My Life As A Groupie...

Updated: Aug 30, 2019


I have debated when I would actually write this post and when it would be a good time to put it on my little blog. This subject is one of the closest things to my heart next to my family, my home, and my friends. Anyone who knows me, even if for only a short period of time, knows about this. It is something that means so much that I hope my words can explain it. It is my love for all things Susan Branch.

Some of you may have heard of her, some of you may not. Some of you may know her art work and not realize her name, some of you may be collectors like myself...but only those who consider themselves her 'girlfriends' will know who Williard is. Susan Branch, or Suzi B. as I refer to her on occasion, is a common household name at our house. I own her cookbooks, journal books, calendars, jewelry charms, her published autobiographies, her most recent coffee mugs, and so much more.

Before I got married in 1990 I saw this cute cookbook; it grabbed my attention mainly because I was attracted to the design of the cover. Whoever said, 'Never Judge a Book By Its Cover' was seriously not an artist. I mean, who isn't drawn to a cute cover? Anyway, I remember flipping through it and all these recipes were hand written with water color pictures throughout. So, I bought it... Fast forward a couple of years and now I'm pregnant. I went to my local book store in search of a journal to write about all the baby things I was experiencing and there it was, an absolutely adorable book, all kinds of water color drawings and places to put my own pictures and write my own pregnancy happenings. Then I noticed it was created by the same artist as my cookbook a few years earlier. But, not until I found a big kitchen calendar some time later, did I realize I was in love with this artist. I started seeing journals (that I wrote in for years), and recipe books and all kinds of new things popping up in different stores and every time, I always found myself attracted to them!

I remember finding her mailing address one day and sending her a letter. I was then put on her FAN mailing list and every so often I would receive a hand written (then copied for all her fans) newsletter in the mail. She decorated her newsletters with her artwork and sometimes I would get a special gift like a book mark she created or stickers. Her letters talked about her life and what was going on at the time and how she enjoyed writing to us "girlfriends". Then life happened. Somewhere in the course of raising three babies, I got so busy and money was always very tight so I didn't get to go out and shop for fun and exciting things. I'm not exactly sure when it all changed, but I remember needing a calendar and in my search I happened to come across another one of Susan's calendars. All these "feelings" rushed back. I felt so excited to have one. I browsed all the months, of course going to my birthday month first and seeing what she had designed, then just reading each month like it was a magazine, admiring all the colors, the stories, the art, the poetry. There was just so much I loved, but I couldn't figure out why I loved it all so much.

Then it hit me, it was like growing up. She made me think of my childhood, the simpler times, the times when you didn't need to lock your front door to run up to the store, the times of catching lightening bugs in the summer and wearing plastic masks at Halloween. The times of camping out, or riding bikes for hours with no destination, or the holidays and all the family traditions. All these things and MORE! Every time I read something she wrote I was immediately calmed and before long I was reminiscing about something! Just one calendar page had me in a time travel adventure. I didn't even know that was possible.

Since I purchased her first cookbook, nothing has changed yet so much has changed. Susan still creates her calendars and designs so much from fabric to stickers to jewelry charms, cookbooks, oh I could go on and on. Her passion is her artwork but her stories of her family and all the memories of her childhood, young adulthood and happenings of today are extraordinary. Over time she has made a name for herself AND she has stayed humble through it all. Her work has allowed us straight into her life where I've learned about her love of cooking, her husband Joe and cat Jack, her home on Martha's Vineyard, her love of England (like me!!), and her 'girlfriends', oh and lots of parties.

Sometime in the early 2000s I diagnosed myself as a Susan Branch groupie. I have never been a groupie of anyone or anything before, but my collection of Susan Branch books and other fun stuff brought me to the realization that I am definitely a groupie. And like all groupies, your goal is to meet your idol! Of course, I didn't have a clue how that was ever going to happen. In 2013, Susan published her first book of what was to become a trilogy, A Fine Romance: Falling in Love with the English Countryside. By now, being that we are in the 2000s, she obviously has a website, so I follow along reading her blog and shopping her online store. On her blog she spoke here and there about her book in all its phases, from the writing, to the pictures from her trip to England, to her artwork, etc. Then she gave us all the opportunity to pre-order it. Well, we all know what I did! :) And then the book arrived...oh how my heart wanted to read it all in one night, but I couldn't! I wanted to make it last for months! I purposely made myself stop after so many pages. There were even times I would read out loud to Bill while he was in the shower lol. Yes, Bill has no choice but to hear all of Susan's stories, too. Not long after the book was published my dream came true. Susan had announced she was going to travel the US for a book signing with her husband Joe in a van they had painted to look like the cover of her book. She was starting on the east coast and making their way west. I searched her mapped out itinerary, but sadly Kentucky wasn't on it....but Ohio was!!! She had chosen a magical little bookstore just beyond Wilmington, Ohio and I was going to see her come hell or high water. Well, high water almost came the day of her signing when I was getting ready to leave and both my dogs left the yard and decided to walk the neighborhood. Bill told me to go to meet Susan and he would find them when he got home-I think he knew that it was in THEIR best interest I didn't find them...

