But this morning, our actual anniversary morning—while I was humming a certain upbeat tune, and just as Martin was on his way out for work—we saw the news that Maurice Sendak had died. It put a sad mood on the otherwise happy day. The sun was shining, it was a beautiful morning, but I am sure the world felt the loss.
It's interesting, because on the weekend of our wedding, Shel Silverstein died. He was another one of my childhood favorites, and I remember hearing the news at the start of our honeymoon, and taking a few moments to sit and think about the laughs we had all had in my childhood thanks to so many of Shel Silverstein's poems.
Today I took time to think about Maurice Sendak and how much he has affected my life. My parents read his books to me, we all loved them. The obvious "Where the Wild Things Are," and "In the Night Kitchen," but also "Higgelty Piggelty Pop, or There Must Be More to Life." That's the one that I most remember reading, not because we read it the most often—I'm sure we read the others more frequently. But there is something about that book that stays with you forever, perhaps your mind is riddling through it, just trying to sort it all out, for a very long time. It was about Jennie, a little dog who had everything, including a round pillow upstairs and a square pillow downstairs, and yet she still felt life was missing something, and she sets off in the world to find more.
I was excited to share it with my kids, who know the more familiar Sendak books (we were even given a couple of copies of "Where The Whild Things Are" when Max was born, and I studied both that one and "In the Night Kitchen" in my illustration classes, coming to love them both even more than I had when I was a child, which doesn't even seem possible). We have the Nutshell Classics, and even the Carole King songs for them all. But they didn't know "Higgelty Piggelty Pop." We checked it out from the library, and I was surprised at how strange and surreal it is. I didn't remember that about it—to my childhood mind, it made complete sense.
Maurice Sendak spoke at my university, and I remember it being absolutely the most riveting lecture of my entire college experience. Everything he said moved me, I was nodding in agreement, brought to my feet, to frequent bursts of applause, and I know I spoke with him afterward but have absolutely no recollection of what either of us said. I was genuinely moved by his words—the words he spoke in that lecture, the words he has spoken in various interviews over the years, and of course, the words and images and ideas he used in his work.
Today Fresh Air devoted the entire hour to past interviews with Maurice Sendak. I had heard them all previously, but it was quite something to listen to them all back to back, to hear him growing older, opening up even more each time with Terry Gross, with whom he had a true rapport. I was brought to tears several times in the last interview, which occurred in September 2011. He has always understood children, even if he didn't want to have any of his own, and I have a feeling that I have been subconsciously guided by some of his ideas throughout my own parenting experience. In fact, I think his books are better parenting advice than most of the parenting books I have seen. And not just parenting advice, but life advice too. It's why his books just get better and better as you get older (even if the surrealism of them also becomes more apparent as you age), why those are the books you never want to part with.
This afternoon, the boys and I saw the most beautiful little bird, lying perfectly still on a concrete planter. It must have hit a window, and someone had gently laid it there, not knowing what else to do. We didn't know what to do either, other than to look at it and feel sad for its demise. I know hundreds of birds hit the windows of Chicago's tall buildings every day, but I rarely see one so pretty and in such a pristine state. I wish I could have spotted such a pretty bird visiting our bird feeder or just catch a glimpse of it as it flew by. But it was just another reminder that we never know when our last day of flight will be, and we've got to enjoy the sunny days while we have them.
Tonight, Martin had to work late, and he was frustrated that he was so late for our anniversary dinner. I made crepes and the filling earlier this evening, and we all ate them in a staggered way, Max wandering in the kitchen to eat a few as they were coming off the pan, Otto waiting to eat his until Martin came home, me eating them somewhere in between. And once Martin finally arrived, at almost nine, we all sat down to a mix of dinner and dessert crepes. I looked around and smiled at our funny dinner. It doesn't really matter if today is our actual anniversary, it's the life we are building that matters. And I think we're building a good one.
I like to think that tonight, a whole lot of people are picking up their favorite Maurice Sendak book, reading it for themselves, to their children, to each other, and that there is a collective energy building, a sort of love message to the author, as we all cry, "Oh, please don't go, we'll eat you up, we love you so."