Maurice Sendak, Wishing You All Good Things

I only recall a handful of memories that I associate with becoming a writer. There was my high school English teacher, Coach Flagler, who introduced me to the world of short stores, and a college professor, the late Charles Muscatine, who, on the last day of his creative writing workshop, pulled me aside and told me I was a fool if I didn’t continue to write. But my earliest memory, one that’s actually more of a feeling, is of sitting with my mother while she read Maurice Sendak’s Little Bear stories. I couldn’t have been older than two, but the sound of my mother’s voice, the look of her hand as she turned the pages, the stories of Little Bear’s adventures visiting his grandparents or having tea with his best friends Emily and Duck, were a source of deep and enduring comfort.  Deep comfort–that’s what words and stories are for me. Decades later, when I packed up and left home to start my own life, I took my favorite children’s books with me.  My Little Bear books were on the top of the stack.

And years after that, when I had girls of my own, Little Bear was a nightly favorite. There are other books I’m sure my girls will associate with their childhoods; books I introduced (Whistle for Willie, A Snowy Day, The Cat in the Hat), and books we discovered together (Olivia, Madeline, Eloise, Sylvester and the Magic Pebble).  But I hope they will always remember Little Bear. I hope they remember Maurice Sendak, who looms in our collective consciousness as a beloved distant uncle.

I was sorry to hear that Maurice Sendak died this morning.  In his last radio interview, recorded last year when he was frail and ailing, he talked about loving books and music and art. They were his God, he said.  He talked about growing old, loving friends, and missing them when they passed on. At the end of the interview, he broke down a bit as he said goodbye to the host. An author who was always keenly aware of death, he knew the end was near. “I wish you all good things,” he said.

He will be sorely missed.

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2 thoughts on “Maurice Sendak, Wishing You All Good Things

  1. Natalie,

    I don’t know how I came across the name of your book “Queen Sugar” which I just ordered, but it led me to your blog today and coincidentally we share a few things in common: PV High, Coach Flagler, a love for New Orleans, storytelling, and now – Maurice Sendak. (Here is a short documentary I produced for Spike Jonze about Maurice: http://www.hulu.com/watch/360251 – Maurice speaks about his origins as a writer and his take on end of life, it’s incredibly amusing and poignant). If you send me an address, I’d be happy to send you the real DVD as it’s not available to stream. He’s a gem! I was so thrilled to come across your name which sounded so familiar, go to amazon and see that Jennifer had written a book as well…I ordered both books today! I just wanted to thank you for writing this blog, I’ve really enjoyed the window into your wonderful world ~ and somehow feel a kinship. I’m a documentary director/producer – living in NYC for the past 25 years, and have always had a bizarre relationship with Palos Verdes. And every now and then, something reminds me that it wasn’t all that bad…

    Cheers!
    Chiemi Karasawa

    • Chiemi,
      Thanks for writing and for sending the link to the Maurice Sendak documentary. I just watched it and have to say, I loved every minute. What a complex and interesting personality! What a life!! I love what he says at the end about the writing life being solitary and sublime. So true!

      So, now I must know when you were at PV High. Were you there with Jennifer? And what’s your connection to New Orleans? I’ll send you a message with my personal email through your website so we can continue this conversation off line.

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