"Without leaps of imagination, or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning."
--- Gloria Steinem
It's March -- which makes it Women's History Month. And today - March 8 - is International Women's Day. An appropriate time to tell you a story. About the day I was the driver.
For Gloria Steinem.
It was 1992 when Gloria came to town. I was 33 years old. Living in Grand Rapids. Working for a women's foundation. Mommy to a toddler and a baby. And a huge fan of Gloria Steinem since my teen years!
To further set the mood and tone, consider this. Gloria Steinem was coming to town on the day after the 1992 Presidential election. The election Bill Clinton won. The timing couldn't have been better for the organizers of the Big Event!
So Gloria came to Grand Rapids, and she gave a rocking, rolling, inspriational talk for a standing-room-only crowd. It was awesome. The next day, she was going to speak at the Council of Michigan Foundations conference in Battle Creek -- just a little over an hour drive away -- and then on to the Kalamazoo airport.
I got the call.
Kym, how would you like to drive Gloria to Battle Creek?
In my mini-van?
And so it was. I was going to spend the day with one of my personal (s)heroes! I was going to drive Gloria Steinem! I scrambled to clean the kid-detritus out of my mini-van. (Except for the car seats. They had to stay.) I stressed about what to wear. (I wore black.) I worried that I would say something stupid. Or babble. Or that my mouth would gape open. Or that I would get a ticket. Or get lost.
But, really. It was all just fine.
I met her for breakfast. She was . . . just like you'd expect Gloria Steinem to be! Smart. Astute. Confident. And completely engaging and easy to talk to. Very down-to-earth. Very . . . comfortable.
Since we had plenty of time, she asked if I'd show her around Grand Rapids. So we hopped in my mini-van, and off we went. As we passed the local offices of Planned Parenthood, she asked if we could stop in. So we did. She just walked through their offices and said hello. And thanked them for their important work. And then got back in my mini-van and we headed for Battle Creek.
Part way there, as we were hurtling down the highway south to Battle Creek, Gloria Steinem asked me if I'd mind if she took a bit of a nap.
Oh, no, I said. Not at all, I said. And I began explaining how to put the seat back.
Gloria Steinem was climbing into my back seat! Where the car seats were. She unbuckled them and tossed them into the "way back" (as Erin called it). Brushed the crumbs and cheerios and crumpled dinosaur stickers onto the floor. And laid down on my mini-van seat for her nap!
(While I was driving down the highway.)
I was sort of mortified. (Who knows what you'll find under car seats!) But, like I said. Gloria Steinem was completely down-to-earth. Very easy and comfortable to be around.
And there she was. Napping on the back seat of my mini-van.
The day went like clockwork. We arrived in Battle Creek. She gave a keynote presentation. I took her to the airport. She hugged me and thanked me when I dropped her off.
I'll never forget it! My stint . . . Driving Ms. Gloria!