~a new take on an old tradition~
When my Mama left this world almost nine years ago, I remembered the joy she and Daddy found in sharing their love of reading with the young people in their lives. It started, I believe, when they learned that their favorite book we read as children, “Our Animal Friends at Maple Hill Farm,” was out of print. The story they tell is that they wrote enough letters until it was back in print in paperback. Whether or not they truly caused it to be reprinted doesn’t even matter–it’s just a fun story about determination and asking for what you want. “The worst they can say is no,” Mama used to remind us often.
Mama and Daddy ordered the book by the dozens I think. I know they kept a box of them in their trunk so they could share the book with children they met on their Monday Stevi B’s Pizza lunch dates, or with young parents they came upon in their trips to the dentist, doctor’s office, or Cancer Center. While we were at the hospital with Mama, I was able to grab a copy to take to one of her nurses who had a sweet little girl she went home to each night. It was a tradition and has now become one of mine–so much so that my dear friend suggested, when I was talking to her about a good baby gift–“Well of course you have to give them THE book.” And she was right. Of course I did.
At some point the tradition moved into the holidays. Mama and Daddy started giving special holiday and Christmas books to their grandchildren and great nieces and nephews. Each year they sat and pored over book choices together before choosing the book for that holiday season. In 2013 it meant so much to me to continue that tradition and choose the special book to share with the young children and friends in my life. It’s been fun to read different holiday stories before I chose just the right one, and then there was the year that “Wonky Donkey” made the lineup. The only thing was, I realized over the years I was missing one important element. As I remember Mama sitting at the computer at the desk and Daddy on the daybed couch next to the desk comparing notes and making the decision together, I recall the story my friend Hugh shares about what he learned when he asked people to tell him about their best day. In every single one of the stories, they were with someone else. Together. (Well, as Hugh goes on to share–there was that one guy who climbed to a mountain peak alone–but then promptly called his wife to tell her about it, so technically…..yeah. Together.) Mama and Daddy did this together. I found myself running my ideas by someone else, getting another’s thoughts about the choice. It has usually been my Aunt, as it should be. She has shared her love of books with me my whole life.
As I was looking at possible choices for this year, I learned of a young first year teacher who is teaching kindergarten in the elementary school in the county where my Granny was raised. She was asking for books and blankets as gifts for her children for Christmas, as many of her students come from homes where books are not plentiful. I found out from her sister that this teacher, Miss M, is borrowing books from their Mama to read in the classroom. It broke my heart that she is having to build her library on her own, on her first year teacher’s salary. Her school is in a rural area, and for many of her children in the classroom, these books are opening the doors to worlds they have never even imagined. I felt a nudge, and I knew it was time to change the tradition for this year. (And if you know me, you know that change is hard and traditions are written in stone around here, so this was a very strong nudge.)
So instead of sending a special book to my friends and family this year, I will be sending books to Miss M’s class in honor of these young people I love and in memory of the two people who planted and cultivated and fed my love of books and reading. In case you feel a nudge like I did, I have created an Amazon wish list, “Library Love,” of books and things that would bless these children and their sweet teacher. If there is a book you dearly loved as a child (and still do) that you’d like to share with them, but you don’t see it on the list, reach out to me and I’ll add it so you can send it directly to Miss M and her children. But there is no pressure or expectations. All I ask is for you all to think of this teacher, whose light is shining brightly in the lives of so many, and offer prayers and good thoughts for them as they begin 2022, ready to learn and laugh and dream.
Wishing you all a grand holiday season filled with delicious treats and all your favorite books, those read and those yet to be discovered, stacked up close by.
Love to all.