When I was ten years old someone gave me Baby Dear — a children’s picturebook illustrated by Eloise Wilkin. That copy doesn’t exist any more because I wore out the pages. Recently I purchased a new one, and all the thoughts I used to think when reading that book 45 years ago came back. The story is about a little girl who, right before her mother and father bring a new baby home from the hospital, is given a baby doll. In the story, the little girl feeds her “baby” when Mommy feeds her baby; she changes her baby’s diapers when Mommy changes the baby; they take carriage rides together and tuck them into bed at the same time.
We smile at our babies and talk to them. Mommy says this is the way our babies know they are the most wonderful babies in the world.
In one scene, the little girl and Mommy are in the nursery tending their babies. Mommy is folding diapers and storing them away in the little white dresser while the little girl is rocking the real baby. There is an armoire filled with baby things and an old-time playpen. My ten-year-old self wished with all her might that she had a room just like that one.
In another Eloise Wilkin classic We Help Mommy I wanted a dust mop just like the one in the picture so I could clean under the furniture, too, and the miniature clothesline with clothespins was irresistible. The little girl in that book was so lucky, I always thought. She could help her Mommy do all the house work, and it really wasn’t work at all, but play. I wonder if the influence of these Wilkin books had a hand many years later in helping me to easily incorporate my own children into the housework. It always seemed so natural to expect my young children to work when I worked, and when we finished we could read or play.
In this podcast we interview one of Eloise Wilkin’s daughters — Deborah Springett. The interview is a long one, so we’ve divided it into three parts. Here is Part One.