“If you are a dreamer, come in…”

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I don’t really write much about parenting, although being a parent is what fills me and consumes me more than anything else. But I have to post about a bittersweet thing that is happening at our beloved school, Lee Elementary. Mrs. Wofford, the best school librarian a book-loving mom could wish for, is retiring. It’s a sad day in Lee’s literary life. Ms. Wofford and her creative teaching and passion for books infused the school. First graders were quoting MacBeth at lunch. My daughter could recite Shel Silverstein before she could really read, thanks to Mrs. Wofford. Books matter to Mrs. Wofford, and she made them matter to the students, too. When I volunteered in that quiet (mostly) library, it was a much-needed immersion in another world, like sitting in a sweet chapel but with fresh children’s minds humming away in the background. So when she told me she was leaving, I wrote her an ode. It has been a while since I’d written an ode to someone– I recommend it.  (PS– Mrs. Wofford wrote out the words to Silverstein’s poem, Invitation (above), and posted them on the door of the library– hence my reference.)

Ode to Mrs. Wofford,  Lee Librarian

Because of you
There is a very special place
With an invitation on the door
And all of the children are welcome
Welcome to be dreamers and magic bean buyers
They sit by your fire
And you let them be who they are
You take them by the hand and say, “Look!
Within these walls are vast worlds to explore
And you, children, are the adventurers
Each in charge of your own boundless journey with words.”

During my volunteer hour
I shelve the first grader’s books:
David Weisner, Dr. Seuss,
Chester the Cat, Where the Wild Things Are.
Countless beloved books, many pages worn with use,
They’ve known so many small hands
Carrying them home for bedtime reading,
That sweet, sleepy ritual between parent and child.

As I search for each book’s home on the shelf,
I can hear you, surrounded in the kiva,
As you read Shel Silverstein or Shakespeare to the first graders,
Their eager minds making that glorious first leap
Into the great space of reading.
“What does the word ‘imagination’ mean?” You ask
“How do you know this is a fantasy? What makes a story interesting?”
Through you, these children we love so much
Discover new words and ideas
For the very first time, and their minds open.
And just being close to it, my mind opens too.

Within the book-lined walls of this library,
I see gratitude, joy, silliness and firm love
Children with the wiggles and pokes
Children raising their hands, yearning to answer
Children entranced by your story-telling
You are the one who welcomes it all
How lucky we are that you have invited them in.

From the backseat of my car yesterday
My seven-year-old Carlisle talked about “flax golden tales–”
A phrase I have never heard her say before.
I imagine that even when she is grown
And reading Shel Silverstein to her own children,
She will remember flax golden tales
and think of you.


Thank you for the invitation.