Well, yesterday was THE Day. The children’s librarians of New Hampshire (hereafter referred to as Chilis), gathered into one overly warm room in Gilford to review a roster of artists. Our summer hangs in the balance, as for the fifth time we were selected to be on that roster. Months of effort on our part, from concept to construction of props and promotional materials, all boiled down to four hours of standing and talking and laughing with a lot of ladies who have become friends over the last six years.
This year’s summer reading program theme is Treasure Reading, and all the artists presented something a little piratey. Same of the past themes were a little hard for us to work with, this year has just been fun. The other artists on the roster ranged from another magician, to storytellers and musicians, to a lady who comes in and teaches a little orienteering and runs a treasure hunt. The idea is to promote reading and the library to children throughout the summer. Some libraries have enough budget to have a performer every week (the Summer Reading Program is usually about 6 weeks long.), others might have one every year, and that with the help of the Chilis grant.
We know most of the librarians by now. Over the last six years, we have been on the roster an unprecedented five times, and the one year we weren't on the roster we were awarded a spot on the Master Artist’s grant. The grant doesn’t come to us directly, but to libraries that apply for money to cover all or part of our fee. However, only certain performers are eligible for the grant - hence the roster. Yesterday we took Johann with us, and he was the hit of the day. I think everyone there (all 125 or so) came by to meet him and coo and exclaim what a good-natured little boy he was. Several told us that we would be coming to their libraries this summer, so already the efforts are paying off.
Mostly, yesterday was about greeting old friends, making new ones, and showing off what we do. Mr. Phil made everyone laugh, and both of us came away from it with a renewed sense that what we do is worthwhile. We realized - or at least, he did - I never doubted - that we are in the same class as performers who travel all over New England and are feted as great. Mr. Phil has a gift for making kids laugh and for teaching them without letting them know he’s doing it. Children remember him and ask for him all year long. I loved talking to librarians who reported that people had been asking about him all winter long.
One new librarian started just after Mr. Phil did a show at her library this January, and she told us that her group had been telling her all about him for three weeks after she started. Another took a different approach to Mr. Phil and I by asking me to please put pictures of our children up on the website. You see, all these ladies have watched our family grow. I was very pregnant with Juliet the first time I met most of them, at our first Chilis conference, and our little girls have been to some of their libraries, and to conferences, and now Johann with his happy little personality is charming them again. I feel like I have so many friends there, and they are so fond of the girls and Phil is makes me warm and happy just thinking about it.
As you can see, it was an eventful and long day. To top it off, we made some new performer friends, and renewed our acquaintance with other. I met Steve Blunt’s parents. He is a singer/songwriter, and they were very sweet, and very proud of him. We met the magician and his assistant, the Almodarrs, who were very nice people and very talented. He and Mr. Phil had so much in common it was funny, and we wives were laughing together about our magicians. Phil got to talk to T-Bone, who wrote a song twenty years ago called the Existential Blues that Phil has in his favorites collection. It turns out the Tom (T-bone) is a brother in the Lord, has a three-year old son with Autism, and his wife went to the same college we did. To top it off he gave Phil an autographed 45 of the song, and sent hula skirts from his act home for the girls. Sometimes life just overflows with blessings.
To top it all off, when we got home Phil sat and held Johann while I did dinner, and he was kissing Yo all over his face, which made Yo belly-la ugh. I think that is the greatest sound ever - a baby’s belly laugh.