Wednesday, October 15, 2008

It's Time To Pass It On - A Story of a Book

Many of you have sent me memes to do on past jobs and the like. I have to be very honest that some of those jobs are (or were) classified jobs I did while an investigator for the military and I cannot disclose them in any form or fashion. But I can tell you of a book that came to be in my possession - one who needs to be passed on to my daughter and soon-to-be grandchild for safe keeping. It's worn and tattered from all the moves its had to endure since it was printed, but is still a treasure. For me, the memories behind the book are even more priceless...

In the late 50s, our family lived in Poughkeepsie, New York. Dad was a marketing manager so every few years he'd come home with a map under his arm cluing us in that we were moving. He'd either be transferred or get itchy feet to move. Heck, even his Irish Setter was so used to moving she'd go sit in the backseat of Mom's car whenever she saw a moving truck. So we were all well trained.
My mother had been an executive secretary in the 40s. She was the Executive Secretary to the President of Corn Products (ARGO now) when she met Dad as a Navy boot in Chicago. Still wanting to keep busy, Mom and Dad had installed a huge, heavy solid wooden desk in the basement right next to the shelves of canned green beans and pickles from the garden.On the desk sat a typewriter that, I swear, must've been as big as the desk and as heavy. When you hit the keys it never moved as if it had been bolted to the place of honor where it sat, ready for my mother's adept hands to bring it to life once more.
Around '58 or '59, Mom started working for two women who were writing a special book. She would pick up their copies of the manuscript and edit them, retype them, then take them back for their perusal. In between I remember boxes and boxes of envelopes coming and going as well. We knew that when Mom was in the Dungeon, we should not bother her in fear of our lives much in the same way we didn't disturb Dad when he was down there reloading shotgun shells.
On some Saturdays I actually got to ride with Mom over to one of the women's houses. It was on a huge piece of land along the banks of the Hudson river. I loved going, but was always reminded to behave myself. Best manners. She would even tell me to be quiet in Swedish, so I knew full-well this was serious business.
In the large house was an elderly woman in a wheelchair. She would smile at me and say hello. I'd look at Mom as if asking for permission to open my mouth to return the greeting. "Hello.", I would say. The old woman would tell me that I was welcome to wait in her garden in which there was a beautiful wrought iron table and chairs surrounded by beautiful flowers with green expanses of manicured lawn beyond. It was nice, but what I really wanted was to explore all the other places I saw, especially the barn.
My mother knew my penchant for barns. She knew if allowed I'd be so outta there and lost for hours. But on one visit I was told by the old woman that yes, I was very welcome to visit the barn, but the horses were gone and to be careful and listen for when my mother called me. You'd think she'd given me keys to Heaven. I was off like a shot with my mother's words to "Be careful!" ringing in my ears.
And so it went until the book was published. The younger woman authoring the book, closer to my parents' ages, would come over to our house or we would go to theirs, the grown-ups having drinks while we kids were doing our own kid-things. Then it came. It was a copy of the book! My mother showed it to me with the greatest of care, turning the front cover until it revealed the signatures of the books two authors. Both had signed the book for my mother, the younger author writing a note in which she mentioned my brother and I, even if she did spell my name wrong. The older woman had just signed her name. That was in 1960.
Occasionally, we would hear from the younger author and her family but I missed the kindly old woman in the wheelchair who allowed me the joy of exploring her beautiful gardens and stables. I have fond memories of my explorations including gazing out over the Hudson River Valley full of trees, the river with all its boats and way off to the other side of Upstate New York and beyond. It was magnificent. And so was the kindly woman encouraging the explorations of a child.

I still have the book the old woman in the wheelchair handed to my mother. I remember her thanking my mother for all the work she had done in helping this book become a small reality. It was a small work but highlighted some of the woman's work. The Old Woman in the Wheelchair died a couple of years after the book was published. And I found out she left some pretty big shoes to fill.

The Woman in the Wheelchair was none other than....



Eleanor Roosevelt
and the estate, Hyde Park


>

The Treasure has been in my possession long enough. It's time for my daughter to become its Caretaker...and to share it with her child when the time is right.

16 comments:

Kara said...

What an amazing story! Thanks for sharing.

Wrensong Farm said...

I was so enjoying the story, imagining you exploring a beautiful place and the wonderful people you had met....but then WOW!!! Eleanor Roosevelt!!! What a wonderful memory! Thank you SO much for sharing.

Sharon said...

I have goosebumps on my scalp. Eleanor Roosevelt is one of my heroes and when I named my car after her, I joked that she wasn't much to look at but she could rise to any occasion, I meant it from greatest respect. I always knit from handspun, but I purchased the sock yarn I'm swatching only because it's color pathway is named for her. There was no spin with her - she was the real deal. Oh, how rich a memory you have.

Tammy said...

Wow... that is so awesome. What a wonderful memory and a wonderful treasure to keep the memories alive. Thanks so much for sharing this with us Kathy. It sounds like you had a pretty interesting child hood... maybe YOU should write a book!
Tammy

Mim said...

Wonderful story Kathy thanks.

Nancy K. said...

How awesome!!!

Pamela said...

What a FANTASTIC story! And so well told, too!

(there's all sorts of clever things I want to say to express how amazing it all was, but I'm totally speechless!)

WOW! That's all, just WOWOWOWOW!

melanie said...

That's a great story...I had the funniest feeling I knew who the woman was...maybe because I am familiar with downstate and who our "celebrities" might have been, maybe because I just...felt it in your telling. Either way, I loved the post.

~~Sittin.n.Spinnin said...

That was awesome!

~~Sittin.n.Spinnin said...

ps. ...do you know how hard it was not to scroll down???

Tina T-P said...

Oh, what a wonderful story. I trust that is one baby present you'll be delivering in person. T.

Cheryle Hoover Davis said...

An amazing story, written so well! You certainly do have a treasure and many fond memories to go with it!

Michelle at Boulderneigh said...

Like everyone else (except knowing Melanie), I was taken in by your extremely well-told story, then blown away by your "punch line"! I've been telling all my family members your story; I think it is just so incredible!

Kelly said...

I swear I've heard this story before...but it's been a long time. I did have an inkling when you first mentioned the woman in the wheelchair.

Wow, look how many comments you're getting on your entries! :)

I'm looking forward to reading this book someday soon. Thanks, Mom.

Kathy said...

Thak you all for your kind remarks! :)

And Kel, I wondered if you would even remember the story behind the tattered book in the bookshelf. I guess you do listen to your mum. :)

Leigh said...

Not only is the book a treasure, but the story to go along with it is too!