Death of a Blythe Spirit
February 25, 1934
Dearest little "villain",
Your "refined form of punishment" found me in bed at eleven o'clock this morning (yesterday), and after great effort I managed to translate a duckling's tale of pampered existence. I missed you, too, especially at night. But I kept so busy that little time remained for pleasurable self-torture; what with Latin, book reports, preparation for a history test, a few compositions, mathematics, and physics every moment was occupied. But when light was extinguished and books put away the mind and spirit was free to work its will. When irritations piled up to the breaking point I missed your soothing spirit so. To be free from all this, with our own home and our own life, to go on to new things, free of all retroactive restraints, that is the goal.
Your interpretation of "Brutus" seems a clever one. Reincarnation is such a pleasant philosophy. Barrie may have had some such idea in mind, although I felt he meant to say that it was futile to excuse our errors and shortcomings by holding fate responsible, because our innate constructions governed our choice of the paths. Who was Lot? I felt he was the spirit of the woods, the Greek and Roman conception of nature.
Sunlight is beautiful and protective. How delightful it would be could we two lie so in the quiet of a sunlit morning. Then could we face life with zest [and] pleasure, and solve our problems together as they arose.
You guessed it, Wednesday we played cards. I did want you so, but it would have been anti-climactical after Tuesday's leave taking.
Frieda dear, your idea of cooperation is a splendid one; you could be of immense help, as an editor, a critic, a proof reader of notes. It would be a tough job, probably boring, but it might have its interesting aspects, too. Competition, exchange of ideas, comparative interpretation, all contribute to a heightening of interest and of the bonds of association.,
Little villain, I ought not to confess this, but at times the physical longing for you becomes almost overpowering, a positive ache. Do you feel the same sort of thing? It's dangerous. Do let me know how you feel about it and whether you feel the same sort of emotion.
All afternoon I was making notes on the 135 pages of history text, while the Metropolitan was giving Taunhouser. It formed a beautiful background.
Last night the Portland Symphony Orchestral Concert was broadcast. They played Beethoven's Eighth Symphony and Swetova's Tone-poem "Moldaw." The 8th Symphony seems to be the thoughts of a man first railing against man's futility, then taking refuge and pleasure in some simple things, finally the expression of the ideas of progress by progressive small steps over long periods of time. Probably Beethoven had no clear idea of this, but certainly he had some sort of musical picture analogous to it.
Friday night I went to the Chess Club and met a fellow who plays on the Mt. Vernon N.S. team; because I beat him a few times, he wants me to join the team.
How do you like the stationary? It came by way of mother from Albert, and so on ad infinitum. [the stationary is that of a French business, THE H. B. CLAFLIN COMPANY with offices in New York, Nottingham, and Paris; this paper says 46 Rue des Petites-Ecuries, Paris. Albert, Dad's younger brother, should have been a teenager at this time. Maybe he worked there?]
Keep your chin up and your nose clean. Life in a small town has it all over the "Big City."
With love, Nemesis
Hope springs eternal in the human breast, so "carry on".
[Early in the year Mother went to stay with her Aunt Rose in Long Island, and so the young love birds communicated by letter. The following letter gives a hint of the family disapproval engendered by their "keeping company."]
March 5, 1934
Dear little girl,
If I gave you cause for anger, I'm sorry; it was unintentional. You were here Thursday, and I expected to go down there Sunday, so I didn't write. It seemed so much better to say it.
Everyone is angry at everyone else. Such a state of affairs! And of course you're the goal. Sis says you intend to stay down there; it seems to be a good idea. A permanent change of environment with some one to give you a little affection is just what you need. It is a darned shame that you should be the object of everyone's ill humor.
Sis is up in arms against [you]; she'll probably tell you all about it herself. All in all, it's a mess; you're the only bright spot in the whole mess. And for the love of heaven, if you get a job stay. We'll be able to meet somehow, and you'll be happy. At home there'll only be hell and more of it, because your mother will be bound to find out sooner or later, with what consequences you can imagine. So far as I can see, no one thinks of ought else but himself. You'd be an ass to walk right back into it.
Wasn't it great today/ A touch of spring, giving promise of better days to come. Perhaps better days all round. I'll bet its beautiful down there, where you can see trees and fields and get away from the noise and bustle of city life. The sun does make the world bright, for it brings warmth and cheer, the promise of future good.
This is a deuced of a letter, but I feel stupid and helpless. Now it's your turn to struggle with cryptograms.
