What could be better?
I met Aliika at the public library last night. She was with her dad who was using one of the computers. I was seated behind them. She saw my desktop wallpaper as I opened up my laptop, a colorful watercolor of Yuki & Jesse having tea with prickly pear in the background. Aliika came over and stood by my left shoulder. I smiled. She said, "how do you do that?" referring to the way I moved my index finger on the track pad to operate the cursor arrow. "Would you like to try?" I asked. Within moments she had coordinated her finger on the track pad with her little thumb on the clicker piece that you push down, and she was using the arrow to scroll down the page on the blue scroll down thing (on a Mac). Then she asked if she could spell her name for me. So, we opened up a blank TextEdit doc for her to play in. She spelled her name: a-l-i-i-k-a. I laughed and asked if she used a capital letter for the first "a". I showed her how to do capitals with the shift key, how to use the delete key, and how to back space over a letter. She smiled and tried it all. She said, "now you spell your name", and I typed it in. She read it quickly, turning to me as she said "Nicole!" and then exclaiming, "I can read!" I smiled. Just then her dad turned around and said, "Aliika don't bother the lady." It's okay, I said to him. Really it was.
What was interesting, is that I had come to the library to return an ILL, but also to check out some Alice Walker books; Aliika looked a lot like a miniature Alice Walker. She was beautiful and glowing, with little dreads framing her smiling face. I was just opening up my laptop to get the call numbers when Aliika came over. Before Aliika and her dad left, she typed her mom and dad's name, too, which prompted her dad to turn around again to say, "I'm going to have to get you a computer, Aliika." A future Alice Walker, tapping out her stories, looking for the letters on the keyboard with her little index finger stretched out, one at a time, so happy that she could spell. What could be better?
The photo below is from 1996 when I was in Eatonton, Georgia, childhood home of Alice Walker.
As it happened, I met Alice Walker's sister-in-law that very day. Synchronistically, I was assigned to collect data in the classroom of a Ms. Deborah Walker for my researcher job with a Head Start grant project. I asked if she was any relation to Alice Walker and she said yes. All I could do was beam for the rest of the day. I had asked her a few silly questions about Alice Walker that I can't even remember now. Before I left the classroom, she gave me driving directions to Alice Walker's childhood home. I wanted to see where all that lushness began.
It's really green in Eatonton, Georgia--humid, hot summers, tall pine trees, red earth, blue blue sky. I remember seeing black birds, too. You can find good pie in Eatonton, smoky barbecue, sweet tea and yummy collards with cornbread. And, like a lot of the deep south, you see wisteria dripping from the trees and wild curling kudzu wrapped around tree trunks and pulling rotting old houses back into the earth again. That's where Alice Walker was born and lived until she moved away for college. Joel Chandler Harris lived there, too.
So, last night, I got to go home from the library with a pile of fun books. I started reading Alice's Now is the Time to Open Your Heart in bed, while eating a late night bowl of home made chicken soup & rice from a wooden tray. Yuki & Jesse were a bit overcome--they've rarely seen me eating meat, and in bed!! They did not just sit there placidly watching me. I had to fend them off, but I did give them some choice pieces of chicken, which they gobbled up in seconds. Eating chicken soup in bed with a good book--what could be better?
Then this morning, with a panoramic view of mesquite, creosote, bamboo, tamarisk, and prickly pear surrounding me, I sat in the back room eating lox & bagels (only one bagel) with cream cheese and a tomato slice and drinking black coffee. I laughed out loud as I read a different book, Maira Kalman's Smarty Pants: Pete in School. Again, what could be better?
Actually, the bagel could have been better... The bagels I grew up on did not crumble when you sliced them; they were hard, firm, and freshly made. The bagels of my childhood were not made of sprouted whole wheat either, they were egg bagels, onion bagels, poppy bagels, plain bagels, or my favorite favorite, pumpernickel bagels. Even so, I enjoyed my lox & bagels and Maira Kalman story. Really, there is nothing better.
And, finally, a photo of me in front of Graceland just because I found it with my Eatonton photo.