For as long as I can remember I really just wanted to be a mother, secretly a comedian, but LuJean Howard was already our class clown, so that job was taken. I loved performing tricks at my parent's parties, and telling stories to the neighborhood kids, but Hollywood never beckoned me. If I were going to go to college then of course, I would be a teacher, but sometimes I dreamed of becoming a race car driver or a world traveler who published stories about exotic places to visit. By high school, I knew after reading On the Beach that I'd become an English teacher, move to Australia, then naturally, I'd make a difference in the lives of hundreds of people and change the world along the way, if we lived that long.
Along the way life opened and closed several other doors before I found my calling and career. By age 19 I was already a substitute teacher, then I worked with Head Start after Katy was born, but my lucky break came when the Miami Public Library needed a children's librarian. Suddenly, I had the best job in the world, and it blossomed to be one of the best choices of my life. The Saturday morning and afternoon story hours were empty because there was a new yellow big bird on television that had garnered every ones attention. To be honest I was nervous about telling stories to children, so when no one arrived I felt relieved, but then it became a challenge. How to fill the library with children at all hours of the day. I began to reflect on my recent childhood and recalled how much I loved Minnie Pearl, Shari Lewis, and so many entertainers I'd see on the Ed Sullivan Show.
One day I found an old puppet in a closet and brought it to life when the puppet found the warmth of my hand and saw the smile on my face. I imagined I was Shari Lewis talking to Lamb Chops. I then taught myself how to make puppets, so children coming to story hour would have puppets to use.
enthusiasm of Minnie Pearl. Her voice still echos in my mind, "How Deeee folks. I'm jist so proud to be here." Her smiling face convinced me that she meant every word she spoke. Her jokes and funny stories made us all laugh, and I loved to hear my parents laughing while watching her.
The hardest lesson came when I realized that I'd never make a living as a librarian without a college degree. Being a single parent made the choice easy, stay near family and finish my education. Now raising a little girl, I wanted to become an elementary teacher or librarian.
It was the quiet sincere librarian, Mrs. Watson, who had left the greatest imprint on my life by sincerely believing that books and reading could make a difference in our lives. At Central Jr. High we had a 3rd floor study hall with a tiny room filled with books. A few hours a day Mrs. Watson worked up there while her remaining time was in the real high school. I loved to be in that hushed room and smell the paper and books. Even when those ratty old boys became
obnoxious in study hall, little Mrs. Watson could quiet them down. High school was no different, a large study hall room and small dimly lit library, but again her smile and passion for reading set me at ease. She handed me a thick historical romance and suggested I read it cover to cover. When I finished that book I felt empty on the inside, like I'd lost a friend or a family. It was about a woman who was to marry Napoleon, but fate changed her life. Perhaps, the pulse and heartbeat of love on the pages of a book changed my fate, too.
Mrs. Watson had me hooked for life, and now more than 50 years later and a career as a librarian and teacher, I still smile deeply inside hoping I made a difference in at least one person's life.