Wednesday, May 2, 2012

She lived three doors down

Well, her books did, at the Stemler’s house. I remember the name Stemler because that’s when I fell in love with Eloise Wilkin. I would knock on their door a lot, on the pretense of wanting to play with their children, but I really wanted to read their Eloise Wilkin books. They had a stack of them at the kid-friendly level on their bookshelf. I could sit there for hours, eating up the illustrations. I’m embarrassed to tell you that I don’t remember if Mr. and Mrs. Stemler had boy or girl children. But I do remember their last name, and their Golden Book collection.




Mrs. Stemler remarked at how much I liked the books. “You sure do like those stories, don’t you?” Without looking up I answered, “Yeah, I like their smushed up kissable faces.” I didn’t know the word 'cherubic' yet. I remember this conversation only because Mrs. Stemler told my mother. This did not, however, inspire anyone to buy some for me. Can you hear the violins? I did own a collection of Childcraft encyclopedias, though, so I shouldn’t complain too much. Anyway, back to Eloise.



I wanted to live in this "happily ever after, the end" world, and was determined at a young age to create it for myself one day. Our children did indeed have their own collection of Eloise Wilkin storybooks. Our two favorites were We Help Mommy and We Help Daddy.



See this illustration where mom is waving to the children, shouting, “Hello, busy bees!” I would do that with my own kids whenever they were outside working with their daddy.



And they would shout back, “Get in the house and bake gingerbread!”




Truth be told, the daddy of our house wasn’t particularly fond of the daddy in We Help Daddy. “This guy makes me nuts,” my husband would mutter under his breath. Why, you wonder? Because the Wilkin daddy on a single Saturday afternoon:

Fixes the attic door, weeds the garden, trims the hedges, waters the lawn; bathes the dog, paints the kitchen garden fence, hangs a picture in the den; builds a birdhouse from scratch, chops firewood, washes and waxes the family car, repairs a broken handle on a dresser, and (as if that weren't enough) repairs the bathroom door, all the while smoking a pipe in a contemplative manner.




Holy cow. Good thing he had the kids to help. Who says you can't get things done with little children under foot? You can--with Wilkin children















Regardless of how unrealistic or idealistic a world that Eloise Wilkin’s illustrations depicted, it was a place that exuded coziness, peacefulness, order, safety, constancy, and wholesomeness. I do believe her art played a big part in inspiring my grown-up homely love.


So happy, THE END.


How about you? Were there any books you read as a child that influenced your grown-up life?

40 comments:

Brandee Shafer said...

I had one Golden Book with these illustrations: The New Baby. My mom read it to me over and over before my brother was born. I'm so glad for this post b/c you've inspired me to look for my copy of the book and read it to the girls. After all, God willing, we'll have a new baby in Nov.!

Jodi said...

Brandee, God willing, amen. My daughter Joy's favorite Wilkin book about babies and growing up is called Where Did the Baby Go? God bless that little one growing inside.

Shirley in Washington said...

Hi Jodi - I just recently started reading your blog and am enjoying it very much! I have a small collection of Wilkin books that I am sharing with my 2 granddaughters. BUT the books I loved growing up (and still do) are the Betsy-Tacy books by Maud Hart Lovelace. Have you read any of her books? Shirley in Washington

Jodi said...

Shirley, thank you for reading, and yes, I read the Betsy-Tacy books to my girls when they were little. My youngest has kept all of them!

Southern Gal said...

We have We Help Daddy. Nora pulls it from the shelf on a regular basis. I love the pictures of your family.

P.S. My daughter and her husband are trying to decide on a name for their baby girl due in June. She called me this morning and said it may be Eloise and call her Ellie. How ironic that you post this tonight. ;)

Jodi said...

Renee, Thanks--the kids are all grown now. Two with littles of thier own. Eloise called Ellie sounds perfect.

Cheryl said...

What beautiful books. I've not heard of them before. Maybe they didn't make it to this side of the Pond.

Impressed with the perfect photo representation of your children. You either took lots and lots of photos at the time, or you anticipated this post years ago.

I wonder how the Stemler child remembers you!

Joy Lake said...

Haha! I love the bit about Dad being miffy over the storybook dad being an overachiever. I was just thinking about Elouise Wilkin yesterday and thinking how I'd like to get them for Tilly. I also love the "Child's Book of Prayers" one.

I always loved the little girls in the stories. I loved their adorable outfits and the fact that they had miniature versions of EVERYTHING! (ex: clotheslines, kitchenware, etc). I remember even trying to make my bedroom look like the little girl's one. This love of miniature mommy things has stuck with me. Just this weekend I was swooning in the toy store over a little set of pots, pans, and oven mits. Good thing I had Tilly with me or else people might have thought I was nuts.

Joy Lake said...

