Interviewed December, 1992
I was listening to this backhoe and truck and so forth down here next to us and thinking that they symbolize change. I’m very conscious of change, particularly, as we are in the decade before the century, but also the millennium, turns over. Changes are fast and furious and it’s been a long time since I was born in 1922, which was the roaring twenties for my parents.
I am also using this setting as a way to sort of gather the kind of life I’ve had. You find me sitting in the country, up a dirt road, down a dirt driveway surrounded by birds and flowers (I’ve got chickens out there and so forth) in an old house that we have done over. I am also, when I am not here, with great pleasure either at the Waterford School working with 5th graders or I am in at the high school at Adult Ed. Education is a very important part of my life and family ties…. We have moved into a part of Maine where it is practically still out in the country and where my friends’ here first question to somebody is “How are you related to so and so?”. And of course, we are here because of family ties because when we retired we wanted to be with our grandchildren and this is where they are.
Mine has been a life with a family that did house building and house doing over. So here I sit in the middle of it. For your information, I did all the interior work on this house, except for that floor, but that was before Judy was married … so I have, you know, run out of gas. I love this wallpaper, you can’t get this anymore.
This is another thing which I am very aware of. This is one reason I want to record some of this stuff. . is because as an English major, I was aware of the fact that Kipling was great then; he went out; then he came back. My mother’s work was absolutely trail breaking when she did it. Mother was the head of the Child Study Department at Vassar up until 1950. Now, I recently had the job of placing her professional library. All right, this stuff is, what, 40 yrs. out of date and nobody wanted it. Things have changed that much … 1950, Spock, don’t go to work until your child was two yrs. old if you can help it. Stuff on the television about …”Leave it to Beaver”, you know and the nuclear family. It was my experience, I haven’t gotten to this yet, but it was my experience to stay home with the kids until my youngest was in kindergarten. Nobody has that option at this point. Of course, I found that hard because in those days the phone would ring and your kids would start yelling because they knew you’d get on the phone and wouldn’t pay any attention to them. You couldn’t finish a sentence because you would get interrupted. But anyway…. Shall I start with forbear?
Both my grandfathers were Methodist ministers, I didn’t know my father’s family very well, but my mother’s family was very close and still is. I’m still in contact with them. Family reunions are something we do.
Methodism is known as the faith that moves ministers, so mother was brought up all over the place. My aunt takes great pride in the fact that there were four successive generations of Dorindas that went to college. Of which my grandmother was the second. My grandmother taught Greek before she got married, but once she got married that was it. She had three children in diapers at one point and my great grandmother came to help look after them. My mother was one of five. Of those five, there was an engineer, a lawyer, a doctor, a college professor and poor Francis. It’s hard to live in a family where everyone is doing something, right?
So growing up that way, you take education seriously and you think if you don’t have your PhD you’re missing something. Not just for… I mean you not only got educated but you went on to educate other people …lots of teachers.
I was born when my mother was just a year or two out of college and I’m the oldest of four girls. The story is that I was put in a wash basket at six weeks old and taken abroad, so my parents could do their graduate work. I’m supposed to have been babysat by two nuns because nuns go out in pairs to chaperon each other. I’m supposed to have been taken to Jesperson’s classes in the University of Copenhagen, I think. Jesperson is a Dane who is an expert on (past history, perhaps) the English Language. I studied out of his book when I got to college. I have pictures of myself being christened in a Lutheran Church in Denmark. I don’t know what mother was studying in Denmark but she got her Doctorate in Psychology, I guess, but that was later. Mother has been some example for all of us because she had the two of us and then two more subsequently and went on to get her doctorate. She went up the professional ladder.
This is the same pattern of moving [as the ministry], because I went to seven different schools growing up. If you are teaching, you go where the work is and she was at Sarah Lawrence before she was at Vassar.
