If you dropped your keys in the sewer and had two choices: go get your dad or your dad’s best friend next door, what would you do? Me? I got the friend.
Facing the two houses, I went to the one where Mr. Frank lived. Mr. Frank amiably got a hanger to help me fish out my keys. Unfortunately, my Dad noticed us and came outside. As expected, he was irritated. But Mr. Frank was an expert at fixing all things – he got the keys out and calmed down my Dad. Did I mention I was in my 20s when this happened?
Let me tell you about Frank, or Mr. Frank to his wife and friends. He lived by his own code and had a lot of sayings. Here are some telling Frankisms: “The two pillars of civilization: sunglasses and pick-up trucks,” “Your true character is whoever you are in the dark,” “There are two kinds of people in this world, cat lovers and morons, ” and “What do you mean, what do I mean?”
If you knew him, he would do anything for you. Frank and my Dad moved me multiple times. He could and would fix anything. He brought a calm demeanor to awkward situations. He would loan you his truck. Feed your cat. I’ll never forget when he looked me right in the eye and said, “You can do anything you want.” I believed him because I always believed Frank.
Mr. Frank died last June in his early 60s; it pains me to write it. That’s why, standing in the Vero Beach Book Center on vacation, the title Mr. Frank caught my eye. I flipped through it, thought it looked charming and bought it for myself. The story, written and illustrated by Irene Luxbacher is based on her father. It’s beautiful.
Mr. Frank, an elderly tailor, gets a phone call asking for the most important order of his career. Luxbacher takes you through the decades of his work and the fashion trends he worked on.
My boys love it. I first read the story to Calvin and when he saw what Mr. Frank was working on – a superhero outfit for his grandson – he gasped, “Maxy will LOVE this!” He continued to be delighted by Mr. Frank’s other costumes and said, “I wish he would make me a metro bus costume.” (Calvin is obsessed with buses.)
Max did love the costume and asked for the book three nights in a row, “I want to read the book where the guy makes all the clothes.” He was fascinated with Mr. Frank’s process, “Look, he had to find just the right thing and then draw lines before he would cut it,” Max said.
Snuggled into bed on vacation, the three of us savored the last page showing Mr. Frank and his grandson sewing together.
I love this book. I love it for the vacation memories it helped cement. I love it that the title and story remind me of my Mr. Frank. It’s funny too, since Frank’s fashion statement was “Brown is the new black.”
Max has asked me if I’m still sad about Mr. Frank. “Yes, I am Max,” I try to explain. “I’ll always be sad but I’ll always have good memories too.”
Everyone should be so lucky to have a Mr. Frank.
In loving memory of Frank Wilson Reinig (May 28, 1953 – June 28, 2014)
“Well to be perfectly Frank…which I am…”
Where to find the book and more information
Check out your local bookstore for Mr. Frank or you can order it from Anansi Press. I recommend looking at Luxbacher’s website to see more of her gorgeous work. I plan on checking out The Imaginary Garden and she has several art books too. (Max will be happy!)