On Thursday, famous children’s author Jan Brett (The Mitten) was in town. It hurt me to have to drive past Barnes & Noble, where her tour bus was parked, and head home to get my kids ready for the school dance. I would have loved to stop in and meet Jan, watch her interact with the children, see the gleam in her eye as she talked books and reading with youngsters and their parents. But on that day, at that hour, I was wearing my mother hat and I had another obligation to meet. Reluctantly, I drove past the store’s windows, and as I rolled past, I saw ever so briefly a smiling lady with people gathered round her that I’m almost sure was Jan. It seems only yesterday I sat down with my firstborn in my lap and read to him, for the upteenth time, The Mitten. He’d become so acquainted with it that he’d started anticipating which animals would climb into the mitten next. We’d giggle together every time the little mouse perched on the bear’s nose and sneezed, sending all of the animals flying out of the stretched-out mitten and into the snow. I never would have guessed then that twelve years later I would be on my way home to my five children to cook dinner, focused on a mother mission, too harried to stop and meet the gal who had been such an inspiration to me.
I’m no Jan Brett, but today, while taking part in the Altrusa children’s book fair benefit event, I felt a little more at ease with my loss. As I sat in the coveted storytime chair and engaged children in a rendition of the alphabet, North Dakota style, I could feel Jan’s presence lingering from two days ago. It was as if she’d never left. Later, as I signed books, I could feel her spirit again. Two feet away stood a bookshelf displaying her board books. Seeing this, I had the realization of how far I’ve come from those long-ago days reading to my firstborn, and while I’m still miles away geographically and emotionally from Jan Brett and the impact she has had on the world of children’s writing, I feel honored to be walking, however lightly and sporadically, a similar path. I can think of fewer endeavors more hope-filled and meaningful than sharing the gift of words and story with children, and even though I was unable to thank Jan in person for her inspiration, I will hang onto the hope that someday, another chance will come. And on that day, I’ll be able to tell her the story of how one November afternoon, I had to pass her by for another important event.
Thanks, Altrusa, for inviting me to take part in this special day to benefit literacy and Habitat for Humanity. And thanks to my little photographer for assisting me and for hearing me read P is for Peace Garden for the umteenth time. You’re a great sport, dear girl, and I have a feeling that someday, I will be in the audience taking photos of you.
I can’t end without mentioning how one of my favorite blogger pals drove several hours today with her husband, in part to meet me in person and share a cup of hot chocolate after the signing. What a lovely experience to come face to face with someone who has been such an encouragement. Thanks Far Side, Far Side Guy and East Side Professor. It was a true pleasure!