When I heard that Natalie Babbitt died yesterday, my thoughts jumped back to a summer day in 2001. As a graduate student participant in the Simmons Summer Institute for Children’s Literature, I was invited to introduce one of the speakers, and I desperately hoped to introduce the author of Tuck Everlasting.
Of course, I love her celebrated novel, but the reason I wanted to introduce her is that Natalie was, like me, born in Dayton, Ohio. Intellectually, I understood that Dayton was not the “secret spring” that sparked her singular gift, but my heart chose to believe otherwise. To me, Winnie Foster’s sensibilities were shaped by her creator’s birthplace.
I did introduce Natalie Babbitt during the Summer Institute, and she generously humored my enthusiasm for our shared hometown.
She was 84-years-old when she died at home in Connecticut, but she left us with a gift — not the secret of eternal life, but a timeless book that reminds us to “be afraid of an unlived life. You don’t have to live forever, you just have to live.”