Karli and the Young Folks Shelf of Books

Just after writing dynamo Karli Land moved into Northwest Georgia a few months ago, she started looking for other writers to hang out with and organized writers groups to join. We writers were hidden throughout the Coosa Valley like Easter eggs and finding us was not an easy task. A few of us met sporadically in downtown Calhoun for read and critique (and gossip and lunch) sessions, but Karli envisioned something more structured—a group that met routinely to share and talk about writing, publishing, platforms, etc. So she formed the Calhoun Area Writers and invited lots of local writers to attend and participate. I attended and am glad I did.

 Karli and her heirloom books—reminders of her grandmother.

Karli and her heirloom books—reminders of her grandmother.

Since then, Karli's jumped straight into the deep end of the writing world. She's written several inspirational articles for the Calhoun Times. She's finished writing a children's book and found a publisher. She's written marvelous works of poetry. And she's attended writing events such as a book signing at Barnes & Noble in Rome, where I stood lonely and distressed at the lack of interest in my book, Project Keepsake. Karli waltzed in like a ray of sunshine and kept me company for an hour (along with my buddy, Wayne Minshew).

With her talent, energy, and desire to help others, I know that Karli has a bright writing future ahead of her. I look forward to seeing what lies beyond the bend for her.

She entered my Project Keepsake story contest. I loved her story and again felt a connection with her and her story. As a child, I, too, loved to read and learn. I, too, pretended to be a school teacher—teaching a small band of stuffed animals and dolls under our dining room table. And I, too, loved my grandmother with all my heart—everyone who knows me has heard me go on and on about Grandmother.

Here's Karli's keepsake story. Enjoy!

Hindsight is 20/20. As a child, I could never have imagined just where I would be in life during my mid-thirties and how the 400 pages of one book would nudge me there.

I grew up in the tiny town of Frostproof, Florida. There wasn’t ever much to get into other than a few orange trees and a tiny arcade that sat in the back of a popular gas station. I do remember in the late 90’s when our quaint town hit it big time and watched as a McDonald’s was placed on the north end of nowhere. For awhile, you couldn’t pass a person without seeing the infamous red and yellow fry box in hand, but it wasn’t too long before the locals returned to their favorite hometown joints for a home cooked meal.

Perhaps my most favorite locale was the Latt Maxey Memorial Library. I spent many summer hours there reading every book I could get my hands on. I especially loved the summer reading program. I had very supportive parents who encouraged me and my book adventures and with the help of my mother, I even won a reading contest. That was a big year for me because they put my picture in the Frostproof News. During that time, my appetite for books was insatiable but my love for books and stories came long before then.

I grew up on Overocker Circle. I was fortunate in that we knew all of our neighbors and I was given free reign of the neighborhood to play and ride my bike after school. The family across the street had a pool that provided lots of enjoyment during the scorching summer months and most of the neighbors asked me to watch their pets when they went out of town, providing some extra spending money for the school store. I had friends that lived nearby who enjoyed much of the same outdoor activities as I did. We would snag oranges from the grove at the end of our road and climb up in a tree house to eat them. We bounced from house-to-house to see who had the best after-school snacks and who owned the newest Nintendo game. So many memories were made flying up and down those quiet streets on our ten-speeds and I wish more than anything that my children could experience them.

By far the best thing about living on Overocker Circle was the fact that I lived next door to my grandparents. I had a very close relationship with my grandmother and it is difficult to find any of my writings on my childhood without mention of her. She worked at the elementary school that I attended and would take me to school and bring me home. I would sit in the classroom with her before and after school and watch her grade papers and wash the chalkboards. She would hum the entire time that she worked and to this day, with focus and concentration, I can hear her tiny voice filling the room with church hymns. Aside from taking me to school, my grandmother took me to church. Many years of my childhood were spent in the Church of Christ. I would watch as she focused on each word being taught from the Bible and I still have her Bible which I hold very dear. However, this is not the book which I spoke of earlier.

In my grandmother’s house there was a den. That is where I spent most of my time during my visits. I would set up the room to look like a schoolhouse and I would teach my imaginary friends all of the things I had learned earlier that day while at school. My grandmother would even bring home left-over worksheets from her classroom so that I had teaching material. I would spend my afternoons grading blank papers and washing imaginary chalkboards just as I had watched her do.

Along the wall of the den there was a bookshelf. It was a small bookshelf and on the very bottom, it held a set of encyclopedias which I would skim through ever so often. On the shelf above the encyclopedias was a set of children’s books called The Young Folks Shelf of Books. The set included ten books filled with rhythms and stories and fairy tales. I own this set now and I share it with my children. It isn’t hard to notice the wear-and-tear that book one of the set contains that none of the other books do. Book one, less than 400 pages, yet in those pages are absolute classic characters; Georgie Porgie, Jack Sprat, and Little Tommy Tucker. Folk Tales like Henny Penny, Mr. and Mrs. Vinegar, and Red Riding Hood and page after page of stories like Peter Churchmouse, The Velveteen Rabbit, and Scaredy Cat. I’ve listened to every one of them over and over and could recite many by memory. But the greatest memory that I have isn’t of any of the stories or characters. It is the time spent curled up beside my grandmother, listening as she read to me, putting a funny voice with each character. It is those memories that I now see as the catapult for my love of reading and writing. I was given a gift in those days that I was blind to. I was given a love for words that now prompts me to get up every morning and put my thoughts to paper.

If I had known how short my days with my grandmother would be, I surely would have spent less time outside on a bicycle and much more time sitting beside her listening to her sweet voice, memorizing every feature of her face as she read to me. I can now only share those stories with my children in hopes that through them, the memory of my grandmother will live on.
— Karli Land, 2014

Thanks for sharing your keepsake story, Karli. See you at the next Calhoun Area Writers meeting.

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To read other stories about keepsakes and the memories they hold, please purchase a signed copy of Project Keepsake. It's on sale now with no shipping and handling charges. And by the way, it's a great Christmas gift for a loved one, especially when paired with a keepsake.

And as always, I know you have a keepsake. Please share your keepsake story with me. Everyone has a keepsake, and every keepsake has a story to tell.