Not long ago, I decided it was time to clean out the old file cabinet. We save book folders for several seasons, although the actual paper accumulation is less and less as more things are stored digitally. But I'd still somehow managed to get to an overflow point. It was time. Just an ordinary, mundane, office task, right? So I started purging. How to Build It, The Science of Sports, Pro Wrestling Superstars—book files from all these series and more went into the recycling bin. But suddenly I wondered, how many kids had read those books by now? Had they liked them? Oh I hoped they had. Had anyone repeatedly checked out one of the books I'd crafted all those seasons ago the way that I had with The Ragdoll Procession for three months straight when I was six? I wondered how many Pro Wrestling debates had been bolstered by the facts in those books. I remembered when my husband and one of my friend's sons had gone back and forth to see who could name the most pro wrestlers, and when he got stumped my husband finally admitted, "Ask Mandy. She knows more than I do." Then it occurred to me that, after nearly 12 years of editing children's books, I could walk into almost any school library in the country and find a book I'd worked on. The realization overwhelmed me. I got that "baseball-sized lump" feeling you get in your throat. I guess that's where the term "choked up" came from. How many kids had read books I'd worked on? Books my photo is in—as a film director, a sign-toting protester, or the close-up of my mouth with a fact box explaining the multitude of germs in the human mouth. And it wasn't just generic "kids I don't know somewhere out there" who I was thinking about. When my cousin Luke was in first grade, he found a book I'd edited in the school library and showed it for show-and-tell. He had been so proud. Little did he know that his teacher had been my first grade teacher as well. She used me as an example to the kids of what you can do with a good education. (Me!? As an example? Scary thought. Humbling thought.) When I'd come back from maternity leave eight years ago I was tasked with writing a huge chunk of the first Pebble Go Animals articles. And when I went in for school conferences this spring for the "baby" I'd had all those years ago I got to read an animal report that she had done—based on one of the articles I'd written. At this point the tears were flowing. All of these flashes of memory bombarded me in that weird, maze-like, stream-of-consciousness way that memories have about them as I cleaned out my file cabinet. You know, I come to work every day to do my job, work on the words, do research, and a million other tasks that are just part of "the job." I get so wrapped up with those details, that I rarely stop to think about the impact that my work has after I'm done with it. I'm so lucky to get to work in the field that I do. So I cried as I cleaned out my file cabinet. I cried until my coworkers noticed and I started laughing. And then I explained why I was crying, and I think I saw a couple of them tear up too.
-Mandy Robbins, Senior Editor