It felt like a dream. I was in Grantsville last weekend at the book signing for Yoder School, my recently-released memoir. We gathered at the Goodwill Mennonite Retirement Center because that’s where Alvina, my first-grade teacher lives. Within a mile of Goodwill are my old haunts: my childhood home and church, my grandparents’ farm, and Yoder School.
My grandchildren were there and my son and sister and brother. And so were my parents and uncles and aunts. Four generations in one room. Gertrude, my first friend from Yoder School shared the book signing with me. She also wrote a book this year.
Fifty-eight years ago Gertrude and I were first-graders, sitting side-by-side in Alvina’s room writing in our daily diary—about Glenda’s nose bleeding and taking polio pills and how we played school at recess. Alvina wrote what we said on the large easel paper with solid-blue and red-dotted lines. Then we wrote those words on our own lined paper. In this way we learned to read and write words that were important to us.
The now ninety-four-year-old Alvina sat there at the book signing smiling. She watched us, her former students, talk about our new books. But she did more than smile. She held court—calling former students by name, directing a few of them in singing the grade-school ditties, holding her own in animated discussions, and correcting me on a detail during my book talk.
And she signed books herself.
Thomas Wolfe is famous for writing You Can’t Go Home Again. And in many ways, he’s right. But last week end, I went home.
And I took my grandchildren with me.