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Capacity audience attends Lindbergh program

by Mary Lib Hoinkes

A standing-room-only crowd greeted Reeve Lindbergh, youngest daughter of Charles and Anne Morrow Lindbergh, on Tuesday, May 22, at the Deltaville Library.
The more than 75 who turned out to hear Reeve speak about her family and her latest book, “Against the Wind,” were treated to a wonderful glimpse into the amazing accomplishments and insights of Anne Morrow, herself a pioneer in aviation as well as a renowned author. In addition, as the audience learned, Anne Morrow was an amazing diarist and letter writer, and a remarkable wife and mother.

In introducing Reeve Lindbergh, Jane Cutler, who described herself as a “Lover of Libraries,” said that when she and her husband moved to Bland Point a few years ago and “met” the Deltaville Library, her first thought was that she had to get her friend Reeve to come to Deltaville.  When Reeve came to Deltaville and Bland Point, she told the Cutlers that their site was remarkably like her home on Long Island. Following her talk, as Reeve was signing books and talking about her current book tour, Jane remarked that she thought it sounded quite nice to describe the tour as Los Angeles, Deltaville, Washington and New York.

Talking about the relationship between her father and mother, Reeve Lindbergh described the family as a devoted unit, the five children being accustomed to long absences by their father, and boisterous reunions, upon which he would “interview” them with lists of subjects to be discussed. Reeve said that looking across his desk (and reading upside down) at his list for her, if she saw something like “Skates left outside,” she could count on a fairly short discussion. On the other hand, if the item on the list was “freedom and responsibility,” she knew she was in for a prolonged discussion.

One of the most interesting things the audience learned about Anne Morrow’s letters and journals was that she made two carbon copies of every letter she wrote. The original for the recipient of a letter (often her husband), a copy for herself, and a copy to be included in an archive, now maintained at Yale. Hearing this made one so very aware of what an incredible distinction there was between being a Lindbergh, whose name had been splashed across every newspaper in the nation, and a person who was not notorious.  Reeve mentioned that when the family traveled, they assumed a false name. She said that as a little girl she fell while skiing, and when some helpful soul asked her what her name was, she responded, “I don’t remember.” She said that they never had a listed phone number and that every evening when the family went to bed, her mother drew the curtains at every window.

When asked whether as a child she had been aware of the kidnapping, whether it was something discussed or dwelt upon, Reeve said her parents did all they could to put the sorrow behind them and move on. In describing this, Reeve, who herself lost a child at an early age, recounted an incident when someone mentioned the death of her child in front of her second son Benjamin, at that time very young, saying something to Reeve along the lines of, “Don’t you miss your son” to which her son Benjamin announced, “But she has me!” It was this “get on with life” aspect that Reeve said she felt all through her growing up, and she read from a letter that her mother wrote, telling her that when a child dies, you die too, but that then, after a time, you are reborn.

Reeve Lindbergh was asked whether she thought her mother was aware of the other women in her husband’s life. She answered that she had talked about this with an aunt, who allowed as how she thought Anne Morrow probably did, but chose not to do anything about it. While not aware of this as a child, in later life Reeve herself has located several of these women and made friends with them and the children to whom she is related.

In talking about her own writing (she is the author of more than 20 children’s books), Reeve commented that as a teacher she had been struck by the fact that children, when learning to read, are intrigued by rhyme and humor.  Her book “The Hippie Grandmother” includes “I have a hippie Grandmother, I am glad she’s mine, she hasn’t cut her hair, since nineteen sixty nine.”

Reeve recounted that when her father Charles was diagnosed with lymphoma and given not long to live, he announced that he wanted to die in Maui, where he and Anne Morrow had built a house.  At first the hospital refused to release him, but after the intervention of a doctor who said he would assume responsibility, Charles was released. He traveled to Maui on a stretcher and moved into the guesthouse of a friend. He then wrote his own funeral service, and a number of his friends set about digging his grave. He monitored their progress. Reeve said he died happy and there was a good celebration.

A few years after his death, Anne Morrow gave a talk at the Cosmopolitan Club in New York describing life as a kind of musical chairs—one does things, and then things get moved around and one starts over.  She also referred to perfectionism as a waste of time. And she advised one to have “the courage of one’s peculiarities.”

When Reeve was asked whether there were any surprises in her mother’s letters and journals, she said that she was indeed surprised by the showing of deference to her father. Her mother described herself at one point as “a page to his knight.” But Reeve went on to describe her mother’s life as a real evolution, with her mother gaining strength as she went. She had difficult times, including going through analysis in the 50s about which she destroyed all material. She also suffered periods of jealousy, not of Charles’ behavior, but of his book. One of the many memorable statements found in her journals was the definition of jealousy as “the unlived life in you.”

Many thanks to Jane Cutler and the Friends of the Library for bringing Reeve Lindbergh to Deltaville, and providing a remarkable glimpse into this part of our history.

posted 05.23.2012

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