Children. So innocent all around. Their bodies, minds and spirits flow as rivers to a sea of undiscovered imaginations.
Perhaps it was the snow that triggered this memory from long ago, or maybe it was rushing to grab a cup of coffee before I was out the door. Years ago, when my youngest son attended kindergarten I still owned a small publishing company producing children’s books targeted to schools.
Once a week, in the afternoon, I stopped by his classroom to help a chosen student write and ‘publish’ a book. For me, it was a magical time, minutes turning into an hour to strike a rare friendship with a five or six-year-old never met or known before. Before long, I would get a peek at their inner soul. Often giggles were shared. Sometimes tears were shed.
The topic of the book was completely left to the budding author. Once out of the safety of the classroom, an angelic girl dressed in the latest fashion might begin to fidget in her chair. Or a boy, warm in a checkered flannel shirt stuffed into jeans would tap his pencil over and over and over again. “What should we write about today?”
We talked about things in ‘their’ world. Life at home, school and fun stuff like sports, hobbies, collections, pets and family vacations. Some kids didn’t have the traditional family. Their parents were divorced or they lived with blended families or sometimes with a grandparent. I explained how all of these were families too. I never pried, only listened to what they were willing to tell me. Most often, what they told me turned into words which made their own unique story. For the first time, they became real ‘writers’ on those days.
There is one little boy who wrote and illustrated a story I shall never forget. As soon we pulled our wooden chairs out from the Formica table that winter afternoon he knew what he wanted to write about. I listened quietly as he began to tell me the story of his loving grandpa. I got out the pencils and colored markers, the paper and tubes of glitter while he recited his tale. With each turn of the page, more words were written. It was not my job to correct spelling or grammar. This would soon be a book authored by a kindergartner, in all its finished glory.
The little guy with blonde shaggy hair who was dressed in overalls wrote of how his grandpa took him fishing near a fast blue river. Together, they liked to ride ponies and play cowboys in the woods. His grandpa liked to lick vanilla ice cream cones on a hill behind his house. He smoked cigars but never in the house. His grandpa made funny jokes, tickled him until he giggled and wore scruffy whiskers on his face. He was his best friend in the whole United States.
“Oh, how lucky you are to have such a fun grandpa. You must love him very much.” I remember saying, or something to that effect. I checked my watch. Our hour was nearing its end. Time to staple the cover, add the T.I.T.L.E. together with the proud Author’s name.
“Wait, I’ve got one more picture to draw,” my new friend plaintively said.
I sat watching this endearing little guy who had tremendous love for his grandfather. Not only did I hear and see it in his words, I felt it from his soul. He picked up crayons and markers to draw lines in different colors, connecting one to the other. A long box began to take shape. Next, a floor lamp appeared at one end of the box. “What would this be,” I wondered? The little boy was very quiet…pensive even.
Within seconds I could see. On a lined paper page, a portrait of a beloved grandpa took shape, laying in a box. It was a child-like depiction of a casket. “Grandpa,” I learned through tears and tissues, had recently passed away. He was very much on this precious child’s mind. This is what he wanted to write about. This was going to be his first published book.
All of the children’s stories that year were special. They were theirs alone, ‘published’ into books right before their eyes. I still remember each time the last staple clamped down on colorful construction paper covers. Light shined through on faces of proud innocence as if to say, “I did this! I wrote and published a book!”
The tangible book is gift to be treasured forever. Bound pages of paper to hold in the two of your hands. Run your tips of fingers over printed words while dreaming of the unimaginable. Oh, what a gift…..