It was supposed to have ended with the exhibit in Morristown. Because what more could I hope for….I had just seen those beautiful costumes, those exquisite dolls, those like-minded uber-fans. Shirley (ouch!) that was the end – the glorious, happy ending.
Prior to the exhibit, I never considered going to the auction. I’m not a big-time collector. I’m not a big-time traveler. It never occurred to me. Until the next moment. That moment when auction house president Stuart Holbrook asked, “Are you going to the auction?” I can’t explain why, but it felt like a rhetorical question. But I answered no, I would watch online and would be more than happy with that. And then there it was. Among the exhilaration, the thrill, the joy – there was a niggling feeling of….what? Disappointment? I wouldn’t be able to see the ENTIRE collection, and it’s been pretty firmly established that I am not one who likes to miss anything. Regret? That I wouldn’t be part of a once-in-a-lifetime, never-to-be-repeated event celebrating the star I’d loved for 40 years? Yeah, all that and more.
Several moments go by….returning home and asking Mr. T if he’ll take me to the auction. Begging Mr. T. to take me to the auction. Demanding Mr. T. take me to the auction. Telling Mr. T. I MUST to go to the auction. (If Mr. T sounds unresponsive, he wasn’t. I am just choosing not to include those moments here!) And then a watershed moment. A member of the yet-to-be-named Shirley’s army contacts me, and together, we figure out a way. Arrangements are made, flights are booked. Once again, THIS IS REALLY HAPPENING. #howmanytimeshaveisaidthat?
The next set of moments have been pretty well chronicled in a previous post – Ya Never Know. It went like this: Digital catalog is posted. Thorough examination of said catalog. Communication with the auction house. Feeling a part of something. Receiving the actual catalog and that simple piece of paper – the addendum – that represented the unbridled joy of that day of research, of working to solve some Shirley mysteries for an awfully good cause. Yeah, THAT moment.
I’ll brush past the moments of anxiety concerning flying alone and a delayed flight. I’ll gladly skip over the moment when, in a panic, I contacted Stuart from the airport to ask, “What if there’s a line to get into the exhibit and I have to wait and I can’t wait because I’m having a heart attack as it is and I don’t want to miss even a moment of this?” Yeah, that happened too. I didn’t say all moments were gems.
But then I’m there. The Little Theater in Kansas City, MO. A breathtaking, built-in-1934, Art Deco building, perfectly suited for what it was exhibiting. But it was nothing compared to what was inside. Costumes, articles, artifacts and pictures everywhere. Clustered in large groups, simply because of the sheer volume of items – nearly 600.
My first inclination was to document it all. But I was stopped in my photo-taking tracks. Because what happened next was a surprising series of moments. I started talking (that is not the surprise, I assure you.) Talking to the people at the preview. Overhearing their stories and popping in, uninvited yet very welcome, to sympathize and connect. I started recruiting for Shirley’s Army. Because that was yet another moment. Just prior to the auction, Stuart started referring to this group as Shirley’s Army – a collection of superfans he met as he toured the country. And it was real – he reserved the entire front row for us.
I’m circulating, talking, kvelling. What I’m not doing is taking photos….the conversations trumped that big time. I was able to locate the Army members who had planned to be there, those of us who made arrangements through social media. And although most of us had never met face to face, there was an instant connection. I don’t know how many times I said kindred spirits that day. It probably wasn’t enough.
The afternoon passed all too quickly – I was in a world where all that mattered was what this one little girl represented to everyone gathered here. Where all that counted was reliving and sharing our Shirley stories. I had not planned on this, not really. I knew I’d meet like-minded people, but I never for a moment thought anything could overshadow the collection. Wrong again. But so happily wrong.
Precisely at 5:00 (or however that translates to military time – too lazy to figure it out), the Army marched to our dinner destination. After refueling, we returned to the theater.
I need energy to blog about the next series of moments….energy and emotional stamina. Stay tuned.