Yesterday I visited an elementary school in the Trenton-Belleville area, and was whisked back to my own childhood. The typical school I visit these days is enormous antiseptic and brightly lit, smelling faintly of feet and fear. This one (in addition to the usual large smiling Vice Principal with a jaw and small smiling librarian with rimless glasses) had narrow dusty hallways, low ceilings, an office with a creaky door and a poky gym with echoes. Wow, I felt like little Richie Scrimger, peering around in my new glasses, hoping for a glimpse of Nancy, my heart throb from first grade.
Careful of the seniors -- they're a tough crowd, warned the librarian, and I mustered a smile, remembering the grade eights of my own childhood who had glowered at us and made our lives a living heck.
But it went well. Kids are kids. I put on my dog and pony show, and the gym echoed with the laughter of the sevens and eights. Favorite moment was a kid I used to illustrate a bad intro to a story, who laughed so hard I thought he would die. Oddest moment came after question time when one of the girls came up tentatively and asked if ... she might ... touch my hair. (My web photos were taken last year, and since then, for reasons not unconnected with laziness, I have let my hair grow into a luxurious mane / ridiculous mess.) Uh, sure, I said, bending obediently.
Were they a tough crowd? I don't know. Maybe they seemed tough to the first graders. Yeah, they sprawled around, and a couple of them glowered at the beginning, but they weren't that hard to engage. If you tell them a story, and don't talk down, kids are pretty sure to respond. How do you sell your product? Well, as one of my mystery writers says, Put an eye catcher in the window, and deal fair. Works for me.
Still no word from Tom or Helena on myspace. I may have to act. Friends look after friends.