My dad had a big personality, a big voice, and a love of books and theater. When I was little, he used to tell us stories and read to us. Whether it was the continuing adventures of the sisters Prunella, Arabella, and Sarsparilla or his own interpretation of Jack and the Beanstalk (“And the beanstalk went rrrrrrrrrr CRASH, and the Giant went rrrrrrrrr squish!”), he had a great imagination. He was also a marvelous dramatic reader, using different voices to personify each character.
One of his favorite books was Pitidoe the Color Maker, by Glen Dines. It’s a wonderful story about a boy who apprentices to a wizard who creates color. While the wizard’s away, Pitidoe starts playing with color. He mixes so many colors together he turns the land of Soo purple and then the land loses color altogether. Pitidoe cries, and the sun shines on his tear creating a prism; with this he’s able to bring color back to the land of Soo and everyone is happy again.
In the mid 1980s my dad started collecting kids’ books – books he’d loved as a child as well as books he’d loved reading to and with us – and remembered Pitidoe. It was out of print by then, and while there were a few copies around they were very expensive (there still are, and they still are). Somehow, I can’t even remember how, my stepmother and I tracked down the author, who was then living in Fairfax, CA, right across the bay. He was thrilled that someone remembered his book so fondly. He had only a few copies left, which he was saving for his grandchildren, but he offered to let me borrow one and xerox it – and to autograph it. Color xeroxes were new and about $3 a page, but it was worth it to see my dad’s face, and to listen once again as he read to us.
When my dad died, the xeroxed Pitidoe came back to live with me – a bunch of color xeroxed pages in a folder with a sticky note from a company I worked for in the early 1980s on the front with what was then the author’s phone number. Here’s the thing – I didn’t actually remember Pitidoe that well before my dad reminded me. Louis the Swan, Ratty and Mole, Charlotte, and the sisters Prunella, Arabella, and Sarsparilla held greater sway in my mind. But I am fearless when it comes to color. I will mix anything, try anything, and try it again if it doesn’t work. And sometimes now, when I’m doing my color thing, I think about Pitidoe, and about my dad, and wonder if this is where it all started.