There are some friends that we meet in our lives that become a part of who we are, even if they are only with us for a short time. These are the friends that we meet, form bonds, and then sometimes have to say goodbye to. Of course, it isn’t really goodbye, because we know they will always be a part of us and we know, deep down, that somehow, some way, we are going to see them again. So maybe instead of saying goodbye we need to just say see you later.
My class recently had to say goodbye to a new friend. When they first met her, I don’t know if they thought she would be a friend. She wore different clothes, she talked about weird things, she was a few years older than them (sixteen, going on seventeen), and her experiences seemed to very different from their own. But as they got to know her better, as they got to understand what she was talking about, they came to realise that she really did have a lot in common with them.
Then it seemed that everything she did was important; they couldn’t wait to learn about her experiences and talk about the similarities to their own! We laughed with her when she got into mischief; we wrung our hands with worry as she got into financial troubles; we wondered aloud at her relationship with her neighbours; we cried when she and her friends experienced death and loss first-hand; we cheered when she overcame great odds. But then she had to leave us after just a couple of months.
Everyone wanted her to stay. Some students begged me to find a way to keep her here. Alas, all good things must come to an end, and this was no exception. As much as we loved getting to know our Hattie, it was time to say goodbye. And so it was last Thursday that we said farewell and wished Hattie Inez Brooks all the best as she left to work as a chambermaid at a boarding house in Great Falls, Montana. We also heard that Hattie might be moving to Seattle, Washington, soon, maybe to pursue a career as a newspaper journalist. There are other questions we all have about Hattie, especially about her friends Charlie, Karl, and Perilee.
Yes, Hattie Inez Brooks, a fictional character from Kirby Larson’s Newbery Honor Book Hattie Big Sky, truly came to mean something to my class. We learned from her and we learned from each other as we read her story, which was inspired by the real experiences of Montana homesteaders (also called honyockers) during the early 20th century. We learned about the trials and victories of “proving up,” we learned about prejudice and fear during the years of the first World War, and we learned how devastating a flu epidemic and a hail storm can be to people’s lives. The story was fictional, yes, but the emotions and the feelings were very real.
I am glad that my class welcomed Hattie to our room. I am also so very glad that Kirby Larson wrote this wonderful story! I am looking forward to bringing Hattie back as we get the next installment of her story, Hattie Ever After, and learn what happens next. I have never read a sequel to my class for a read aloud before, but I just may make an exception here. I will leave it up to the class to decide.