My father was a professor of English at Bryn Mawr. My parents were, I think, separated when I was 4 yrs. old, and later divorced. But what are you going to do? I thought my mother’s courage was good. My stepfather, the one who built the house in Princeton, and the one in Salt Point outside of Poughkeepsie, died when I was first working. I was right out of college in the mid 1940’s and she married another man and he died. That one was a stockbroker. This was new in the family. He was an awfully nice guy. He was Irving Langmuir’s brother and so I have a stepsister and stepbrother Langmuir. The family extends and extends. Then when he died, she went to England and she got a training analysis. She went to England to get this because you could go into psychiatry or be an analyst without the M.D. She had the training analysis at the Tavistock Clinic in London. She met Alex Essex who was a M.D. and a psychiatrist and had lost his wife and had two kids, so I have a stepbrother and stepsister in England. But I have skipped some stuff, I’ll go back…
Now to get back to education, we were living in New York City and I went to the Horace Mann School and to the Lincoln School … that was Progressive Education, if you’ve heard of that. It was good. Now, that was up to the time before we moved back to Princeton and that was when we, I should say my stepfather, built the stone house in Princeton. It was gorgeous.
When we were in Princeton, I went to Miss Fine’s School, a nice prep school, a girl’s school. Then I went to three different high schools …. I remember seeing the Von Hindenburg flying over the hockey field ‑ that was something!
What do I remember from school? Being very happy I took French and Latin early on. I was good at it, and girls (I think this is still true) like to be approved of, so they do the work. I got along comfortably and I enjoyed the work.
We were living three miles out of town and riding to school on bicycles. They had buses, but not for private schools. We were somewhat isolated and this was partly on purpose. We didn’t do the pop music thing. I’ll show you something that amuses me because we still have records. The bottom of this closet and the bottom of the closet in the dining room are both full of old 78’s. We were brought up on a hand cranked victrola with Beethoven’s symphonies and we were expected to be intellectual. I don’t know why: to my parents the popular culture was not anything they thought a kid needed … but what are you going to do?
My sister and I on the other hand we had baby chicks, baby ducks. My stepfather had a vineyard and we had a cow at one point, a horse at one point and I can remember going out, you know, rushing the season as kids do in the very early spring and going into the brook barefoot with my feet, my ankles bumping up against frog’s eggs. My sister and I had a book, by Homer D. House on wildflowers. We learned Latin names and we can still tell you Latin names for a dozen flowers that are native to the Princeton area.
There was a certain amount of competition but my sister and I are still very close. This is why this (a small wooden dinosaur) is here. From the time we were in …. in those days you studied dinosaurs in about the fourth grade. Well, we got begigged by dinosaurs. So that’s a “Dinny”. Now we write each other letters and there’s always a “Dinny” at the bottom of the letter. The last one she sent me, she said they had a frost out there. She’s out in the Tacoma area, Washington. She got a “Dinny” with icicles hanging off its scales.
She comes … my mother is in a nursing home in Bridgton at the age of 93 and the nice thing about that is everybody has to come see her, so I get to see them. Her [mother] only remaining sibling, my Aunt Ellen, who is an M.D. and is 86 yrs. old and lives in St. Louis comes, so far. Last summer, she came with her 9 yr. old granddaughter to keep her company. My cousin, Dorinda, is a doctor too …. keeps herself busy. Ellen was a trail breaker. It was tremendous. I’m proud of those people.
Getting back to childhood …. I remember playing in the brook. Oh yes, here’s a funny story. Down below the house was a little pond with a brook running into it which was called the frog pond. One time when we were fossicking around in the woods, we kept finding these box turtles, and we found an old coal scuttle. We picked up all these box turtles and we dumped them into the frog pond which of course was silly because they’re not water turtles. It didn’t hurt them any but it wasn’t what they were looking for. But that was funny.
The ability to explore meant a lot. I also remember we went places on our bicycles. We went to Blaven which was several miles away and it was getting dark as we came back. We got up that long hill from Blaven because we couldn’t see how steep it was!
Now there is a story that goes with that. My sister and the girl from across the road went off exploring and it got dark on them and they sat down under a tree. They didn’t get home and they didn’t get home and they didn’t get home. They [adults] finally called out, I guess, the fire department and various people to hunt for them. My poor mother was called out of a lecture or something like that. This made the front page of the New York Times, down at the bottom. I don’t know why because she [sister] wasn’t hurt. It was a question of finding out where they were and having them realize that people were looking for them. That they were trying to help them. They finally came out of hiding. But it must have scared the heck out of my mother!
