Although both sides of my family are Southern, and Virginian, they are not specifically from this particular Virginia county. When we moved here, just shy of 15 years ago, it became quickly apparent that we were forever doomed to be outsiders as far as the local populace was concerned.
It didn't help that we were not interested in accepting any one of a dozen invitations to join a church, that we were yellow-dog Democrats, and, most importantly to my daughter, that she wore overalls and Buzz Light Year shoes (because as the local kids told her Buzz shoes were boys shoes. Only boys could go "to infinity and beyond").
So in an effort to fit in, and find some sort of niche for our family, I went to the one place I understood: the local library. Specifically, the children's story hour where I was hoping my daughter would feel comfortable.
This wonderful, wonderful woman named Miss Joyce was the children's librarian. She was all the things a librarian should be, namely, absolutely devoted to the incredible experience of reading, and determined to share a love of books with every single child she met. She loved books more than anyone else I've ever met, including myself. And I am a fanatical lover of literature.
During the first story hour we attended, my 6 year old daughter was recognized as being "new" and Miss Joyce made a point of being particularily warm and welcoming to her. It made all the difference in the world to a little girl in a strange place that appeared to be beyond infinity.
Miss Joyce never had children of her own, but instead regarded every one of the thousands of children that came to story hour as her own. Amazingly, she remembered every one of them by name (I have seen this tested by various children), including my daughter. In the years since, we have collected odd household items for Miss Joyce to use for the summer children's crafts program (moms you know the list: popsicle sticks, toilet paper rolls, sequins, pom poms, glitter ....there's no such thing as too much glitter).
Our paths crossed again when a huge grey cat started spending the day at our house. We later found out that Miss Joyce had moved in three doors down, and the big gray cat belonged to her. Boswell (Boss for short) commandeered the neighborhood in short order, and several weeks ago actually ran off a groundhog that had taken up residence in my neighbor's crawl space.
Boss did not tell us at that time that he was dealing with his own loss: Miss Joyce had passed away suddenly. We had wondered why we hadn't seen her at the library for a couple weeks, but hadn't thought to ask. It never occurred to us that we may have lost her.
From one lover of reading to another, Miss Joyce you will be sorely missed in this community. You touched thousands of children over the last 31 years, not the least of which was my little girl in her Buzz shoes and overalls.
Every one of those children will keep your memory alive for years.