My friend Nancy had arranged to come over to bring me a birthday present. I sensed some trepidation as she handed me the package. “You may have one of these, but I don’t think you do.” She hesitated. “If you do, now you'll have two.”
Her unease intrigued me so I quickly pulled off the ribbon and paper. There was Peter himself from The Snowy Day.
Nancy had attended my seminar earlier in the month for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the University of Southern Mississippi. As part of my, “From Katz to Keats” presentation, I included in my display a copy of every book that Ezra Jack Keats had both written and illustrated. (My local independent book store had helped me find and complete my collection at less than collector’s prices several years ago.)
I am a bit in awe of people like Nancy who know the present that perfectly matches the recipient. I’ve always wondered if that knack was a gift or something that comes from paying attention. Maybe it’s both.
Nancy paid attention, not only to my talk, but to what was missing in my exhibit. She saw my passion for Keats, heard my story of how I became the researcher for the fiftieth anniversary edition of The Snowy Day, and reasoned that if I had a stuffed Peter doll, I would have displayed it.
Peter now perches atop the basket of Keats books on my hearth, keeping an eye on me as I work. The next time I’m asked to do a “Katz to Keats” presentation, you can bet he will come along. In the meantime, I’m going to see if I can also learn to pay attention.