When the phone rang, I almost didn’t pick it up. I was struggling to make dinner for my family. That day at work, I, along with nearly 300 colleagues at our New York State agency had been laid off. Our agency was to be dissolved. I was devastated and depressed, uncertain about my future. I was only 48. But the phone’s ring was demanding and I relented. The female voice at the other end was deep and throaty. I thought I recognized it but it couldn’t be possible. The woman asked if she was speaking to Linda Freedland. I said, “This is she.”
“Good,” she replied. “This is Mary Chapin Carpenter.”
It seems the sparkly window suncatcher I had sent her a month before, along with my first ever fan letter, had hit the right chord, so to speak. I’d been a fan of the singer/songwriter for several years but had never seen her live in a concert. My letter was heartfelt and full of adoration for this charismatic singer whose lyrics always seemed penned from her heart. That day at work, I, along with about 300 other state employees had been laid off. Our agency dissolved. I was devastated and depressed, uncertain of my future. Apparently, my letter had resonated with her, or maybe she really loved the gift. Whatever the reason, she researched my name and address to find out where Delmar, New York was and from there found my phone number.
When she first identified herself, my initial reaction was of denial. “No, you’re not Mary Chapin Carpenter. Who is this?” When she assured me she was indeed the singer, I shrieked, “Oh my god, oh my god, it’s really you.” My husband and son claim they could her me from the other end of our house. Convinced she was who she claimed to be, we began a conversation that changed my perspective.
She had called to thank me for my lovely letter and the suncatcher, which she told me now hung in her window above her desk. As we talked, I confessed my emotional state and she listened. She confided she had also suffered from a deep depression and that several of her songs had come from that low point in her life. I told her what some of my favorite songs were, including “Stones in the Road.” She said I should think of my current situation as mere stones in my own road. Most of these you can walk over but then you’ll come to a boulder and you have to struggle to climb over it. Once you’ve climbed that boulder, stones in the road will be nothing. We talked a bit more but before we ended our conversation, she told me to stay positive, that things would get better and that I’d find another job even better than the one I had just lost.
Before we hung up, she said my husband and I would receive VIP passes to her “Meet and Greet” prior to her concert at Saratoga Performing Arts Center that coming summer. Several weeks later our passes were in our mailbox and in August, we arrived at the venue’s parking lot to find a VIP cart waiting to take us down to the main stage. We met her backstage, I got a big hug and had my picture taken with her.
By January I had found another job I loved and one which allowed for creativity far more than my state job ever had.
That event was nearly 25 years ago. Some of the exact dialogue might be slightly hazy but the essence is still there and will always remain with me. Stones seem trivial now, compared to the boulders in our way. But climb over them we must, so we can continue on our road.