My sister emailed me this evening and told me that it is the 75th anniversary of the beloved Madeline books. I burst out crying. My daughter happened to be sleeping next to me as I read the email and I took a deep breath, looked at Gracie, and then I burst out crying again. Why all of this blubbering? The Madeleine books were my daughter’s favorites when she was a little girl. I read her every single book every single night. She slept with her little Madeline doll every single night. My mother even baked Gracie perfect Madeline doll cookies. As I watched my teenage daughter sleep next to me tonight with her long eyelashes and rosie pink lips, my heart broke in half. How could this little girl who clutched her little Madeline lunchbox on her way to school have to lose her innocence at age 16 with my ALS diagnosis? As Miss Clavel would say, “Something is not right.”
Everyone always asks me how Gracie and I are getting through this. It’s because Gracie, like Madeline is brave. She may not look like it because she is the smallest, like Madeline. But Gracie, my little Gracie is the bravest girl I’ve ever met. “To the tiger in the zoo, Madeline just said, “Pooh, pooh.” Grace did not falter. Grace did not wilt. Gracie pulled up her knee socks and kept going. She knows her mother is sick. She knows her mother may die soon. She knows all of this and yet, she did not crumble like most of us losers would have. She got her driver’s license, she homeschooled herself, she was on the Dean’s list, and was accepted to American University in Paris. Never once has she felt sorry for herself. She is brave and strong and I have Madeline to thank for this. So, in honor of the 75th anniversary, let’s reminisce a little bit with Madeline and remember to hug our girls a little tighter tonight because you never know when it can all be taken away.
The New York Historical Society is currently celebrating the 75th anniversary of the first Madeline book with an exhibit, Madeline in New York: The Art of Ludwig Bemelmans, showing 90 pieces of original artworks by the author, Ludwig Bemelmans. Mr. Bemelmans started his illustrious career in the hotel business. It was not until later in the 1930s, at the suggestion of a publisher friend that Mr. Bemelmans began to illustrate and write children’s books. There is a great article at Artnet.com regarding the exhibit that you can read HERE. And another great one in the New York Times that you can read HERE.
Do you know what I love about Mr. Bemelmans? I love the titles of some of his other books... Are You Hungry, Are You Cold?, FiFi, I Love You, I Love You, I Love You, How to Travel Incognito, Now I Lay Me down to Sleep, Noodle. So charming. So endearing.
Did you know that Mr. Bemelmans painted beautiful murals at the Carlyle Hotel bar? He did! In exchange for his work, he was granted 18 months free accommodations at the Carlyle Hotel for his family! The bar was renamed Bemelmans Bar. The murals are the only surviving commissions of the artist open to the public.
Did you know that Mr. Bemelmans was friends with the famed interior decorator,Elsie de Wolfe? He was! Mr. Bemelmans wrote a book chronicling their friendship called, To the One I Love the Best. Obviously Mr. Bemelmans had a great sense of humor because the title of the book was taken from Lady Mendl’s (Elsie de Wolfe) pet cemetery in France. She buried her beloved dogs there and on each of the dogs headstone read: The One I Love the Best. That’s funny.
Did you know that Mr. Bemelmans painted murals in the bistro that he owned in Paris! He did! In 1953, he fell in love with a petite bistro in Paris called La Colombe. He bought the place and sadly, it was a financial disaster within two years, a tragedy he describes in My Life in Art. Luckily, some of the murals were salvaged.
Did you know that Mr. Bemelmans, commissioned by Aristotle Onassis, painted 15 murals in poor little rich girl Christina Onassis’ playroom aboard the yacht, The Christina. Yep, it’s true! The murals were later auctioned off in 1999 by Sotheby’s to the tune of $553,875.
Did you know that you can purchase vintage Ludwig Bemelmans books at AbeBooks? Yep, you can.
There is just something so magical about the Madeline books though. The characters: Ms. Clavel, the girls’ guardian at the boarding school. Pepito, son of the Spanish ambassador. Genevieve, the rescue dog. The setting: Paris. The illustrations: charming. The moral: they smiled at the good and frowned at the bad. Honestly, does it get better than that? Happy anniversary, Madeline. And Gracie, mommy loves you even if you don’t have the “time” to read my blog, you brat. ;)
“That’s all there is – there isn’t anymore.”
A tout á l’heure!