I checked my email this afternoon around 1:00 p.m. (PDT) and was happy to see an email from someone on the Ex-Libris mailing list with the subject “Tasha Tudor”. Though I only recently came to appreciate her work, I was excited to read anything I could about her.
I clicked on the email with joyful anticipation, expecting to see a question about Tudor’s work or an announcement of a new illustration or book.
Instead, I was saddened to learn that Tasha Tudor died today, at the age of 92; though I was comforted to read that her family and friends stayed by her side in her final hours.
You see, Tasha Tudor inspired me. Not because of her lovely drawings, for drawing and painting are not among my talents. She inspired me as a mother who worked as an illustrator, as someone who worked according to her own terms. The career-caregiver duality that many women embody has always been a difficult one for me to reconcile. Sure, I want to have an interesting career, but I also know that I feel fulfilled by home and family and I don’t want to spend most of my waking hours away.
I quit my job after I had my kids. My teaching salary and the cost of daycare were about equivalent, and we decided that the best contribution I could make to the family would be to stay home full-time with Tom and Huck.
I discovered that I love being an at-home mom. I also learned about antiquarian books around this time, and I began to make plans for opening a business selling antiquarian books when the boys started school. When the day finally came that Huck, my youngest son, went off to school, he waved good-bye and I cried a little bit. Then I got work on starting my business.
I felt a bit silly opening an antiquarian book business from my home. “I’m working,” I’d tell friends and family this past year-and-a-half when they asked what I did when the kids were at school.
“Oh. That’s great. What are you doing?” would be the usual reply.
“I’m selling antiquarian books — you know books that are out of print and hard to find and of interest to a collector.”
“Terrific. Where’s your shop? I’d love to come and visit.”
This is the part where it usually took courage to answer. Would I be taken seriously? I usually mumbled quickly, “Umm. My shop is actually online. I work out of my house, at my dining room table, usually while the kids are at school.”
I felt silly admiting that I cleaned off my workspace each day so my family could eat meals or that my two sons plus the triplet neighbors were usually scurrying around underfoot after school. I felt comfortable working that way, but I secretly wondered if others thought I was just wasting time when I could be out building a more stable, traditional career in an office somewhere.
Last Christmas, I received a book as a gift, The Art of Tasha Tudor by Harry Davis, and I read how Tasha Tudor got her start. I was charmed and re-assured to know that she, too, worked at her dining table, that she too was home full-time with her children, and that she fit in her work when and where she could. And she was fulfilled by this. She didn’t care about the fact that everyone else seemed to live in a different century than she did. She didn’t care that, before she became famous, she could have made more money by taking a traditional job.
Charmed by her lovely Corgi Cottage and the life she made for herself, I was inspired to appreciate and be proud of the life I am making here.
Thank you, Tasha Tudor, for making it alright for me to have an office at my dining room table. Thank you for showing me that one can work according to her own terms and on her own schedule. Thank you for showing me the beauty to be found in making a home. Thanking for telling me to take joy in the life I make for myself.
Rest in peace.
Click here to read the original post I wrote last winter about Tasha Tudor and working at my dining room table.
And here’s one more post about Tasha Tudor and her fearless life at Corgi Cottage in Vermont.