Amherst: The mission continues

Uncategorized May 11, 2013

P1060230 Yesterday a doctor who’d stopped by to talk last week, returned to show me a photocopy (old) of a Christmas card his dad has sent him from England.  The big difference between working here and the women’s memorial is that traffic is not tourists wandering through one time, but townspeople, returning library customers who use the place on a daily/weekly basis.  People like this man stop in to talk about how their lives were affected by the war.  87 year old “Bennie” Irwin, a Mt. Holyoke grad and Navy WAVE has talked to me a couple of times about her life.  “I once told a young doctor,” she said.”I was a Navy WAVE.  He didn’t know what that was.”  She said it with a giggle, not anger.   She remains a classy woman.

Stopping by the main office yesterday morning, the director and two of her staff, turned to me and said: “We were just talking about you.  We don’t think you should go,” she said.  They talked about the interactions and the life this place has taken on.  It may work out that I’m here through the summer.  The curator’s assistant the other day, when I was asked to talk to her and her boss about my take on the exhibit and the library, blurted out “Do you feel like you’re on a spiritual journey?”  I smiled at her directness and said “Yes.”  The fact is there is nothing else I want to do.  I can’t go back to creating books in a vacuum.  I have to decide whether or not to abandon two children’s book projects.  I know what the answer is.

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For over three decades my profession was as an author and illustrator of children's books. Firefighters A to Z (McElderry Books/S&S) was chosen as a "Best Book" by the NY Times (2000). Over 100 titles are attached to my name. In 2011 my life changed the moment I saw a photo of a WW II fighter pilot. Nineteen year old Griffin Holland, P-47 pilot stood erect on the wheel of his plane, staring off into the distance, cocky as all get out. The need to paint that photo and Griff's tearful reaction to it as an 88 year old man set this journey in motion.

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