Friday, when J. Patrick Lewis, a children’s book writer was signing copies of Earth and Me at a writers conference I was attending in Dublin, Ohio, he mentioned that his mother was coming up for a visit for Mother’s Day. I asked where she lives.
“Richmond, Kentucky,” he said, as if I perhaps I wouldn’t know the place.
“I was born there,” I said. I left Richmond in the front seat of a U-Haul moving van sitting next to at an age when I still can remember the trip. My mom followed us in our car with my brother.
As J. Patrick Lewis and I talked, it became clear that perhaps our paths crossed when I was a child. I think he visited my elementary school.
I certainly didn’t expect J. Patrick Lewis to be connected to my elementary school at the time I would have attended, back when I was in 2nd grade. Talking with him flashed me to the time I was happy to fasten a beak to my face with elastic so it covered my nose. I wore a red dress for a classroom play and said the lines, “I am a cardinal. I stay here for the winter.” The cardinal is the state bird of Kentucky.
Years ago, when I was on a ferry between France and Ireland, I saw a woman wearing a Penn State sweatshirt. When I left Kentucky in that moving van we headed to State College, Pennsylvania. Penn State became part of my history. The woman on the ferry turned out to be connected to my history as well. During our conversation, I found out that her brother was the cutest boy in my 4th grade class.
One of the things I enjoy about traveling is that chance encounter with someone that helps make life feel as if it’s going in some logical direction–those people that connect the dots for us. Although, I have been in State College fairly recently, I haven’t been to Richmond for years. J. Patrick Lewis has. He still drives past the school where I once was a bird. I’m glad to know it still exists. Perhaps, some 2nd grader is slipping on a beak.