Ah, the luxury of being under three feet, unable to ride roller-coasters, and reach the shelves where the chocolate is hidden. There are great things about being a child like sitting in a tent in your front yard all day, or playing in the sprinkler naked on your house sidewalk, but mostly bedtime stories.
My nephew has a gazillion books. He’s only four; you have to give him up to Lego’s and light sabers, but books are something that can keep him sitting quietly in my lap. We can sit in the dark space of the reclining chair, listen to his alarm clock’s ocean sounds, and read books. Sometimes I’m forced to read miniature Lego books or even Lego ads, but occasionally I get to pick the books myself. Today was one of those lucky days where I could pick through the pile by the chair, on the shelf, or thrown across the room.
There was the book about the monster who loved to do jigs (I like this one because my nephew does a jig at the end when I ask) and Attic of the Wind. Don’t worry, he also got Calling All Cars, one of his old Lego books.
Attic of the Wind by Doris Herold Lund is one of the most beautiful, poetic, and satisfying children’s books I’ve read in a while. It took all that I had not to run home with it and paste it to a wall. I’m severely afraid of ripping pages from books, but the illustrations were so wonderful that you wanted to have a wall full of framed Attic of the Wind pages. Really though, I’m the girl that scrunches up her shoulders and squints her eyes when she turns a page too hard and the edge rips just a smidgen. It’s hard when you view books as tiny capsules of history that should only in the right hands be stained, dirtied, stunk-up, or ripped.
I do agree with burying them in the ground for the next world though. Alexandria burned down and we have nothing of Alexander the Great’s famous library, so maybe one of those people on that end of the world show (History Channel) should bury all the literary wonders of these past few centuries for historians to find. Bury a twitter machine too while you’re at it.
When last week I listened to an interview about Maurice Sendak’s house the interviewee said Sendak’s house had all kinds of illustrations everywhere that he never used in books. There was a special hallway of art dedicated to the children’s books he hadn’t yet written. I love the idea that Sendak drew pictures before he wrote words. I wonder if Pulitzer Prize winners see their characters in their heads before they write them down on the page.
I often hear of writers who say that the character talked to them. I’ve only had that happen to me a few times (it makes us all look like insane freaks) but occasionally characters just won’t leave you alone, especially young ones. Sometimes just before bed when you’re in that state of sleep that’s still part of the living, and you’re hazing over between memory and dream, a character will come, some voice from the blue and you’ll lean over to the pen and pencil that you inevitably keep next to the bed and you scribble down that voice, that image, those pigtails, and untied shoes, or that apron with the blueberry stains, the mason jar wrapped in warm hands.
Characters come at the oddest of times, when they want you to listen to just their sound, just their delicate stain on the world; their story. I imagine my wall of Attic of the Wind would be some sort of dedication to Maurice Sendak, and that particular gray of story writing time.
What happens to things that blow away,
Like bubbles you blew one sunny day?
Where did they all go anyway?
To the Attic of the Wind.
It’s not an Attic you reach by stair–
It’s past the clouds
and the stars somewhere!
And what will we find if we play up there
In the Attic of the Wind?
I think my favorite part of the story is when you find out how kites are stuck in the attic. In Australia, I spent a summer on Cronulla Beach flying kites. I had forgotten how mesmerizing flying a kite can be. You want to look at the sky and find your small obtuse triangle floating yellow against the blue and the too-burning sun. Kite flying is on the same plane as dreaming somehow, it’s like the two mingled at a picnic and decided to help people everywhere imagine. I’m in dream mode right now it seems as I right this. There’s something about a children’s book that lets you imagine more than an adult book.
I know the pictures in children’s books are already laid out for you (making imagination a bit hard), but tell me you don’t spark a memory with the pages below. Tell me you aren’t imagining the puffed out cheeks, red-faced summer cheeks, when breath hints through the perfect hole of your lips to make a dandelion take flight. I remember cupping the weed stem between my thumb and first finger against my lips. Maybe I whispered something to the plant, asked it to fly today, just once let me blow out every little wisp. Maybe I just took that moment to breathe in deep enough to give them all flutter. All I know now is that when I see children blowing dandelions I think how many more will sprout up in the yard because of those tiny little propellers set off into the wind. I have forgotten half of the word is lion; strong, maned, unruly, alive and the other half dandy; happy, skippy, wonderful. I think like an adult now and not like a child wanting to hold something precious in my hands and give it wings.
Yes, the Attic of the Wind can store
All the world’s lost treasure, and even more…
The handkerchief you forgot to hold,
The spelling paper with the star of gold,
The picture you drew for Mother’s Day,
All the things you somehow let drift away
Aren’t exactly lost. So before you cry-
Why not look in the Attic in the sky?