In Dominican Spanish la ñapa refers to "the little extra" added on at the end. Just when you thought you'd gotten all that you would get, along comes your ñapa, like a baker's dozen, with one more kiss, one more pastelito, one more mango at the mercado.
Three Musketeers with Governor and
VCA Chairman Carris
Well, the excitement is over! On November 4, Bill and I drove over to Montpelier to attend the gala evening where I would receive the Governor's Award for Excellence in the Arts. It helped the butterflies in my stomach to know that I would be sharing the evening with my old friend, Syd Lea, who was being proclaimed the state's poet laureate, as well as with a new friend, Christian Wolff, the composer, who was being honored with Walter Cerf Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Arts. Three Musketeers are definitely better than one at fending off an attack of NERVES, and so I was glad that Vermont economically got all its ceremonious business over and done with in one evening, then clapped its big workhands and said, "Okay, everybody, back to work!"
As you'll hear from an excerpt (below) of my speech, I was a little reluctant to accept the award when I first got the call with the news. But when I heard that I could invite anyone I wanted to, I got to thinking that this was a way of having my funeral and getting to enjoy it! So I accepted and proceeded to make a guest list a mile long. (Poor Vermont Arts Council's Marie Bernier who sent out all those invitations.) I included a bunch of Stateside familia, tíos and tías, primos and primas, as well as old friends from before I had ever published a book. Of course, I invited all my publishers; my editors (alas, my Algonquin editor, Shannon Ravenel is in Singapore this year); my agent, Susan Bergholz, and her partner-in-crime, Stuart Bernstein! Heck, I even invited dear old Ada, who used to work cleaning our house in Queens when I was a teenager. Since she would need a ride, I also included her daughter, Dinorah (whom I wanted to see anyhow -- I swear, Di), and her two cute kids, Mary and Matteo. I mean this was going to be a big funeral. You only die once, after all.
Of course, I didn't expect most of these people to come. In fact, as the day drew closer, I thought (gulp!) no one would come, except my dear compañero, Bill, and my good friend, Jay Parini, who had to come because he had agreed to introduce me. But I was truly surprised and blessed by having many friends show up. (They all get a dispensation from attending my funeral.) Even people who couldn't come wrote me notes and emails and left messages on my phone. One of the best surprises was my baby sister, who hadn't answered my email asking if she was coming. And showed up with four shopping bags of gifts (okay, three were for my grandkids), a bouquet of flowers, AND her daughter, my niece, Lauri, and her compañero, Steve. She sat in the front row and clapped shamelessly and, I'm almost sure, initiated the standing ovation after my speech.
Julia with Governor Shumlin
I think a good time was had by all, or I hope so, because otherwise, I hogged all the happiness. Here is an excerpt from my speech, which I tried to make short, given that it was a long evening, and unlike my usual luck with a name like Alvarez, I was unalphabetically last!
P.S. I almost forgot: I got an awesome trophy: a glass sculpture; Christian got an impressive medal that hung around his neck from a ribbon, and I don't know what Syd Lea got. His title, I suppose.
Here is a part of the speech:
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