PHONE RANG…TURNED OFF TAPE
[came back discussing Vassar and the tradition of being proposed to as you walked around the lake at the graduation dance]
Although it is true that times have changed, because I graduated from college in 1943. I was already married and at that point it was what could you do for the war effort. Dick and I got married during exam week of my junior year. This was practical. He was out of college. He was in New York City. He had a very low draft number and he got drafted for one year. He used the option of enlisting for three years so as to choose your branch of service, because he could see the handwriting on the wall at that point. He was out in Spokane, Washington having finished basic training. He was in I forget what. I don’t know if it was photo reconnaissance at that point or not. The idea was that when school was out my junior year, I was going to go out there and get married but he got orders and called me up from Spokane saying that he was on his way out. Then he called me from Fort Dix, N.J. and said come on down and we’ll get married. So I took my Blake and Keats exams; got on the train; went down and we were married. He was at Fort Dix for a whole month and I’m glad. Then he went overseas.
So feeling very glad that we’d been able to do that and feeling sort of grown up, I went back home and studied for the two exams I hadn’t had and did my senior year … you know that worked out.
on meeting Dick…
I am 14 yrs. old. My folks had just bought the house over here in Waterford because Dick’s aunt had the house up here at that time and thought it would be nice as President of Sarah Lawrence if her faculty members would find summer homes around her. Five or six of them did. My mother and my stepfather were both on the Sarah Lawrence faculty at that point. So Dick had found that house, empty, on Plummer Hill and told his Aunt Suzanne about it and so they had come up and looked at it and bought it for $500. But that was a lot of money in those days. So I am up here as a 14 yr. old, barely 15 and here comes this college boy. The first time I saw him, I was so overcome by how good looking he was that I ran upstairs and hid.
But having known him that long was a help because when we were married at Fort Dix, the chaplain said how long have you know each other? I said four or five years and he said…you know he heaved a sigh of relief.
We were summer people [in Maine] and they [parents] did over that house. They had a pump in the kitchen sink and all those amenities. My sister and I used to do the wash on the deck (my stepfather had built a deck on the back). We would heat the water on the stove and we would fill up the wash tub: then you would crank it into the other wash tub where the rinse water was and crank it back again into the wash basket. Then you’d take it down and hang it on the line. She and I would stand there and shake out these sheets to hang on the line and we had this game where I would snap it out of her hands and then she’d snap it out of my hands. But you know it was fun. I don’t know if you saw some pictures there of those days, but here we were with a six year old and a three year old. I learned on them.
One other thing, my mother being a professor of child study, we had friends of the family who tried to egg us kids into writing something. “The Guinea Pig Speaks Up”. What is it really like but we never could figure out what to say.
I do think that my interest in language was increased by my mother. She wrote her doctoral thesis on language development in the young child and I have an idea, she was hanging on my words. My real father was a linguist. His field was Middle English and Old English and all that stuff.
This is out of order but this is a gorgeous story. About the time Dick was out of the army and we had kids, we heard that he [father] and his second wife, Caroline Robinson, a British lady of great distinction, had been in a bad auto accident. He had fractured his skull and so I wrote and said, you know the grape vine between academic communities, somebody would see me and say you walk just like your father. So, anyway, the grapevine had given us this information and I wrote to him and said I was sorry about it. Well, this one thing led to another and so we had this first meeting. I mean I am so thankful! He used to come up here. He saw the kids when they were little. Sarah(daughter) was two and a half and he was standing here. He had lost his hearing and he had two hearing aides. He was standing in that room and Sarah was standing behind him, two and a half years old, screaming. He said “I hear you!”. He would sleep upstairs here. The older kids who could write by that time, would write “Good Morning, Grandpa” and shove it under the door because he wouldn’t hear them, which may have been something of a blessing. He helped lay the floor when we did the ell over. He was a great person, a person of tremendous enthusiasm, a very warm person, you know, and also a scholar so to have known him meant a great deal to me.
