I was planning a road trip to Northern Minnesota to teach at a Young Author’s Conference and decided to include a small detour to my past: the town of Bemidji, where we lived when I was in 2nd through 5th grades. So after the conference wrapped, I spent a couple of happy days traveling down memory lane.
I was warmly welcomed at my old elementary school and then drove all over town taking photos and visiting my personal landmarks: our old house and neighborhood, the amusement park, the lake where we swam and went ice ﬁshing, the college campus where we went to hockey games. Some of my memories were missing; many others had grown smaller or grungier.
Sadly, I couldn’t track down my favorite smell, since both the public and school libraries had changed locations and lost the odor of old books in their moves. But mostly I loved every minute of my gamboling about town. I had one regret as I loaded my luggage: I had managed to ﬁnd the number for my 5th grade teacher, but she hadn’t responded to my phone message. Seeing her and being able to say “thank you” would have been a highlight: she was the person who made me believe, all those years ago, that I could become a “real writer” someday. She even helped me submit a letter to the editor of the local newspaper — my ﬁrst publication! — after which I began practicing my “famous author signature.”
Life has thrown many detours along my writing road, but her early belief in me has been part of what’s provided my drive to be a writer ever since. I got in my car thinking what fun it would have been to tell her in person that things had truly come full circle: not only had I grown up to be a writer, but I had just taught at a Young Writer’s Conference attended by some students from our old elementary school. I turned the key in the ignition, and my cell phone rang. Mrs. Henriques, despite the last-minute timing, I got to say it to your face that day after all. But it bears repeating here, in writing, on Valentine’s Day: thank you for believing, all those years ago, that I could become a “real writer!” Sometimes all a writer — of any age — needs to drive them forward, is someone to believe in them.