to give everybody enough…

Maurice Sendaks illustration for Ruth Krauss text from A HOLE IS TO DIG

I’ve been training for this since kindergarten. Maybe earlier. By this, I mean writing fun and deep and delicious stuff. Those early influences run deep. Winnie-the-Pooh and a smackerel of something, Alice and the “drink me” bottle, Paddington’s elevenses.

I just got an email from my mother, mentioning that my sister’s vacation time doesn’t quite cover all the family celebrations she might want to travel to, and adding “unlike mashed potatoes”. Now, my mother will turn 75 this year, so it’s been a while since she had little kids and regularly read (some of the best ever) picture books. But that was a Ruth Krauss reference (some days, I feel like I want to be Ruth Krauss when I grow up)!

Over 40 years ago, we read A HOLE IS TO DIG: A FIRST BOOK OF FIRST DEFINITIONS together (it was first published in 1952; I wasn’t in the first generation to be charmed by it, and I hope there will never be a last – get it or any of her gems for yourself or a little or big person you like – “Arms are to hug with” is worth the price of admission alone: and learned, from the delightfully understated to-the-heart-of-the-moment poetic picture book author that “mashed potatoes are to give everybody enough”. And we never forgot it (maybe especially me — there is a particular salience for me in food scenes!)

And now, one of the things I try to do, in whatever type of writing or other creating, is to hit that very pure note of delight that Ruth Krauss created in me when I opened the book and saw, on the first page, Maurice Sendak’s festive drawing of a tower of steamy mashed potatoes surrounded by happy hungry kids, and read her words. Ideas and images, imagination and reality, possibility and people and…potatoes as economic philosophy:

Mashed potatoes (and all good things, in my interpretation) are to give everybody enough.

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