At age five my mother enrolled me in first grade at a Catholic school for several reasons: one, I had a new baby sister at home and mother's hands were full (after all she was nearly forty!); two, she called me precocious and inquisitive, not two highly prized skills in that first grade class ruled by a nun with a ruler in her hand. I quickly learned that straight lines, formal behavior, no talking, no chewing gum were the keys to survival. This little five year old became lost in the structure, but luckily, the windows were tall and wide and the trees outside beckoned my eyes and imagination to wonder.
By the end of the year we moved away and a book character, found on the shelves of the Miami, Oklahoma Public Library, entered my life and lifted my tiny trodden spirits.
Madeline and her many adventures showed me then, and to this day, that even the tiniest of us could be strong and courageous. My tonsillitis surgery at age four rivaled her appendix surgery; we both nearly drowned. She was everything I wanted to be: lively, curious, adventurous, and willing to stand up for herself. She changed my life.