By Sharon Stevens
“But if you really want to read everything, you’ve got to convince them to open up all the way. Not until then will you be able to read the fine print of the soul.” Advice of Mary Grace in THE NOTE by Angela Hunt
Today was a whopper as far as the roller coaster of emotions goes. One minute I was so up, the next slightly down, and the next crashing to the bottom, and the next soaring above the clouds.
Well, of course at first was the grieving as well as the celebration for those lost and honored with 9/11. So many memorials, so many flags. And then there was the worry about Syria, oh and small town politics. Usual run of the mill stuff. Our daughter called and then our other daughter called. One pair close in miles and the other separated by distance but not by love. Oh how it warms my heart and soul when they call if even for just moments. I need that tangible touch even if they really don’t. When they’re finished even though I‘m not …“Got to go mom, really mom, I’ve truly got to go. Please mom, I need to get off the phone. I love you mom, but my husband is on the other line, or a friend, or my boss, or dad. Hate to cut you off but I got to go. Talk to you soon. Bye, bye again, bye-bye again.” Why do cell phones no longer click to announce they are gone. It would be so much easier.
I had just finished reading Angela Hunt’s, “The Note” and was shaken that she got the inspiration for the book about a plane crash in September 2000. Another roller coaster.
This evening I was watching the semi-finals of “America’s Got Talent”. The son of our own home grown Billy and Judy Carpenter Howell is the producer. Houston Howell went to WTAMU and made it across country to New York Radio City Music Hall to produce everything for this event. What a wonderful way to celebrate the pure beauty of those souls and their families from 9/11! Roller coaster!
But in between this morning and this evening I thought I was handling everything fairly well UNTIL. A young girl walked into our bookstore and asked if we had any children’s books. Well, I asked her, why was she asking. She didn’t seem shy, but just hesitant. The ladies down at the Canyon Public Library sent me here when I asked them the same question, she said. But WHY are you asking I asked again. She said she was looking for donations for their business for the kids to set up a little library, and needed books to stock it. But who is it for, I asked.
It’s for the children, she said.
She worked for Specialized Therapy Services in Amarillo where they provide exercise, speech, and therapy for all kinds of needs. They thought it would be wonderful to have a little children’s library for the kids to have books, but also so that they could read to the kids as they underwent their sessions.
“The thing that impresses me the most about our kids is that our kids own that school emotionally. They know they belong here and they are 100 percent accepted and loved and challenged. Loving them is not enough. “Karen Day, Specialized Therapy Services
Overwhelmed with emotions wasn’t the words I was looking for as I stared at her across the counter, but there were no words to do justice either. So I would just have to go with those sounds that tumbled straight out of my mouth. And then I began to gather a book here and a book there. Lynn Brown and her daughter Jamie Allan from the Playhouse Day Care had left off some books, one was even Eric Carle’s, something about Kangaroos I believe. That would do I would think. I told this young girl in front of me that our stock was so low as we had sent so many cases last year donated by Jan Henson Dickerson and her family that were sent down to our daughter, Andrea Keller. She teaches in Irving Texas, and one of their kids at Sally B. Elliott Elementary School had started a program, THE GIFT OF READING, to give every kid in the school three books for Christmas.
As I gathered up the meager hodge-podge of books around our play area I thought and thought. “Do I dare?” My next thought, “Of course”. My final thought. “No question!”
The evening before I had purchased Peter Reynold’s book, “The Dot” from Barnes and Nobles in Amarillo. Andrea had called making sure I was getting ready for International Dot Day on September 15, 2013 and I wanted to be prepared. I had already talked with Lynn at the Playhouse, Nikki and Debbie at Stevens Flowers, the Paper Crane Art Shop just to pass the word so they could be involved as well on dot day. Even though I knew what the book was about I had never seen a copy or read the text. When I bought this book I carried it lovingly in my arms until I got into the truck to have a moment to read to my hearts content. I read it once, another, and yet another, and over and over again. I brushed my hand across the pages, touched the artwork and made my mark. My plans had been to take it by the shops I had listed above so that they could read the book, and pass it on to the next business so we could all celebrate Dot Day in any way we choose or chose. What a grand idea!