When I was teaching in Greenwich Village, I thought it was ridiculous but understandable that the kindergarten teacher would teach kindergarten kids what a family was. Greenwich Village is full of single parent/single child families. I wonder if in the years since I taught there, they have changed that. In the same way that we didn’t know it at the time that the nuclear family was as of that time and the extended family was a pattern from the previous time.
[Mary remembers that her mother always had live in help and that’s how she could teach and have a family.] I would think that I was raised not to consider money important. There wasn’t any. I think that’s a useful thing at the present time too. I mean my grandfather was retired on $500/year from the Methodist ministry. My mother was able to take my grandparents in and deduct them from her income tax as dependents. Well. you know, I mean … scratch, scratch, scratch. Teachers. private school teachers, don’t get paid much. I went to college for nothing, obviously, because I was a faculty brat. That’s the way to do it. I think this was valuable in more ways than one. The value of what you can do, make with your own hands and so forth.
Being able to fix things. This is something Dick brags about me is that I can, well up to the electronics which I cannot do, I have to get the grandkids to do this VCR but most ordinary
household things that bust, I can fix. We had what was called a “Fisher hitch”. You know you could put it back together with a piece of wire or something like that.
Also there’s an interest in the out‑ of‑ doors and raising things and when we were up here, summers, my stepfather sent away to Northern Nut Growers Assn. in the Dakotas for nursery stock there. Peach trees and things like that, on the basis that if they were hardy in North Dakota, they would be here. So we planted those. We always had a garden.
You have different standards for your summer home than you do for your [winter home]. Our [summer] home had been gentrified but I was perfectly used to getting along with much less in the summer and thought nothing of it. It was certainly easy in the summer because you didn’t have to worry about the cold.
Oxford County United Parish had five churches then. They used to run summer programs. They were exciting! We had a one hundred and ten voice choir. That was something. The kids had vacation school for two weeks. They put on pageants and they did a Noah’s Ark pageant where Dick built a bow of the Ark on the front of the church. For two weeks people had to go up the gangplank to get to church. You can’t do that in the city! oh, that was exciting. It was good, the kids enjoyed that. I’m talking about Judy’s generation. This is fun for her because the kids she grew up with are still around. I mean one of them has moved up here [onto their road]. Sandra Hatch is the nurse over where mother is in Bridgton and so forth. Judy counts as a native because she was born here, you know, by accident.
Back to college …
I went to public high school the last two years, a matter of blocks from the College (Vassar) and was living in a faculty house. I was a day student and that of course is a whole other thing.
Dick feels that not having lived on campus, I missed out but what are you going to do? There’s the social thing. I went to my 50th high school reunion and some of us, four of us, went onto college from high school. I’m in contact with some of them [the above four].
tape turned off… came back talking about Mary’s stepfather’s death.
Poor dears, Jane was 15 yrs. old and Judy was 12 yrs. old when he died. This was before they knew about cholesterol and he had a heart attack when he was 50 yrs. old. I was out on my first teaching job. It was my second year. I finished up the semester and came home. Mother was there with the two kids.
Growth was terribly important to her [mother]. Where she is in the nursing home, the daycare room is right next to her room and the kids playground is right outside her window. Unfortunately, whether or not it’s Alzheimer’s, she’s pretty far out of it and I don’t know how much she notices that. One of the people who worked there had a three month old baby and so she goes and picks it up and nurses it and puts it back. Well she put that baby in mother’s arms in the wheelchair. I thought that was such a kindness. Poor women, she’s been widowed, if you count my father where he’s been gone awhile, she’s been widowed four times.
She came back from Wales and lived with my aunt out in St. Louis for as long as my aunt could manage and then Judy (Mary’s daughter) placed her in the Home for Creative Living. I forget the name of the women who runs that. She lay down with her shoes off once and my mother walked out the door into the middle of town. You know she needed more care. So she was out in Bolsters Hills before …
This has been an education. Same person inside, I have learned from her. You kiss her and she says “thank you” and smiles. She is very appreciative of everything that is done for her by the nurses. They think she is lovely. You know, some Alzheimer’s people, and this is one to the reasons you think maybe it isn’t, have a personality change, but she is still the psychologist in there and she sets us all a good example. Also, I think, I’m going next.
going back to when Mary and Dick first got married ….