Let me know the final outcome of the tangle. It is so very evidently the result of selfishness all around that you should not consider anyone except yourself and your own interests.
If I were to say I felt sorry for you, you'd be angry, so I'll say you deserve better-in fact, the best. It is things like these that drive me to distraction-not for an instant would I tolerate any of it, but unfortunately I have nothing to do or say in the matter. This much, however, is appropriate; such things shall never form any part of our lives-they are destructive in themselves and lead only to baseness. How people can live with so little regard for the affairs and feelings of others is beyond my understanding.
So we drift along on life's slow tide, going we know not whither, and unable to change either direction or speed. But when the day comes wherein is given us control over our own destinies, then shall we be the more able to intelligently direct our ship, in that we saw so many wrecks and were for so long free to think instead of merely acting.
Don't do as I do, do as I say; keep the chin up, the eyes dry, (also the nose) and courage to all. So 'till next time.
Don't be angry with me, you know I wouldn't add to your troubles. Soon the tide will turn, and then alone we can face it all and know we are free and dependent upon one.
And after every meeting I realize our relationship more, we become more intimate all the time, we know we're part of each other and need each other. There's always a new phase [coming up another individual] trend of thought. After every meeting we know each other better.
The next few entries in Mother's diary make it clear that even during their courtship Father was, if not downright abusive, at least terribly selfish, rude, unkind, and spoiled. As a matter of fact, Mother had told us that he beat up his own mother!! And that she had told Kate. (Poor Kate! What mother wouldn't have an absolute FIT if her daughter was desperately in love with someone who battered his own mother?) Mother, of course, was making the time-honored mistake women have been making forever: it would be different with her, she would change him with her love. And if I had been Kate, I wouldn't have been content to send her to Long Island. Probably Timbuktu would have been too close. After all, wise Kate, cognizant of Father's maternal abuse, would no doubt have accurately concluded that spousal abuse would be just around the corner. In the next entry Mother shows a remarkable perception of her lover's character and also reveals her own blithe spirit.
March 10, rough draft of a letter.
You've lost patience and interest in me because I don't as yet measure up to the ideal you've set up in your mind. What happened to your affection for me is the same as with any other interest in your life. You throw yourself with all the abandonment of which you're capable [as a hobby] and burn the fires of your enthusiasm too high, the natural conclusion it burns out in a short time and leaves you nothing. Look back and try to prove me wrong, everything you ever tackled you were fire and [flame] for and then lost interest because it became stale to your [intimate] taste. You strive for an ideal land try to mold things to your utopian state of perfection. But you forget that I as other, am a mere mortal with ideas and ideals of my own, and with all the shortcomings and fumbling efforts of a mortal. You want me to put Beauty into everyday life. [Siamted] so do I. I want to be a lady by action manor and speech, but poise and culture must be acquired and I am still [untamed]. All my life I [tasted] freedom and the restraints of civilization are still a burden to me. You can't take a colt off the meadow and expect it, by putting a saddle on it to trot as majestically as a parade horse. I have tried and always will try [that promise] was made to me long ago, and you lack the patience and I of love to see that. You won't credit me for what I did do only [disgusting] with what I should have done. You've gathered your moldy philosophy from books, but I want to take my lesson from life. [St. Thomas] may be all right, but since the last book was written, time has marched on. We live to better our condition, we live that the next generation may be a step upward. If that is so, why should I be compelled to adjust myself to the standard set my men of a decade or so ago. Time doesn't wait for the laggard or the bookworm or the dreamer. Life is but for a moment.
To say I was cut to the core, though what he said was putting it mildly. But I'll give him time and myself time to think it over. I'll settle it once and for all. He'll have the choice of his ideals or myself-as is. I'm willing to listen to entreaties if it's justified, but he has no right to hurt my feelings as he did. My appearance, indeed!
Before I learned about battered women, I assumed there was some deficiency in Mother, some psychological wound, some neurosis that caused her to exhibit such apparent lack of self-respect. I would read her professions of love and get incredibly angry. What's WRONG with this woman, how could she have been so STUPID to have put herself into that position?
My daughter Gina taught me that whether or not there was something wrong with my mother, there was definitely something wrong with me. After reading one particularly galling paragraph wherein Mother more or less begged God to let her serve Father, I--incensed!--looked to my daughter to provide some reassurance that the next generation (post-women's lib) wasn't so gullible and stupid. Deliberately not sharing my feelings about the paragraph, I asked Gina to read it and tell me what she thought of it. So what did my daughter think of my Mother's mush? Regina-this innocent 13 year old flower of femininity, this A student, this class president, this credit card holding pride of the libbers--said she thought it was "very sweet, very loving; they're obviously very much in love."
