Childhood StoryLoren Bieg
I was 7 or 8 years old when I met Hardie Gramatky. He lived at the top of the Rooseville Road hill where I rode my Schwinn bicycle in Westport, Connecticut. I think I must have first met him at the Westport Book Fair where he came year after year to sign his books. But, what impressed me as a little boy was that I immediately felt that I could stop by his home any time, which my brother and I did on our bicycles. He would always take an interest in what we were doing and spend time talking with us. On Halloween night in 1977, I knocked on his door dressed as R2D2, a costume I had spent hours building myself. I still remember being invited into his home and the look of amazement on his face as he commended me on the "engineering" involved in its construction. He made me feel special. However, the most special thing to me about him is that he would draw for us. I think that for an artist and author of children's books it is the best gift he could have given us as children. Not just the artwork, but the time spent with us talking as he worked. There was something magical about Little Toot, the real Little Toot, appearing on his easel in front of me. And, there was something magical to me about the man that made it happen. My brother has a framed watercolor of Little Toot hanging in the stairwell of his house, outside his sons room. "To my good friend Scott" is inscribed on it. Thats how Ill always remember him. Perhaps the hardest memory I have of him is the day I rode my bicycle past his house and saw him being helped out of the car by his wife and someone else. He was visibly weak and thin. I had heard that he was sick and felt afraid of what I saw. I still regret not having stopped and greeted him. He died soon after and I didn't really understand, only that I missed being able to go visit him. Certain things about childhood remind us of the innocence we long for, especially now since September 11, 2001. Something about this man and the too brief, but very precious memories I have of him takes me there. I just now read about his accomplishments and learned all kinds of things about him that I never knew. But, to my brother and me he will always be more than Little Toot's author and an illustrator of great achievement. He was our friend. I am thankful I had the chance to know Hardie Gramatky. I am only sorry our time was so short.