'Hattie and the Wild Waves'


July 04, 1999|By BARBARA COONEY

Editor's note: A young girl from Brooklyn, N.Y., enjoys her summer at the beach, where she can paint and listen to the wild waves.

When the summer clothes were ready, the eyelet trim on the petticoats and nightgowns all threaded with pink and blue ribbons, Mama packed the trunks and the whole family moved out to Far Rockaway to the summer house beside the ocean. This was Hattie's favorite place.

The city of New York was growing. People were crossing the East River and moving to the suburb of Brooklyn, to Flatbush and Greenpoint and Bushwick. Uncle Wilhelm expanded his brewery, and Uncle Otto opened an elegant beer garden. Papa built houses for the people, rows and rows of houses, all very much alike.

"But the people will get mixed up," said Hattie. "Especially in the fog."

"I will have to do something about that," said Papa.

And he painted the houses all different colors.

Sometimes Papa took the family sailing on his beautiful boat, the Coronet. The water sparkled. The waves slapped at the hull. At times Mama napped in her mahogany and pink velvet stateroom below. But always, Hattie stood in the bow. And the moist salt breezes took all the curl out of her hair.

When Hattie got home she ran up to her room and got out her paint box. Soon her walls were covered with pictures.

Oftentimes Hattie wandered down the beach by herself, whistling and dreaming dreams while her little dog Ebbie scampered about her. The waves scalloped in and out, lapping at their feet. The sky was the blue of heaven, and the sea went on forever.

"I wish that summer would never end," thought Hattie.

Sometimes the ocean turned green and wild, and the sky grew black.

"Oh, Ebbie," she would say, picking up the little dog, "what are the wild waves saying?"

Whatever they were saying, they had the answer. That she knew as she walked beside the sea.

So the summers passed at Far Rockaway. Fall came and they returned to Bushwick Avenue. The leaves fell, and Pfiffi and Vollie and Hattie went back to school.

On Tuesdays Hattie went with Mama and Papa to the opera at the Academy of Music.

One Tuesday evening, as waves of music filled the opera house, a young woman, down on the stage, sang her heart out. Hattie, in Box Four, sat transfixed.

The time had come, she realized, for her to paint her heart out.

The next day Hattie put on her coat and hat and marched down to the Art Institute. Her business accomplished, she took the trolley out to Coney Island. It was cold and blowy and spitting snow. Most of the rides were shut down, but the little booth containing the wax gypsy fortune-teller was open. Hattie approached the glass-fronted booth. She slipped the coin in the slot.

"What is my future to be?" she whispered.

A little pink card appeared in the opening below.

"You will make beautiful pictures," said the card.

Hattie walked along the deserted beach holding the little card. The waves reared up; they crested and broke.

"You will make beautiful, beautiful pictures," said the wild waves. Over and over they said the words.

"Oh, yes," breathed Hattie. "Oh, yes, I shall."

"I have something to tell you," Hattie said to Mama and Papa the next morning at breakfast.

"Was ist los?" asked Mama anxiously. "Is something the matter?"

Hattie folded her napkin. She put it in her napkin ring. Her eyes shone.

"I am going to be an artist," she said.

From HATTIE AND THE WILD WAVES, by Barbara Cooney. Copyright (c) Barbara Cooney, 1990. Reprinted by arrangement with Viking Children's Books, a division of Penguin Putnam, Inc.

Pub Date: 07/04/99

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