Happy Birthday, Maurice Sendak

Screenshot_28If you’ve loaded up Google today (and let’s be honest, who hasn’t), you find that the logo has changed to a loving, animated tribute to the late Maurice Sendak. If you don’t think you know who that is, you do. He’s one of the most important figures in your childhood. At the very least, you’ve read “Where the Wild Things are”, his legendary ode to a child’s imagination.

Maurice Sendak dying was a hard thing for me because at 84, he still seemed like he had more to say and do. Just before passing he had done a brilliant interview with Stephen Colbert for “The Colbert Report” that demonstrated the author’s quick wit and offbeat sense of humor.

A few years before that, I had the pleasure of listening to his interview with Terri Gross on NPR’s Fresh Air program. I remember distinctly sitting in my car, long having arrived at my destination but unable to leave before hearing the entire thing. I still think about that interview. The man spoke with such gentleness and joy that when I feel myself slipping into bitterness or cynicism, I try my best to be like him. Here’s one of my favorite lines from the interview:

maurice on fan mailThere is a playfulness to that story that I love. It’s so lovingly odd, but at the same time it’s also so amazingly real. Sometimes kids eat what they love.

That NPR interview (which you can find here) is one of my favorite things of all time. It spans a life, his life, but its also bigger. It’s so dear to me. I struggle with death and the scariness of dying, and to hear Maurice Sendak talk about it with such defiance and honesty is uplifting. Maurice in his interviews is like his stories, gently reassuring us that there will be bad things in life, bad things will happen to us, and it’s okay to be sad about that but it doesn’t mean there isn’t goodness as well. We need that message more than ever.

There was a quote by Maurice Sendak that was widely circulated after his death, but it’s a good one and is worth repeating:

I have nothing now but praise for my life. I’m not unhappy. I cry a lot because I miss people. They die and I can’t stop them. They leave me and I love them more…

Well said.


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