Audrey Beth 
Stein's SHOW AND

If you could spend an evening with any one person, living, deceased, or fictional, whom would you choose and why?

a college essay

Copyright 1992 Audrey Beth Stein
All Rights Reserved.

I would start at the beginning, but I can't rightly remember the beginning too well anymore. It happens that way sometimes, when you meet your favorite book, your favorite author, and one of your best friends, all on the same day, and that day happens to be when you are only in the fourth grade. When I say "meet," I don't mean the introduction-shaking-hands kind of "meet." I've never met Ellen Emerson White that way, and I don't want to. I guess I'm afraid that she won't be the person I have pictured all these years while reading all the books she wrote. So I'd rather she remain as just another character in my imagination. I haven't shaken hands with Meg Powers, either, but I would like to be able to spend time with her. Meg is that best friend I mentioned. Most of my other best friends have met her by now, but she still doesn't know that they--or I--exist. That's because she's a fictional character in that book I also mentioned, The President's Daughter.

Being fictional, however, does not make Meg any less real in my imagination, or any less of a friend. Meg has been there for me through all my tough times, and the good ones, too. She was there when I was a picked-on little kid in elementary school, when I started in middle school not knowing a soul, when I first saw Israel with my own eyes, when I arrived at Camp Ramah the first time, when my parents were taken away to be interrogated by the KGB and I was left standing alone in the airport in Moscow, when we found out that my grandmother had cancer less than six weeks before my Bat Mitzvah and that side of the family fell apart, when I had to attend the funeral of my grandfather almost exactly a year after my grandmother's (in the company of people I, by then, refused to consider relatives anymore), and when I said goodbye to the close friends I made in middle school to make another set in my new high school.

Up through that time, Meg was someone I looked up to, almost like an older sister--except I never wanted a sister, just a big brother. I was ages nine through thirteen, and she was sixteen--seventeen in White House Autumn (which I acquired in sixth grade, I think). Our families didn't seem to have much in common, hers with two younger brothers and a mom who was the President of the United States, and mine with no siblings and two parents who were both professors at relatively unimportant colleges. Meg didn't really have any of the same problems that I did. Her feelings were the same, though, and she shared them with me. I could open The President's Daughter to any page and read a little, and Meg would tell me how she felt. I had read the book enough times so that I didn't need to finish it to know how Meg dealt with her feelings. I would generally mimic her behavior and feel better, and if that didn't help, I would read on until Meg made me laugh.

As I continued through high school, Meg stayed close to me, although our relationship changed. I am older now than she is in The President's Daughter, although she is still a few months older than me in Long Live the Queen (to which I was introduced only a year ago). She is now my peer, and I can relate to her even better when she talks about guys and colleges. Her attempt at writing a college essay inspires me as much as it makes me cry:

"The thing about most of my significant experiences is that they happened to my mother. I've never run for president. I've never been a world leader. I've never walked into gunfire. But even though I've never done any of those things, they've affected me. In my family, small things end up being so large-scale that you kind of feel like stepping out and observing them, not participating. Not experiencing. Like this picture I saw recently. There was a girl sitting on a bench with her head in her hands and you could tell that she was trying as hard as she could not to fall apart. And the caption said, The First Daughter, in a moment of private grief. And I looked at it, and all I could think was that it belonged in some Year-In-Review issue. I mean, it was a really disturbing, thought-provoking picture, a horrible moment, caught on film. Except it was me."

I respect Meg even more now than I did when I was younger. I don't know of too many people who would be able to experience the attempted assassination of their mother, be kidnapped, beaten up, tortured, and left to die, use their own hand to break the bones in their other hand in order to escape, drag themselves through the woods for days, and still fight to live and still be able to laugh. Meg is a hero to me because of this strength.

Although I am my own person, I can identify parts of Meg in myself. I have tried to emulate her strength through the years, and in doing so I have also acquired her style of thought and speech (unfortunately including a lot of "um"'s and "like"'s) and her sense of humor. Not many people appreciate Meg's sense of humor--a fact which both she and I find amusing--and I know too few people who find it funny when her humor comes from me. Yet anybody who does laugh when Meg and I would, generally becomes a good friend; and luckily I have--with great effort--been able to train some of my other friends and my parents to understand my humor (though they still don't always laugh at it). I would love to spend an evening alone with Meg Powers. To thank her. And to laugh with her.