Monday, March 30, 2020

SLICE #30- Tomie de Paola died today

This afternoon, I heard that Tomie dePaola had died.

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.

In Wyoming.

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.


Anonymous said...

I love all of his books. His death took me by surprise. I too wondered if this awful virus had claim yet another wonder. He lives a good life, inspired many, his work will live on.
RIP Tomie

Linda B said...

What a beautiful memory you have of this wonderful man who's touched so many lives, Carol. Amongst all the sadness these days, this brought tears. Hope you are okay and staying safe. I'm thinking of you and all those students staying home without you & their special teachers.

Ramona said...

I have a memory of hearing him at a reading in Houston. It was at one of our children's bookstores and my children couldn't be bothered to go, so I went by myself. And I will always remember him as a kind and gentle soul just like you described. He autographed our pop-up book of The First Christmas, a family treasure. It was our favorite book to read on Christmas Eve.

JudyK /J Koval said...

I hadn't heard of his death --- that is so sad. :-( I never met him, but I loved so many of his books. You've written a nice story about him. :-) ~JudyK