Sharing stories with the children
When I arrived at Lake Sheridan I was given a heads up that there might be a bunch of kids hanging around. I worked with kids my whole career, so that was just icing on the cake. My prime focus was reconnecting with Darien and meeting her daughter Ruby, but I was also looking to reconnect with family long gone. My grandmother who had befriended the first Ruby some 85-90 years ago, my grandfather and my namesake who painted the porch roof sky blue, my mother and her two sisters who visited the lake so many years ago, and Ruby, the lady whom I heard so much about, the one who wielded the wooden mallet against the "bat scourge."
When I drove around Lake Drive the first thing I saw as I approached Minnetonka Darien's cottage, was a pack of kids all around the age of ten or younger, mostly girls with one fair-haired boy. And there in the middle was Ruby, Ruby of the wild hair. "You must be Ruby," I called out and she cast me a suspicious glance out of the side of her eyes. "Hello Frank," her mother Darien called out as I asked where to park my car, the Jaguar convertible. "Tell you what," she said, "Let me get my keys, you can park where I am now." She moved her car, I parked and got out.
After settling in, I gave Ruby the gifts I had brought, including a signed copy of my book, "Newtown's Trees." It wasn't long before all the kids wanted me to read it to them , and I did as they gathered in the yard outside the house by the lake. They listened, and they asked questions about the story, was it real, did the boy really die, and what was the real story. I explained the best I could about the 20 children and the 6 educators who died that day. Lily, a six-year old wanted to know if I had pictures of the children who died. I told her I did. They all wanted to see them.
I pulled out my computer and let them watch the slide show I had with the kids, with Eric Clapton's "Tears in Heaven" playing in the background. They watched in silent contemplation. I had told them that one teacher, Victoria Soto, had died protecting her kids. Lily wanted to know, "Which one is the teacher who died saving her kids?" For some odd reason she was not in the slide show and I told her as much. By this time all the other kids had wandered off to work on their Fairy Village. Lily remained behind. "Do you have a picture of her?" Lily asked, and I pulled one out of my photo bank. "She looks pretty nice," she said. She was genuinely touched as was I.