Cover email from Carolyn P. Yoder to Carolyn Meyer and attached document

previous item | next item

Cover email from Carolyn P. Yoder to Carolyn Meyer and attached document

Material Information

Cover email from Carolyn P. Yoder to Carolyn Meyer and attached document
Series Title:
Girl with a camera
Meyer, Carolyn
Place of Publication:
Tampa, Florida
University of South Florida
Publication Date:
Physical Description:
1 online resource, 110p.


Subjects / Keywords:
Bourke-White, 1904-1971 -- Juvenile fiction
Biographical fiction
Women photographers -- Fiction
Historical fiction


Email describes changes suggested by copy editor in the attached draft of Girl with a Camera,

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of South Florida
Holding Location:
University of South Florida
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
H43-00012-017 ( USFLDC DOI )
h43.12-17 ( USFLDC Handle )

Postcard Information

Mixed Material


This item is only available as the following downloads:

Full Text


CAROLYN I am going to send you the manuscript in parts. Attached is part one. You will see that there are still a lot of comments, mostly about pacing and structure of the early chapters. The copy-editor also feels that these early chapters could be tightened so that they match the tempo of the later chapters. (Please check all dates in the chapter titles as well.) About pacing, the copy-editor says: “The first half of the book feels very slow, and the ending, where things start to get really exciting and Margaret goes on lots of adventures, starts to feel a bit rushed (especially after she marries Erskine)—seems like some of the detail in the beginning could be trimmed, and more detail could be added to the cool adventures at the end.” (Please keep this in mind for Part Two) The following are some additional comments from the copy-editor. I know this still involves a lot of work so please let me know your schedule. The book is a spring 2017 title so we don’t have tons of time – perhaps shoot for the end of May or the first week in June to return both parts if possible. Please make changes in the narrative but do not accept them – and also feel free to comment in the bubbles. As I told you, I edited the manuscript before it went to the copy-editor. I have made slight changes and offered alternative suggestions. Please leave the “checked” boxes as the copy-editor also checked facts. I have also attached the style sheet. If you want to talk about on the phone, just let me know...THANKS. COMMENTS FROM THE COPY-EDITOR. “My sister” and “my mother,” etc., construction often used instead of “Ruth” or “Mother,” which I think emotionally distances the reader from the speaker and the narrative—would feel much more immediate (and less wordy) to name the characters. I’ve suggested this change throughout where I felt it would strengthen the emotional impact of the narrative. The early chapters especially feel very stuffed with characters (high school friends, acquaintances, teachers) who never return in the rest of the book—felt like a bit of a let-down to me, as a reader, to get interested in all these people (Sara Jane, Tubby, Mimsy, Jack Daniels, Kenny Strausser, etc), try to remember who’s who, and so onand then have them all drop out of the narrative. The story seems to really pick up steam when Margaret goes to college and meets Gil. I wonder if these early chapters should be pared down? Even the Gil section feels a bit long—since he doesn’t end up staying in her life. In general, this book has a very large cast of characters (more than 50), many of them minor or unimportant (ex. Madame Chartier, dance instructor at Rutgers, only mentioned in one paragraph). I wonder if all of them are necessary. I found it hard to feel emotionally attached to characters when


they pop in and out of the narrative so frequently and so briefly. For a groundbreaking woman, Margaret seems awfully unsure of herself and concerned with whether or not boys like her, whether she has the right clothes, etc., for the first half of the book. Is this historically accurate? I really warmed up to her when her spunkiness and determination starts to come to life, after her separation from Chappie. Margaret’s Jewish heritage “secret” and her Anti-Semitism seems problematic to me. I know this was a historically true part of Margaret’s character, but I wonder if there isn’t a different way to present it that will make it clear to readers that this is not OK—even though she is a character we’re supposed to sympathize with. It feels glossed over to me in this story. This is thorny and I don’t know the solution, but I found this a troubling aspect of the narrative. Carolyn P. Yoder Editor/Writer Senior Editor, Calkins Creek Books Senior Editor, History, HIGHLIGHTS 44 Sycamore Court Lawrenceville, NJ 08648 609-912-0781(p) 609-575-6780(c)


[Jacket front panel] Girl with a Camera A Novel of Margaret Bourke White, Photographer Carolyn Meyer [Jacket spine] Meyer Girl with a Camera <> Commented [CY1]: Want to put “Biography” before novel? Or get that word in?


