It was the end of May in 1999 when the movie “Return to Me” was filmed on my friend Pat Waldron’s block. To be more specific, outside of Pat’s house on South Elmwood Avenue (in Oak Park, Illinois, where I grew up). There were movie trailers set up that the actors would use in between takes on set.
Pat and I were sitting on his front porch, watching the scurry of activity. It was pretty cool to be a few feet away from an active, major motion picture set. At the same time, we were looking through our freshman yearbook. We both attended Oak Park and River Forest High School and were excited to see how the yearbook looked.
A few minutes later, I looked up and said to Pat, “there’s Minnie Driver!” an actress who just a year (or so) prior had starred in one of my all-time favorite movies, “Good Will Hunting.”
I turned to Pat and said, “I’m going to ask Minnie to sign my yearbook.”
He laughed as I stood up and brazenly walked down his front porch steps and said, “Ms. Driver, would you please sign my yearbook?” She smiled, took hold of the yearbook, and autographed it.
Now, in moments when you’re a few feet from someone you admire, it’s possible that your mind goes blank. That was my experience as a then 15-year-old, 6 foot 1-inch man-child. I desperately tried to think of something, anything to say to Minnie while she was signing the book. “I really liked ‘Good Will Hunting,'” was the best I could muster.
Being the polite person that she was (and probably still is), she again smiled and said, “Oh, you like that one; it was a lot of fun.” Remember that Minnie also has a British accent, which made this experience that much more wholesome.
Upon completing my request, she kept walking to her trailer, and I probably awkwardly ran back up to Pat’s front porch to show off her signature. Pat poked fun at how silly that was to have her sign it while also commending me on being brave at the same time.
So why share this story with you now? Well, I was contacted by my coworker, Alex Rauenbuehler, who serves as an English language arts teacher and is the yearbook and newspaper adviser at Muscatine High School. Alex reached out to me in hopes that I would share that there is still time to order your Muscatine High School yearbook, which is known as “The Auroran.”
While I cannot promise that a famous actress will sign your yearbook, what I can speak to is personally having all four of my high school yearbooks. They’re inside a tote in my attic; I have looked at them each time we’ve moved, including the one with Minnie’s signature. This is also the 20th anniversary of when I graduated high school, so I’m feeling nostalgic and old, really, really, really old.
Oh, and if you haven’t seen the movie “Return to Me” you should. It’s great, kind of emotional at the beginning, but an outstanding story.