Friday, February 2, 2007

Aunt Nellie's Round Robin letter, and DSC's sense of inadequacy

April 8, 1967


Dear Ahvagene, Wilna, Mary, Virginia and Elizabeth,

You'd better ask someone to get the smelling salts when you get this
letter. Ha Ha. Well, well, well. This is a beautiful day. The sun is
pouring in the living room making our golden flowers that Burton and Carol
Crandall gave us for our 25th wedding anniversary dazzling. Mandy is
spending the afternoon experimenting with hairdos. I have shortened Wyn's
evening dress for Mandy to wear to the candlelight ball tonight - a dance at
the Hornell high school put on by the Horizon Club of the Campfire Girls.
Wyn is off somewhere in the star covered VW. Bill is working in the yard.
I have some great music on the Rochester "good music" station. I think it
is a Charles Ives composition. As Mary says, "The facts of being born and
growing and thinking are more wonderful than all the dogmas in the world."

Right now our church is in somewhat of a turmoil, but I think it is all to
the good if it doesn't kill David and Fran. I have come to admire and
respect them more all the time. I wish David had more confidence in
himself. I do think he has courage and wants so much to be of service! It'
s sad when someone wants so much to improve a situation - and to be of
service to others who do not want help or do not see that they might need to
change their point of view. It's human nature, of course, to resent
criticism or even a suspicion of criticism when one has been a pillar of the
church, particularly for years. It's a long story but I will tell part of
it. The young people (high school) had charge of the service last week. It
was completely their own. The music was guitar (electric) and folk songs,
readings from "The Prophet", a dance to the Lord's Prayer and talks which
questioned tradition, Bible interpretations, having grape juice instead of
wine at communion, the 10 commandments, and one boy said, "We do not want
you to answer these questions. We want to find out for ourselves." I
guarantee everyone was alert at that service. No one went to sleep, in fact
two people got up and walked out. Kenneth Kenyon and George Place told
David they were disgusted etc. One of the complications is the fact that a
Mr. and Mrs. Toland who came here two years ago and almost immediately
joined our church are very unpopular and they are sponsors of this group.
Mr. Toland is a lawyer. No one really knows why they came here. He has
many plans for this town - gets into everything, and people are suspicious
of his motives - not just the church people but many people whose opinions I
respect. His personality is definitely against him. He is constantly
pushing himself and reminding everyone of his worth. There have been
examples of his using people to his own advantage. I guess, now that I
think of it, they are all hearsay, and I can't be definite about this.
Mrs. Toland has done some interesting things with the young people and they
like her - and put up with him. Now their daughter and son-in-law, who own
a coffee shop here and made a big point of wanting a "clean place for the
students where there would be no liquor", have applied for a liquor license
so they can sell beer. David is inclined to take up for the Tolands,
sighting the many good things they have done for the community ( and they
have, such as being instrumental in getting another doctor here) and he will
not come out definitely against the beer. The young people do have some
church people seriously questioning their beliefs, and I think this is
great. The Snyder men for instance - Ken S. borrowed one of the children's
talks so he could think about how he would answer the questions in them, and
David has arranged for a discussion time next Sat afternoon as a result of
this.

I think the center of a small town is likely to be not the home or the
church but the community, and it's fascinating. The children feel this also.
We're fortunate that this town is made up of a variety of people, and I like
being with various groups: the international club, the church, our great dec
isions group, the party group, the artists, etc. Surprising as it may seem,
there is more variety here for us than in Bala Cynwyd. - at least that we
are really a part of.

It's interesting to me that the four boys who went off to private school
(George School - Quaker) at the 8th or 9th grade with the good possibility
of going on to an Ivy League College are all home again in Alfred. Tom
Randall spent one year at Syracuse, did all right but much to the surprise
of his parents, didn't want to go back and is in the design course here.
Ted Randall is doing well at Alfred Tech after floundering around here and
there. (I know their mother had dreams of Yale for both of them -that's
where their father went.) Mark Sibley started out in Weslian and is now
here in liberal arts. Rob Turner was in his second year at Swarthmore and
came home last week and announced he wasn't going back.

I find having an 18 year old at home or anywhere is difficult. This has
been a difficult year for Wyn. One should accept one's child as she is at
this point I expect and not try to change her, push her, look at her
anxiously. I feel guilty; she feels guilty; Bill feels guilty! Ugh! Here
is the adult that you brought up. She is no longer an extension of you; she
is an individual. Can parents ever accept their children that way - as
individuals with faults, strengths, weaknesses like every one else without
taking blame for the faults and feeling guilty. It's a dilemma because
guilt is a damaging thing. At a dinner party the other night a mother was
proudly telling about how her son got into Annapolis on his own initiative -
making contact with Senator Javitts etc. She had told us earlier that she
and her husband knew how to bring up children - one reason being she had
taught school for a number of years, and her methods courses had been
tremendously helpful. I thought she was stupid, and yet I bet that
confidence she has is instilled in that boy; he feels lucky he has such
confident parents, and he is ready to face the world. When you can stand
away and look at life, it's a riot.

Your letters are wonderful. Jim's poem struck me - he can stand away and
look at the army with all its inconsistencies. Bill said the motto of the
armed services is "Hurry up and wait." Hurry up to get ready to pull out
for instance, and then wait.

Mandy came home with a poor report card. Cheerleading, boys, telephone
calls, figuring our girlfriends' problems have taken precedence over all.
She has made rules for herself like no telephone calls after 6:00. It's
going to be hard. Her aptitudes in tests she took showed highest in art and
persuasives. And she has almost persuaded me she can stick to those rules.
She is interested in human relations - history, peoples' problems - and is
sensitive to feelings of others. She speaks well and does very well orally
in school but she can't write! Her spelling is atrocious!

Bill is too busy. He is president of the national arts teachers assn. -
something like that - teachers of pottery in universities. Anyway their
meeting is next week in Michigan. And he is looking forward to it because
all the work will be done then, and he likes the other men and knows most of
them well.

I have much more to say - can you believe it?

Must go.
Love,
Nellie

1 comment:

shermaniac said...

doug,
thanks so much for posting this. i had read it a long time ago but didn't remember it well. the openness of aunt nellie's rambling (and i mean that entirely non-perjoratively) is just inspirational. her take on dad's modesty (aka lack of self esteem) is so on, and so inherited by some (or all) of his children. given my druthers of course, i'll take modesty over most of the alternatives. better pretend i'm at work. love, sherman