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Chaos in the world brings uneasiness, but it also allows the opportunity for creativity and growth.
– Tom Barrett  
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  Volume No. 17 Issue No. 7 July 2020  

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Bill Radford

  A red plaid skirt
  By Bill Radford

   It's a fun children's story –- and an amazing real-life story.
   
   Falcon resident Becky Van Vleet is the author of "Talitha, The Traveling Skirt," published last year by Elk Lake Publishing and illustrated by Courtney Smith. It's a tale inspired by a unique family tradition.
   
   That tradition began in Indiana, where Van Vleet grew up, and was born out of a friendship between Van Fleet's mother, Alberta, and her friend, Omadeen. They became close as teens and continued as friends after both got married and moved to Indianapolis with their new husbands. Alberta had a baby girl; and, as a present, Omadeen made her a little red plaid skirt given to her when she was turning 2 years old; Alberta, delighted with the gift, had a professional photo taken of her daughter wearing the skirt.
   
   Alberta would go on to have three more daughters –- Van Vleet was No. 3 out of the four girls — and each would have their photo taken at age 2, wearing the red plaid skirt.
   
   "All four pictures from the first generation were finished in soft brownish tones, called sepia, and were taken at the Holland Studio in Indianapolis," Van Vleet recounted in a blog. "My parents proudly displayed these four photographs on top of our piano for a number of years.  … Daddy was proud as punch of his four little girls — Nancy, Jincy, Becky and Libby. We became the first generation to wear the little traveling skirt."
   
   Then Van Vleet and her sisters began raising their own families. And the tradition continued with that generation of girls, including Van Vleet’s four daughters, all being photographed wearing the skirt. (Alberta got to see two of her granddaughters wearing the skirt before she died; Van Vleet’s father, Walter, lived long enough to see photos of all the granddaughters in the skirt.)
   
   Now, of course, the tradition continues with a third generation.
   
   "So for more than 70 years and three generations, all the daughters, the granddaughters and the great-granddaughters have had professional pictures in this little skirt," Van Vleet said. And as the families have grown and spread farther apart, the skirt has had to travel farther, being shipped throughout Indiana and to Colorado, Florida, Tennessee and Illinois.
   
   For now, it's with Van Vleet. "I have another granddaughter who will turn 2 in July, so she'll be the next one to get her picture taken," she said. (If you're wondering, there are boys born in the extended family, too; Becky's eight grandchildren include two grandsons.)
   
   Van Vleet and her husband –- they were college sweethearts –- have lived in Falcon for about 15 years. A retired teacher and principal, Van Vleet has long enjoyed writing and began working on the story of the skirt as something "like a memoir, just something to preserve for the family." But the story was so unique that she was inspired to do something more with it –- a children's book. For the book, she decided to personify the skirt and make it the main character; she named it Talitha, which means "little girl" and comes from the book of Mark in the New Testament.
   
   She submitted a proposal for the book that was snatched up by Massachusetts-based Elk Lake, a Christian publisher. The publisher suggested a choice of three illustrators; Van Vleet contacted all three and ended up picking Smith, who it turned out lives in Colorado, in Franktown. "She invited me up for lunch, and we got to talk about the vision for the book," Van Vleet said.
   
   Seeing copies of the book for the first time was a dream come true, Becky said. But perhaps the most exciting part was sending a copy to her mother's old friend, Omadeen, who is still living in Indianapolis.
   
   "I've got her picture holding that book,” she said. That was just really special. She never dreamed this little gift would turn out to be part of a children's book or that it would travel through three generations.”
   
   Van Vleet has another book, with the same publisher and illustrator, coming out in August; this one, "Harvey, the Traveling Harmonica," is also inspired by a family story. And she has plans for two more books after that.
   
   "I'm a baby boomer," she said. "And I really believe it's important for the baby boom generation to share our stories –- especially any stories we have of our parents, the greatest generation, that we can share firsthand."
   
   (You can find "Talitha, The Traveling Skirt" at Barnes & Noble stores in Colorado Springs and online at amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com. For more of Becky Van Vleet's writings, visit her website at https:// beckyvanvleet.com.)
  
Falcon resident Becky Van Vleet has had one children's book, "Talitha, The Traveling Skirt," published and has another one on the way. Photo submitted
 
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