When she was our high school librarian I was afraid of her. She was large and territorial, and I didn't need any more terrifying women around me - my mom was enough. I spent most of my time around "Doc," our big-hearted hilarious band director. Years later, though, I made a visit to Anna Cebrat, because I'd become a puppeteer and so had she - and she was known around the country, through Puppeteers of America. I was curious.
On a visit to my dad and stepmom, I called ahead for a time to meet with her. She let me into her house, which was filled with stacks and stacks of newspapers and magazines, with a narrow maze of a path leading from front door to chairs and sofa. I knew how to show respect and avoid even looking uncomfortable....But after she'd been kind enough to show me some of her puppets and share some of her experiences with me, she brought up the topic of the mess around us, wanting to know what I thought.
I saw there was no way out of commenting - and it had to be the Truth, whatever I said - because we were talking Truth. Puppets are all about Truth. So I grinned at her and pretended to scold as I looked over the mess, saying, "And YOU, a librarian!" That was enough. We both enjoyed a good laugh - because, from the way I said it, she could see that I loved human foibles and that I could see hers as loveable.
When the visit felt over and I got up to leave, she heaved herself up from her seat and I really saw how terribly she struggled with overweight and arthritis, bless her heart. I'm glad I got to visit and learn from her, and give her a little joke on herself to chuckle over from time to time. Perhaps it went into one of her puppet shows, who knows? She passed away quietly a year or so after that visit, and I hope her old dog, just as overweight and arthritic as she, passed away first. And I've often wondered what the folks who came to clean out that house might have found, stashed among all the newspapers and magazines.
This article was originally published in Gather in 2007.