|Tasha at the Kalamazoo Public Library with Mary Rife in the background|
Friends at First Sight
In the fall of 1985, my good friend, Mary Rife, who was the head of the Kalamazoo Public Library’s Children’s Room, told me that next November, Tasha Tudor would be presenting during the library’s author’s weekend. Mary had heard me describe my deep love for Tasha’s artwork and how as a child, I had sought out any book that she had illustrated. In fact, before I could read, I pulled picture books from the stacks, hoping to land on one of Tasha’s creations. So following Mary’s announcement, I circled that particular November weekend on my new 1986 calendar and daydreamed.
Mary also understood that the best way to provide me with extra time with Tasha was to invite me to help prepare for the author event, because being volunteer would allow me to attend a special tea and even be included in an intimate luncheon. Because I live by the motto that participating is more fun that merely observing, I reveled in being part of the team who prepared for Tasha’s visit. Mary’s main request was for me to recreate the pink and white quilt in A is for Annabelle, because a generous donor had paid for a replica of Annabelle who would be on display in a section of the children’s room. After I measured the doll bed, Mary and I chose a pink reproduction calico and I pieced and quilted the top.
The day that Tasha arrived, I marveled that my arms carried stacks of her artwork from Mary’s car into the library. The child who had searched for her books now touched original illustrations that attendees could purchase. After everything was in place for Tasha to speak that evening, Mary and I picked up Tasha who lodged at a local bed and breakfast inn so that we could take her to lunch.
Like any admirer, I babbled to Tasha about how much I loved her illustrations and her lifestyle that reflected my family’s similar values of farming and homesteading. She perked up as I described how John and I had constructed several timber-framed buildings, including our house and a large barn, and naturally, Tasha was interested in my large garden, dairy goats and chickens. Over lunch, Tasha and I continued to discuss beloved varieties of roses, our favorite seed catalogues, and even how John and I powered our home with solar electricity. By the end of the meal, Tasha began hinting that I should come visit her home.
The next day, John escorted me into a lecture room packed with Tasha’s fans who listened to her tell stories about her life while watching her draw. Because everyone shared a similar love, the audience felt like a gathering of friends, and no one minded when we stood in line for over an hour to have our books signed. We chatted about our favorite books and marveled over how Tasha’s creativity overflowed in so many ways, from her marionettes to her garden, to her old-fashion home. After Tasha signed my books, I was stunned to read her inscription: “You must come visit me at my home in Vermont.”
A special tea for volunteers and library staff followed the lecture, and during that time, I questioned Tasha about what she had written.
“Do you really want me to visit you?” To step into Tasha’ world was a gift that I had never imagined and could barely believe that she had offered it to me.
“Yes, I do, and bring that handsome husband of yours. How did you ever convince him to wear nineteenth century clothing?”
“It was John’s choice, partly because I could sew all his clothes.”
“Well, I look forward to seeing both of you next spring.” Then Tasha turned to chat with other guests.
And on New Year’s Day when I hung up our new calendar, I had already circled the first weekend in June for our visit to Tasha Tudor, the first of several that I made over the next decade.