Leesburg Virginia, February 19, 2010

By Tony Mussari
Copyright: Mussari-Loftus Associates, LTD

It was about 4 p.m. when we spotted the colorful Virginia Welcomes You sign. It signaled the end to our drive from Windsor Park to Leesburg, Virginia.

But just when I thought we had everything under control, I made a bad decision, and we got lost.  It’s not an uncommon event for Kitch and me. We always manage to get lost.

Thankfully, we had our cell phone ready and with one call to my daughter, we were back on track.

Well, not quite. Soon after we reached our destination, I wanted to take a picture of the huge piles of snow that covered everything in sight. I fetched my Cannon Rebel, took my position, and then it happened. Nothing, absolutely nothing. The reason was simple, the battery I was charging was still charging in a room overlooking Windsor Park, more than 200 miles away.

Kitch volunteered to watch the grandchildren, and my daughter volunteered to show me the way to Best Buy.

Once there we found several client service-oriented people who were willing to help us.
On the way out, a very big man named John helped us test the new battery.  John was a very engaging fellow and his answer to one of my questions provided a very special moment.

While he was helping us, I noticed a very unusual tattoo on his left arm. In a polite way, I asked him to explain the symbolism. With a bit of embarrassment, he told me the story of a 17-year-old boy who had wanted the tattoo to give him credibility with his fellow rappers.  Then, without hesitation, he added, “You do things at 17 that you wish you hadn’t done when you are 37.”

The rest of the afternoon we played with the children, and at the appointed hour got in our car and drove the Evergreen Mill Elementary School to attend a Bedtime Stories event.

To be quite honest, Kitch and I were newcomers to this creative idea.  It’s a way to get family members, students and teachers involved in an event that emphasizes reading.

On this night, there were six classroom sessions and a grand finale in the library.

In the music classroom Caroline Milne read Froggy Gets Dressed. It was a wonderful experience for everyone who attended.

In Classroom 19, Kim Cheshire read Stanley’s Party.

In Classroom 20, Michelle Talliaferro presented the Frog Prince Continues.

In Classroom 21, Chris Munley presented How I Became a Pirate.

In Classroom 22, John and Wendy Bognar presented Caps for Sale.
In Classroom 24, Dino Coppa presented Curious George.

Mr. Blakeney and his EMS students presented Froggy’s First Kiss for everyone in the library.

It was our good fortune to attend How I Became a Pirate, Froggy Gets Dressed, Curious George and Froggy’s First Kiss.

Each presentation was an excellent example of creative teaching and purposeful participation by students and parents.

It was a classic Face of America moment. Students were learning, parents were teaching, people were participating and a community was forming in an elementary school filled with children in their pajamas.

It was a happy moment, a community moment, an educational moment, and most important it was a reading moment.

We came to Leesburg to visit our grandchildren and their parents, and we went to school where we learned that their education was in very good hands.

It doesn’t get any better than that.

On Saturday morning, my son-in-law taught me the fine points of my UPS device, and after breakfast we were on our way to the next stop on our Face of America journey.

In some ways, this was a very short stop, 18 hours.  It other ways, it was one of the most enjoyable visits because it was filled with magic moments. Watching my granddaughter dance under an umbrella to Mike Lewis’ song Umbrellas in the Sun and accepting a gift of a mini-Twix bar from my 4-year-old grandson who extended his hand and said, “Papa Tony and Grand Kitch, this is for you, I am sharing,” caused us to leave Virginia with smiles on our faces.

Eric Hoffer was right, Children are the keys of paradise.

Until the next time we hope that all of your stories have happy endings.

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