But alas, here in front of me was a young girl gathering donations for special kids at her work. No brainer. I retrieved the book from the store bag with the receipt still inside. “The Dot” would have another home. I turned it to her and opened the pages one after the other so she could read the words and see the art and feel the story itself. And when she was finished I slipped my brand spanking new copy inside her bag (the Buffalo Bookstore bag), and told her it was a gift. I shared about Dot Day, and Peter Reynolds, and Andrea Keller, and the Gift of Reading, and how this was the same sort of project my daughter would volunteer for and be involved in God bless her very wonderful and sweet soul. But I had forgotten something. I removed the book again and opened the front page. Such a beautiful, and empty front page. So very many possibilities. I started to write, but my hands were so shaky and my heart was so full I was making a mess. “I couldn’t even draw a straight line with a ruler.”
I turned the book and asked her to “make her mark”. She had such beautiful handwriting. And this is what I inspired her to write, my favorite quote from Helen Hayes, “From your parents you learn love and laughter,” (she wrote it laughter and love, doesn’t make a hill of beans) “and how to put one foot before another, but when books are opened you discover you have wings.” How apropos.
We made our marks in these moments. Her generation and mine. We stood across the counter from each other and shared our passions in one fell swoop. In our family, in our business, in our city, in our university of WTAMU, in our county, in our state (the Great state of Texas I might add), in our country, in our world, internationally, globally, in every way, shape or form we made our mark. And it was pure, it was grand, and it was stupendous! On every level with every emotion we shared, connected, and linked our heritage, our legacies. No stone was left unturned. On this remembrance of 9/11 we remembered and honored in such a way that I knew the Angels in the Heavens above were celebrating. How could they not.
Oh the emotions that were flowing in those moments. She was going to take the books and share the message and tell the story and read to the kids over and over again. But something more important. She would remember how she felt and what she would treasure. She just might carry this in her heart and pass it on at church, or camp, or college or where ever she may travel. If she marries and has children she might buy her own copy to read to her kids or share it with her husband so he can read it as well.
Andrea shared with me that she gave it as a baby shower gift for a good friend that she taught with in Amarillo that was even signed by the author. Now this copy has made it from one side of the nation to the other. What a gift this is now and will be in years to come. And just think when these children are struggling with whatever brings them pain no matter the age, they can bring out this book and remember the love of a parent or a guidance of a teacher to just make their mark and see where it takes them.
Peter and Kerith Buckingham stopped in our bookstore on their journey around the world. This leg was traveling on Route 66 and they dipped down so they could visit the Panhandle Plains Historical Museum and Palo Duro Canyon. They got their latte next door at Vince’s Vinyl, but he didn’t have any “biscuits” (cookies) so they came next door as we always have cookies in the cooky jar. I found out they were from Australia and driving from country to country in their bright, canary yellow MG. Such delightful people they were. They loved book shops which meant they had come to the right place.
I just happened to have a copy of Canyon’s 100th anniversary Canyon News edition that I slipped into their bag. I had one of Jodi Thomas’ books that found its way into the mix. Jodi is my favorite author and friend celebrating 25 years of writing and 10 years of her fan club. I, along with Connie Hirsch and Natalie Bright are founding members, just so you know.
I had just picked up a book by Elmore Leonard who had passed away that day, and put it into their bag. The book, not Elmore.
As always I made up a bag about our area with the Amarillo Magazine and Texas Highways and Canyon News and everything else. As THEY, Peter and Kerith (Don’t you just love that name?) as they shared of their travels I was reminded of the book, “After You Marco Polo” by Jean Bowie Shor. I dug through my collection (translation-hoarding) of materials until I found a quote from the book about Jean’s travels and slipped it into the bag as well. I then sent them on their way having NO idea where they could put anything more into their tiny car or how, but they made it fit. Thank goodness they weren’t Texas sized people or they would have been in real trouble. I snapped their picture and they were on their way never to be seen again. Well actually, Craig Keel, a fellow blogger spotted them in Colorado at a gas station. He said no one could miss their bright yellow car.
I will be the first to admit I can’t draw. Never have been able to and never want to try. This isn’t my thing. I don’t want to write the great American novel either. I don’t want to hold office or make great speeches. Nope, that isn’t my style. But as a writer of sorts I want to share the stories and remember the memories. Why is that so wrong? I want to see polar bears in snow storms on a blank piece of white paper because the image of a polar bear reminds me of my grandmother and makes me smile, and I want to tell HER story.
But what I truly want to do is to make my mark, and see where it goes, even with something as simple as writing a blog.
Thanks Andrea Keller and Peter Reynolds for making your mark so I could share your story even all the way down to the fine print.