On a cold, slick morning that promised to bring yet another snowfall to Redkey, Ind., I put on most of what I’d packed in my suitcase and skated off to face a seriously cute firing squad otherwise known as the children of Redkey Elementary.
Months ago, when their principal, Tomas Jerles, invited me to come talk to his students about writing, he had no idea Mother Nature would shut down his school for three days prior to my arrival.
It reopened the day of my visit on a three-hour delay schedule that gave roads a chance to thaw and me a chance to wake up.
Good thing on both counts.
Principal Jerles told me that for several weeks, he had been visiting classrooms to read my columns aloud so his students would be familiar with my work.
And boy, were they ever. If I’ve learned one thing about kids it’s this: They don’t miss much. You have to be careful what you write around them because they will take you at your word.
For some reason, they took a special interest in two columns: One about how in third grade, on the merry-go-round, when my friend grabbed my neck to avoid being flung off, I bit her on the nose to save myself.
And second, one in which I described how my newborn grandson, Randy, once spit up on me in such a way it soaked through my underwear.
In 11 classes, kindergarten through fifth grade, hands shot up so fast it made me dizzy. There wasn’t enough time to cover everything, so one of the teachers e-mailed later with follow-up questions. Here are a few from the third-graders:
From Courtney: “Do you really hate shopping?” _
Yes, Courtney, I really do. I’d rather be spit up on than shop.
From Dylan: “Did Randy’s puke really soak your underwear?”
OK, “soak” may be overstated a bit, but he got me pretty good.
From Sarah: “Have you talked to (the merry-go-round friend) since third grade?”
Yes, but not in a while. Do you think I should call her?
From Hallie: “I was concerned about the friend who flew off the merry-go-round. Was she OK?”
Yes, fortunately for both of us, she and her nose were fine.
From Chelsey: “How is your little Randy doing?”
Thanks for asking, Chelsey. He’s doing beautifully, and he hardly ever spits up any more.
From Abby: “Did you write a lot when you were in school?”
We did lots of book reports and research papers, but not much writing just for fun. I’m glad you get to write for fun. I’ve loved reading your stories!
From Emalyn: Do you enjoy writing articles every week?
I love writing, Emalyn, but it can be hard sometimes. What I like best is having written.
From Paige: How do you get the ideas for your articles?
It’s easy. I visit interesting places like Redkey, Ind., and meet wonderful people like you, Paige. I think if we stay curious about the world, and pay close attention, we will always have something to write about.
That evening, in the Redkey gym, I spoke to parents and teachers and some longtime readers, on what reading and writing have meant in my life and in the lives of those I love.
We read and write for two reasons, I said: To know and to be known. We need to read to our children and let them read to us. We need to help them find their voices through writing.
And all across the gym, I saw faces smiling in agreement.
Like all good writers, the students of Redkey are working hard to improve and perfect their craft. Lucky for them, they can count on the help of their parents, teachers and principal.
They’re going to need it. Another snowfall closed their school again the next day.
I hope they invite me back.

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