Monday, March 30, 2020
SLICE #30- Tomie de Paola died today
Not from COVID, which is what I expected to hear next, but from a fall.
And I felt sad.
Because Tomie is one of the first children's authors that I remember loving.
And because I met Tomie dePaola.
In an elevator.
And I was a baby teacher, just beginning my career.
And he was a huge rock star artist.
And yet was so, so kind and gentle.
I had gone to Wyoming for some kind of reading conference.
I was with one of my local heroes, the woman who was the head of Title One in my district.
And I truthfully can't remember whether we went for the school district, or for our state reading organization. I think probably our state reading organization, because I'm not sure why someone as important as Colleen would have taken me, a first or second grade teacher, with her to an out-of-state conference.
I do remember that we drove to Wyoming, maybe Casper or Cheyenne, after school.
And that we got there in the early evening.
And I was in the elevator by myself.
Holding a Tomie dePaola book that I had brought with me, or maybe even bought at the conference.
A gentleman got on with me.
He was in his fifties, and I was twenty-something.
He smiled at me.
I must not have recognized him, or maybe I acted a little nervous, because he said, "Do you know who I am?"
And I remember feeling a little concerned that someone I didn't know was asking me, in an elevator, if I knew who he was. I said I didn't and then the elevator door opened.
I started to get out
And he told me he was Tomie dePaola and asked if I wanted him to sign my book.
And right there, in front of the elevator, he signed my book, and drew a picture, I think he drew Strega Nona, although I'm pretty sure that the book he signed was THE LEGEND OF THE BLUEBONNET.
And over the years, I have loved so, so, so many of his books- STREGA NONA and all of his other folk tales, but also THE ART LESSON, OLIVER BUTTON IS A SISSY, NANA UPSTAIRS AND NANA DOWNSTAIRS, NOW ONE FOOT AND NOW THE OTHER.
Recently, some of Tomie's "vintage art" has been showing up on my Facebook page. Except I don't think I figured out that it was "vintage." It still seemed fresh and lovely and comforting, amidst all of the current craziness.
And then today, I heard that he died.
And somehow, the world seems a little less lovely tonight.
RIP, dear Tomie.