what really counts

When it comes right down to what counts, what matters, a life is measured in relationships. I know how lucky I am. Here are a few shots from Wednesday, my last full day in Mississippi, back in Jackson, a day that included schools, booksellers, friends, and family, and little literary relationship, too.

Visiting Jackson Academy. Thanks so much to librarian Suzie Adcock, who had prepared for my morning visit... love that bulletin board! Loved those students, many of whom had music questions for me.
Can you believe this sea of children in the library at St. Andrew's Episcopal School? What a blast... look how attentive they are! I had so much fun here, with these bouncy third and fourth graders. As I began to sing from "All Things Bright and Beautiful," they sang right along -- knew all the words -- and I was floored. I have a long relationship with that song -- Each Little Bird That Sings comes directly from it -- and was thrilled to see it shared with these students (and parents! Parents came! Hooray!)
Here are Emily Grossenbacher, children's manager at Lemuria Books in Jackson, and Jeannie Chun, librarian at St. Andrews.
Emily and I are getting to know each other -- she has been in this position at Lemuria for about a year, and I've been coming to Lemuria for years and years. I miss former buyer Yvonne Rogers (who came to my signing -- thanks ever, Yvonne), but I am happily getting to know the very capable Emily and her tastes and ways of working. I loved working with her over the past month or two, to set up this day in Jackson.

Emily set up the morning at Jackson Academy and the afternoon at St. Andrews, AND the 5pm signing and reading at Lemuria. She is tireless, and I appreciate her so much. Thank you, Emily! And thanks, new friend Jeannie, for preparing your school community so thoroughly for my arrival!

I had a couple of hours between the last school stop and my Lemuria signing, so y'all know what I had to do, right? Right. I went, once again, to Eudora Welty's home, where I wandered the garden and sat in the peacefulness. I never met Miss Eudora, but her work is a big influence on mine, hence the relationship -- the kinship -- I feel with her. Wandering the garden for a while was just what I needed to help me with book two of the sixties trilogy, and to help me catch my breath before my signing.
I don't draw record numbers of people at my signings, but I understand what it means to do a bookstore signing. It means creating a continuing, rich relationship with booksellers -- some of the hardest working, most amazing people on earth. It means signing stock that will be hand sold "right up to Christmas." It means reconnecting with good friends. And, nowadays, those good friends include teachers, librarians, other writers, and family. Especially in Mississippi.
Here are a bunch of us on the stage, after my signing. Look carefully and you'll find my nephew Michael Paul and his new wife, Sarah, who teaches third grade, and, next to them, my cuz (hee) Ellen Ruffin from USM's de Grummond collection. Ellen is standing just behind wonderful writer and photographer Sarah Campbell, whose new book, Growing Patterns (oo! Think fibonacci numbers!)  I snagged at Lemuria. In the spotlight in the back, right, are good friends and librarians Melissa Wright and Mary Thompson, and then there are new friends in this photo -- new relationships -- and more cousins.
This is what really counts in life, whatever your job or station: people to love, and people to love you right back. Ways to belong in the world, ways to understand and be understood. Ways to be safe. Ways to do good work. Ways to count to ten with a toddler! Oh, yes, that's what matters.
Back in Atlanta this morning. The good news I hinted at, coming up next.

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