Friday, April 3, 2015

Happy Birthday Jane Goodall

Today, April 3, is Jane Goodall's 81st birthday. Everyone is writing posts about her great works and I am enjoying each and every one.

I want to share with you my own memory of an evening with Jane Goodall, instead. Two years ago, the local bookstore hosted her for a night of speaking and book signing. Of course I snapped up a set of tickets so I could go with my hubby and our friend.

It was technically April 6, 2013, three days after her 79th birthday. Still, as she walked into the packed high school auditorium, the audience broke into "Happy Birthday" in her honor. It was magical.

Her talk was brilliant and inspirational. She talked about being a young girl in England, taking her earthworms to bed. And about her wonderfully supportive, if confused, mother, who suggested she should leave them outside so they could live, and therefore she could study them better tomorrow. How, when she decided to try to get to Africa by hook or by crook, her mother supported her whole-heartedly. And when Jane actually went to Africa to work, her proper English mother boarded the boat with her and spent months in the rain forest so Jane wouldn't be alone.

All of this was to lead up to the promotion for her legacy project, the Roots and Shoots program, and the importance of getting these young girls from around the globe interested in science and conservation. A topic very near and dear to my own heart as well, as I'm sure you can guess.

The speech was probably only about an hour, maybe a little longer. Afterward, we were all asked to line up to have a moment to shake Jane's hand, have her autograph our bookplate, and get a photo taken with her. We wound up near the back of the line. Just in front of a group of people with service dogs in training. It was quite a long wait until our turn, as there were probably 300 people in the audience, but we passed the time chatting and playing with the dogs who were "off duty."

By the time we got to the stage, it was 11 pm, and everyone was tired. Especially Jane, who'd likely been traveling all day and wore out from having to make small talk with so many people. Just as it was my turn to shake Jane's hand, her handler spied the dogs and smiled at me and my friend and apologized, but turned to Jane and whispered in her ears.

In an instant, the exhaustion, which had been so clear on her face, was gone, and she jumped up from her stool and practically ran towards the dogs, exclaiming, "Puppies!"

She immediately got down on the floor with them and rolled around for pets and loves and many, many belly rubs. It was such an amazing, spontaneous sight, I didn't have the presence of mind to take a video of the event. Once she and the dogs had settled down a bit, she turned to me and asked if it was OK if she signed their book plates first. Of course it was. It not only OK, it was treat for all of us to witness something so wonderful. I did manage to get a dim, slightly blurry photo of that.

Honestly, I don't remember what she and I chatted about, or how her hand felt when I shook it. I'm not even sure where the signed book plate is. It was supposed to go with her latest book which had been delayed for one reason or another. I wonder if I ever picked up my copy?

All I really remember of that evening is the highlights of her talk, and this magical moment when one of my heroes became the perfect embodiment of human kindness and love.


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