That sounds a little ominous, doesn’t it? It’s not the end of my time on this planet – I hope! – but it is the end of my Reign as Book Fair Lady. Eighteen book fairs, people. I have done eighteen book fairs, although to be honest, the New Book Fair Lady (HI HAYDEE) has really done the lion’s share of the work for the past two as she prepares to fly solo, for her own Reign as Book Fair Lady. Still! Eighteen book fairs is a lot of book fairs.
I remember my eager young self, when I had children in kindergarten and pre-kindergarten, happy to take on this monumental task. The Outgoing Book Fair Lady was asked at a school council meeting if she was sad to be leaving, and she said no, because she was leaving things in MY capable hands. This is exactly how I feel; Haydee is incredibly capable and smart, and I know that the book fair will keep on keeping on, without me.
That’s not to say I didn’t feel a little wistful, knowing it was my last one. I saw all sorts of hulking sixth graders, in all different stages of growth and hygiene, who I knew as kindergarteners – and in some cases, pre-kindergarteners. I saw those kids pick up books on inclusion and bullying and ghost stories, when they once were thrilled with Hot Wheels and Barbie early readers. At recess, one of the teachers asked me to quickly come to the staff room and my first instinct was that something terrible had happened to Jake on the playground; fortunately – and heart-warmingly – I was asked there to receive a beautiful bouquet of flowers from the staff, along with some very kind words about my years as volunteer. I did get pretty teary-eyed, knowing that I only have three months left of being an elementary school parent.
I know there are many people who think ill of Scholastic book fairs, due to marketing and branded leveled readers, and the plethora of cheaply-made boutique items, sold at a huge margin. However, if I had to do it all again I would. During my eighteen fairs, we raised over $62,000 for the school. This money went to the library, classrooms, the English as a Learned Language program, and the home reading program. Some books were even Brailled for the vision students. I feel very good about that. I tried to be sensitive to different financial situations, and for a few years had implemented a program for teachers to discreetly “draw” certain names that would “win” a book. Even when I was tired and exhausted, the sheer excitement of the kids would buoy me up.
Onward and upward! For all the feel-good moments, there are a lot of things I won’t miss. For example, I saw a child touch everything – absolutely everything – on the eraser and bookmark display, right after he had his finger up his nose. I also won’t miss being handed disturbingly warm and damp coins and bills. I won’t miss tears from small children who desperately WANT to re-order a book, but cannot remember a single word in the title, rendering their efforts completely useless. “It has a puppy on the cover,” they might say, vaguely, or “I think there was a car. Or maybe a train.”
But there is – strangely – one thing I will miss: the incessant questions about how much the posters cost. I do not know how many times I was asked that question, since 2009, but I feel that it must be in the millions. And yet, this last fair, I smiled every single time. Five dollars. Yes, that one too! The puppy poster is also five dollars. The half-man half-pig all-zombie poster? Also five dollars. This poster, that I had cleverly hung on the door of the fair, because I have my finger on the elementary-school-humour-pulse?
Maybe I’ll just get someone to semi-annually ask me how much the posters cost, for twelve straight hours.
And as god – and Haydee – is my witness, the very last question I was asked as I slipped my coat on to head out after my shift, the very last one, was “Do you have a lot of those Lamborghini posters left? And how much do the posters cost?”
It was a fitting end to my Book Fair Days.