2 [Half Title] Girl with a Camera [Title page] Girl with a Camera A Novel of Margaret Bourk e White, Photographer Carolyn Meyer <> An Imprint of Highlights Honesdale, Pennsylvania [CR] Text copyright 2017 by Carolyn Meyer Cov er illustration copyright 2017 by TK All rights reserved. For information about permission to re produce selections from this book, contact Although this work centers around historical events, this is a work of fiction. Names, characters, and incidents are products of the authors’ imagination and are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual incidents or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. Calkins Creek Commented [LER2]: CY — is this wording OK? CAROLYN: NOT SURE THIS IS THE WORDING WE WANT. PERHAPS WE SHOULD USE THE SAME WORDING AS IN DIARY OF A WAITRESS


3 An Imprint of Highlights 815 Church Street Honesdale, Pennsylvania 18431 Printed in the United States of America ISBN: 978 1 62979 584 3 (HC) ISBN: TK ( e book) Library of Congress Control Number: TK First edition The text of this book is set in xxxx. Design by Barbara Grzeslo Production by Sue Cole 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 [Dedi]


4 [Prologue] Sometime after midnight, a thump — l oud and jarring . A torpedo slams into the side of our ship, fling ing me out of my bunk. The ship is transporting thousands of troops and hundreds of nurses . It is December 1942, and our country is at war. I am Margaret Bourke White, the only woman photographer covering this war. T he U.S. Army Air Forces has handed me a plum assignment: photographing an Allied attack on the Germans . I wanted to fly in one of our B 17 bombers, but the top brass ordered me to travel instead in the flagship of a huge convoy , headed from England through the Strait of Gibraltar towards the coast of North Africa. It would be safer than flying , the officers argued. As it turns out, they were dead wrong. Beneath the surface of the Mediterranean, German submar in es glide, silent and lethal , stalking t heir prey. One of their torpedoes has found its mark. I grab my camera bag and one camera, leaving everything else behind, and race to t he bridge. I hear the order blare: “ Abandon ship! Abandon ship! ” There is not enough light and not enough time to take photographs. I head for Lifeboat No. 12 and board with the others assigned to it , mostly nurses. We’ve drilled for it over and over, but this is not a drill. My mouth is dry with fear. Our lifeboat drops into the sea. The boat is filled with water from t he torpedo splashback. We use our helmets to bail. The rudder is broken. All around us in the water , people are struggling to survive. We rescue some, lose others. A voice cries in the darkness, “Help me! I’m all alone!” We try to row toward that desperat e voice, but without a rudder we can do nothing. The cries grow fainter. T hen , silence. Commented [LR3]: See comment at the end of this prologue — how many people get in the lifeboat?


5 I take my turn rowing, my arms aching and my hands blistered. Someone in a nearby lifeboat begins to sing “You A re M y Sunshine.” We all join in. Even off key, it makes the rowing easier. We watch silently as flames swallow our wounded ship. T he rest of the convoy has scattered, to keep from giving the German U boats another target. In the bright moonlight I see that a single destroyer stays behind, and we wonder if the y will come to pick us up. But no— they drop depth charges to try to get rid of any remaining German submarine s . Someone is s hout ing into a megaphone, but we can’t make out the words . Maybe he’s wishing us luck. The destroyer sails on. Now we are entirely a lone. The moon sinks into the dark sea . I think longingly of chocolate bars, the emergency rations I’d tossed out of m y camera bag to make room for extra lenses. The hours pass. I’m wet to the skin, wet and cold. Hungry, too. I could do with a bite of choc olate. Dawn comes slowly, the pale colors blooming in the eastern sky. I wonder again if I will survive, if any of us will. Irrationally, I mourn the loss of my elegant cosmetics case, covered with beautiful ostrich skin and filled with ivory jars from Ho ng Kong . I can’t imagine why it matters. It’s December 22— t he winter solstice, someone reminds us . No wonder the sun is so late making its appearance . W e cheer when it finally rises majestically from a flat gray sea . I get out my camera and begin taking p ictures. We look miserable and bedraggled, but we’re alive. One of the nurses jokes that she’s ready to place her order for breakfast: two eggs, sunny side up, no broken yolks , please. “And hot coffee!” adds another. “Buttered toast!” I n midafternoon someone spots a flying boat, a large seaplane. It flies low over us, waggl ing its wings, and w e all wave back, assuring each other that h elp will come soon. The


