My frequent Scrabble partner, Mara, wanted us to play a game up at the FloydFest site Tuesday, two days after the festival and six miles from my driveway. She was particularly interested in playing with the couple who run the coffee bus and has been ever since she learned they were Scrabble players. The coffee bus couple were among the few campers still on site, serving drinks to the clean-up crew, Mara told me. I was intrigued by the idea of seeing the festival pasture empty, feeling the aftereffects of 10 to 12,000 people who had just been there, and playing Scrabble in such contrasting quiet, so I agreed to meet her there.
We set up our meeting time over the phone, which is when she, the FloydFest Poetree organizer, told me about her nine year old daughter Kyla serving food to performers in the backstage VIP tent the last day of the four day festival. Mara had been looking for Kyla and family friend Sena. When she found them, they were happily helping out after the VIP tent staff had run low on volunteers.
“She’s in the family business, isn’t she?” I said to Mara.
On the drive over to the festival site on I thought more about my comment to Mara. I was impressed with the confidence and independence it took for Kayla to navigate FloydFest in the meaningful way she did, while her mother was juggling performer and organizer hats and spouting poetry from stages and soap box stands up and down the festival main drag.
Self-education is a theme in Mara’s family. She, currently a Hollins College Creative Writing student, is a product of home schooling. She was primarily home schooled until junior high, at which point she enrolled in Arthur Morgan, a progressive Quaker school in North Carolina. Although Kayla has only been home schooled sporadically – in between years at Blue Mountain, The Community School, and public – she demonstrates qualities like critical thinking and self-motivation that many home schooled kids have. She’s had some unorthodox life experiences that have shaped her young life, such as losing her dad. She sings and reads poetry on stage, and has acted as open mic mc at our local café on more than a few occasions.
I’d like to interview her about her FloydFest experience, I thought as I pulled off the Blue Ridge Parkway and into the festival site.
The place was eerily empty. We saw about four people the whole time we were there. The coffee bus people were napping and the breeze was stirring as we sat in the shade at the edge of the beer garden and decided what to do next.
“It feels like sacred ground. Like when your in a cemetery and can feel the spirit of all the life that has been lived and is now gone,” I said to Mara. I wanted to get up on the main stage and take a picture of the empty field, so we walked.
There weren’t any kids around to play with, like Kyla was expecting, so she got bored after a while. We decided to head back towards my house, to Zephyr Farm, to play Scrabble on the bank of the pond while Kyla swam. Her decision to ride with me as her mother followed was perfect chance to ask hers some interview questions, but how would I remember her answers?
As we talked, I handed her a pad and every once in awhile said “write that down.” The notes she took for her own interview were mostly stats. She wrote: Sena – 13, 30 back flips, October (when she turns 10), Hula Hoop, crab legs and cobbler, 2 BMS (Blue Mountain School, and 2 CS (Community School). Here’s the rest of what transpired.
Colleen: Kyla, what’s your favorite kind of poetry? What do you like?
Kyla: I don’t know. I read a lot of different stuff, but I know who my favorite band is this year. American Dumpster (This would be the first of several times she mentioned this Charlottesville band).
Colleen: Do you like your mother’s poetry?
Kyla: Yes. But sometimes I get tired of it because I hear it 24/7.
Colleen: How many autographs did you get at FloydFest?
She named three but only wrote down two: Christian from American Dumpster and Spiral – some weird guy from backstage (her notes say).
Colleen: What did you get to do that most kids at the festival probably didn’t?
Kyla: Hula Hoop on stage with American Dumpster.
I asked more about that and she explained how she was hula hooping nearby when a member of the band invited her on the stage, and how the lead singer, Christian, said her name in the mic. “He told me to leave him a message on MYSPACE, but I don’t even have an account,” she said.
Colleen: What did you like the best?
Kyla: The bouncing ride. I did 30 back flips.
When I asked her what she didn’t like, she couldn’t think of anything.
Colleen: I heard you served food to performers in the VIP tent. Did you like doing that?
Kyla: It was okay. We got crab legs and cobbler without a meal ticket, and they were very strict about having to have a meal ticket.
Colleen: But you had meal tickets because your mom was working all weekend, right?
Kyla: Yes, but I didn’t want to waste them.
By then we were pulling into our friend Jayn’s driveway at Zephyr, and before I could get my stuff out of the car, Kyla was on her way to the pond.
Post Notes: See Kyla in the act of Mc’ing the Café Del Sol Spoken Word night HERE.