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?