Every two weeks we search the horizon for a distant cloud of dust. It never fails us. Into the dry dirt lot, a bookmobile rolls toward the long line of small bodies baking in South Dakota heat. It seems forever until the door of the trailer opens. The bookmobile lady always stands for a moment observing us in her wire-rimmed glasses, black hair swept high on her head, the crisp white blouse.
One by one she hands us a towel to wipe sweaty hands before allowing us to cross her threshold.
Inside, a fan blows cool air, and we feel it to be a holy place, so different from our homes. I thumb through pages of Scarlet O’Hara, but Nancy Drew is more exciting in her blue roadster. So too The Black Stallion and Flame, their flanks flying, manes streaming free.
But Francie changes my life.
She does not allow poverty to crush her dreams, or to squelch her desire to learn. She sees possibility where others might see defeat. Her story brings hope to an eleven-year-old girl who now sees the Francie in herself.
Like the tree of heaven that sprouted between cracked cement outside her Brooklyn tenement, she encourages me to push ever upward, to rise from my own dirt lot and to grow, to grow green, and to be alive . . .
spun from the sky
into my hands . . .