Seven years ago – almost to the day – I donned an eclectic costume dripping in costume jewelry and topped off with a 1950’s red hat – something Lucy Ricardo might wear. I stepped out of the back room of the bookstore where my husband worked at the time, with a handful of storybooks and a little cat toy mouse I called, Toby Talespinner. I was the new story lady, entertaining just three preschool children in my first Tale Spin Stories performance. I scarcely knew at the time what an adventure of creative writing and performance this would launch me into.
Today, I ended a successful seven year run as the “story lady” performing center court at the Cumberland Mall in Vineland for about five and a half of those seven years. My little storytelling mouse friend, Toby, has been with me the whole time. We sing his song and wake him up at the beginning, then sing him to sleep at the end til the next week. Through Tale Spin Stories I have been privileged to be allowed a place in the lives of so many families.
Some of those kids who started with me back in the early bookstore story days were with me today to bid farewell to Miss Kathy, Toby Talespinner and Tale Spin Stories.
My mission has never changed: To be salt and light sharing a love of learning and literacy through story with children of all ages that they may grow into productive, responsible, citizen servants in their homes and community at large.
Today’s farewell performance overwhelmed me as I greeted a sea of faces – young and old – all come dressed for tea in a grand finale of the annual Victorian Tea Party.
Arriving early, I set out the tea things.
I always bring my most whimsical tea pots as centerpieces, amid a sprinkling of festive flowers.
Tea cups and saucers are spread for a large party –
. . . though we don’t actually use them anymore – there are always more children than place settings, so we go with the “look” of the party, and stay practical: Auntie Anne’s pretzels provides lemonade in small lidded cups while I provide cookies in colorful cupcake liners on a napkin. I make sure there is more than enough to go around – today I prepared for one hundred children. Good thing, too – we came in just under the mark!
I sang my “good morning” song – a little something I adapted from the “Good Morning” song in Singing in the Rain. I fear my voice cracked off-key once I came to the middle part as I realized this was my last rendition of it in this venue.
Our storytime routine includes a big thank you to the mall for hosting us each week. I brought our marketing director, Miss Maria, to the front with me and had a farewell thank you gift for her (unfortunately no photo!).
Then, we “wake up Toby” in time for the story. Usually, I would take the little rabbit fur mouse around and allow each child to pet him, calling them by name. I always tried to learn all the children’s names. They are each so very special.
Today, being a tea party, we reviewed tea table manners with a favorite picture book of mine, Tea for Ruby, by Sarah Ferguson, The Duchess of York.
After our story, we “became one” with a hot teapot, singing and acting out the nursery favorite:
The tea would be arriving shortly, and I was ready to move to the tables, but one of my long time Talespinners, Catie, shouted out, “Miss Kathy! I wrote you a goodbye song!”
Catie has been coming to Tale Spin Stories since the early days in the bookstore. She was always after my job in her preschool days – and now that she is a rising fourth grader, she is well on her way to becoming a “Miss Catie” someday! She did, indeed, write me a song, along with a little help from her little sister. Michaela. They came to the front and sang out loud and clear – a little ditty to the tune of Good Night Ladies and We Wish You A Merry Christmas.
Tea had arrived and children gathered around the “V” shaped table – sipping their cups and chomping their cookies.
Time for the speech making. Time to pass the baton – I mean – the tea cup – to the new story lady, a sweet young and talented friend of mine, Miss Naomi. She will be bringing “Miss Naomi’s Adventures” each first Tuesday of the month beginning in September. Perhaps next year she can expand to the weekly segments.
Inspired by my Blogworld tea ladies, paper-crafters, and vintage artists, I came up with an idea of doing something with a tea cup and saucer.
I found a couple of sweet second hand teacups and saucers and purchased photo holders from Michael’s. Put it together with some super strength glue dots, greenery, and tiny pink roses – and I think we have a lovely memory catcher to display. I utilized some of the free graphics we get online and created photos and greetings – embellished with ink pads and glitter – then, slipped them into the photo holder to personalize the keepsake. Both Miss Maria and Miss Naomi received one.
The parents and families of the children were so very generous to me with so many lovely parting gifts and cards. Miss Maria provided a huge “Looney Tunes” card that everyone took turns signing throughout the morning. I was especially blessed by the little signatures from the hands of children just learning to form letters!
We were coming to the end of the event. I knew tears were restless at the gate – especially when I noted that my family had come out to support me. My Aunt Anne – she of a recent tea party post (click HERE to view that) – my mother’s sister – so good of her and Uncle Martin to come.
And my Uncle Matt, Aunt Jo, Aunt Maryann – they came – and my daddy, too! He’s the one wearing the NAVY hat.
They brought me roses. My poor husband and daughter could not get off work – they were with me in spirit, though.
Suddenly, it was time for the dreaded “Goodnight Toby” song – my adaptation on the tune of Good Night Ladies. To be sure, this was the last of our Toby, holding him up for all to see, and then placing him in his book box for the last time.
But, all was lost on my last stanza as I sing “so long” and “farewell” to the children – admonishing them to, “Remember, I love you.” I barely choked those last words out. Tears all around.
Composing myself and taking a seat, the children gathered around for their “Miss Kathy Sticker” – another weekly ritual. Stickers and posing for pictures with each one. Many hugs. Goodbyes. And then, clean-up.
Center Court is empty – but, my heart is full. I have loved sharing all our storytime adventures over these seven years and will take everything THE CHILDREN TAUGHT ME into my new classroom teaching venue at the charter schools. I’m still telling stories and my mission is unchanged. Just doing it in a new place.
Praise God for goodness and beauty in memories! Thank you, Lord . . . and Tale Spin Stories . . .
Craig from The Daily Journal took a series of wonderful photos of the event. You can view them HERE.
This coming week is one with many changes in my life. One of the first posts I wrote at The Writer’s Reverie was about “Re-Arranging Furniture“. God has been preparing me mentally and spiritually for all the new “decor” in my career and activities. Blogging has played a big part in that preparation. Over the next week I will celebrate a birthday, celebrate my six month Blogoversary, celebrate breaking the 100 Followers mark, celebrate a career change, and celebrate all the precious children and families I have known and loved through Tale Spin Stories.
Of course – I must do my FIRST GIVE-AWAY – and here it is:
I just loved making that teacup photo holder parting gift for Miss Maria and Miss Naomi – so I wanted to make one for my first give-away, too! I’m giving new life to a sweet Staffordshire tea cup – found alone in a thrift store – that I matched with a lone saucer.
Secured together, they are home to a photo holder rising up out of sweet pink roses echoing the delicate tea cup pattern. In addition, a tiny butterfly flutters to the left while a petite cluster of crystal grapes hug the cup’s handle, resting on the saucer. I’ve placed a vintage postcard in the holder which will be embellished and personalized with the winner’s name and a blessing.
TO ENTER the give-away POST A COMMENT on any posts I write beginning with this one and continuing on til noon on September 1, EST. I’ll post the winner later in the day. I’m so excited and hope you’ll participate!
Thanking God today for the blessing of knowing so many inspirational people. I cherish all my blogger friends – and my precious Tale Spin Stories’ family!