6 sun sinks lower, lower. There is no sign of rescuers. It won’t be long before darkness descend s , and then they won’t be able to find us. W et, cold, exhausted, crowded in with dozens of others— all wondering what will happen to us, if we will live or die — I remember my home, my parents , t hose early years when I had no idea where life would take me, only t hat I wanted it to be bold and exciting, anything but what it was then . Commented [LR4]: How many people can fit in this lifeboat? I was picturing about a dozen. Maybe clarif y, above? Commented [LR5]: Is this long sentence confusing, grammatically? I’ve added em dashes, which I think help with readability. Another idea—the sentence could be broken here, even though that would make the last sentence a fragment: “I remember my home, my parents . Those early years when[etc]” Commented [CY6]: Great opening! Are there actual photos of this? Photos of her used throughout or just at the end in perhaps a gallery? There is one of people in her lifeboat. Commented [LR7]: Or end with ellipsis () to show that this thought is trailing off, leading into the flashback? LIKE THIS THOUGHT


7 Chapter 1 : Bound Brook , New Jersey —1918 I blame everything on my mother . She strove for perfection, and n othing else satisfied her. There were rules, and we—my sister, my broth er, and I —were expected to abide by them . Mother decreed that we would not read the funny papers . She f ound nothing funny about them. “The comics will harm your mind and ruin your taste for good art,” she said , lips firmly pursed . One look at “ Krazy Kat ” or “ Maggie and Jiggs ” would surely begin our disintegration . As a consequence , we we re not allowed to visit friends who did read the funny papers and might have them lying around the house , tempting us . I imagine d Sara Jane Cassidy and her brother, Tommy , who lived on the next block, sprawled on their living room floor with the Sunday paper s , laughing at the antics of the Katzenjammer Kids —Hans and Fritz—and somebody called Der Captain . I knew about those characters because Tommy loved to imitate the ir Ge rman accents. “Vot’s der dum goozled idea?” he’d ask in what he imagined was Der Captain’s voice. Sara Jane was sympathetic. She sometimes smuggled the funny papers to school in her lunch box and let me have a guilty look at them while I ate my liverwurst sandwich . Mother also dismissed movies as a waste of valuable time. “Movies entertain much too easily,” she said . “Far better to read a good book that stimulates the mind .” So, of course, when boys at school amused us by miming a peculiar shuffle and cal ling each other “ L ittle T r amp ,” I had no idea what they were talking about , until Sara Jane explained that the Little Tramp wa s a movie character . Charlie Chaplin was the actor who played him . Commented [CY8]: Love this opening line. Commented [LR9]: Checked Commented [LR10]: The images I found for this comic all call it “Jiggs and Maggie,” although it looks like that was for separate illustrated comic books —just checking, was “Maggie and Ji ggs” the commonly used name for the strip in the newspaper? Commented [LR11]: Checked


8 M y sister, Ruth, two years older than I , complained about our mother’s rules even more than I did. No card playing . (Chess was a different matter. Father taught all of us to play, even Roger , who was much younger .) No gum chewing. No slang . But the one that bother ed Ruth the most: No silk stockings. Ruth wa s dying t o have silk stockings, if only one pair for dress up, but Mother was adamant : w e must wear cotton stocking s. Much more practical, she said. “They’re so ugly!” Ruth wailed . “I look as though I just got off the boat!” “The hard way is alwa ys the better way, ” Mother lectured , unmoved . Why is it better ? I wanted to ask. Vot’s der dum goozled idea? Our family lived in Bound Brook, New Jersey . I was in eighth grade in grammar school, and Ruth rode the trolley that ran near our house over to Plainfield, where s h e attend ed high school . Roger wa s only six and had just been enrolled in first grade . He hated it, and I think it wa s because Mother questioned him so mercilessly about every little thing . The minute Ruth or I walk ed in the door, Mother requested a report of what had happened that day in school . If I told her about a quiz in geography, mentioning that we were required to answer just ten quest ions out of a dozen, she pounced: “I hope you skipped the easy ones and chose the ten hardest,” she said , frowning u ntil I assure d her that yes, I had picked the hard ones, and I ’d answered the easy ones too. Then she smiled and said, “G ood girl!” She hardly ever said that to Ruth, and almost never told little Roger how good he was. I was sick and tired of being a good girl. What thi rteen year old girl wouldn’t be ? I felt lucky not to be the youngest child in our fa mily, or the oldest . Ruth, fifteen, was treated most sternly by our mother. Maybe it was easier to overlook the middle child. Father was usually too distrac ted, too wrapped up in his work , to pay much attention, but like Mother, he wanted us to be good, and not only good but perfect . Commented [CY12]: Awkward. Father taught even Roger? Commented [LR13]: OK? Since it’s a hypothetical question. (Also, as worded, it’s not clear to me whether she’s asking “What 13 yr old girl is not good” or “is not sick and tired of being good”)


