How Maurice Sendak Helped Define My Childhood

When I found out that Maurice Sendak died today, I was sad. I don’t tend to wallow in nostalgia when a famous person I’ve never met dies, but I made an exception in this case. Because when I heard the news, a little piece of the child left in me died with him.

One of the most vivid memories I have as a kid features my brother and the “Really Rosie” TV special. The cartoon was a collaboration between Carole King and Sendak, and was adapted from Sendak’s “The Sign on Rosie’s Door” and other stories.

I dressed up just like Rosie. Scarves and a hat. My brother dressed like Pierre and wore a pot on his head. We knew the lyrics to each and every song, and performed the entire soundtrack for our parents, grandparents and whoever else was willing to listen. We performed it so many times I am willing to bet that we were the longest-running show on Medford Boulevard.

35 years later and I have the CD of the music in my car. If asked, I will tell strangers that I bought it in order to share my fond memories with my own kids and to introduce them to an extraordinary artist (Sendak) and musician (King). But that’s really only half the reason, and it’s not the truest reason.

The real reason I bought that CD is because it never fails to make me smile. I confess to happily listening to the music while alone in my car. My favorite song was “Alligators All Around.” My favorite character was Pierre. What a jerk!  He didn’t care.  He was rude and selfish, he was eaten by a lion, and I adored him.

I also loved “Where the Wild Things Are” and “In the Night Kitchen.” Let’s face it, there’s no illustrated children’s book today that would depict a parent punishing a misbehaving child with no supper or ever show a boy’s naked body (tiny private part and all).

Sendak showed us kids that it was ok to have fantasies about rebelling. And that those fantasies could be colorful, whimsical, a little bit scary and oh so very, very sweet.

Thank you, Maurice Sendak, for being a part of my childhood and my memories.

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