Are You There God? It’s me, Debbie.

Part 1 of 3
Approximate Reading Time: 2.5 minutes

Martha’s Vineyard, MA — “Why don’t you sit here next to Judy?” my neighbor commanded as she squeezed eight or 10 of us around a table at a fundraising dinner.

“Oh, OK…” I said, slightly irritated she was telling me who to sit next to…but mostly relieved someone was taking charge in the chaotic scramble of people sitting down for dinner.

We were packed in so tightly that summer evening that I could barely pull up my arm to shake the soft hand my lovely, gentle seatmate extended. “Hi, I’m Judy Bloom.”

Rob and I were still new to living on Martha’s Vineyard and knew only a handful of others. Yet, in my mind’s-eye, her name sounded so familiar…”Judy Bloom? Judy Bloom? JUDY BLUME!!”

It couldn’t be THAT Judy Blume.

That Judy Blume had been on my reading list forever.

I never knew anyone to utter that Judy Blume’s name without melting into a puddle of longing, admiration and sheer joy.

Was that Judy Blume even real?

Oh my, yes.

And, here we were sitting so closely we could mistakenly drink from each other’s water glass!

She was so pretty, so small and delicate. Her hair was a cloud of the sweetest curls. She had to be in her 60s but everything about her was like a little girl, including the fact she reported she sometimes gets tummy aches.

Yet, that Judy Blume was connected to one of my darkest secrets:

You see, even though I could recite many of her book titles, I’d never read a single book by Judy Blume.

No Fudge books (although I’d bought plenty of them for others), no Deenie, no Wifey, no Iggie’s House, no Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself; and worst of all…no Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. I do not know how it was even possible that Judy Blume books had escaped me, especially since I was in middle school when “Margaret” was published.

Consequently, having never read her books, I always felt a nagging and slight shame that I needed to catch up and know what every other girl had learned about life from Judy Blume that I had not. 

Now, sitting elbow-to-elbow with the real Judy Blume, I suddenly felt panicky. Scared, as though I hadn’t been to class or done my homework and today was the big test – and I knew nothing.

This precious chair I was sitting in should be given up to one of those millions of girls (and boys, too) – adolescent, teen or now grown-up — who would be losing their mind with joy right now. Someone who deserved to sit next to Judy Blume. Someone in Judy’s faithful and loyal following who could intelligently discuss and ask questions about her books.

Seven years later, I cannot recall all that we talked about that night. It was simply delightful dinner party chatter of children, houseguests, movies, art, cities visited, and life on Martha’s Vineyard, New York City and Key West where Judy and her equally charming husband and writer George Cooper have homes.

What I vividly remember is how fun she was and how comfortable I felt with her. (She never once alluded to how she is one of the most beloved authors in the whole, entire world — having sold 80 million books. Nor did she force me to face my deepest fear – a quiz on her books!)

After dinner there was a fundraising auction and Judy and George were so generous in supporting Vineyard causes, buying up a storm of items for friends and family, and seeming to have a very good time doing so. We all laughed and teased and had a lovely evening.

Judy Blume and I parted that night with a hug.

God, are you there? It’s me, Debbie. Thank you, thank you, thank you for seating me next to the real Judy Blume. I know this is more than I should ask for. But can I please, please meet her again? I know that tonight was an awfully big gift in the first place…I hope you won’t think I’m greedy. I promise to be patient.

Stay tuned tomorrow for Judy Blume, Part 2: Starring Barack Obama As Himself