...Also, while we are sharing memories, I distinctly remember one time I was reading Betsy-Tacy to YOU Acorn. It was a chapter where Betsy starts school and she is very unsure about it. It must have been my soothing voice because you were a bit drowsy. Betsy was wondering "Should she run home to her mother?" and you drifted back into wakefulness and said, "I don't know" and I had to explain that Betsy was asking that question in the story, not me heh hehe.

Jodi said...

Cheryl, I wonder too.

Jodi said...

Joy, haha, yeah, and I distinctly remember you were always the one who shouted the loudest for me to get in the house and make gingerbread. :) BTW, when I was little, I wanted EW accessories as well. Like mother, like daughter.

em said...

I can’t point at one book that has influenced me more than the others. I think that everything we read, especially when we’re very young, influence us - one way or another. I grew up reading my mothårs books, books that she bought second hand when she was a child, which meant that I mainly read books written around the turn of the century (and not the last one!). I’m sure it has formed my way of thinking, and my values.
As for illustrations, I was always more interested in what was not in the picture - what would it look like just outside the page, or behind the house.
Margaretha

Quotidian Life said...

I LOVED this post, Jodi. And, not just because I love Eloise Wilkin books AND Childcraft Encyclopedias(Poems and Rhymes was my favorite along with Nils Karsson the Elf by Astrid Lindgren, found in the Children Everywhere volume)but because of the way you lived out the ideals of these books. Such lovely memories! Thanks for sharing. Oh, and I think you might remember my Miss Suzy post.

Rachel said...

I really like the illustrations and pictures of your family shared together, great idea, and your husband not being fond of the daddy to do list in the books, haha.

Jodi said...

Em, I like what you shared. I've always been partial to books with illustrations, but only if they had a quality to them. I've never wondered what was behind a picture. But it reminds me of reading a book that had no illustrations, then later getting the same story with illustrations and thinking "no, you got it all wrong, that's not how I imagined the characters to look".

Jodi said...

Quotidian Life, it seems you have to go back to the oldies but goodies to find ideals to be inpired by. Not to say that good books aren't being written now. For instance, I love the Penderwicks series by Jeanne Birdsall. It would be hard to pick a favorite from the Childcraft series - I think I loved them all. I wish I still had them. Sadly, at about age nine I went at them with a pair of scissors so I could make a collage (horrors!)

Jodi said...

Rachel, my husband also grumbled that the Wilkin daddy had all the proper tools and just the right supplies to do everything...no piling everyone into the car for a trip to Home Depot, haha

em said...

It's like seeing a movie based on a favorite book - my inner pictures are always better!
Margaretha

Olivia said...

Oh, I remember these books so well! We just loved those. I notice almost everyday how much my life has been shaped by the books I've read.
Yes indeed, we have always had to laugh at all the things those fictional characters can get done in one day! This post made me smile, as do you.

Nancy Franson said...

Of course they shouted for you to get back in the house and bake gingerbread. You make seriously amazing gingerbread.

I have a book of Grimm's Fairy Tales (not the real-deal scary ones, a children's version) on my bookshelves downstairs. It's all tattered and torn and I caught my husband trying to pack it up with books to get rid of when we were moving to this house. I snatched it out of the pile because I always see those illustrations when I hear stories about Snow White, Rose Red, The Brementown Musicians, and Rumpelstiltskin. They may not be the best illustrations, but they're the ones that kept me company when I learned to read and read those stories over and over.

Cool post.

Jodi said...

Nancy Franson, you are a kindred.

Linda said...

What a fabulous post! Oh, I loved those books. Marguerite di Angeli books and Anne of Green Gables had the biggest impact on me as a child. When I was adopted by my second father at the age of 10 I changed my middle name to Anne after Anne Shirley. I found that unbeknownst to myself, I clearly had that Bright April breakfast table in mind when I decorated my house--bought the same red and white dishes, have the same curtains. But what you talk about goes far deeper than that--books acting as a paddle to keep your self going in the way you want to go and need to go. God bless.

Tamara Murphy said...

oh. MY! I love this post so much. (also, it makes me happy that my post inspired this post which is truly delightful!) Thank you so much for sharing part of your story and your children's story.
p.s., love also your husband's commentary. :)

Beth Stone said...

Haha.... "all while smoking his pipe in a contemplative manner." Love it. I never had these particular books, but my two favorite Golden Books (or the ones that stuck with me anyway) were "Party Pig," and "Five Pennies to Spend," both of which were about casting your bread on the waters... Good stuff. These are lovely illustrations. I'll have to hunt these down... thanks for this post!

Amy said...

So delightful! I loved those books too. My Nana read fairy tales from an old book I adored. Love the way you intertwined your photos and the books the way they're intertwined life.

Alexis said...

