As you may have realized by now, I am partial to forget-me-not flowers. They have a way of showing up in my writing, of appearing in projects I have done with kids and finding their way into flower beds. They are a symbol of the histories that beg for recognition on the pages of books. And for me, they are also a symbol of childhood. For I sometimes feel that children, and their stories, are the “forget-me-nots” of this fast-paced, ever-changing world.
Having grown up in a large family (six children, plus cats and dogs in varying numbers), I am well-acquainted with the commotion of life that can sometimes drown out the voice and heart of a child. Growing up, all of our dinners took place around the (very large) kitchen table. Dinner was a lively event and everyone had something to say. But one of my younger sisters found it nearly impossible to speak in that environment. Hers was the forgotten voice. That is, until she and our mother arranged a signal. My little sister, seated next to Mom, would reach out and pat Mom’s hand on the table beside her whenever she wanted to talk; and an opening would be made for her to speak. But even then, the tap of her small hand was sometimes lost in the commotion.
Although not necessarily at the dinner table, I, too, more often than I can say, felt unable in that large setting of many voices and opinions, to speak what was in my heart. When I wasn’t playing outdoors with my siblings or the kids next door, I spent precious hours alone in my room, often hidden in my closet, opening my heart to dolls and books and my own writing on loose leaf pages.
Fast forward to the 21st Century. Modern life is busy. People’s schedules are packed. Family relationships shift and evolve. And technology has made its way into every corner of our homes. It isn’t a stretch to think that every child, at some point, feels like that small voice saying, “forget-me-not.” And there-in, lies the wonder of books. Books for children and about children; where their voices are not forgotten. Books are safe places where children can go to stretch their imaginations, confront their fears, expand their horizons. They are places where children can openly laugh, and freely cry; places where they can listen for a heartbeat that sounds like their own.