I went back to school. Dick was in the military. It was a different feeling. People who were in the army then have a different feeling about the army. I mean, it may sound strange now, but they really felt that they had a call to go and do something about Hitler and that it was needed. Now, you go on and you go along and then here comes the atom bomb. I remember I was here in Maine. It was in August when we got the news of that. I still feel that I share in the guilt for using that. The other thing about it was it brought the boys home. It ended the war! Dick had been gone three years and three months. He was over in the European Theater. That was over and V.E. Day was passed and his outfit was sort of gathering itself to be sent to the Pacific. So there was that about it. All this and they dropped the atom bomb and he is home in the fall. So … you know, you can’t win.
I am pretty sure that, at the time, we knew perfectly well the devastation. I remember the feeling of horror about it at the time, even while it was, in my own life, a needed ending for the war. The blessing of it was that both of us were good letter writers. But he came back and he’d put on weight, because he was in France, eating in a French mess and the food was good. The first few weeks he was back, he kept saying”you know what I mean”. We went on a delayed honeymoon, we went South and then we got an apartment in New York. I got a job and he went back to school on the G.I.Bill, studying art. He had finished college, this wasn’t regular school, this was art school. It was the Art Students’ League.
Anyway, we were in New York for awhile there and so I was a whole semester at the Hartford School on a reverse commuting to New Jersey, Plainfield. N.J. Then Judy was on the way. She was supposed to be born in September, and we came up to Maine in our usual fashion after school let out. She wouldn’t wait. She was born here in Maine in August instead of waiting to go down and be born where I was born, same doctor, a relative.
I didn’t go back to work. This was very strange. This again was a different pattern. Dick got a job, he got a job teaching in New Canaan Country School and we got a house in New Canaan to live. So here I am with a first child and I don’t know whether I’m doing the right thing and nobody is grading me.
I didn’t have any problems with that [changing diapers etc.]. it’s just a question of raising the kid right. I think it’s your good old New England heritage that you do it by the numbers, properly… puritan conscience and all that. She was a good baby.
New Canaan was nice. I have good friends from New Canaan. I’m still in touch with them. My kids all went to the New Canaan schools. I mean we were there for years. I couldn’t tell you how long. My goodness, Judy was in high school when we left. We lived in three different places. We bought our own house at the point that Sarah was new, but we had rented before then.
I was named for my mother. Judy is named for my sister. Sarah is named for Judy’s sister. We call them Sarah Major and Sarah Minor. It does cause confusion.
I was home with them which was nice and we did all the things you do with kids: baby ducks, little kittens, a blue jay we raised from very small. If you are a faculty family, you have a common denominator there because a lot of them are obviously from educated families.
My stepfather was a writer and we’ve got various stories, you know, of people who were names in those days, friends of the family. So they come for supper or something and Tish and I are in the bathtub and we realize we are keeping a famous author from using the bathroom! The family was very important to mother. I never told you … alright she’s had Jane, she had her when we were living in New York, we moved out to Princeton and she’s teaching at Sarah Lawrence. It makes me tired just thinking about it. She’d get up and milk the cow with something tied over her head so she wouldn’t pick up any smell and she’d get on her commuter train.
The time when Judy (Mary’s sister) was due, she wanted to nurse that baby. Well, people do that now don’t they? She moved the whole family to Bronxville where Sarah Lawrence is for one year. So when I was in the 7th grade, I went to Yonkers No. 8. She had a nurse to look after the baby and she’d go teach a class and come home and nurse the baby and go back and teach another class. My sister was born the 15th of September; she was cutting it close. She, mother, was a person of great cool, she didn’t get excited and we grew up thinking, well, everyone does this.
Go back to Vassar education. This is an item that comes up these days. There was one education, it was a man’s education. If you got a man’s education you were thankful because it was a good education. Mother was changing that. She was teaching at the college level things that women needed to know: child stuff, child development, Gesell and Ilg and all that good stuff. They were around. The other thing about the people who I was growing up with, not just these writers but these psychologists and so forth. Lawrence Frank, I grew up with his kids, Margaret Mead was in and out. I saw her daughter when she was a baby. Intellectually, it was exciting but this was new and I didn’t take child study. I was an English major and took a lot of drama which was very important.
