I’m currently on a month-long “tour” of the states which began on April 7-8th with the Corpus Christi Book Festival. What an amazing event! The festival, which celebrated its 10 anniversary this year, is the combined efforts of public librarians, 2 colleges, and community sponsors, and results in more than 2000 Pre-K students meeting authors and illustrators, sharing stories and activities, celebrating reading and books! One of the delights of being a children’s book author is watching a reader's face alight when he/she recognizes my book. “You wrote the goldfish book?” They say, as though I had created one of the eight wonders of the world. And, at the end of a school visit, if I get hugs, waves and high fives from students, my day is made.
After visits to the CC Book Festival, Texas Library Association in San Antonio, and Field Store Elementary in Waller, having been hugged and high-fived a lot, I was feeling like a total children’s book “Rock Star" as I cranked up the car stereo and zoomed down to Victoria, Texas for a visit to Chandler Elementary. Lady Bird would have delighted in the roadsides festooned with gay wildflowers. The skies were bright, the roads were clear, and the music fine.
I hit the Victoria town limits sometime after 7:00 pm. Puffed up proud of myself for having arrived—without having to double back--but not quite sure where I was headed (since I had forgotten to Google Map the school) I followed signs to downtown. There are several large, wide columned, colonial style homes, what looks like army barracks near the town center, and an amazing castle-like stone, garroted courthouse/jail compound, and a town square, complete with gazebo a glitter with twinkle lights—which affirmed the feeling that I had arrived somewhere special. This was not your typical small Texas town; this was a town with history and mystery. A Thursday night concert was underway in the town square—icing on my happy cake. I pulled my car into a vacant spot and cut the engine.
When I opened the door, the night air engulfed me like a velour robe. Food and drink tents lined one side of the square. White clothed, round tables with twinkling lanterns, resembled a wedding reception, were clustered under one of the tents—a fundraiser dinner for the symphony (who knew Victoria even had a symphony!). Relishing the night, the small town feel, the spring in my step, after hours of tense driving, the folksy/country music blaring from giant speakers, I stepped out into the night.
Locals watched as I walked, wondering who I was, and what I wanted. One waved, another snapped my photo. I feigned pseudo-mystery woman.
The band, comprised of a one-time rocker, folksy style female singer, pixyish keyboard player with a dark bob held back a sunglass headband, computer programmer-like drummer and geek bass guitarist, was...enthusiastic. While the band performed original compositions, each prefaced by a chatty introduction, I circled the square several times, watching couples and families enjoying the evening, then ducked under bands of yellow “caution” tape guarding the entrance to the Subway. An eager-to-close teenager smiled when I asked the way to Chandler Elementary. She consultedwith her co-worker, then gave clear instructions accompanied by descriptive hand-motions. “Go that way, turn that way---you’ll go through lots of light…and through the tunnel…when you get to the HEB Supercenter, you have to turn… if you hit the highway, you missed it.”
Hers were my kind of directions. Not only did I not “miss it,” I knew I had arrived when I spotted the Chandler Elementary Marquee glowing: “Welcome, Children’s Book Author, Kelly Bennett.” I slowed and rolled past,enjoying the sight. They were ready for me! Tomorrow was going to be a great day!
Feeling so like a rock star rolling into town the night before a big gig, I cruised into the parking lot of the Holiday Inn Express. After checking in, I wheeled the luggage cart out to my car—parked in the reservations only area, because the hotel clerk said I could—and began unloading my car. I hosted my 2 giant duffles, computer bag, bag of books, bag of snacks and sweater onto the cart then turned to check what I had missed. Behind me, I heard a car drive up. Then, a cart rolling down the road…”just another guest unloading, I figured, big deal.
The cart noise speeded up. “Fun! They’re running,” I thought.
However, rather than rolling toward the door, the cart seemed to be rolling away. “What????” I turned to see why.
It wasn’t another guest’s cart….It was mine! My cart was rolling down the drive…down the street…down toward the intersection—my cart, with my duffles, my sweater, my purse, my computer bag flapping in the breeze as it zoomed!
Clutching the grocery sack of take-away veggies, water, eye drops, my trash bag, phone, trash—an armload of who knows?—I full out, raced toward the cart. I had one chance to catch it.
As I ran, I had the feeling that this could not, no way, end well…either I was going to miss the cart, or I was going to lose my armload. But what else could I do? That cart was making off with my stuff….the sight of my cart colliding with an oncoming car flashed through my mind as I ran….
I reached out my arm, closed my eyes, and made a lucky grab for it….
It happens every time: No sooner does that fantastically great, fabulous head-swelling “Wow! You wrote the goldfish book!” Rock-star feeling hit than something—like a runaway luggage cart—deflates me.