KERNERSVILLE, N.C. — Julie Hart loves reading historical fiction to her second grade students at Union Cross Elementary. But this story is even more special to her. She’s heard it many times before just not in school.
“My mother used to tell me specifically this story about her best friend, who she grew up with in North Wilkesboro in a place called Purlear, but they lived in Blackburn Hollow,” Hart said. “A little place that was named after my grandmother.”
She says her mother and her best friend loved to play together at the creek since they lived on the opposite sides of the water.
“They were 12 years old at the time, loved to play together and was looking forward to a great summer together,” Hart said. “And then their parents told them, ‘Sorry, there’s an epidemic going around and we don’t know a whole lot about it. And so, you can’t play together anymore for a little while.'”
So Hart says, they came up with a way to leave letters to each other at the creek. Hart loved the story but it wasn’t until her mother passed away that she knew she had to preserve it and make it into a book. That was just as the COVID pandemic hit and she was teaching from home.
“I would do my lessons. I would call my kids, talk to them. And then I would pick the book back up and try to start writing a little bit more,” she said.
Surprisingly she says she didn’t think about the similarities between polio and COVID at first.
“Until I started writing the part about being quarantined and sheltered. And, and then I started thinking, ‘Wow, this is perfect timing,'” Hart said.
The book was published last fall and Hart decided to include it in her lessons. Her students loved it, especially when they found out she had written the book herself.
“They were really good at retelling it and summarizing and making comparisons. You know, we’ve made a lot of comparisons to the story about how much better we have it. … I’ll ask them, ‘What do you do when you can’t see your grandparents or your friends over the summer?’ Well we would facetime each other or we would text each other. And I said, ‘Well, they couldn’t do that. They had no phones. They couldn’t call each other. They couldn’t Facetime. They could see each other from a distance and they could write letters. And that was their only form of communication.'”
So, while the book was originally written to keep her mother’s memory and stories alive, today it also serves another purpose.
“To give hope,” she said. “Because there’s hope in the book and to give hope to people now that, it will get better. It’s bound to.”
And who doesn’t love a story with a happy ending.