The thing that interested me in terms of how things have changed is the fact that, growing up the way I had. I firmly believe that the intellectual climate of when you were in college stays with you. At that point, the scientific method was considered basic, so now I find that experiments cannot be recreated. We have now a much more dynamic and more uncertain concept of how things work in nature. I had then the feeling, which is a nice feeling, that you could figure out anything…..
End of first interview….
What I have so far is education and upbringing. I had a church job and I was an administrative assistant. There were six hundred kids in the Sunday school and I was working with the minister and five other people who were in charge of different parts of the Sunday school. It was a great experience to work together. Having been an adult convert and being the person I am, I began to itch for the academic, the background, the history and the literature of the Bible and so on. So, I went to the Franklin School and I went to Union Theological Seminary and commuted from New Canaan. I took it piece by piece, one course at a time. Gradually, I worked up to what they had at the time, a masters degree in Religion jointly with Columbia University. Having been brought up outside of religion, I was interested in the place of religion in the general intellectual world. I was so glad to be able to get a good course in comparative religions at Columbia and the archeology of the Bible and stuff like that.
I felt very strange committing myself to joining the church because our family and their friends and so forth didn’t. Then you have your own kids and what to they do? I have one churchgoer out of three. Which is their privilege. You are suppose to give them their choice.
Anyway, Union was an exciting place to be at that time. Parenthetically, this is funny too, to be reading books on theology at this point, Black theology specifically, which say the work which was done at Union at that time was wrong to go back to find out what the Bible meant when it was written. What matters is what the bible will mean, NOW!
To me it is extremely valuable to have gone back and taken Hebrew and the whole bit. It was exciting.
After I finished most of my work there, we made the move from New Canaan to Ossining. We had a very happy twenty five years at Ossining, New York. This is “up the river with Jimmie Cagney”, Sing Sing Prison. When we first moved there, they sold postcard of the electric chair and when the lights blinked you said “Oh, there was an execution”. Dick and I both had jobs at the Scarborough School and all three kids went there. Now, this was hard on them and I’m telling you getting off to school in the morning and worse than that getting into the car to go home after school was a process! Judy went only two years and graduated. She graduated with distinction. Scarborough at that time was an intellectually gifted school. Out of twenty two kids in the graduating class, there were two merit scholarship winners and three runners up which was pretty good. Of course, it went down from there but still …
I was there for sixteen years. I started out teaching 5th and 6th grade English and Social Studies on a team teaching basis with somebody else doing the math and science. Dick was teaching art and he loved it. He had the kids from 2nd grade right up through high school.
There is an intellectual level (I hate to say this) among private school teachers that you don’t necessarily get in public schools. Dick decided when the kids got to be college age, it wasn’t safe, Scarborough was not doing too well, for us both to be on the payroll there. He was right because it went down. He went and worked elsewhere, but I stayed on and I worked up as it worked down to be head of the upper school and chairman of the Humanities Department. The nice thing about that was that I could write my own ticket. We had courses in, elective courses for juniors and seniors, that I could make up according to what I figured I could sell. Same as your Adult Ed., only in that case it sold better. So, I taught Comparative Religion and I taught Heros and Anti ‑ Heros and things like that.
So, Judy went to college. Sarah and Joe opted to go to public high school. I think with two parents on the faculty that was a good thing. It had large numbers and they were able to teach psychology, sociology and things like that which they enjoyed. Joe went on to college then Sarah went on to college. We found that the “empty nest” syndrome wasn’t all that bad.
Scarborough closed and I was out of work for a year. The first half of that year, I took the Literacy Volunteers Course and stood in line for unemployment which is an experience. Then I got a permanent substitute job to finish out the year. Second semester of that year at Pleasantville High School, I called “Unpleasantville” because it was hard to come in following a 25 yr. old male with curly hair and blue eyes. It was all my fault because he left you see (10th grade English, five classes of it). However ….
