Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Maud Hart Lovelace: A Besty-Tacy Tribute

Last week I learned about the recent death of my first childhood friend, Amy Dahl.

Amy and Nicole in front of Moraga public library, 1979-80
I've been wanting to write a post on my rekindled love for the Betsy-Tacy (and Tib) books, and since it was Amy who introduced me to them it seems now is the time to pay tribute. Though I knew Amy through high school, we were best friends from age two through the 6th grade until we both got arrested (yes, that's right, down to the police station and to the probation officer!) for repeated crank calling. Then I decided it was time to part ways, forging a new friendship with Suzin, whose correspondence I wrote about on my post, Pandora's Box.

I was sad to learn about the early death of this woman whose life became plagued with emotional and physical ill health. Especially because I knew Amy as such a brilliant girl. She had a vivid imagination, and we often spent our recess in 4th or 5th grade with our friend Cathi in the school hallway using the typewriters. How eagerly we tugged the onionskin from their rollers and got great satisfaction from whatever was printed there! But my most treasured memory is of whole afternoons spent reading side-by-side on her pink canopy bed. Amy loved Harriet the Spy and Paddington Bear, but its Besty-Tacy (and Tib) who have stuck with me all these years.
"Carney and Bonnie... both had cedar hope chests and took pleasure in embroidering their initials on towels to lay away. Each one had picked out a silver pattern and they were planning to give each other spoons in these patterns for Christmases and birthdays. When Betsy and Tacy and Tib talked about their future they planned to be writers, dancers, circus acrobats."    -- from Heaven to Betsy
The Lois Lensky-illustrated books, 1970s
My partner and I have taken to reading aloud from this book and others in Maud Hart Lovelace's 10-book series during our summer road trips. The autobiographically-based fictional books, published from 1940-1955, take place in the rural town of Deep Valley (Mankato), Minnesota from 1897-1917. With trips in the surrey to old fashioned parties where boys wear pompadours and Betsy puts her hair up in pincurls, "the honesty and detail of the books makes them interesting historical and social documents of the period," according to the Betsy-Tacy Society website. But it was the early books illustrated by Lois Lensky, when Betsy and Tacy were ages 5-12, that I remember relishing on lazy afternoons with Amy. In 2010, the childhood homes of Maud Hart Lovelace and Frances "Bick" Kenney were designated National Literary Landmarks. Someday I hope to visit the homes of Betsy and Tacy on the hill!

~ In Remembrance of a Shared Girlhood amongst Books ~
Ferry ride from San Francisco to Sausalito

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dear Neek,

Thank you for this! I adored the series too. I remember repeated trips
to the library to get next book. I can still visualize where they were shelved in the Moraga Library!!

I'm so sorry and shocked to hear about Amy. Much love to her family.

All my best,

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