Published in the Rains County Leader on March 22, 2021:
One of the responsibilities of the President of the Friends of the Library is to submit a Year in Review Report to the Commissioners’ Court. My predecessor, Lyn Baldwin, made this submission in the form of an in-person PowerPoint slide presentation. Last year, because of COVID, I submitted the report for 2019 by email. It worked out well, and since I’m not much of a public speaker unless I’m talking about my books, I’ll probably do the same thing this year –assuming I can gather enough material.
2020 was the year of cancellations, and that included FOL plans. From April through September, FOL correspondence alternated between announcements of new plans and announcements of cancellations. I ended the year with a few photos of the October Book Sale, but not nearly enough for a presentation. So I made a plea for photos of any FOL or Library events. I heard the sound of crickets, but as usual, Library Director Wendy Byrd came through. She sent me pictures of the Tween Photo Contest display boards, Summer Reading winners, and little bitties enjoying story time early in the year. Her offering was more than enough for a decent PowerPoint and also for a bit of column inspiration.
Christian Piatt, my own son, was a great fan of Library Story Time. I was never sure which was the bigger attraction, the books or the children’s librarian who he planned to marry one day. Actually, he was a big fan of anything that involved words. He watched Sesame Street and the Electric Company, and he went to bed without a fight as long as I promised to read two stories and a poem.
It wasn’t long before he began to read for himself. When he was four, he read The Monster at the End of This Book. At first I thought he was quoting it from memory. Four thousand repetitions will do that for a kid. But his reading repertoire expanded quickly, so I knew it was for real.
He liked stories so much that he began writing his own as soon as he could hold a pencil. The first one I remember was about a boy who fell into a large bottle of soda. A giant drank the soda, swallowed the boy, and when he burped, but boy came out in a bubble. The story was complete with color illustrations. As mothers do, I kept it for years, but in one of our moves I packed it along with more of his early papers and sent them to him. If I still had it, I might frame it along with a print-out of his first article in The Washington Post.
His subsequent writing projects were more ambitious. He wrote a book, the subject of which escapes me at the moment, and bound it using a hole punch and yarn. He had an abundance of material with which to work. Our neighbor was a paper salesman, and when his samples became outdated, he brought them to Christian. All his pursuits weren’t completely intellectual. One day after a long session with the hole punch and a pad of adhesive-backed paper, he appeared in the kitchen with tiny white dots all over his face. In textspeak, I was ROFL! (For those who don’t text, that’s rolling on the floor laughing. I was nothing if not a loving, appreciative audience, so he continued.
When he was eight, he discovered an old Smith-Corona portable typewriter in a closet and appropriated it as his own. Before long he was producing newspapers complete with school news and cartoons. He continued to write whatever struck his fancy, and when he was sixteen, he wrote Damien’s Tribe, his first novel. It was a semi-autobiographical work which I realized when I recognized myself as the over-protective mother who woke her son each morning with a cheerful Good morning, Sunshine. That was when I came face to face with the danger of knowing a writer.
His writing was mostly for his own edification for a while, but then when he moved to Pueblo, Colorado with his new family, he began writing a column for the local paper. That was the real beginning of a career that included writing entertainment reviews, pop-culture and political commentaries, a popular blog, nine books about mainstream and progressive religion as well as creating a popular podcast and a podcast production company.
Having slain most of the literary dragons on his to-do list, Christian has moved into another career. He now owns and operates a coffee shop/ taproom in Granbury that also offers gourmet snacks and live jazz. I am still a loving and appreciative audience, and I am constantly amazed at his unique creativity and his ability to make his dreams into reality. When I visited Brew Drinkery for the first time after it opened, the most common question out of my mouth was How did you know how to do that and his most common answer was I read about it somewhere.
This column was a good excuse to write about one of my favorite people, but it was also a way to offer encouragement along with a warning to parents of small children. Check with the Library near you for the schedule of Children’s Story Time and put it on your calendar. It’s a fun way to spend quality time with your children, and it will introduce them to the love of reading – an important part of a full and successful life, even in this age of technology. The warning? Once your children strike out on their own, you never know where that love of reading will take them.