Thursday, March 17, 2005

Michael (Mac) McClelland:
Remembering Andrea

Toni and I received the recollection below from one of Andrea's (and our) dearest friends from the time Andrea spent in Tallahassee; with Mac's permission, we present it here unedited.



I was in a writers' workshop with Andrea for several years, along with Toni and John, Clark and Donna. It was a wonderful group - talented, obviously, but also inspiring, supportive, warm, and playful. We got a lot of really good work done, but we also managed to have a lot of fun.

One night, I came to that group with a writer's problem I just couldn't solve on my own. The two main characters in the story I was working on had met at last, and to their mutual surprise, quickly found themselves falling in love. I could write that from Harry Harper's point of view - after all, I have considerable experience at being a guy falling hard and fast for completely inappropriate women. But when I tried to tell Jane Ellen's side - well, how could I? I'd read hundreds of love scenes, seen scores of them in movies and on TV, but I'd never really experienced those first giddy moments from a woman's perspective.

So, I went to the source. We all sat on my living room couch one workshopping Saturday night, and I asked Andrea, Toni and Donna about what the first stirrings of love felt like to them. They laughed at first, and we told our jokes, but then we settled in and they told me that an infatuated woman will often focus on particular parts of a man - not the coarse T&A that simple-minded men like Harry and I would, but rather on the eyes, or the hands, even just a man's fingers. They told me that stomach butterflies are a universal warning sign, and that sometimes women literally do get weak in the knees at that first kiss. They told me a great many things I could not have known otherwise, and when we finished I knew exactly how Jane Ellen was going to fall in love.

Cody, Andrea, and Nick (as a puppy)I think of that story now not just because I dearly miss those workshops, and I deeply miss Andrea, but because so much of what I remember about her involved loving. I remember how she carried on animated, meaningful conversations with Kiki, her spoiled, ancient, much-beloved and "most precious" cat. I remember how she adopted Cody, a battered, abandoned shepherd-coyote mix so skittish he would not enter a room with people in it even when bribed with hamburger, and how after many weeks of Andrea's gentle, patient love Cody was turning into a dog who occasionally liked to frolic. I remember that when I returned to grad school after 10 years in the working world it was Andrea and Toni who befriended me and supported me and helped calm my fears. I remember one night shortly after her father passed away, when Andrea lay in my arms weeping and shaking so long and hard that I feared she would injure herself. And I remember the parade of people who showed up at her Rivers Road house when she decided to build a shed for her horse Mika, each of them carrying beer or tools or a bit of scavenged wood. Andrea gave out the love of her soul even when it hurt her, and she earned far more love than she would ever let herself believe.

It seems everyone who really knew Andrea loved her - except, of course, for Andrea herself. Just as she would never really let herself accept all the praise she got for her writing - her writing, poetry and prose, was simply dazzling - so it seemed to me that Andrea could never fully accept just how much other people admired and loved her. That always saddened me so. Andrea did have some bad breaks in life, far more than someone as sensitive and caring as she should have, but I always thought that burden would have been eased she had only let us love her a little bit more.

One more story. I left Andrea's home late one night, probably after a workshop. She and I were flirting with becoming more than friends at that time, and as she walked me to my car, we stopped and I kissed her. Wonderful - cool night air, full moon overhead, the soft swoosh of pine trees swaying in the wind. And then something pushed up against my knee, gentle but insistent. It was Cody. He was unsure of my intentions, and was trying to put himself between Andrea and me. We laughed, Andrea reassured him, and we went back to our embrace. After a few moments, I felt a second nudge against my leg. This time it was Nick, Andrea's other dog. He wasn't worried, he just wanted attention. Andrea shooed him off, and once again we embraced. But a moment after that I heard heavy footsteps, and then felt a sudden rush of hot air right against my cheek. Mika the horse had come to join the party.

So we stood there, Andrea and I laughing in the clear cold night while two dogs and a horse looked on companionably. I'm not vain enough to think any of her four-legged friends critters were jealous of me, or were even very much interested in me. They just wanted to be close to Andrea.

Because after all, everyone who really knew Andrea loved her.

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