Years, and I mean years, before I planned on having kid, I started buying children’s books. Anything strikingly beautiful & well-written that caught my eye was fair game, despite being in my mid 20s and having no real career or money. I bought The Mysteries of Harris Burdick, by Chris Van Allsberg; Tuesday, by David Wiesner; The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, and Smoky Night, by Eve Bunting. I bought several others, including one that caught my eye in the gift shop of the J. Paul Getty Museum: Marguerite Makes a Book, by Bruce Robertson. Based on art historical research on French illuminated manuscripts of the 15th Century, Robertson wrote a children’s book about a girl named Marguerite, who helped her father paint a book of hours for an important patron.
In university I majored in Art and minored in Medieval European History, and later racked up another degree in print design, so naturally, illuminated manuscripts, those achingly beautiful and insanely detailed books that were lettered, drawn and painted by hand just before the advent of the printing press, are my particular obsession. Marguerite not only describes the paintings in the book of hours; the story itself is illustrated with illuminated letters, botanicals in the borders, and gold details that make each page sparkle in the light.
I’ve been waiting to share this special book with my special little someone. I hoped that she would like it. I’d been hoping for about fifteen years that my kid, now six, would appreciate it. I had NO IDEA that there would be screams of delight, arm-grasping that cut off my circulation, profuse thank-yous, and a complete inability to settle down to sleep afterwards due to the excitement caused by the book. In the book, Marguerite goes to the libraire for gold leaf, the tanner for calfskin parchment, the market for eggs, goose feathers and parsley, and the apothecary for vermilion, wax, and lapis lazuli stone. When I mentioned to Aurora that we could make paint from the stuff in our own garden, she blew a gasket. If you want to talk about delayed gratification, this was it. For me, anyway. For her, she needed to MAKE HER OWN PAINT. Like, NOW!!!
Aurora didn’t want to go to camp the next morning. I convinced her that there would be plenty of time to make paint in the afternoon, so after lunch, we got started.
Preparing egg whites. Oops! A bit too foamy.
Crushing brown eyed susan petals in our mortar and pestle.
Peeling blueberry skins was, of course, Mommy’s job. Methinks I need a macro lens for Christmas (hint, hint).
Aurora felt sure that melted popsicles would make good paint, too (they don’t).
And then she did it! The most surprising result of the paint-making process was that light-purple sweet pea petals make a dark blue-green paint. Who knew?
The best part for me was feeling like I was really contributing something to Aurora’s education. So much of the time I carry around this huge weight of guilt for being a stay-at-home mom. With only one kid. Who is usually in school. I’ve been told by more than one aunt (and my friends are probably thinking it, too) that a woman should have her own career, her own money, and that it’s better for me and my daughter if I work outside the home, at least part time. Most of the time I agree with them. But then Aurora gets an idea. A great idea, and I am already on my feet, running to the supply cabinets, getting out the materials, and we spend hours working on something that is really cool together. We make books, we learn new crafts, we explore our city.
Now, if only I could find a good book on knitting.