My mother always told me that people come in and out of your life for a reason. "Sometimes, the ones who drift, are the ones you'll never forget."
My children spend over thirty hours a week in the care of the wonderful teaching staff at our local primary school. It's there that they learn maths, and spelling, and science. It's where they laugh, create, and play, while learning how to navigate relationships. It's also a place where they can be influenced and inspired. Where words of encouragement could possibly change the way they think, or what they dream about, forever.
I had a library teacher, who did this for me. She was the most passionate person about children's literature I'd ever known. She'd let my friends and I huddle in the dark corners of the library, our backs leaning against walls of books, where we'd sit and read while it rained outside. And sometimes, with a wink of her eye, she'd let us into the library at lunchtimes when it wasn't raining too. She understood what it meant to nurture a love of books in her students.
She let us cover books with plastic contact, and delighted in appointing library monitors. She fed us a staple diet of authors like Roald Dahl, Judy Blume, Hazel Edwards, Beverly Cleary, and Paul Jennings, among others.
She read to us, but not only that, she spoke a lot about the authors who wrote the books we'd read. One day, I remember sitting in the library, listening to her talk about an author and a thought popped into my mind; one that I'll never forget.
"Maybe one day I can be an author too."
The only problem was, that even though I knew books were written by authors, I didn't know much else. Most of my friends wanted to become nurses, or flight attendants, or teachers. I didn't know any authors, and at that age, I had no idea how you'd go about getting a book written or published and so that thought remained tucked away in the back of my mind, for a very long time.
Life went on, and through high school, I continued reading (a lot), and writing when I could. And even though I might not have verbalised it, I always knew that one day I wanted to write and publish a novel.
There were so many steps that led me to write my first book. Like the way my mum bought me a book every single week throughout my primary years. I'd bring one home and finish it before the day was out and then I'd beg her to go back to the shops the next day for another. The way she'd turn a blind eye to me reading until late into the night, devouring language and story. The way she smiled proudly when I showed her a story I'd written and illustrated. The way I'd lie in bed at night and make up stories in my head about what it would feel like to be lost on a deserted island or have a broken leg, or be blind, or able to talk to animals.
Many years later, when I finally had a completed manuscript in hand, I thought a lot about "Mrs W" and I thought a lot about my mum. I don't doubt that my love of writing came from somewhere inside of me; it was something I naturally gravitated towards. I've always loved language, and story, and words. But there's also no doubt in my mind that this love was nurtured in a way that encouraged me to embrace not only my creativity (my mum is highly, highly creative -- sewing, ceramics, painting, crochet, knitting...you name it, she's tried it!) but my love of reading and writing.
So the first thing I did once I accepted the offer of publication for my book was call my mum. We both cried. And I thanked her for all those books she bought me, and all those times she showed me that creating for the pure pleasure of making something was okay.
And then, I set out to try to find my library teacher so I could thank her too. It was important for me to be able to do this, to let someone know the profound impact their work had on me as an eager young student. I was able to find a school she'd worked at, so I gave them a call. She told me that Mrs W had retired, and if I wanted to, I could send her an email which she'd pass onto her for me. Or...I could thank her personally on the phone, because she just so happened to be at the school today, helping out with something!
"Is she often there just by chance?" I asked.
"No, not often. You picked the right day," she replied, and I could tell she was smiling on the other end of the phone.
What are the chances?!
To cut a long story short, I followed up this phone call with an email. Mrs W said she had goosebumps reading my note. She told me she remembered me and my friends, and told me she always considered herself to be extremely fortunate to be in a profession that she loved. She retired after 43 years, with the last 15 of those year as a school principal in several schools. She now volunteers some of her time in schools, still encouraging kids to develop a love of reading. It was then my turn to have goosebumps. What a special woman.
So often, we go through life not really aware of the impact we have on the lives of others.
Once my book is published, I'm planning on sending a copy to Mrs W.