SCBWI

Society of
Children's Book Writers
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Tuesday With Patty: Lesléa Newman Remembers Patricia MacLachlan

 

Today is the birthday of Patricia MacLachlan, the Newbery Award-winning author of Sarah, Plain and Tall and many other books for children. We were honored to have her give a rare speaking appearance  at our Winter Conference in 2021. She passed away last year on March 31. 

 

Lesléa Newman and Patricia MacLachlan

 

Author and poet Lesléa Newman remembers their friendship in a new poem, published here in honor of Patricia’s birthday.

 

TUESDAYS WITH PATTY 

for Patricia MacLachlan

 

Dear Patio, where are you? 

It’s Tuesday. Time to pick you up

and bring you to writers group.

It’s Tuesday. Why aren’t you standing 

on your step in your puffy Michelin Man 

jacket and fuzzy sky blue beret

that perfectly matched your eyes

before the clouds moved in

and took all your daylight away?

It’s Tuesday. You should be sitting

in the passenger seat

of my little silver Honda 

telling me to slow down

at the bottom of your hill

so we can roll down

the windows and say hello 

to the cows. It’s Tuesday. 

We should be on our way 

to Ellen’s drafty old house,

your giant grey tote bag

stashed at your feet full

of the latest chapters

of your newest plotless wonder.

It’s Tuesday. We should be shuffling

slowly up Ellen’s long rutted driveway

the kind leading the blind

your hand hooked

into the crook of my elbow

like the two old ladies

we have suddenly become,

and I should be telling you,

“I think we’re late,”

just to hear you say,

“Better late than pregnant”

and feel you squeeze my arm.

It’s Tuesday, Pad. You should be sitting 

in Ellen’s white wingback chair

the chair you always sat in

the chair that sits empty now

drinking in your own words

as I read them aloud

while you sip a cup of coffee

and munch on butter cookies

leaving a trail of crumbs

for me to follow so I can find you

and oh I’d be damn happy 

to see you again, your face so full

of love for me, there’s no metaphor

in the world to describe it.

Patty, it’s Tuesday. 

I should be bringing you home

after writers group and making us

yet more coffee so we can perch

on the easy chairs by the big window

in your living room and I’ll count

the yellow finches at the feeder

for you while we listen to Tillie

making those funny little chirps

in her little cat throat

and you’ll tell me how

great a writer I am

and I’ll tell you how 

great a writer you are

and then I’ll kiss your rose petal

cheek and hug your bony back

and you’ll stand in your doorway,

squint and shout, “Call me

when you get work,” while I climb

into my little silver Honda

and drive home, remembering

to slow down at the bottom

of your hill and roll down

the window to yell to the cows

that you say hello.

© 2022 Lesléa Newman 

 

Lesléa Newman’s recent children’s books include the bilingual picture book, “Alicia and the Hurricane: A Story of Puerto Rico/Alicia y el huracán: Un cuento de Puerto Rico,” which was a Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection and the forthcoming 2023 titles, “The Babka Sisters,” “I Can Be….ME!” and “The Fairest in the Land.” She is also the author of the adult dual memoir-in-verse, “I Carry My Mother” and “I Wish My Father.” She has received poetry fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Massachusetts Artists Foundation. She lives with her spouse Mary Grace Vazquez in Holyoke, MA.
 
 
Patricia MacLachlan wrote many beloved children’s books including the Newbery-winning, novel “Sarah, Plain and Tall.” Other novels include “Edward’s Eyes,” ‘Dream Within a Dream,” “The Truth of Me,” “The Poet’s Dog,” and “More Perfect Than the Moon.” Her picture books include “The Iridescence of Birds,” “My Poet,” “Cat Talk,” and “Once I Ate a Pie.” Her literary awards include the National Humanities Medal and the Christopher Medal. Originally from Wyoming, she died in 2022 and is deeply missed by all who were lucky enough to know her.