I was in Southern California all last week hopping from bookstores to schools in an exhausting and exhilarating schedule of 22 Cheesie Mack book events and two Pobba concerts. All were fun and rewarding, but one visit, a spur-of-the-moment trip back in time, stood out.
In September 1952, Oxnard’s Kamala School (K-6) opened to students. I was one of those students, a fourth grader, full of energy.
Almost 59 years older, also full of energy, I returned to Kamala School without appointment. Curious and nostalgic, I asked the principal for a campus tour. Accompanied by an school aide, I walked the campus, looking for ghosts.
On the kickball diamond, I saw one, a small boy skinning his knee sliding into third. On the basketball court I saw him repeatedly heaving the ball upward, not questing for a basket, only hoping his thin arms could lift the ball high enough to hit the rim. And in a fourth grade classroom, after I watched him hang his coat in the cloakroom and walk to his seat, the teacher brought us back to the present by asking if he would like to introduce Cheesie Mack to her class.
In a room that seemed much smaller than I remembered, I spoke about plot and characters to her fourth graders, and at the conclusion she asked which of them wished a copy of my book as a prize for completing a end-of-year reading challenge. Nearly every hand went up.
Thomas Wolfe was wrong. You can go home again.