9 The cotton stockings, the way we spoke, the ban on funny papers and chewing gum and slang, even nicknames —Ruth and I were mis fits . How could we not be? When Ruth and I were both in grammar school , we wal ked together to the fourroom schoolhouse every day, balancing like tightrope walk ers along the tops of fences. N ot that we’d ever seen a tightrope walker, because we’d never been to a circus, but we’d seen pictures. After Ruth moved on to high school, I missed having her walk home with me, and I did my high wire act without her. I had good balance —I could walk on logs across streams and on the railings of bridges — and never once came home with wet shoes or skinned knees. Two grades were assigned to each room with one teacher , so that in fifth grade I shared Miss Lucas’s classroom with the sixth grade and picked up much of what the older students were being taught. By the time I w as actually a sixth grader, I had absorbed most of their lessons, and every afternoon after recess Miss Lucas sent me to the cloakroom with a group of slow readers to tutor them . This made me popular with no one. My best friend, Tubby Luf , wa s tall and b lond and thin as a straw, but s he explained that when her younger sister, Eleanor, was just learning to talk, she couldn’t say her name, Margaret . Somehow it came out as “Tubby,” and it stuck . “I like it,” she said. “It’s ironic .” Tubby was the kind of brainy girl who use d words like iron ic . My mother would not have permitted the nickname to stick , ironic or not. She disliked nicknames. Our friends call ed their parents Mom or Ma ma , and Dad or Daddy. In our house , Mother wa s Mother and Father was Father. Mother’s name was Minnie—her given name, she claimed, not a nickname . My father was Joseph, but she made an exception for him: s he called him Joey. If she could call my father Joey, then why could I not be Peggy, the name I favored ? “Because I named you Margaret.” End of argument. Commented [LR14]: What about their nicknames? This hasn’t been mentioned yet. (Move this section down below the nicknames anecdote at the bottom of this page?) Commented [LR15]: Ha!! Commented [LR16]: Tubby’s name is also Margaret? This seems like a coincidence worth mentioning


10 At school Tubby called me Peggy, and so did Sara Jane (who didn’t have a nickname) and my other friends, but in the presence of my mother I must always be Margaret. Mother insisted that we speak corre ctly . P roper grammar wa s not a problem , but we must have sounded very formal. We were not allowed to use slang , of course, or even contractions —no I’m or she’s or isn’t or wouldn’t . “It shows sloppiness of mind,” Mother declared , “as well as lack of effort .” When I spoke the way Moth er required , the other students looked at me as though I were an oddity . I n time I developed dual language s : one for home, one for school . Mother herself spoke very well. She had studied stenography with the idea of becoming a secretary, and her teachers h ad insisted upon correct grammar, perfect spelling, and accurate pronunciation. Father also spoke well, when he spoke at all —he wa s a very quiet man. Sometimes I wonder if he talked so little because he was afraid he’d make a mistake, and Mother would corr ect him . Father w as an engineer for a company that manufacture d printing presses. Mother complained that the only things he thought about we re th os e presses and his inventions to improve them . One invention improved t he way those forbidden funny pa pers were printed in color, a mechanism to align the edges of the various colored parts . This may not sound like much , but it wa s very i mportant to R. Hoe & Company , because it improved efficiency and saved the company a lot of money. Mother tried to get Father t o ask for a raise in pay, but he did n’t seem to care much about that . He ’d designed the unusual house we live d in and built the huge stone fireplace , with a mantel sawed out of a tree he’d cut down himself. He planted gardens all around the house , including rare specimens, each labeled with its scientific name. He led us on nature wa lks in Commented [LR17]: What does this mean? Why would it be a problem? Not clear to me.


