The circle is now complete. My mother told me that my fourth grade teacher had passed on. Alair Stuart was a no-nonsense lady. Hers was the first door that I encountered that had a sign that read, "Door's open, don't bother knockin' - Walk right in and don't disturb our talkin'." She meant it, too. She had a mission to fill our heads with knowledge, and we had better hold still while she did it.
I never felt the need to head down the hall to the library when I was in Miss Stuart's class. There were bookcases crammed full with every great (and some not so great) kids' book that you could imagine. She expected us to read - a lot, and I did. I read science and adventure and biography and lots and lots of fantasy. We all kept track of the books we read on color-coded charts, filling in a new bubble with pink or green or blue, depending on the genre.
I got hooked by a book called "Three Boys and Space" - I read a lot of books about space, and this one was even more interesting because it featured three brothers: Abercrombie, Benjamin and Christopher. I had two brothers, and we all liked space. It was kismet. As soon as I finished, I wanted more. I read "Three Boys and a Mine", "Three Boys and a Helicopter", "Three Boys and a Train", "Three Boys and a Tugboat" - I was on a roll. Somewhere in this flurry I discovered a formula, and I thought I might exploit it.
Whenever we finished a book, we had a quick conference with Miss Stuart, and she asked us a few quick questions to get a feeling for how we liked the book. I signed up for my conference for "Three Boys and H2O" before I had even cracked the cover. When she called me up to her desk, I sat down in the chair next to it full of confidence. Her first, and only, question was "What is H2O?" I had no idea. Had I bothered to read even the first three pages, I would no doubt have stumbled on the chemical equation for water, but in all my hubris, I neglected the tiniest bit of preparation for my ruse. I stammered. I turned red. I strained for any kind of answer. Finally, she let me off the hook: "Maybe you just need to take it back to your seat and read it a little more closely." I gulped. I nodded, and headed back to my desk where I sat for several weeks in shame - or at least until recess.
I never did read that book. I never read the remaining books in the "Three Boys" series. I was done. I read very carefully from then on. Front to back. I read a lot, and I even wrote a series of books of my own when I was in fourth grade, but most of all, I learned humility from Miss Stuart.