lays down her life for her happiness.
Pioneer Woman might be Gabbie’s hero…
but Gabbie’s Mama is most definitely one of mine.
and, as it turns out, Pioneer Woman is ALSO one of my heroes. Stay tuned to hear the spectacle that happened when Gabbie left the store and I realized it was MY turn to meet Ree. I promise to spare no details. Go ahead and kill me now.