Friday, May 17, 2019

Journey of a Favorite Little Picture Book

For my youngest son’s first Easter, I put some books in his Easter basket. One was titled, 'Henry’s Awful Mistake', written and illustrated by Robert Quackenbush. The book turned out to be a favorite. I’d read it to him night after night. He knew every word and if I skipped one, he’d let me know. The book eventually became worn and frazzled around the edges. Some of the pages were ripped. Some had scribblings on them.
Years later, as I was planning to go to New York City, I read an article about the 25th anniversary edition of that book. It went on about the author/illustrator and his studio in Manhattan where he not only does his illustrating but also teaches art to children and adults. A thought went through my head. Minutes later I was calling Robert Quackenbush’s studio and to my surprise, he answered. We had a lovely conversation which led to plans for me to stop by his studio. I couldn’t wait. I made sure to pack the worn copy of 'Henry’s Awful Mistake' still sitting in a bookcase in the living room.
Our visit turned out to be more than I could ever have imagined. After a tour of his charming studio, we sat and talked for a few hours. I eventually presented that worn copy to him. I’d told him about it over the phone and had asked if he’d sign it. Mr. Quackenbush took his time; looking through the pages; the worn pages-some with scribbles; some ripped. After Mr. Quackenbush signed it with a personal note to my now adult son, he stood and went over to a shelf. He came back with a copy of the 25th Anniversary Edition of 'Henry’s Awful Mistake' published the year before. He said the book was a gift from him to me. Sitting down, he signed the book while telling me how the original story came to be and how pleased he was that it became a favorite book of so many children including my son.
Little did I know that eventually I’d be blessed with a grandson named Henry! Just before his first birthday I called Mr. Quackenbush and told him I had a Henry! He was delighted! I asked if I sent him a birthday card for Henry, would he sign it and mail it back to me. That card was in my mailbox a few weeks later with a lovely message-“Wishing you a Happy 1st Birthday and a childhood blessed with wonderful books!” It was signed-“Henry the Duck and Henry the Duck’s author and illustrator, Robert Quackenbush.”
Isn’t it funny how a picture book sitting in an Easter basket created a story all its own?

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

My Mother the RN


Seeing my mother with her hair up in bobby pins was an everyday sight when growing up. She’d keep the bobby pins in until it was time to get ready for work. In her career as a RN, my mother eventually became Charge Nurse of the night shift in the ER. As a kid I never realized what any of that meant. I just remember being put in the back seat of the car next to my older brother when it was time to go with our father to take our mother to work. By that time— she’d fed us, given us baths, put our pajamas on and then— took the bobby pins out of her hair, put on her white nylons with a seam up the back, put on her perfectly ironed, white uniform along with her polished white duty shoes and her starched white cap with a black strip around it that she’d bobby pin to her hair.

Once we were in the car with the engine on and my father at the wheel, my mother would walk out of the house wearing her nurse’s cape with the initials ABHH stitched into the stand-up collar. Not a hair was out of place. The uniform and duty shoes and cap were white as snow. She most always carried a cloth bag with her. With a touch of lipstick and the aroma of her Avon deodorant, she was were ready to go and so were we.

The drive didn’t take very long but I loved every minute of it. My parents conversed in small talk as we rode down familiar streets. Once we went over a bridge spanning a river that connected to another river, my father would take a right at the light and minutes later we’d be entering a circular drive in front of the hospital. He’d stop the car and we each took turns saying goodbye. Most often we were told to be good. We’d watch our mother go into the hospital. Then we’d wait for her to appear in a window a few floors up from the main floor. There she’d wave goodbye to us as our father took us home to bed. More often than not, I’d go back home with red lipstick on my cheek.

I never thought about what it was my mother did while I was sleeping. When I came downstairs in the morning I’d sometimes find that cloth bag she carried to work by a window in the dining room. She’d sit there when first getting back from work. That’s where she’d put the bobby pins back in her hair. Then she’d read more of a book she kept with her in that bag. Reading helped her wind down. Eventually she’d go upstairs to bed for a little while.

As I grew older, my mother would encourage me to be a nurse. But that calling wasn’t in me. On the other hand, it was in my mother.  Through her example, I learned the meaning of dedication.