My poor mother slipped a disc and had to have a spinal fusion operation and I remember her sitting there in the hospital saying it was an experience. This comes to mind when I remember that semester at Pleasantville High School. That was an experience, an educational experience, in the sense that experience is something that you value. Yeah … so is natural childbirth, right!
I went down to Greenwich Village and looked at St. Lukes School which is two stories high and is on a block with little old brick houses. The church was built in 1822 and they have a playground. They have a garden and a brick wall enclosing the rest of the block. This is silly to go from relatively country surroundings in Ossining, we lived on Autobahn Drive, to look for something like that in New York, but you couldn’t resist it. I put six years in at St Lukes School which is an Episcopal school and the kids took communion Thursday mornings in line. This, of course for someone from a Congregational background was different and again the art and music were excellent.
The drama … I mean there was a high level of school sophistication. I was teaching, of all things, 6th grade social studies, history, ancient history. In the process, I wrote…Oh yes, it was part of their policy from the kindergarten up to do something in drama every year. So, I started out dramatizing some of the stories from ancient Babylonia and some of the Greek legends and then I wound up writing for the kids in the class, a part for each kid. Two different plays we put on, one on the Battle of Salamis, Greek, and the other one on Tuktunkamen. Tut as a kid and time travelers coming from St. Lukes School, it was very rewarding. Anyway, the music teacher who was an organist at one of the churches. I think in New Jersey, wrote music to go with the songs that I wrote for these plays and that was such a joy! So, I’ve written two since for the Waterford School. That’s been fun.
The people that I got to know there were awfully important to me. Of course, having been brought up in New York City, I felt at home and I never [had any trouble]. You’d see street people and feel sorry for them but Dick would not let me stay in past commuting time. It was strenuous to get on the seven o’clock train in the morning and you get home at seven o’clock in the evening. So after six year (I wasn’t getting any younger) I quit and looked for something else.
Oh, I left out something, while I was at Scarborough, they were taking in more and more kids with learning disabilities. They had someone who was doing work with students from the 6th grade down, but she was out straight, so to speak, and there was a need for some work with kids in the high school. Now, at that time, 1977ish, learning disability understanding did not extend much to the high school. I went and took three courses from Fordham graduate level at Marymount, so that I have sort of a basic grounding in learning disabilities. But, I learned most of what I could use for helping high school age kids, we had at Scarborough from going over to Scarsdale and looking at their program. You know, you use everything that you learn. So, the next job that I had, after I decided that six years commuting was enough, was at the Windward School in White Plains. This was a private school for learning disabled kids up through high school and I was there one and a half years and I learned a great deal. $10,000 per year for a dayschool! I enjoyed working with the kids. Of course, for someone of my academic leaning, the exciting thing was the able, disabled kid. Windward did an exemplary job up through the 8th grade. At the high school, I would say they were feeling their way.
I stopped at Windward at the end of the first semester of the 1986 ‑ 1987 year. Dick was figuring to retire. He was pushing seventy. I guess, he turned sixty ‑ nine that January. We had an accumulation of twenty‑five years in that house to sort out and we had to put the house on the market. It was a blessing to have that time to do what needed to be done. Of course, we brought a lot of boxes that still have not been sorted out …
That was a good time to sell the house. We sold it to some people who really wanted it and were happy with it which is a nice feeling. We packed up and we have pictures of the moving van which is as big as this house parked out here. We used the proceeds from the sale of the house in the first place to winterize. We put the furnace in and they told you to insulate first. This house is much more comfortable in the summer now, because it’s insulated, as well as the winter.
We moved here the first of July. This still follows the summer in Maine, winter elsewhere pattern. So, we were here for our first fall color and isn’t it something. We put in the garage, had a well drilled, and got started (I don’t remember whether it was that first semester or not) on the Adult Ed that we’ve been doing ever since. I have enjoyed volunteering at the Waterford School, also, what is now a five year association with the Foster family. Where as a Literacy Volunteer, I taught first Albert and then his wife and then their daughter, Candy. It’s been nice to have a long term association with them.
