Friday, July 17, 2009

Farm Summer

In the second year of the Second World War — I had just turned 12, my maternal grandmother remembered from her youth a farm girl she had known. Off went a postcard: could Eric spend the summer vacation with her? Yes, came the reply. A small suitcase was packed. I traveled 4 hours by train and walked another 2 to a tiny village consisting of perhaps 8 farms. Maria, my grandmother’s friend, was an elderly unmarried woman living with her 90 year old widowed father, whom I called Grandfather.

Their living quarters, barn and stables were all in the same building, under one roof. They owned 3 cows, 2 pigs, a dozen chickens with a proud rooster and several bee hives in the abutting garden. In the garden grew all their vegetables and fruit that they needed.

There was no indoor plumbing. There was a water pump inside the kitchen. No hot water, no bathtub, no water closet, no cars, no refrigerator. I had a guest bed in the old man’s room. I still remember him snoring dreadfully and getting up in the middle of the night to use the chamber pot that would be emptied in the morning.

Maria worked until midnight baking bread, darning socks, washing and cleaning and then getting up at 4 in the morning to take her old bicycle and pedaling to the nearby forest to pick mushrooms or berries. Not for us, these were washed and carefully packed and delivered by her on the bicycle to the nearest city to be sold to the “rich city folk”.

My summer vacation with Maria and Grandfather will remain one of the most glorious experiences of my youth. Learning to milk a cow. Watching the bees around their hives in Maria’s garden. Searching for eggs in the barn. Picking wild blueberries and cranberries. Feeding noisy pigs. Quietly spending hours in an abandoned stone quarry where I watched frogs and salamanders in puddles of water. Observing the local cheese maker making cheeses. And, of course, enjoying the robust, yet delicious meals.

All this and more in this sheltered and pastoral place while a murderous war was ravaging Europe.

-Eric Carle


  1. What a lovely memory and such a simple and fun way to spend the summer. How lucky you were to have this place to also inspire you in your work.

  2. What a beautiful post! Thank you so much for sharing those memories- Oh how I wish my kids could have those kinds of experiences. (and I love the illustrations of the barn yard animals!)

    I just re-read an old Mary Engelbreit Magazine and came across the article about you and your studio! I love that article and pictures so much! Thank you for being such an inspiration!

  3. that brought tears to my eyes. What a last line.

  4. What a sweet yet sad story. Thank you.


  5. What a precious memory!!!
    It shows that even in the midst of a storm lies peace and tranquility. Thank you for sharing.

  6. Thank you for teaching us around the world such a bittersweet story.

  7. W O W !!! Thanks for these inspiring words.

  8. I came here looking for some inspiration.
    I'm trying to decide on a theme for my Pre-K classroom this year. It's been narrowed down to 'Eric Carle' books or Camping. Hmmm...I have much to think on.
    I very much enjoyed reading through your last few blog entries, and find the fact that you, at 80 years of age, have a blog. I love that!

  9. Eric,
    I'm a brazilian writer.I have four child books published and other six in process of edition. I love your books and my blog http// dedicate a post today for your The very hungry Caterpillar.
    Thank you for your marvelous work!

  10. lovely memories! put a huge smile on my face :)

  11. I really love reading your blog. This was a great memory. Thank you for sharing it.
    For my birthday in August I told my husband that I wanted to visit your picture book museum. It is about 3 hours from where we live. Even though my children love your books (they are 5 years old and six years old) I know I am the one who will enjoy your museum the most!

  12. Such a simply sweet story! Thanks for sharing your memory.

    My parents have both passed and I miss hearing stories of a simpler time. Your story was just what I needed today! :o)

  13. you are such an amazing person. my entire family enjoys looking at your blog as well as all your wonderful books. you are so inspiring. your creativity is a gift you have bestowed upon us all. your stories are so well versed and you are admired by all.

  14. It is so wonderful that you have such beautiful memories amidst what was a terrible time. I see the influence of that summer in your book "Pancakes, Pancakes," which i read many times to my children. As American children growing up in Germany, they (and I too) delighted in the little German details in the story -- we loved finding Erdbeere jam in the cellar. :-)

  15. a great story about the second year of the Second World War and softball players and the prospect of a very good and touching grange history