April 25, 2009


Since I've had my two young grandsons here today, I've been thinking about the interview with Eric Carle, of the Very Hungry Caterpillar fame, published yesterday in the Los Angeles Times. It was the last quote he said that's been ricocheting around in my head.

"I often say," Carle adds, "that my books are made for two days in a child's life: the last day at home and the first day of school. Home is touching, and warmth, and the familiar, and school is something surprising, something new."

As a someone who has great connections to family as well as school, I found it intriguing that Carle could zero in on the bridge between the two. It's not just for kindergarten, I think. Do we ever forget that day we left home for the last time, whether it was a new job, new marriage, new school, new venture, and what a relief it was to be past that first day in a new job, new marriage, new school or venture?

I remember coming home after my honeymoon to my (now) parents' home. Even though I had lived away from home for school, this low-slung frame house had been mine just two weeks previously. Yet there I was pulling up in my new husband's sports car, feeling all uncomfortable not only from the honeymooning business and interpersonal adjustments, but also because this house, this place where I could sling my books on my bed and rummage in the refrigerator, was not my house anymore. I was now a visitor, even though I still had the key on my keyring. My mother made me feel welcome, but I think I could have used an adult version of one of Carle's books.

There's been many times I have wished for such a book, many junctures that required more of me than I was, or thought I was. Bringing home my third child--a daughter--to that now-empty marriage. Leaving the attorney's office after signing divorce papers. Moving to Southern California with a new marriage, new everything. Walking into grad school, pretending (hoping?) that I could write. That 101 classroom the first summer I taught college. Assigning my first failing grade. Sending a daughter off into her own marriage.

I think of my friend today at the funeral service for her daughter. I remember my own sister's walk out of the church after her husband's funeral. Head erect, staring straight ahead into the dark evening sky, she followed the casket out to the hearse and after they left, got into her car and drove home, her grief tangible. Her adult children greeted the mourners. Everyone's list is long, and particular to them.

But Carle's words, that of leaving "the familiar" and heading to something "surprising. . . [and] new," typify these experiences well.


  1. Very well said! I think this is something we all relate too.

  2. Your pair of grandchildren posts are charming and thoughtful. They represent a thematic break from your other posts about the research papers that is almost as refreshing to the reader as it must have been to you.