Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Let the School Visit Rumpus Start!

I'm excited that the new school year has begun, and that I'm back to visiting elementary schools. There is something so joyous about getting children excited about reading. I'm grateful I get to generate enthusiasm for literacy. It's one of my favorite things about being an author.

Here's a fun school visit story. I had finished my assembly at one particular school and as children were filing out of the gym, a child approached me. "Those kids don't believe that we're related," he said. A couple of other children stood back, watching us curiously.

"They don't believe we're related?" I asked, to be sure I heard him correctly.

"Yeah. I told them I was related to you, but they don't believe me."

This was a predicament. I had no idea who this child was, and he was asking me to verify that we were relatives in front of his friends. He appeared sincere, almost tearful. What would I do? I looked at the children behind him, and looked at him again. I studied his face more closely. I certainly didn't have any idea who he was, and if I asked him his name it would be obvious to the other children. I didn't want to dismiss him in front of his peers. Then again, I didn't want to be dishonest. For several moments I was speechless.

"How are your parents doing?" I finally asked, hoping this would give me a clue.

"Fine," he said.

No clue.

"Errrr...what's your mother doing these days?"

"I dunno. Just taking care of me and stuff."

Still no clue. Then suddenly he spelled it out. "I've been trying to tell those guys that I'm the son of my mom who's the sister of your husband's brother named Mel. My aunt said so."

Mel--a name! My brother in law. And this child must be his new wife's nephew.

"Yes," I said. "Of course we're related!" And anyway, I thought privately, aren't we all related somehow in the family of humanity? Heh. The little boy bounded away, satisfied. "See?" he said, and the children scurried away.

Another story--a child sat beside me prior to an assembly and said, "Did you know Kristyn Crow was coming to our school?"

I said, "No kidding?"

"Uh-huh. She's a real author."

"That's very cool. Have you seen her around yet?"

"Nope. She's gonna be in this assembly right now."

"Oh okay."

His teacher waved him over and he took a seat with his class. It was cute to see his face--mouth open--when the principal introduced me at the start of the assembly.

Precious. I love visiting schools!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Message on a Back Bumper

A month ago I had a doctor’s appointment that made me a bit nervous. A routine ultra sound had shown a small irregular spot in my uterus. It was only a tiny spot, and this appointment was a follow-up to see whether it had grown or changed. My husband, always supportive, came along. But he just happened to slip away for a moment when the nurse called me in. Not knowing how long he would be, I went into the office alone. Meanwhile, when my husband returned and realized I was already having the second ultrasound—too late for him to enter--he found a way to keep himself busy. He went to the parking lot and found a roll of orange duct tape in the back of my car. With a permanent marker he wrote “I love you Kris” backwards on a strip of the tape. Then he affixed it to the back bumper of my car. This way, he thought, when I put my car in reverse, my back-up camera would reveal the surprise message.

The ultrasound results were good. The spot was entirely gone. Perhaps it had only been a flaw or shadow. Relieved, I met my husband and shared the information. We exhaled our relief. Then we got into the car to leave, and that’s when I first saw his note appear on the screen.

The tape stayed stuck on the bumper for several weeks. It survived a road trip to California and several rain storms. It held through dozens of trips to the grocery store, and a few jaunts to the movies. It was there every time I backed up--a daily love note from my husband--something to smile about. Something to give me pause and to marvel, once again, that I am deserving of love. This has been a difficult thing to accept after having love withdrawn so cruelly in my past.

After some time, the tape began to curl, and soon it would be gone. Ahhh well. It had been a novelty while it lasted.

And then came my birthday. Along with a new bike and an ice cream cake was an odd strip of metal in an envelope. My husband had gone to an engraver and had the words “I LOVE YOU KRIS” inscribed backwards on a metal plate. We laughed together as he tore away the old tape and affixed the message permanently to my back bumper. What had been a temporary love note—an afterthought—would now be a constant reminder of his love and affection.

I’m so glad for the little things--the messages on back bumpers that remind us what matters most. But mostly I’m grateful to love and be loved. It is such a gift. Thank heaven for second chances that take us to a better place.