I wish on stars.
I was driving home from work in the early morning hours before the sun made an appearance. It was just a few weeks after Katrina had devastated the world around me. I looked out my window and briefly up in the sky. There, streaking across the still-dark sky was a shooting star!
“I wish that something unbelievably wonderful and amazing would happen to me.” I whispered to no one.
Two days later, my phone rang. The caller identified herself as someone from Oprah. It seems they wanted me to bring a few coworkers who were on duty during Katrina and make our way to Chicago for a taping. No one from work wanted to go. What a bunch of dumb men. Didn’t they know this was OPRAH? When Oprah calls, you go!
I went to Chicago. Alone. As much as my mom and aunt wanted to go with me, I couldn’t bring them. There were guidelines for this taping, and even today I can’t divulge all the facts because I signed a non-disclosure agreement about certain things.
American Airlines helped me get there and my friends at the Hilton O’Hare put me up for two nights at a reasonable rate. I was told to be at Harpo Studios early that morning. I arrived very early and checked in on the list. I made friends waiting in line. I met three gals who came to NOLA with the Peace Corps for Katrina recovery. We talked about places in New Orleans and they shared their experiences with me. As we waited, the line became longer, with members of a Chicago area fire department lining up behind me. They were in uniform and it made me feel lonely to be there without someone from home, but they quickly enveloped me into the fold once they found out I was fire service.
We filed into the studio and my friends from the Peace Corps saved me a seat near the front. The studio was full of excitement, all of us waiting for our moment to see Ms. Winfrey in real life, pinching ourselves. Wondering if this moment was real. My fire department friends waved at me from the other side of the studio.
The music queued and out walked Oprah Winfrey in a beautiful gold sweater and skirt. The first thought that went through my mind was her height and weight. She was taller than I expected, and much thinner. Heck, I looked at her and then looked down at myself. I would hate to see what Hollywood would say about me if I were a celeb!
Then, she said the three most magical words ever uttered in the world: My Favorite Things.
As she uttered this phrase, three things happened: Foamy snow bubbles and confetti floated down from the ceiling, everyone in the audience started jumping up and down screaming hysterically, and the lady next to me stared in shock, her eyes wide with tears streaming down her face. She looked at me and asked, “Is this really happening?”
Amazingly, the camera panned across the audience and filmed me. What was I doing for my big Oprah debut? I was eating a croissant.
I have never felt so spoiled in my life, or so undeserving. After the show was over, I went back to my hotel and spread the gifts all over my bed and I cried. I was able to participate in the most sought after show a woman could ever attend. I had almost $10,000 worth of items given to me. Yet I felt so alone. I had no one to share that glorious moment with. I felt guilty, thinking of those who lost their homes when I still had my home. I didn’t do anything special. I just went to work and did my job. I didn’t deserve all these gifts.
When the show aired, I invited my mom and a few friends over to my house. We had a Favorite Things Party and as each item was revealed, I brought out the actual item for everyone to see. Some of the items were food, such as popcorn, brownies, oatmeal cookies, and croissants, and we consumed them all that day, along with holiday cranberry sangria. Here’s the full list:
- Philip Stein Teslar Diamond Watch
- Burberry Coat
- Burberry Purse
- Ugg Australia’s Uptown Boot
- Garrett Popcorn Shops’ CaramelCrisp and CheeseCorn Tin
- The Apple iPod
- “The Oprah Sweater” by Ralph Lauren
- Pure Color Cords
- Lovely by Sarah Jessica Parker
- BlackBerry 7105T from T-Mobile
- Brownies from Moveable Feast Geneva
- Nike Free 5.0 iD
- Kashwere Shawl Collar Robe
- Croissants from Williams-Sonoma
- Hope in a Jar from Philisophy
- “Grace” Basket from Philosophy
- Oatmeal Cookie Dough from Fox & Obel Market
- The Oprah Winfrey Show 20th Anniversary Collection DVD
- Sony VAIO FJ Notebook
I sold the purse and phone on eBay for $700 and was able to use that money to buy Christmas gifts for many Katrina evacuees. I divided the Grace basket among my neighbors and friends. The Cords went to my MIL and my mom wanted Hope in a Jar (which I try to give her anually now). The perfume went to someone special and the DVD collection was passed around at work. The coat, sweater, and boots have kept me warm and fashionable when I travel to cold places and the Philip Stein watch has helped me keep track of what time it is at home when I’m away from the kids.
The most wonderful and useful item Oprah Winfrey gave me that day was my Green Sony Vaio. It has taken me all over the world, and in turn I have taken it all over the world. I’ve even managed to build a company that helps other moms plan their family vacations and girlfriend getaways with one of my sites – TravelingMamas.com. Each time I turn it on to write a story, I can’t help but think of Oprah Winfrey and what she’s done for people all over the world. Thank you, Oprah and the individuals from Harpo that made that day so special. I hope that before I leave this world that I can do just a smidgen of the good deeds that’s she’s done.