“She had the ability to write about herself and her friends in a way that preserves rather than destroys privacy, a gift so rare in our time that we may underestimate its importance.”
—from No One Gardens Alone: A Life of Elizabeth Lawrence by Emily Herring Wilson
(EHW’s introduction and footnotes to Two Gardeners are so engaging, and her affection for her subject so evident, that I absolutely had to read her biography of Lawrence. I haven’t even finished Two Gardeners yet; I’m savoring it slowly, you know; but I couldn’t resist peeking ahead at the biography.)
Notes from our morning—no, mornings; I meant to jot this first bit down yesterday and forgot. The older girls and I were all standing in the kitchen, chatting, when Rilla came running in from the backyard, barefoot, breathless, clutching a crumpled bag of goldfish crackers.
“You’ve got to see this!” she declared, eyes shining.
We trooped obediently out behind her.
“There!” She pointed skyward.
Two mourning cloak butterflies, whirling, chasing one another across the blue, weaving in and out among the inquisitive branches of the overhanging pepper trees.
They were lovely and tireless, a rich cocoa color with bands of creamy yellow at the edges of their wings. We all stood and stared for five, ten minutes, squinting against the sun. A mockingbird swooped to the top of the big Moreton Bay fig in the schoolyard behind our house and, all chuffed with pride, began showing off his repertoire. The mourning cloaks danced in complex figures, arcing, coasting, ruffling.
“This,” remarked Rilla, “is such a good movie.” She held out the bag of goldfish toward me. “Want some popcorn?”
Later she painted her rock that’s shaped like a turtle, a gift from my parents for her Roxaboxen. Then she asked me to read Winnie the Pooh, but we found When You Were Very Young instead, and I had to read “Rice Pudding” four times in a row.
But today we found House at Pooh Corner and I read about Eeyore’s house while Rilla did some more painting.
Wonderboy found our laminated map of San Diego, one of those cartoony ones with landmarks festooning it, and when I left the kitchen just now, he and Jane had it spread out on the floor, studying the highways, fingers pinpointing our neighborhood.
Huck is very much attached to a set of puzzle books featuring classic paintings of children and pets. Oh, and I think one of them may focus on food. One of these books is a treasure I gleaned from the giveaway pile at work way back before we had kids—I can’t believe it didn’t lose all its pieces years ago, but there seems to be only one missing,* and rumor has it even that renegade is hiding in a toy bin somewhere. Huck loves this book (a set of five or six small puzzles all bound up to look like a book, I mean) so dearly that Scott hunted down two more titles in the series. Puzzle Gallery, that’s what they’re called. (Oh, look, honey, there’s a Games one, too.)
*You just know that because I put this in print, every single other piece in the collection is going to fly into parts unknown tomorrow.
Booknotes: Byatt’s The Children’s Book
December 2014, part the first
Children’s Book Authors at the California Reading Association Conference
I should have been a librarian