When I arrived at the bookstore, there were just a few people there. I was selfishly excited hoping it would just be me and her. Before I new it, more and more women and a couple of men were parading through the door. I noticed that several people were at the check out counter and getting numbers so I decided to head that way and see what it was about. When it was my turn the lady asked for my last name. So, I kindly gave it to her. Then she looked on some paper and said I'm not on the list. The list???? What list?? She asked if I called to reserve a spot. My heart sank...and fast... I told her I did not and didn't know I was suppose to. I'm not sure if she saw my tear ducts bouncing all over my eyes just waiting to explode or what, but she looked at me and with an enormous smile said, "oh, that's okay, I can still give you a number!" I'm sure all she heard was "Oh Thank You Lord Jesus", but I'm not sure if I said it out loud or not. So she wrote a number on it and handed it to me. She said, "This is your number. We will call it when it's time for you to get in line." Perfect I thought, won't be long now! I'll be meeting her and talking up a storm and all the other women are going to be jealous and this is going to be fantastic. I look down and my number was...

67...

SIXTY SEVEN? Are you kidding me? She'll be hoarse if not asleep by the time it's my turn. I guess it beats 167...

That day, I had one of the best afternoons EVER. Susan talked to the group of us like it was just a party at a friend's house. Joe was in the background here and there taking pictures and I'm there with my camera phone taking pictures of him lol and her of course. All the women there were just as excited to meet her as I was and a bond was formed. Perfect strangers came together and were talking like we've known each other for years. I was no longer the single groupie I thought I was. We were groupies. The line to meet her went slow and steady but was so much fun because we talked with each other and laughed and shared stories. No one felt rushed to talk with her and get pictures. We encouraged each other to enjoy the personal time with her. The little book store even offered cucumber water and cookies. We all agreed to take pictures with each other's camera phone so we had memories to show family back home. And then it was my turn...I had my name tag on that Susan put on her website for us to print off and wear and I brought my A Fine Romance book for her to sign and I also brought 3 empty (fill in your own) cookbooks she designed that are titled For My Daughter. I was so nervous, I can't begin to tell you! I walked up to her as she sat at the table smiling and looked at her and said, "I have waited forever to meet you..." and could literally feel myself choking back the tears. And she said "well hello Anna, it's so nice to finally meet you, too" and smiled. She signed all my books and addressed one cookbook to each of my daughters and the third one she signed "From the best mother in law and Susan Branch" (for me to give to my future daughter in law someday). Then, when I asked if I could get a picture with her, she did something she had only done with one little old lady about fifty something people before me...she stood up and asked me to come around! I all but ran! Here I was standing next to Susan at her request! She wrapped her arms around me gave me a ginormous hug and we both smiled at the camera! And yes, I remember it like it was yesterday!

She came to Cincinnati a couple years later, but unfortunately I wasn't able to meet with her face to face again. The bookstore did things differently and sadly it was way too crowded. My daughter went with me this time and we decided, after Susan had spoken, to just head on home. On the way to our car, I saw the VAN. It was just sitting in a normal parking spot in the big parking lot so we decided to head over and take some selfies beside the van. ;) Then we heard this masculine voice say, "here, let me take your picture!" When I turned around, it was Susan's husband Joe! He was so incredibly kind and took our picture (a couple) then I notice him reach into this red solo cup he was carrying. He said he was taking the contents inside to pass out, but since we were leaving he wanted us to have a few. I held out my hand as he offered three big brown seeds. I almost passed out! These were the seeds that he and Susan had picked from their wisteria tree back home on Martha's Vineyard! OH.. MY.. GOD! I can plant a wisteria tree and have a little piece of her in my own yard!! Over the moon does not describe my day!

Today I have a cabinet pretty much dedicated to all of Susan's books and fun items like a sheep tart burner that reminds me of England that I know Susan would love as much as I do and a little tea cup and saucer of the Queen of England. All the stories and little quotes and poetry have taught me so much about dreaming and about simplicity and life and the world and how we need to do things NOW and not later and how we don't have to conform to everyone else.

I truly hope that you have the opportunity to find something in your life that makes you feel like a kid with no worries, that calms your spirit and fills your soul like I have. If you do, then I hope you, too, become a groupie...

By the way...I tried to grown the wisteria seeds, but sadly I didn't succeed. However, I do have pictures of the seeds and memories that will last a lifetime!

#SusanBranch #groupie #collector #artist #AFineRomance #wisteriaseeds

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    Scrambled Eggs..

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