How The Title For My Children’s Book Came Into Existence 25 Years Before It Was Published
Recently, we celebrated Veteran’s Day, and I was compelled to openly acknowledge a few family members that served or presently serve in the military in on Instagram Live. The Veteran in our family that I was closest to was my grandfather, who was a World War II Navy man aboard USS New Orleans. Though he lived to be 93 years old, his gentle, loving spirit lives on in my heart and in many, many fond memories and photos.
I took a moment to wish my grandfather Happy Veteran’s Day in an Instagram Live video. Check it out here to see what else about this day is so special to me.
Ironically, this year’s Veteran’s Day acknowledgement reminded me of something that I found over the summer. What I found was an essay that I wrote when I was a 15-year old high school student taking African-American History class at the honors level. The class was remarkably exclusive, given that it covered the true history of my people spanning from the days of the early African dynasties through slavery and all the way from there until the mid-1990’s.
The instructor, Mr. Henderson, was required by the school board to get permission from parents to admit students into the class. The class was only taught every-other year during select semesters. Also, if you wanted to take this class, it was only offered in the basement of the school, where the temperature was either crazy hot or crazy cold. Despite every attempt to block this from the curriculum, this class was undoubtedly one of the most enriching of my entire life. Not to boast, but this is saying a lot from someone who completed undergraduate and graduate studies at institutions that are recognized among the top public universities in the country.
So, back to the essay. You may be wondering, “How on earth did she find an essay in 2020 that was written when she was 15 years old?” Well, that came into my possession 2-3 years ago after my grandfather passed away here in Georgia. Georgia is where I moved to in 2015, and after I became a mom, my mother and grandfather moved here for what turned out to be the final year of his life.
If memory serves me clearly, I gave the paper to my grandmother once it was graded with very high praise from the teacher. And since my grandmother kept my essay with all the important documents and such, my grandfather must have taken possession of it when she passed away in 2003. It really blows my mind that he held onto it for all those years beyond that, so having it returned to me is more sweet than bitter.
Now, when I first got ahold of the essay a few months ago, I read it. But on Veteran’s Day, for me to sit quietly and read again the thoughts of 15-year old version of me was a like going through a time warp, I must say. Combine a sharp wit, an audacity that seemed unflappable, and a firm foundation on who I was at the time, and all I could do was think back about where things all started for me. I laughed and I cried while reading through it, but one particular sentence in the essay refers to my grandfather by saying, “My grandfather is so bashful, so until recently, I didn’t even know he could talk. Granddad is a “Mr. Fix It,” the man most of the church members call when something’s broken or needs assembling.”
My grandfather inspired me, took time to talk with me and listen to me, and had the kindest soul of anyone I have ever known. In his quiet strength, he had made it through The War, lived a full life, ripe with experiences that truly should have been written in a story of his own. The imprint that he has as the very first Mr. Fix It in my life serves as the foundation for a children’s book series that honors his legacy. Miraculously, my grandfather set the stage for the title of my book, and mentioning him in the essay 25 years earlier is pleasant serendipity for me.
Also, you should know that my grandfather’s likeness makes an actual appearance in the book, Little Mr. Fix It Assists With The To-Do List. But that’s another story for another day. Though my grandfather has moved on, I wish he could see this manifestation of my reverence for him. The spirit of being a Mr. Fix It is what I saw growing up and it’s also part of what he’s passed on to his great-grandson. The other part of what makes my son a true Little Mr. Fix It in his own right is that he naturally inherited that trait from his own father, who is superb at all things build, fix, and restore.
To receive a free printables from The Little Mr. Fix It’s Toolkit and other learning crafting activities for kids ages 3-8 years old, click here.