My Mission Statement

I write to serve, to unite, to educate. I write to share literature and flesh out ideas that may be of interest to others. I write to document an emotion, experience, or a blip in time. My mission is to write in such a way that the reader is reminded that we can find humor in all situations. It's one of the great blessings of life.


Monday, July 16, 2012

Laura Lee Hope

I have always been a voracious reader.  Always.  When every book in the house had been read (whether it was my house, a relative's house, a neighbor's house, etc.), I turned to cereal boxes, soup cans, and even medicine bottles.  I was always on the prowl for new reading material.  If the Kindle had been invented back then, I would probably be in rehab for holding up liquor stores to buy new books...okay, maybe not that bad.  At any rate, I read a lot of strange things as a child--business books of my dad's (Zig Ziglar, anyone?), Erma Bombeck books of my mom's, cookbooks (I still love to read cookbooks), and medical guides.  It's fair to say that I probably read more nonfiction than fiction, so when I got my hands on some fiction, I was thrilled.  Now it sounds like I was deprived of books, I WAS NOT.  We went to the library all the time, and I checked out the max.  But I have been an insomniac since birth, so I think I just have had more hours for reading in the day than your average person.  One summer, when an elderly family friend offered me free access to the bookshelves in her daughter's room (now grown and gone), I was thrilled, beyond thrilled, to discover the complete set of BOBBSEY TWINS books by Laura Lee Hope.  I LOVED these books.  I read them over and over and over and over again.  (Do kids still do that?  My kids don't, but I used to re-read books ALL THE TIME.)  As recently as last month, I pointed out some tropical plants on our trip to Bermuda, and my husband asked, "How do you know all those trees and plants?"
And I replied, "From a trip I took with the Bobbsey Twins."
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So I returned to school that year and told everyone that my favorite author was Laura Lee Hope.  For years, I re-read those books and pronounced my love for Laura Lee Hope.  All I knew was that this amazing woman had written these books about a simpler time and place where parents stayed married and siblings were companions and their cook made them dinner.  Of course, I didn't understand some of the sexual politics of the era, but it seemed great to me.  Laura Lee Hope, in my mind, had figured out what ever children's writer knows today---for the best story, get rid of the parents.  I was also impressed with the vast number of books she had written and published.  When Tasha Tudor came to visit my school, I told her how I loved Laura Lee Hope and the Bobbsey Twins books.  To this day, I remember how she laughed and laughed and said she knew the books well.  She asked me how I was old enough to know those books, and I explained.  I figured that was why she had laughed.
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Only last night, LAST NIGHT, did I learn the truth about Laura Lee Hope.  Keep in mind, I did not grow up in the era of internet or authors as celebrities.  I knew nothing about Laura Lee Hope except the brief blurb on the Bobbsey Twins books (and yes, the picture).  I imagined her a delightful elderly woman who loved children and re-told the stories of her childhood adventures.  I pictured her living in Florida (???) in a fabulous house surrounded by mangroves and hibiscus (like in one of the Bobbsey Twin books) with a sturdy wooden walkway out to the water.  I imagined that she wrote outside in a gazebo (yes, another Bobbsey Twin book involved a gazebo) while her cook (yes, in the books) brought her lemon ices.   I imagined that her neighborhood was oddly full of twins---children paired up and playing wonderful games that inspired her, and kept Laura Lee Hope running for her typewriter.   And when I decided to be a writer, THIS was the kind of writer I wanted to be.  I mean, what could be better?  And I recall telling all this to Tasha Tudor, who, you will remember, laughed.  Not in a mean way.  It didn't bother me at all, but something about it stuck with me.  Like I knew, even then, that there was something more that she was laughing at, something grown-up and over my head that I didn't care about anyway.
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So last night, for the first time in all these years, I decided to look up old Laura Lee Hope.  Obviously, with the first book written a hundred years ago, she was now deceased.  But I wanted to learn more about her.  I had this very vivid picture of her in my head, and I wasn't sure where that picture came from.  Perhaps, I had read an article about her as a child or something that gave me that whole Florida gazebo typewriter-pecking, lemon ice eating picture.
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SHOCKINGLY, I learned this:
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Laura Lee Hope - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laura_Lee_Hope
Laura Lee Hope is a pseudonym used by the Stratemeyer Syndicate for the Bobbsey Twins and several other series of children's novels.
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WHAAAAT?  Truly, it was shocking.  Laura Lee Hope was not even a real person!!!  It was a pseudonym!  No WONDER Tasha Tudor laughed at me.  I just sat there, frozen at my computer last night.  What?  How did I not know that all these years?  I think I even listed Laura Lee Hope on my Chautauqua application as an author that influenced me as a child, so Tasha Tudor wasn't the only one laughing.  
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But then I thought, here's what is so sweet about children's literature.  They kept the secret all these years!  No one told me!  Not Highlights, not Tasha Tudor, not the librarians....they let me grow up to be a writer 'like Laura Lee Hope'.  What a gift.  What a kindness.  
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We all remember that moment when we realize an adult we idolizes is not all we imagined him to be.  Our heart breaks when we see our hero cruel to an animal or dishonest or otherwise human.  It's too real.  But I get to have Laura Lee Hope just the way I want her to be...forever.  
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So here's how I want her to be.  STILL ALIVE.  Living in Florida on one of the lesser populated keys.  She lives in a fabulous, sprawling, old-fashioned house surrounded by mangroves, hibiscus and live oak trees.  Her neighborhood is full of children, but they are all, magically, twins.  Every morning, she walks the long, sturdy, wooden path to the water where she settles down in her duneside gazebo, with her Boston terrier at her feet.  There she types away (on a REAL typewriter)  as she laughs at the antics of the neighborhood twins.  Her cook brings her lemon ices and even a platter of cucumber sandwiches at lunch.  The whir and the ding of the typewriter send out the satisfying sounds of a book series that never, ever ends.  Then her cook rings the dinner bell, and Laura Lee Hope makes her way onto an enormous screened porch with a long dining table full of neighborhood twins.  There they all feast together until late in the night when the feast transitions into lightning bugs and singing frogs.  The tired twins stumble home, and Laura Lee Hope returns to her books, this time in her big four poster bed.  She is an insomniac like me, and needs to write just one more chapter before she can rest.  
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Now that I think about it, Laura Lee Hope is still one of my favorite authors.  
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Now I'm off to read about Maud Hart Lovelace.  If it's a pseudonym for another syndicate, I don't know what I'll do because I also loved the Betsy, Tacy, Tib books, and I am sure that Maud Hart Lovelace lived on a hill in Minnesota, just above one of the 10,000 lakes, and in her neighborhood resides three creative, darling girls named, you guessed it, Betsy, Tacy, and Tib.

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