Andy Warhol’s Greatest Fan
by Lauren McLaughlin
Chase took her seat in the very first row of the cabin of the plane that was to take her from St. Petersburg, Florida to Kansas City, MO, and immediately began to notice a dozen things happening around her all at once. Passengers were still streaming in right in front of her. The flight attendant greeted a boarding passenger and directed a previously boarded passenger to the rest room, while answering a different question from another member of the crew at the same time.
Generally a “nervous flyer”, Chase was far too busy people-watching to remember her usual pre-panic symptoms. Her palms were dry, her heart was beating normally, and her stomach did not have the usual knots in it. Her husband John, sitting in the seat next to her, was amused to see her so “settled”. Even after the big door was closed, Chase was busy watching the flight attendants begin to prepare a beverage cart. And when two of them sat down in jump seats in front of her, she forgot completely on take-off to cut off the circulation in John’s left arm as the plane lifted into the air. She was having a good experience flying. Imagine that, she thought.
Looking for a place to put her tote bag because there was no “under the seat in front of you”, one of the attendants pointed to a space between her seat and the wall of the plane that she never would have noticed. When the plane leveled off, she reached down beside her to retrieve her tote bag and heard an excited squeal behind her. Looking back between the seats, she saw a woman and a teenage girl with their heads together staring at her tote bag.
“It’s an Andy Warhol!” the girl, who was about fourteen Chase guessed, hissed. I did my paper on him in art class. He’s absolutely wonderful. Do you see her bag Mom, can you see it?”
Chase looked down at her tote. She had just bought it the day before. It was the perfect size to hold her purse, her sweater, her book and of course, a small bottle of water and her faithful Dramamine pills. About 18” square, the bag was made of white vinyl and it had the same picture on both sides; a sharp black and white relief print of Marilyn Monroe’s laughing face wearing bright red lipstick.
Ignoring the whispering behind her, Chase removed her book from the bag and put the tote back in its place beside her seat, but when she lifted it out again to put the book back a half an hour later – the whispering began again.
“Where do you suppose she bought it?” The girl asked her Mother. “Can we ask her Mom? I want one so badly!”
“Well we won’t be going back to St. Petersburg, Honey, and that’s probably where she bought it,” her Mother answered.
“I know, I know, but there must be a way. When we land, can I ask her, please? If she’s going back there maybe she would…”
John leaned over to Chase and said, “Are you hearing this conversation behind us?
“I am,” Chase answered. “She seems obsessed with my tote bag.”
“How attached to it are you?” he asked.
“Not very, actually. I just bought it for this trip, but I do like it, why?.”
“Why not just give it to her?” he suggested.
Chase just sat still for a few minutes. She’d actually not thought of that, but she was quite pleased that John had. “I could do that,” Chase told him. “What a great idea. I think I’ll do it though, when it’s time to get off the plane.
Just then, the flight attendant came by, holding a good sized plastic bag in which to collect cups and napkins and Chase leaned over and asked her if she could have a clean bag like it to put her belongings in. The attendant soon returned with the bag and Chase quietly transferred the items in her Marilyn Monroe bag to the plastic bag.
When the plane reached the terminal and passengers began to line up to deplane, Chase stood up, and handed her bag over the seat to the young girl. “I couldn’t help over-hearing how much you like my bag,” Chase explained. “It’s brand new, and I’d like to give it to you.”
In that special way that only delighted teen-age girls can, she squealed. And she literally stopped traffic in the aisle. Departing passengers froze in place to watch her jumping up and down and see her dancing and laughing and declaring, “OH, THANKYOUTHANKYOUTHANKYOU. I LOVEITILOVEIT ILOVE IT.!
Standing in the terminal she continued her mantra non-stop as her delighted Mother looked on. Then they all picked up our carry-on bags and headed for baggage claim together.
The girl’s Mother deftly positioned her daughter in a place along the baggage conveyer belt where she could pick up their luggage and then carefully made her way to the place Chase and John were standing, out of her daughter’s ear shot.
She took one of each of their hands and said, “There is no way I can thank you enough for what you just did for my daughter, or even hope you will understand how important it was, but I’ll try. The truth is, I haven’t heard her laugh in well over a year and my heart is so full right now to see her. She just can’t stop smiling.”
The Mother went on to explain that her daughter’s Father had died a year before and she had simply remained profoundly sad ever since. Then just recently, her favorite grandmother, had also died in St. Petersburg and they were now returning home from the funeral. The girl’s sorrow somehow just got deeper and deeper.
“I was really afraid that I might lose her into a very deep depression, but your gift”, she said, “appears to have snapped her right out of it. Now she’s talking about wanting to go to visit the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, and I will take her,” her Mother assured Chase and John, “all because of you.”
All three looked over to where the girl was unloading the last bag from the conveyer belt. She waved and signaled to her mother to come back. Then she held up her new tote bag, kissed Marilyn’s bright lips and then threw a kiss to Chase and John.
“My heart’s pretty full, too,” Chase said hugging John’s arm. “Same goes,” he answered, his voice full of emotion.
Several weeks after they returned from Kansas City, Chase came home from work and found a pretty gift box on the dining room table. She called for John and he came into the room where Chase was vigorously shaking the box.
“Why not just open it?” he asked. “Because I like to try to guess, but I can’t,” she answered, removing the tape and enthusiastically lifting the cover. In it was a duplicate of her Andy Worhol tote bag.
She set it down to wind her arms around John’s neck and kiss him. “Thankyouthankyouthankyouthankyou,” she said, then laying her head on his chest she added wistfully, “She pops into my mind often.”
“Mine too,” he said, kissing the top of her head. Then he reached over and lifted the bag, spinning Marilyn’s happy face around and around by the silver chain. “That’s why”, he said, “I thought we should have something to remind us both of the day we met Andy Worhol’s greatest fan.
Lauren McLaughlin is part of a team of thousands of teachers on the planet at this time, whose purpose is to remind those who wish to remember that they are deeply and dearly loved by the creator and sustainer of all life, that the answers to the most important questions they have are carefully stored in their own heart, and that they deliberately chose the human experience for the sheer fun of it. Lauren is a writer, speaker, and retreat facilitator who is currently living happily-ever-after with her husband, John, in Clearwater, Florida.