The literature on adult children of alcoholics (ACA) constantly notes that growing up in such a dysfunctional home a child learns to "don't talk, don't feel, don't trust". I suddenly knew why I could never remember the third symptom of ACAs. Clearly, to totally give one's self to another requires a willingness to make one's self vulnerable, to TRUST that the lover will not take advantage. Clearly, I was unable to trust, I was so jaded that I saw my Mother's love as stupid and masochistic.
On the other hand, surely it wasn’t healthy of my mother to be attracted to someone who wanted to make her over into his image of perfection? As a matter of fact, as I ponder these letters and diaries that I have so often read, I am struck with the fact that she never says anything about what Father loved about her. I recall in the 50s he touted her cooking, but otherwise all he ever did, and all she ever noted, was his criticisms. My gut feeling is that there was something neurotic in her attachment, something neurotic in her slavish devotion. As you read this, decide if you agree with me: Mother’s father ignored her, didn’t take care of her, didn’t treasure her; and I think her grown-up “script” required the same from her lover, possibly so she could, with superhuman effort, change the ending.
I can't account for that thrill of pride. My intuition tells me that I shall be proud of him some day. That will be my reward and the justification of my faith in him.
But I simply must keep my head. I mustn't forget we're skating on very thin ice. But I'm so much in love. I take his attentions more or less as part of it. I oughtn't to permit it, but I ache for his caresses. I love him, love him. For the first time I really love.
Are we closer to each other than we were a month ago? I dare say we couldn't be much closer, I don't doubt his love anymore, I know he's mine, body and soul. And I also know that I'm his, alas!, for the asking!
I was furious and there was a battle royal. It all came out after all. So now she knows, now what?
Alas for those who having tasted once
One week passed, what a relief. Wished the other three passed as quickly.
It was sweet, we had coffee in the kitchen by ourselves and I could almost imagine our own home. Oh when is that to be, I wonder.
"When my lover calls, I go
Shame it were to treat him coldly!
I'm not sorry though, and not ashamed. I'm frank enough to admit that I'm thrilled to the core at his touch, but too much is too much.
I'm pretty cynical now, but I was quite unstrung then, talk about standing him on his ear--he stood me on my head. And yet; I could had I wanted to, let the whole stream of passion and emotions race over me, without so much as rippling my composure. But I hesitated, and lost.
I say I'd adore going into the wilds with him. That dream hasn't left me all day! that would be just the thing.
I'd be contrary though!
No matter what I wear [or do], it's the same--no recognition. A compliment as rare as silver dollars in Alaska and-- oh what's the use; I'm weary tonight, weary onto death.
[page ripped out!!]
That was close, damn close, but I can't feel different about it, I just can't. It goes against my grain, against my intuition. I must blame myself though. I shouldn't have lead him on, that I know, is wrong, and in that and that alone I'm guilty. I could think of no greater joy than to belong to him. I know my heart and my soul go out to him, every fiber in my aches for him, and I'm so troubled about it. There is so much to learn, so much to know.
It is worth fighting for. My heart is so full, so full of love and something else that I can't possibly name, a feeling that I never can put into words, it reaches up and [chokes] me, such an immense sense of happiness. I can only put my hand [around] his face and look and look, while my heart whispers, "Dear to me, so dear to me. If
May 11 .
That's a tip now, the next time I'll know what to do, here's hoping I'll have the mean[s] all the time.
He was dear, just dear; and I'm SO contented.. He is all I want, no more, no less, I want to be his happiness and his ideal, his alpha and omega. I want him to always be so passionately in love with me, to stir him emotionally! be able to keep the fires high and bright. Anything' else is immaterial! Only the love between us counts, if I [can keep] that, keep his love and mine intact, why, I'll ask no more of life. I can bear anything then. Anything!
Ah, the best laid plans! It’s easy to say you’ll wait a year—until the blood runs hot! If I had been Adelaide, I wouldn’t have been content when Freide Raab went to Long Island; I would have hocked everything I owned and bought her a one-way ticket to Timbuktu! Imagine! Even today it practically takes a public fundraiser to ensure that a brilliant but poor young man can get a college education; in 1934 a ghetto family probably had to make a lot of sacrifices to get the best and brightest to the physics lab.
And on top of all that his father in the hospital with the prospect of losing his job .
Poor poor dear Mrs. C it's a wonder she has kept going as she did. Now it seems she has reached the limit of endurance and patience, if I could only help.
