Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Man Who Took Us Outside Over There

Maurice Sendak is dead. When I heard the news this morning, I emailed Warren: "I may need to go home."

I didn't, but I sure felt like it. I felt I needed to go home and pull his books off the shelf and reread each of them again.

"And now," cried Max, "let the wild rumpus start!"

Now Ida in a hurry snatched her Mama's yellow rain cloak, tucked her horn safe in a pocket, and made a serious mistake.  She climbed backwards out her window into outside over there. 

Did you ever hear of Mickey, how he heard a racket in the night, and shouted "QUIET DOWN THERE!"...

I read a lot of Maurice Sendak to my boys when they were little. We would study the pictures of Mickey in his airplane over the kitchen city. For a long time, a poster of that very scene hung in Sam's bedroom. We would read about the Wild Things, about Ida and her wonder horn, about milk in the batter.

A poster of that very scene hung in Sam's bedroom.

And now the man who created all those wonderful images and characters is gone. 

I had kind of been waiting to see who died before Ramona Dawn arrives this August. I was thinking Beverly Cleary or E. L. Konigsberg, but it turned out to be Maurice Sendak.

That sounds grim, "waiting to see who died," but I don't mean it that way. I don't believe in some giant cosmic balancing act: you get a grandchild, but I get to take this person away. But given my deep love of books, and knowing that Ramona Dawn will be blessed with two parents who also love books (let's face it, Ben eats books for breakfast), I mourn when a giant in the pantheon of children's literature exits the world just before someone dear to me is scheduled to make an appearance. 

I was pregnant with Ben when E.B. White died. I remember crying that night when I heard the news on  MacNeil/Lehrer, thinking how sad it was that my child was being born into a world in which E.B. White no longer lived.That was shallow thinking, of course, which I now chalk up to prenatal hormones. Andy White was dead, physically, but his books were still there. They still are. I just reread Charlotte's Web last night with its evocative ending lines: It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. Charlotte was both.

And I know it will be the same with Ramona Dawn and Maurice Sendak. The man is gone, but the Wild Things, Mickey, Ida, and all the rest of his amazing cast are still here. They will always be here. They are here waiting for someone to open up the books and let them out. They are here waiting for someone to fall into the batter or climb out the window backwards into outside over there. They are here waiting for someone to sail to the island where the Wild Things are.

And they are here waiting for Ramona Dawn, waiting for her to discover them.


Anonymous said...

We're reading Where the Wild Things Are at bedtime tonight.

It is fine to read how seriously you take the deaths of these authors. My students frequently complain about my tendency to refer to authors by their last names--the authors have a tangible quality to me that is totally lacking in the majority of my modern students.

see you there! said...

Yes, the words and art live on. Many thanks to Maurice Sendak for the treasures.