11 the woods near by . W hen I was younger, he often took me by myself , saying little but point ing out things he wanted me to observe. I was comfortable with h is silence . Fath er imitate d birdca lls, and the birds actually ca me to him. He knew all about snakes and lizards. When I was nine or ten, a snake slithered across our path , sensed us , and stopped. It flattened its neck and rais ed its head up like a cobra, hissing and strik ing . I clutched Father’s hand. “Harmless,” he said . “ Just a hognose . S ome people call it a puff adder , but a hognose snake isn’t a puff adder at all. Only the real ones, the African kind, are deadly. Watch him roll over and play dead.” The snake did jus t that . His mouth wa s open , his tongue hanging out. He certainly looked dead. “Turn him right side up,” Father said. I wasn’t too sure about this , but when I did, the snake rolled over “dead” again. “Can we take him home?” I ask ed, and Father agreed and showed me how to pick him up . I wasn’t afraid. That snake was the start of my bringing home whatever interesting creature s I found , mostly garter snakes that showed up in the garden and water snakes from the nearby brook . I scooped up eggs from the water and watched them hatch into tadpoles and salamanders , and I added them to our growing collection of hamsters and rabbits housed in cages Father built. T wo turtles that Ruth na med Attila the Hun and Alaric the Visigoth lived under the piano . The hognose/puff adder was soon completely tame and liked to curl up on Mother’s lap when she sat in her rocking chair to sew or read the newspaper . I named him Puffy. “You could have come up with something more original,” Ruth said. “‘ Puffy’ seems rather childish. ” I gl are d at her. She sounded like Moth er —N o nicknames . I looked up the snake’s scientific name in one of Father’s book s : Heterodon platirhinos . He would remain Puffy. Commented [LR18]: Checked Commented [LR19]: !! Wow! I would’ve thought Mother would be FAR too proper to allow a snake to curl up on her lap. Is this incongruous with Mother’s character? Needs more explanation? AGREE. IS THI S BASED ON FACT? Commented [LR20]: Checked


12 On the day I took Puffy to school with me, the dear little fellow, frightened out of his wi ts, performed exactly as I knew he would, rearing up, neck puffed out, and hissing menacingly. The other children screamed and pulled away, even though I promised he wouldn’t bite. They laughed nervously when he played dead, but still they refused to touch him. “Do not be afraid, it is just a puff adder ,” I reassured them. M y schoolmates reported “Margaret’s poisonous snake ” to the principal, who ordered me to take Puffy home and not to bring him or any other snake back to school. “There are only two veno mous kinds of snakes in New Jersey —rattler and copperhead,” I informed the principal, quoting my father. “And more than a dozen harmless ones in our part of the state.” The principal was unmoved. Ruth never did anything like that. If she had, she would have been punished, required to write a letter of apology to the principal and also to Mother , explaining exactly why she had been disruptive and promising never to repeat the crime. Ruth had to write a lot of those letters. I did not . “You could get away wi th murder,” Ruth said sourly. “ I do not know why.” The next year o n my birthday, the fourteenth of June , Father surprise d me with a baby boa constrictor. She wa s beautiful, cream colored with reddis h brown markings, and she twisted herself around my wrist like a bracelet. She ha d to be kept warm in a blanket, and once a week I fed her a poor little mouse. I called her Cleopatra. Ruth said that was a stupid name. “It makes no sense.” “It does to me,” I snapped. “ I was thinking of the snake the Egyp tian queen used to kill herself.” “T hat was an asp, ” Ruth argued. “N ot a boa. ” M y interest turned to caterpillars . I gathered dozens and dozens of them. Mother let me use a number of our drinking glasses, which I arrange d upside down in rows on the dining Commented [LR21]: Wouldn’t she call it a hognose, since her father taught her the correct name for this snake? Seems like Margaret prides herself on her scientific knowledge— odd that she would adopt the incorrect name for the snake. Commented [LR22]: Contradictory ? At the beginning of the paragraph, Margaret says “Ruth never did anything like that. If she had” So it sounds like Ruth never would have had to write these letters, no?


