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Sometimes I know a book is going to be dedicated to a certain person before I sit down and write it. Other times, I come to that realization while I am writing the book. I know as I crafted the pages of Confessions of a Little Black Gown, that Tally’s book belonged to Jessica Burtt. And let me tell you why.

We met Jessica about seven years ago, when Matthew was a baby. He’d run through just about every babysitter I could find. He was one tough baby. He even sent the neighborhood’s alleged “baby whisperer” into a two hour crying jag. The babysitter. Not Matthew. Well, Matthew too, because he had horrible colic. And he was a fussy baby. And he wasn’t a baby for an amatuer. Then I got a lead on a 14 year old babysitter who was supposed to be “the best.”

This is the part where I cry. Because from the moment Jessica walked into our house, she walked into our hearts. Do you see this sunny, gorgeous smile? It has never changed. She has been an important and indispensable part of the kids’ lives ever since. The boys love Jessica. They even named their favorite playground after her. Jessica Park. Because it was the place she would take them to play. She’s watched the boys grow up and we’ve watched her grow up.

And Matthew’s autism has never been an issue to Jessica. She has managed to see through his challenges and discover the child inside. Unlocking ways to engage him, talk with him and keep him toeing the line. I remember the first time we used someone other than Jessica and Matthew walked up to this poor girl and gave her this sideways evil eye glance and then looked at me like, “That’s not her!” No. No one is.

So let’s fast forward. Jessica is now a teacher. Yes, at 21. She’s the hardest working, most determined young lady you will ever meet. She took Running Start classes to finish two years of college as she finished high school, and then went to college and finished, again, in record time. When I had to drop Matthew off last year at a new school to start with a new teacher, in a temporary building that was just decrepit, I left that school in tears. Until I got in my car and there was a text message on my phone. I’m here. I’ll watch over him. Because Jessica decided to do her student teaching at Matthew’s school and she’d watched me leave.

This year she began teaching full time, an ESL classes filled to the brim with K-3 kids.  And on occasion, we can still entice to come over for an evening with “her boys.” But mostly we all just love to see her. To me, she’s the daughter I will never have. To the kids, well . . .

Once Terry said to me, “she’s as much a mom to them as you are.” Some women might find that statement unsettling or threatening. Not me. I smiled and said a prayer to heaven thanking God that he sent such a blessing into our lives. Everyone should have a Jessica to brighten their lives.

And so, a book about finding light in our lives is dedicated to my dear friend, Jessica Burtt.

9 comments to “Dedication”

  1. Jamie
    April 2nd, 2009 at 6:26 am · Link

    She is a special person and you are as lucky to have her as she is to have you. We all need a Jessica in our lives. Give her a hug from me next time you see her!

  2. kris
    April 2nd, 2009 at 6:27 am · Link

    You made me cry, Elizabeth.

    Jessica sounds like the kind of young woman who will bring love and light wherever she goes. How wonderful that she chose to be a teacher. It sounds like you wont be the only ones giving thanks for her special gifts.

  3. Keira Soleore
    April 2nd, 2009 at 6:30 am · Link

    Elizbo, you’ve talked about Jessica before and every time I’m reminded anew that some people are simply gifted when it comes to dealing with children. Her generosity and cheerfulness must’ve been such a balm to you in those first few days.

  4. Laura B.
    April 2nd, 2009 at 10:55 am · Link

    That’s really sweet! Jessica sounds like a wonderful person.

  5. Christina Arbini
    April 2nd, 2009 at 12:51 pm · Link

    What a wonderful dedication blog to Jessica. My copy of Little Black Gown arrived in the mail yesterday and I started reading it last night, starting as I always do on a book, with the dedication page. I thought this was the same Jessica as you’ve blogged about in the past. That was such lovely and lasting praise for her. 🙂

  6. Sarah
    April 2nd, 2009 at 11:49 pm · Link

    Jessica sounds so sweet and patient. I envy her. I also envy you having her.

    So I finally finished Black Gown…the twist at the end makes me anticipate the next book… why make us wait a month? Though I am glad it isn’t a year.

    So now that there is a lulll between this book and the next, I shall write the letter to your editor – may I please get the address? Griffin and Mary need their story.

  7. terri
    April 3rd, 2009 at 9:57 pm · Link

    A wonderful tribute to Jessica! And a delightful book to dedicate to her. I picked it up – can’t wait for the next time I see you – have read the first 4 chaps, and already LOL 3 or 4 times, so you know I’m totally sucked in…

    What I love about your books is how well you grab the reader in the moment of multi-layered passions and conversations, and frippery, while there’s a deep and powerful story churning beneath the fun.

    That’s another reason why I think this book is perfect to dedicate to Jessica. She’s obviously got a beautiful depth of love and compassion, and will be true to keeping the children she teaches, engaged in the moment, so they will learn – what they need to learn.

  8. jennifer burtt
    April 4th, 2009 at 8:40 pm · Link

    i believe you are so right every one needs a Jessica in their life. I am just as happy and honored to have her in my life as while. I want you to know i went and bought your book the other day and went around the story telling every one that an author had dedicated a book to my sister for i feel she was the right one for this book. oh and by the way i really like this book.

  9. Keira Soleore
    April 5th, 2009 at 11:19 am · Link

    Found CONFESSIONS at Target, too. Here’s a picture of the bookshelf…


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