I've spent the past few days grieving, floating from website to website, blog to blog, reading memorials and tributes, soaking up the fellow-feeling out there in the ether. Not that I should have been surprised, but there were so many of us out there whose lives were literally shaped by his work. I lost count of how many of you said, "My sixth grade teacher read every one of the Chronicles of Prydain aloud to us after lunch. He did all the different voices, from Gurgi to Gwystl. I'd never fallen into books like that before. But thanks to them, I have many times since. I think I've read them all 8 times, 9 times, 10? They are among the books of my life." And I think, surely I must know you. Surely you were in my class. For that's exactly the experience I had and it felt so personal and it felt so integral to who I was when I was 11 and who I've become now that I'm 28. No other books feel quite the same to me and Thursday it felt like a piece of my childhood slipped away.
I wrote a letter to Mr. Alexander after running across his address somewhere online. I was 20 and my fingers shook as I wrote my small note telling him how much his books meant to me. How grateful I was for their humor and compassion. It was a typical reader to author letter, but it was the first one I'd ever written and perhaps required a little more in the way of courage than it otherwise might have. A short while later a cream-colored envelope arrived in my mailbox, my name typed in bold black by a manual typewriter. The return address: Lloyd Alexander, Drexel Hill, PA. I fought down the urge to hyperventilate and tore open the flap. It was the most charming letter I'd ever received, thanking me for my missive, responding specifically to my words. He was sure I was one of "the girls who will always be Eilonwy." I smiled through my tears, as I'm doing right now.
I've written to many authors since then, thanking them for their work. Letting them know how much it enriches me. They've all written back, so gracious and engaging. But his is the only one I framed. Before it fell to pieces from being opened and read so many times. It, like my copies of his books, began to show the wear and tear of serial rereading. I pulled them out today, fingering through the pages. It's good to hold them in my hands and remember.
Now that he is gone.