I have been reading a book called Textbook, by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, and it’s an interactive book. The “Text” part of Textbook has dual meaning: one of the unique aspects of the book is that it’s there are moments when you can text phrases and receive texts in return; there are also pages you can tear out to give to strangers; and there is a website associated with the book that allows for participation. She invites readers to give their names to be matched with other readers, to contribute photos, and even to submit stories.
One such example is the Purple Flower Moment. I’ll just explain using the author’s own words. This is from the “History” chapter, pg. 193.
I am at a coffeehouse working on the first draft of Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life. I write exactly what I see, how I feel it against my skin:
There is a single purple flower a couple feet from where I am sitting. I am feeling poorly dressed and missing my long hair. I am at Cafe De Lucca in Bucktown, and there is a purple flower–that’s how I would define this moment. And you, your moment? Where are you at this moment? E-mail me and tell me. If you are the hundredth person to do so, I will bake you a pie and FedEx it to you. You will have to trust me on this.
And she continues with this History lesson into January 2005 when her book is published and she receives her hundredth email. She bakes and FedEx’s a pecan pie to a man living in Orlando, Florida.
In February 2006 the paperback edition is published, so again, she honors the promise and mails a second pie, this time to a woman who (ironically) also lives in Orlando, Florida.
She writes about the countless Purple Flower Moments she’s received over the years, how it’s a privileged look into the hearts and minds of her readers. She even made a pie chart (“Insights about pie seekers are summarized as a pie chart”) and a Flower Graphic to highlight moments she has received.
They are all beautiful.
And then, in Textbook:
This moment now.
Once again I must ask:
Where are you?
How would you describe this moment now?
If yours is the hundredth submission, I will bake and FedEx you a pie.
I read this last night. The website link is no longer active, but I felt like I needed to respond. So here is what I would have submitted today.
My Purple Flower Moment
The Night Before I Heard You Died
I was in bed when I read the Purple Flower Moment, and I’ll be honest: I was disappointed that out of all the times and places I have been reading this book, I was here in bed (alone) at 11:00p.m. on St. Paddy’s Day, and that this would have to be my moment. How would I make it even remotely thoughtful? But, nevertheless, I promptly put my bookmark in its page so that I would be reminded to send my Purple Flower Moment to you the next time I sat down to read, even though my chance at the FedEx’d pie was probably long gone.
But then, there was this morning. After I drank my coffee and sat down to write, I caught a headline in my MSN weekly update (which I rarely read) that said: “Author who wrote dating profile for husband dies.” And so it came to be that I discovered THIS author, Amy Krouse Rosenthal, had passed away on Monday of this week. I didn’t even know you had cancer. I didn’t know anything beyond the words of pages 1 to 201. But Amy, I want you to know that despite never having met you–not even having finished this book–I began to cry. I felt a weight of sadness, the loss of your spirit and the light you so willingly shined on others, friends and strangers alike. And it its place I felt Darkness. In such a short time together, you’ve already made an impact on my life, both as a writer, and as a human being.
So, for that I grieve with those who knew you, those who read your words, and those who were also touched by your light. I’m sorry you will never be able to read my Purple Flower Moment, not because I think it’s poignant, but because I wanted you to know who I was. That I am here reading your words. That I am moved by your Not-Exactly-Memoir. That you have shown me new ways to think outside of myself and carry forward such generosity.
And for that, Amy, I need to thank you. I thought at first, when I learned the news, that your light had gone out from this world. But now–at this moment–I realize it will continue to shine through those whom you’ve touched.
May God bless and keep you always.
And here it is. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
In honoring Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s life and memory, if you are the hundredth person to email me a purple flower moment, I will bake you a pie* and FedEx it to you.
*it will be the first pie I’ve ever baked, but don’t let that dissuade you
Rest in Peace, Amy.