Monday, May 18, 2009

Cronette on the Road

So. The season for visiting schools is coming to an end: an appropriate time to be coming home to read Jan Greenburg's artful notes on aging. Grateful and thrilled I continue to be, getting to gallivant around the country, talking to kids about the virtues of studying history ["Any nation is a COMBI-nation of all of the stories of all of the people who've lived in the land down the years..."] and answering their questions. How old am I? 57 Never before been so old in my entire life. My favorite book? Different ones for different reasons. GEORGE WASHINGTON because I'm a sissypants who's too often given up too easily so I admire someone who persevered no matter what. GHOSTS OF THE CIVIL WAR because it was the most difficult and "No, it's not some Casper-deal that's going to rot your brain & give you nightmares. It's more like old Scrooge seeing the 'shades' of the departed going about their business back in the living past."
Man oh man oh man, drawing pictures for kids, making them laugh, meeting librarians and classroom teachers, rattling off factoids, reinforcing those teachers' messages - this is the best part of my job. But golly, the falling into hotel beds at the end of the day, pooped flat. Being shamed by the computer savvy of 3rd graders. I reckon that I'm not exactly a crone yet - maybe a cronette. An analog cronette in a digital world. Still, on a cloudy day, or when I find myself using terms such as 'reckon,' I can see my old coot self limping down the road.
It seems that reinventing, re-imagining one's mode of working is becoming less optional & dreamy as I cast about for new ways of telling old stories. (But that's the cool thing about biography: People never get sick of reading about people, right?) As editors scramble for the perfect project with which money can be seduced from the puckered pockets of the people. (Still, life and recessions are short. Art is long, right? Right.) As one's mortality becomes less and less a fairy tale. (Yup.)
It's all pretty galvanizing, come to think of it. Only a sissypants would be lollygagging when the great work of one's life remains to be done. Think of all we've done, preparing for it. Think what we need to know and set about learning it. Think what George Washington would do.


Jan Greenberg said...

Dear Friend and sister Cronette on the Road, I loved your blog because you wrote it just the way you talk...funny, folksy, honest, and thought-provoking.My last presentation to kids was several weekends ago at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago..they put me in the Tot Room and the ages of the children were 4-6 years old!!! It was a challenge.I ended up reading Action Jackson with a power point presentation to show illustrations. That lasted ten minutes.Since this book is my only one for young readers(still older than 6), it struck me that
next time I get a group that little, I'll be prepared with some illustrations from my collection of your books!!The Queen with Bees in Her Hair is one of my favorites.

Cheryl Harness said...

OH my gosh - I'm filled w/ warm gooey & grateful thoughts that you saw & liked the Q w/ Bs in her H. that book was dear to me. the 1st story I ever wrote [@ Uri Shulevitz's summer workshop, 25 years ago] Illustration-wise, I had this thought in mind: HOward Pyle goes to 15th century Sienna.