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The year I was in fourth grade could have been very difficult for me.
I gained a lot of weight after my family relocated to Virginia in January 1991, when I was smack dab in the middle of third grade. I moved from an incredible magnet school in Indiana that I adored to an average elementary school with a teacher I, well, didn’t love, in Virginia. From four hours away from my grandparents and beloved cousins to ten hours away. I only knew what my parents had told me about the South – that I should say, “Y’all want to go down to the riva?”
Anyway, sometime during 1991 I went from a lanky eight-year-old with waist-length scraggly hair to a chubby nine-year-old with huge pink glasses, buck teeth, and stirrup pants. (Of course, the stirrup pants were awesome. It was 1991.) The few new friends I’d made during third grade weren’t in my fourth-grade class. All smelled like doom.
But you know what? I remember fourth grade with nothing but smiles. I had the most incredible teacher, who taught me how to knit, introduced me to All of a Kind Family, and let me write a book of limericks for our self-published tomes with wallpaper binding. And one of the most defining moments of my life took place in her classroom, when I was just 9 years old.
I just remember we had to write a story about a turkey around Thanksgiving time. I have no idea what I wrote in my schoolgirl print (yes! we wrote thing! on paper! didn’t type!); but I do know I’d been writing stories for years already – in my head, if not always on paper. I loved the process. I loved the characters. I loved reading long books about hidden gardens, faraway places, made-up lands, families with many children, special farm animals. Everything about reading and writing made my heart flutter.
My beautiful fourth-grade teacher stood in front of my class, my flimsy piece of notebook paper in her hand, and said, “This person could be a writer one day!” She was talking about me. Me! Jessie Schumann, dowdy and chubby, still new to the school. Me.
I’m sure Mrs. Titus thought nothing of it. She might have said it to a student every year, or to many. But to 9-year-old me, to 31-year-old me, that moment struck a deep soul-chord that has never left.
If you are a parent, if you have influence in the life of a child, find what makes them come alive. And praise them, help them, and love them in that path. Between Mrs. Titus and my parents and I’m sure others who came alongside me, I have almost always known that writing was my dream and my calling, a God-given passion. I pray that I will sense calling in my kids and help them see it so clearly.
Did you have any moments like this in childhood? Or more recently? Please tell me your story!