I used to get sick at times like these. My friend James called these moments "punctuation marks" -- moments of such profound life change that the body says STOP! WAIT A MINUTE! LET ME ADJUST!
But you know... I'm okay. I'm great. I'm better than great. It's a new day.
Isn't it always? Yeah, yeah, that old adage about every moment being a new moment... in my twenties, I kept this saying close by:
This is a new day. I have this day to use as I will. What I do with this day is important because I am exchanging a day of my life for it. When tomorrow comes, this day will be gone forever. In its place will be something I have left behind. Let it be something good.
I still try to live by this. Idealists R Us, I know. My mother used to tell me that I needed to be more of a realist, and perhaps she was right, but I am who I am, I have finally learned that much. I have learned, too, that idealism without a healthy dose of practicality doesn't get me too far.
I have learned to be a pragmatist, in this past ten years. Ten years ago I sold my first book, FREEDOM SUMMER, followed within a few months by LOVE, RUBY LAVENDER. I have learned much about the realities of publishing and the difficulties of making a living, particularly as a single parent. This spring alone, in schools, I have been challenged:
-- I presented an assembly to fourth and fifth graders during field day. FIELD DAY! Enough said.
-- I presented an assembly program to third graders in the cafeteria during LUNCH TIME, while kids filed through with their trays and assorted conversations and crashes. This was a first. And almost impossible.
-- I presented a kindergarten program to a room full of five-year-olds who had just been visited by Viola Swamp, which was, of course, all they wanted to talk about. I looked at the teacher, she looked at me, we just laughed.
-- I presented assembly programs to schools full of children who didn't know who I was and didn't know my books. Those of you who do author visits in schools know how hard this is.
This is just for starters. And I'm not complaining. I'm laughing. You have to laugh! It's such a crazy life. I watch teachers -- idealistic when they begin (I know; I have taught them) -- become total pragmatists as they figure out how to make teaching work for them and their students, as they heroically figure out how to make literacy matter by bringing in an author to talk about story with their students.
Some time I want to tell you about the wonderful Georgia schools I visited this past week -- I have pictures of these intrepid, pragmatic souls to share with you -- I have stories.
I'm grateful for every invitation I received this spring, grateful for the work, grateful for the relationships, grateful, grateful, grateful, and I can certainly appreciate all the barriers that have to be surmounted and dealt with and the compromises that must be made when a brave media specialist, reading teacher, PTA mom or principal decides to bring an author to school.
It's all so mixed up, these ways of teaching, learning, making a living, celebrating. It's all that messy glory. And boy, am I getting an education!
We had lots of messy glory last Saturday at our house, during our family celebration. Photos are here. I'll keep them up for a couple of weeks for you brave souls who want to peruse 175 of the top 500 photos that folks took of the day (for heaven's sake!).
I'm looking at these pictures and thinking about the endings and beginnings that are a part of life. I can feel myself at the end of a long struggle and at the beginning of a new chapter in my life. I will be home more, on the road less. I have three novels of the 1960s to write for young readers. I have a garden to tend, a husband to love, a home to make, a family to bask in.
I am hopeful, excited, and not a bit petrified of the unknowns ahead. I have spent the past eight years picking up the pieces, holding it together, fashioning a brand-new life, and I can't wait to step into it.
Which I will do tonight. I am writing you from a hotel restaurant in Columbia, Missouri, where I am part of the Reading Day celebration for fifth and sixth graders in Columbia Public Schools. I will see 1200 students today in four sessions -- I'm excited about that, too. And about seeing my friend Roland Smith, who is also here.
Few photos today, with no captions -- they are all from this past week in Georgia schools -- but I did want to connect. To let you know I'm here, working away, as are you, exchanging a day of my life for this day, as are you, hoping that I leave behind something good.