For my birthday this year, one of my children gave me a t-shirt with a wonderful image from In the Night Kitchen, one of the classic children’s books created by the late, great Maurice Sendak, who died this week at the age of 83. I have long-admired Sendak’s artistry, his vision, his strongly-held views on what makes for good children’s literature and his many passions. He was, by self-admission, a curmudgeon. He was also a gay man whose five-decade long relationship with a psychotherapist Eugene Glynn, a psychiatrist who specialized in the treatment of young people and who died in 2007, was purposefully kept in the background of his public life as a world-famous author and illustrator.
His obituary in The New York Times noted that “he cherished the letters that individual children sent him unbidden, which burst with the sparks that his work had ignited.”
“Dear Mr. Sendak,” read one, from an 8-year-old boy. “How much does it cost to get to where the wild things are? If it is not expensive, my sister and I would like to spend the summer there.”
Maurice Sendak was passionate about his Judaism and, like many of us, had a complicated relationship with it. He leaves no immediate survivors, no one upon whom falls the obligation to recite kaddish in his memory. Grateful for the gifts he brought to this world, it will feel like a privilege for me to recite kaddish to honor his life and his work.