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by Deborah Cottle
Mrs. Byrd was a spry wisp of a woman, not much taller than some of her kindergarten students. With her huge, horn-rimmed glasses she looked ever so slightly owlish, a coincidence which made her name impossible to forget.
Not that I could have forgotten Mrs. Byrd. The stories she read as we gathered around her on the floor danced with life. I can still hear her voice rising and falling with expression as she pulled us into her world of books.
We had a wonderful view of the skyline of Columbus from our classroom window. I loved looking at it, often using it as a backdrop for my daydreams. But when Mrs. Byrd called us for story time, I couldn’t get to her side fast enough.
Mrs. Byrd carried a toy sword and knife when she read us a story about pirates who fought each other for wonderful treasures. When she read fairy tales, she waved a magic wand and sprinkled the air with glittery sparkles.
There were few books in our house as I was growing up. Somehow Mrs. Byrd knew this. One day, as I sat at the art table busily making a clay dinosaur, I felt her gentle hand on my head. “This book, Rosie, is for you,” she said as she laid it down beside me.
I read that book over and over again with my memory, using the pictures to remind me of Mrs. Byrd’s words. And when, at last, I unlocked the mystery of truly reading the words, it was the first book I read by myself, cover to cover.
Today, as I prepared to attend the pre-funeral visitation for Mrs. Byrd, I felt strangely compelled to slip that well-worn book into my purse. I can feel it now, like a talisman at my side. Mrs. Byrd looks peaceful and, as always, there is a smile on her face. I smile in return as tears flood my eyes, and I whisper a soft, “thank you.”
As I turn to leave the chapel, I see a young boy alone at a table in the corner. “Would you like to hear a story?” I ask. He nods his head and I sit down beside him, resting my book in the space between us. I read aloud, but it is Mrs. Byrd’s voice I hear in my head.
As I stand to leave, I slide the book towards him. “This book,” I say, “is for you.”
This story was based on these randomly generated images.