At one point during her talk Oprah asked the question, “Why are you here?” What she meant by that question encompasses answers from around the world and would take years to debate. Why are you here? Why did I go to see her at the Bell Center seems to be a question I can answer succinctly and without prejudice.
Oprah has been a part of my life and my friends’ lives for much of our adulthood. While my children played outside every day after school I would tune into Oprah on the little black and white television in my kitchen. After I made sure my children were safe and as a started getting the dinner ready, Oprah would join me for that hour while dinner cooked and while my kids let off some steam from a long day at school.
My friend Norma, who lived down the hall from me, was a teacher and so she too would be at home doing what I was doing: watching her children, getting dinner ready and watching Oprah. We would even call each other when we heard the topic of discussion and realized that it might be of interest to both of us. Often Norma and I would spend some time – sometimes hours – debating or talking about the show. And that conversation would carry on with other friends as well. No doubt about it, Oprah got people talking!
Oprah was a fixture in the culture in which our children grew up and in which we aged. Most of my friends watched Oprah religiously. My friend Sandy invited our group of friends on many occasions to use a calendar book she would give us at our retreats at her cottage to write everything we were grateful for. During one of our retreats we even had Oprah join us! It was a surprise for Sandy’s birthday. We decided after writing to Oprah on several occasions and asking her and Gail to join us at the cottage that she was not going to come. So we made an effigy of her and put her in the back of Norma’s SUV and she travelled with us up to St. Donat for a weekend retreat.
That weekend Oprah was with us in spirit as we celebrated Sandy’s birthday and referred all of our questions to Oprah the effigy. If anything, it made for a weekend of laughter and fun as we lugged Oprah around pretending she was real. She sat with us at the dinner table, joined us for lively conversation in the living room, and helped us drink some lovely wine on those brisk autumn nights.
So last night was special for all of us who were there at the Bell Center. We shared some common bonds with each other and with Oprah. After all, she had aged with us over the years, gaining and losing weight and changing her hair color, just as we did. Most importantly, though, was how we were all growing spiritually and emotionally.
Having watched Oprah grow over the years on television just as we have grown over the years, it was delightful to actually see her in person. Dressed in a classic white linen blouse and a gorgeous ankle-length turquoise-greenish skirt, Oprah looked stunning. The crowd was hysterical – as women can often be on occasions like this – as she entered the side entrance and walked up the stairs to take the stage. After chanting “Oprah, Oprah, Oprah,” the audience settled down to listen to a wise motivational speaker talk about her life and the events that took her from Mississippi to Montréal. It was absolutely inspiring. She had all of us riveted to her stories, stories of joy and hope and pain. There she stood on that huge stage, offering her wisdom and sharing her passion and her gifts. She regaled us with her stories of the hardships of growing up poor and abused and told us how she climbed up out of that despair by simply putting one foot in front of the other.
Each of us no doubt took something different away from our Evening With Oprah and although my friends and I shared the experience with fifteen thousand other people, it felt as though Oprah was finally with us up at our retreat in St. Donat. It felt as if she was speaking to us, four middle-aged women, friends, who really have learned a lot from watching Oprah over the years. From her inspirational stories on her shows to reading her Book Club selections, Oprah truly has opened us all up to a world or worlds that perhaps we never would have explored if not for her show.
So Sandy, I will write in my calendar book for April 11th 2013: “Went to see Oprah tonight with four of the lovely ladies, and ‘O’, what a night it was. To share this experience with my friends, to see Oprah live and in person, well, that I can be truly grateful for.”
All photos by Martha Farley. All rights reserved.