Saturday, May 13, 2006

Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, children's author, Bethesda

Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, children's author, Bethesda

I "discovered" Phyllis Reynolds Naylor one summer when I was still teaching. I remember with embarrassment that I kind of neglected my pre-school aged kids while reading several of Naylors books.

When I discovered she lived in Bethesda I fantasized running into her at the local supermarket. I scoured the paper to see if she was possibly doing a signing anywhere in the area.

The next fall when my daughter entered kindergarten the school invited Ms Naylor to speak to the students. Even though my daughter was too young to attend the assembly, I volunteered to assist just so I could see Ms Naylor speak to the students.

I got to do more than that. I was asked to help out with the book signing and got to stamp Shilo's footprint in books Ms Naylor signed.

I aslo got to speak with her a little and let her know how much I enjoyed her writing. She asked which of her books was my favorite and I told her I had just read her adult novel. She seemed pleased that I knew about it and admitted that she liked it too, wondering where I found it. When I replied that I had found it at the local library she seemed surprised.

I recently found an address for her on the internet. I doubt it is her house - probably the house of her agent or something. I guess I expected Ms Naylor to live in a huge home in the mountains or on a beach or something better than a suburban tree lined street with modest brick homes.

I once wrote an email to Ms Naylor expressing surprise that she claimed to be older than my mother. She confirmed her age in the email she wrote back.

Maybe writing about teenagers makes you stay young. Maybe I should give it a go.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Another death in the neighborhood

About eighteen months ago I posted about a death in the neighborhood. At the time I resolved to be more aware of others in the neighborhood, to look outward instead of inward. I've not gotten very far in that regard. I am working on a "welcoming committee" with a number of other neighbors, however we continue coming to a standstill in our plans because we don't actually do anything.

But back to the new death. This morning in the Washington Post I read that a Marine from Bethesda died as a result of being injured by a bomb in Iraq. The article suggested that the family of the Marine lived near where I live, so I did a search on the name of the family and discovered the family lives less than two blocks away. I can see their house from my front window and have returned their dog, Lorenzo, to them on several occasions. I don't think I've said more than two sentences to the mother, and even less to the father. I don't know if I ever knew the son, but I suspect I did meet him once when I returned the dog.

I spoke to another neighbor this morning and she told me that she'd read the article too, and didn't know the family well, having only recently met the mother. She'd heard the son was injured only a day or so ago. Obviously the family was in contact with some neighbors because their correspondence was quoted in the article. That's good.

The same neighbor to whom I talked about this today, informed me that another neighbor died recently. The mother of two teenagers, one of whom I see riding his bike around here a lot. The mother was a good friend of our former next door neighbor. Again, I didn't know her. However, when the across the street neighbor died a year or so ago, I didn't attend the funeral, even though I knew the woman who died and the mother. My excuse was that I didn't know when the funeral was. That does not excuse the fact that I've never said anything to the mother about her daughter's death and now it is too late.

What is it going to take for me to take an interest in the neighbors? Is it possible to build a close-knit community, especially when one of the builders is as socially inept as I? Maybe this will be the kick in the pants I need to get on with the welcome committee work I started.

The mother of the Marine who died displayed an (I think) sign in her beautifully landscaped yard. She was quietly outspoken against the war and belonged to the Military Families Speak Out organization. According to their website, many families will march on Washington between May 11 and 14. How sad that my neighbors will be burying their son at this time instead of marching in support of their cause. It is too late for them. I cannot imagine their grief.