Saturday, July 18, 2009

Bliss in Minnesota

First bit of bliss: My first night in Minnesota my wonderful host, Karen Nelson Hoyle (curator of the Kerlan Collection), and her husband, Bob (a native of the Twin Cities), gave me an evening tour that included a stop by F. Scott Fitzgerald's house on Summit Avenue. "Tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther . . . and one fine morning . . . "

Second bit of bliss: At the Kerlan Collection I gave a talk to a class that had come to marvel at the Collection's amazing holdings in children's literature. Since I was there to speak, they asked to see my manuscripts, and lo and behold, boxloads of manuscripts from books of mine from decades ago were wheeled out from the air-conditioned, temperature-controlled underground vaults, for inspection - and the students put on WHITE GLOVES in order to touch them. It will take a long time for my ego to return to its proper size after this.

Third bit of bliss (ongoing now): At the Betsy-Tacy Convention in Mankato, my sister and I heard a stunning keynote address by Kathleen Baxter, a long-time fan of the books, who visited many of the sites that inspired Maud Hart Lovelace's stories back when Kathy was a college student and before the heedless destruction of many of the sites in the urban renewal mania of the 1960s. To see a picture of the house on High Street! Mr. Ray's shoe store! A letter from "Carney" to Kathy! The audience of 200 leapt to our feet as one when she finished. Then the ice breaker game had us all comparing notes with other attendees to find shared answers to such questions as: "Food you most want to taste" (many, including me, chose onion sandwiches; others chose Anna's coconut cake, fudge, or even Everything Pudding), "Event you'd most like to attend" (performance of Rip Van Winkle? dinner on the S. S. Columbic? honeymoon with Joe?), favorite Cox Military Slang (I chose, "Ain't it awful, Mabel?" but some chose, "Curses, Jack Dalton!"), and "Is Bonnie blameless in the Tony affair?" (hotly debated).

The program for the convention has on it this wonderful quote from C. S. Lewis: "Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, 'What? You too? I thought I was the only one!" Which couldn't be a better slogan for this meeting of Betsy-Tacy readers from all over North America.

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