The first thing that comes to me when you use the word satisfaction is the contact with …. always there is another class of new bright young faces. This feeling of growth. I guess I get that from my mother. I have enjoyed so much working with people. At any time where you know the other people you’re working with, you say well do you see this with this kid in your class and you can begin to understand the students needs. Working off other people’s hunches has just been tremendously important to me. Of course the intellectual end of it …. as you were just saying it keeps changing. What the expectations are and the way you do it and the reasons for that and so forth. It never repeats.
Now, we have completed five years here and we’ve hit our 50th wedding anniversary which is exciting considering that we started off in the war and my 70th birthday, you know something with zero on it is murder.
We went down to New York a week ago. Dick’s college had a reunion and he wanted to see some art shows in New York, so we were gone for a week. I found that the pressure of traffic and noise and people and so forth was a pressure. I was glad to get back and I also realized that I don’t live there anymore. I live here and that was great. One of the things that’s been fun is to have friends here since I was a kid and there’s a lot going on. Aside from teaching there are quite a lot of church things.
Spirituality has a specialized meaning to me and I’m not using it in the same sense that you are. If religion is a question of values, I certainly had those, I’m here to tell you. This is something that I meant to mention in terms of my childhood. The Protestant work ethic is part of it, you know that, and the general sense of doing the right thing, doing your duty. What now without organized religion. I guess you’d call it humanism. Now, humanism also is variously defined: valuing the human being and growth. The issue used to be are you going to believe in this heaven stuff? Are you going to believe in this devil stuff. Now when you say spirituality… the theology of the obvious. I’ve mentioned. I’m not sure how to put this briefly because I haven’t pulled this together.
I go back to what was part of the statement of faith of the UCC which is the Congregational Church. Back when I was working in one (I don’t think the wording is in there anymore), the statement of faith said “God promises his presence in trial and in rejoicing” and this to me is basic.
The other part of this is the two cities. People brought up in the suburbs and not much in the way of problems that they can’t push into the background, can take the attitude that all is going to be alright. But life is not really like that. I mean if you take the attitude that if something breaks it should be fixed, when its wrong you’ll be pretty busy.
So, I talk about the second city, where you realize that there is trouble as well as good times and that God is present in both and your life takes on a certain depth. That’s why I call it the theology of the obvious, because we all know that. You look at any television and you see trouble, trouble, trouble. If you take the attitude that if God is good than there can not to starvation in Somalia, where are you? So, as I say, I’ve been working on that and then, as I say, I’ve got to pull this together or it gets buried with me. It’s what we call a deadline!
Again, the problem with being an adult convert is that you don’t fit comfortably into any particular way of thinking. The other thing that amuses me is you’re always making comparisons. You say this is good, this is bad, instead of trying to say both things exist and this is, according to the education I had, known as Persian Dualism. This is where the devil first appears in theology. The concept of twin gods being born, one a good god and one a bad god, is charming and the whole religion built from that was that you have got to put yourself on the side of the good god and resist the bad god. You can see what that has done. This is part of Christianity, but Judaism didn’t have that. The devil didn’t come into Judaism very early. They had the idea that when you died you went into a dark but not bad place. Your future was not in heaven, but in your generations that you came from and don’t we feel that way still?
My concept of heaven at this present time is that when you die, time stops and you see everything eternally, as a whole. You don’t have to worry about how you’re going to spend your time in heaven and as I say from creation time started.
talking about life’s joy….
I can tell you of course the children and I can tell you getting married. I was reading out of my journal from back then, Dick having gone overseas and I had a copy of a poem I had sent him. I also had a copy of a letter that was suppose to be from an anonymous flame, “I don’t want your wife to know that I love you, but I do”. I was reading this to him and he was … he took comfort from it. He had just been to the doctors. It made me realize that granted that if I didn’t hear from him for a couple of weeks, it was scary and there was the war on, but it was a happy thing to be married. Going into teaching was the right thing for me and I’ve got tremendous satisfaction out of it. Living in the country, these chickadees and these chickens. Oh, what amuses my husband is that I have a passion for tiny little wildflowers. I am thankful that I have had my health and that I have lived for as long as a have.