Recently, after I read my mother's book, Manners for Me, to the seven First Grade classes at the school where I am librarian, I showed them her picture and they talked to her on speaker phone. "Her name is Fran Carter," I told them, but all her grandchildren call her GranFran, so you can call her that, too."
They were super-enthusiastic when I asked if they would like to (shhhhh!) make birthday cards for GranFran's 92nd birthday! We made a class list of words and phrases they suggested - awesome, I hope you smile, Happy Birthday, I like the page in your book with the monkey, etc. and then they started the happy work of drawing pictures, writing messages, and attaching stickers to some very personalized construction paper cards.
And boy, was GranFran surprised when I gave her the basket of cards! Then came the big news -- GranFran was coming to visit them on her actual birthday! You would have thought I had just announced that Sophia the First was enrolling in our school!
The night before her birthday, GranFran spent the night at our house and the whole fam took her to dinner. Then we went to school together on The Birthday, in time for her to be on our live, closed circuit Morning Show, which another teacher and I produce with Fourth-Grade crew members. Our daily Morning Show themes that week were about fun things to do during the summer -- riding bikes safely, exploring local attractions, etc. -- and that day happened to be "Grow a Garden Day." GranFran was our special guest as she told about the Victory Garden she and her students grew on the playground during World War II (she also told them how she taught 52 students in grades K, 1, and 2 in one classroom, for which she received $56 a month pay -- whew, we can count our blessings, teachers!) I loved introducing my mom to our whole school!
Then we went to each First Grade class and she spent some awesome face time with each group, answering questions, reading some of their cards, and presenting each teacher with a classroom copy of Manners for Me. Every class sang "Happy Birthday" to GranFran (and every class automatically shouted after the last line, "Hi-yah! Eat more chicken!" -- where do these traditions come from???) A reporter from the local paper even came to interview her. It was an incredible day that none of us will forget!
In case you don't know the story, Mother wrote Manners for Me in 1957 while teaching a Child Development class at Samford University (then Howard College). A student in the class, Marie Smith, asked if she could draw illustrations for the couplet rhymes, which she did in just a few days. Then the original pages were put into a drawer for more than 55 years, but were brought out in the fall of 2013 to become a cool picture book -- good manners for a new generation, in retro style!
So Happy, Happy Birthday, GranFran! We love you lots!