:) My mom use to read me a little golden book called God. I think that book really ingrained how beautiful and creative our God is. Sometimes when I look at the stars, I think of that book. It makes me miss my mom.
I love the pictures of your family, along with the illustrations. Beautiful post Jodi.

Chelsey said...

I recognize the artist, but can't think of the name of the book I had. I'll have to go find it now!

I love your kids saying for you to bake gingerbread! So funny...

Aqeela said...

What a beautiful post, i love the books you shared with us, ive never seen them before but now i want some, i shall be looking on amazon and ebay for them!
I remember lots of books from my childhood but cant think of any which have had an effect in my adult life. I never read any of the classic books, i dont remember my parents ever encouraging reading, although i was always good at it and enjoyed reading and writing soooo much.
Now i try to buy all of the classic books for D to read as i want to read them too!
Aqeela xx

Laura said...

I love the way you've juxtaposed your pictures with the book pages. It just made me smile. I think your family must be a lot of fun. Even if they cant keep up with the Wilkinses.

Connie Smiley said...

Too sweet, Jodi, every word.

Sara said...

I can see what attracted you so strongly to the Wilkin books. Don't think I ever came across them as a child, I wonder why. I always read lots of library books from about the age of 8 onward but can't think now of any particular ones from my childhood except the Edgar Eager magical stories. I know the illustrations in all those books I read certainly influenced my own love of drawing...but I think I preferred the stories I made up in my own head, tales of mermaids and elves and fairies usually!

Julie@OnePennyJumblePacket said...

Love the photos of your family! J has the same cheeks as the girl hanging clothes on the line in the book! :-)

I loved the photos of all your kids helping. This has been a crazy weeks with the kids wanting to help, and me wanting them to just watch TV so I could finish up faster. But your blog was a good reminder to slow down a little. XOXO

Woman of the House said...

I'm visiting your blog through Under the Gables. I also love Eloise Wilkin books and have a collection of them that I've gathered in my adulthood. We Help Mommy is a favorite, along with Baby Dear (also called The New Baby), but I don't have We Help Daddy. . . yet. I'll be on the lookout, though! I've begun a collection for my first grandchild, a girl, who is due in June.

Melissa said...

Oh, I love this. I continue to be amazed and delighted by the similarities in our lives and thoughts, the shared favorite picture books, and the childhood dreams! I can't count the times I read these (I believe our tattered copies of both books are now at Katie's, taped up, but being read...)At the risk of sounding like a copycat, I'll say that these were my favorites, too. We used phrases from the book after so many readings--'roll pat, roll pat' when the children helped make pie or whatever. This post strikes a chord, as every one of yours does. I love you, friend.

Jodi said...

Thanks everyone for sharing. I enjoyed your input; it made the post lots of fun.

Deb Colarossi said...

I love this so much.
What a gift you are to your children. And now to all of us.

I have been trying to remember books from my childhood. I recall my father reading Alice in Wonderland to me at bedtime when I was probably 4 or 5. I remember getting mildly scolded for reading in bed by flashlight , Nancy Drew , Pipi Longstocking.
I had a treasured copy of When We Were Six AA Milne that did make it through a few moves and then it disappeared and I also remember the day I found it when I was in University among the tattered and piled up toys in a cousin's basement. Apparently my mother had given that away too.
I have one book from my childhood, a bible given to me by an Aunt when I turned 6. I can't tell you how significant that is.

I think I had a chance to raise myself up right through all the pages of many many books with my many babies.

Like you.. those images of nesting and love and comfort etc became guidebooks to finding my way and showing them theirs. I hope. I pray. I tried/try.

Yesterday in fact I was making room for some of Selena's things now that she is home from school, and in the rearranging we ended up looking through some of her baby and toddler treasures. Oh my. She knew the pages of many of those books and obviously it made me cry.

I thank you for this post Jodi. Again, we are different same. I love you.

Deb Colarossi said...

And I just read Nancy's comment.
Fairy Tales. Fairy tales and nursery rhymes .

Jodi said...

Deb, your comment gave me happy tears. Love you, friend.

Anonymous said...

I almost died laughing at, "Get in the house and bake Gingerbread."
I remember those beautiful faces!
Your house- a "homely" home.
Secure and so real that your kids are creating homely homes of their own and reinspiring you!
Love it!
Joan

Kristi in the Western Reserve said...

Posting this about a year late but better late than never. I did like the EW illustrations, but I LOVED a little Golden book called The Happy Family. Loved it so much that I was always thinking of it before I fell asleep in the hopes I would dream of it. I often did! I had the 1948 edition which had one page where you could see the illustration had been fixed with tape! As a kid I never noticed this. A few years later in the early 50s Little Golden Books reissued this with Corinne Malvern pictures, but it was the first one that I loved so dearly.

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