Oh merciful heaven, what a muddle, the more I think about it, the more my much made of optimism falters.
Your troubles are my troubles, your enemies my enemies, your God my God, till death us do part.
May 31 [in German]
I love him so, oh he is so very dear to me if I could only help, but everything I try is not exactly right for long.
Ashamed, glad. I don't know.
Shall I be [envy],
We had such a glorious filled day, a kaleidoscope of good times, must it needs culminate in that. No, on second thought I thought nothing unusual of it, it's only natural and I know it. I would not avoid it if I could, but I will not overstep my limit. I will and cannot cross that line. Under certain circumstances I would, of that I am sure, but not like that no, not like that.
And I do have limits, that love is greater than if it's beyond me. I can no more control my love for him than I can the tides.
[letter from J to F inserted in diary]
Tuesday. June 26. 1934. 4:45 P.M.
Dear little "Fuzzy Muzzy", I love you---. My own darling "villain", these feelings simply well up. Until I feel I must speak to you or burst. Nothing to say except that you're the world and all that's in it, the raison d'etre. When we're apart I feel so incomplete, as if the best part of me were gone. The whole of life sums up in the dearest word, Elfrieda. Swirling eddies and undercurrents of emotional stimuli sweep about and thru my mind constantly, little understood but oh, so intense, sweeping all before them, leaving but the single comprehension the overwhelming desire for you, darling monkey.
[letter from J to F inserted in diary]
Saturday, June :*1, 5:45 P .1.
Light of love, the thrill your presence, your nearness of which you wrote---it's always there, often as now I feel as if you were next to me, and I turn, you're not, but I close my eyes and see you smiling at me with that roguish face. I love you--words aren't adequate to express such thoughts, to convey the violence and depth of feeling that simply wells up and flows out to you . I love, dearest, the world is yours, say but the word and you can whatever your heart desires. It may take some time, but my life is for your service.
9:00--Gosh, how I long just to see you, another necessity.
11 PM. How are you love? Darling. You've. inspired as nothing ever began to: you're a dream come true, a living ideal. Take all thoughts recorded in the music of Wagner, Beethoven, Schubert, and Tchaikovsky, and all the popular songs, then you may have some idea of all that I'm trying to convey.
[letter from F to J inserted in diary]
I went to bed but do you think I can close my eyes! I'm all aquiver with happiness and contentment, you may be gone but the thrill of your presence is still with me. I love, you, love you, I can see the day coming up from my window and in the tree outside that birds are still chirping a mile a minute. I stretch out my arms, dearest, and I still feel your nearness. What price 1ove!!!! I'm. so immeasurably happy, so gloriously alive, thanks to you, for it is true what you said, you opened the door to my heart, and now with the barrier down, the wealth of my love and tenderness is just rushing forth. All for you, heart of my heart, my thoughts are with you and for you forever and ever.
Darling, I'm counting the minutes, I wish I could call out to you "Come to me, I'm waiting."
Do I love you too much?
[series of notes from J to F stuck in diary]
Dear "old" fuzzy-wuzzy, the radio is squawking out popular tunes, and I'm actually listening--something about an angel, and love, etc.
As they play "The [rumping thumping] beat of my heart," mine crashes out its message of love with such intensity that it becomes almost anguish. But such a delicious ache!
Thoughts ramble thru my mind--the house, figurines, furniture, problems, life--in fact, everything that remotely concerns us both.
You're a strange creature, a human kaleidoscope.
10:55 Chant of the jungle-out in the wilds, alone with nature, having ourselves alone to deal with, nothing to part us.
Light of love, my thoughts are yours and of you always; my life and all my work is yours.
For the past few hours I've been singing the popular songs, to you, my love, my life.
Dear little "fuzzy-wuzzy" it's hot as the devil and everyone looks uncomfortable.
Any kind of work would be easy when it was done for you. One may feel tired, hot, sleepy, dead; suddenly your picture enters, and lo, all is bright and fresh.
Light of love, tomorrow comes, and for us "der tog." Foolish? Of course we are, but nothing ventured, nothing gained. Obstacles shall be but rungs in our ladder of progress.
9:45 Sick or well, hot or cold, heartbreaking or easy, I'll get you what you should, old "Fuzzy-Wuzzy."
Lil' Hottentot, I've just been thinking how pleasant it is to plan your life for you. They say man proposes and woman disposes but such idle whims form no part of your nature (if so, you keep them well hidden).
Page last updated on 05/17/2007
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