13 room w indowsills. T hese became incubators for the caterpillars , and for weeks I put leaves in their glass cages and waited hopefully for them to turn into butterflies. The probl em, Father pointed out, wa s that caterpillars eat constantly at this stage , and not just any leaf but only the kind they were laid onto as eggs. But I persevered : I found the right leaves, and some of the caterpillars did form shiny little cocoons and enter ed the next stage, the chrysalis. “This is where the metamor phosis happens,” Father exp lained . “Now you must wait. And watch.” Each day I rush ed home from school, afraid I might have missed the magic al event . Then one by one the chrysalises bega n to burst open , and I watched entranced as each damp shape emerged and spread its beautiful butte rfly wings . Father , who happened to arrive home from work in time to witness this miracle with me , took photographs with his old fashioned camera. “Let me look,” I begged. H e stepped aside while I ducked my head under the black camera cloth and peered int o the viewfinder . T he image was upside down. Better not to have the camera in the way , I thought . Better just to look . Father took lots of pictures —of Mother draped in a shawl, of us children, of the flowers in our garden and the birds that visited there. He hustled around setting up his tripod , opening the camera with the accordion shaped bellows perched on it, inserting the glass plates, focus ing . O nce he was satisfied with the composition in the viewfinder, he finally clicked the shutter. Afterward, he closed himself in the bathroom in total darkness, bathed the glass plates in separate trays of awful smelling chemicals, rinsed them, and set them up to dry . He printed the best of the glass negatives on special paper —another messy process—and built frames for them . Father’s photographs hung on the walls in every room of our house . I help ed him choose which chrysalis to butterfly pictures to hang.


14 It may seem as though my father spent most of his spare time tramping through the woods or building things or m aking photographs . T hat was not the case. Mainly , Father thought . T hen he drew sketches and diagrams of what he was thinking. Once he took our family to a restaurant for dinner, a rare treat, and just as our food arrived , an idea came to him . He began to d raw on the tablecloth. We ate, and he drew. Ruth and I nudged each other, wondering when he would notice the fried chicken growing cold on the plate in front of him. He left without eating a single bite. “Aren’t you going to take the tablecloth, Father?” Roger asked, startling him out of his thought cloud. Father shook his head, tapping his forehead. “Unnecessary. I have it here.” Mother gr ew impatient with him. “If only he would talk more!” she complained. He wa s a brilliant inventor, she said , and his id eas mad e other people rich , like the owners of the company where he worked. I over heard her telling him that he should be paid more , but I didn’t hear his answer . B efore we started high school, Tubby’s mother bought her pretty dresses in red and green p laid or little blue and white checks that I admired and envied. I wanted ruffles and lace and gay colors , but Mother would have none of it. She dressed me in plain brown or dark blue skirts and white middy blouses with sailor collar s . “Very practical for everyday,” she said. Every day was the same as the one before. My hair was parted in the middle and pulled back in plaits . Ruth was assigned to braid my hair every morning, and if my sister she and I had argued about somethin g, she punished me by pulling th em so tight that I couldn’t blink . Moth e r promised I could do away with braids when I reached high school. N ot a word about my dresses. Commented [LR23]: Repeated info — from p. 10 (“Mother tried to get Father to ask for a raise in pay, bu t he didn’t seem to care much about that.”) Commented [LR24]: OK? Otherwise sounds like “my sister” is someone other than Ruth.


15 Tubby and I both took piano lessons from stern faced, thin lipped Mrs. Grauert at the Watchung School, and I was allowed to go to the Lufs’ house to practice duets together. I had no particular talent for piano , demonstrated by my dismal performance at Mrs. Grauert’s annual student recital . H alfwa y through the piece I’d memorized, I lost my place, started over, and missed t he second ending, playing on and on . Mrs. Grauert , signaling frantically , finally caught my eye , and I stumbled off the stage , humiliated . Mother was waiting. “You should have practiced more,” she said . “And I notice d when you left the stage that the bow on your dress is badly wrinkled. How embarrassing for you!” I didn’t care about the wrinkled bow, b ut I silently vowed that I would never again play in a recital. Dancing classes came next. Mother signed Ruth and me up for lessons because, she promised us , “If you dance well, you will never lack for partners.” The boys in the class, sent by their anxious mothers, obviously wanted to be somewhere, else—anywhere else. T he teacher paired us off according to height , and h er assistant sat at an old upright pia no and banged out a peppy tune . Short, shy partners steered me glumly around the polished floor. Later, a t home , I dance d by myself, whirl ing through the house from living room to kitchen to enclosed porch, clutching a large towel as a makebelieve partner and dreaming of the day some boy would actually ask me to dance. Each year the grammar school held four dances for the seventh an d eighth graders: Autumn, Christmas, Valentine ’s Day , and Spring . I came down with a cold and missed the autumn affair, but a fter weeks of dancing classes I was primed for the Christmas party . I helped with the decorations, cutting out paper snowflakes to pin up around the gymnasium . T eachers would chape rone , and parents volunteered refreshments. I asked Mother if we could contr ibute cookies .


16 “If you wish to ta ke cookies, Margaret, you must b ake them yourself. You certainly know how.” I wanted to come up with something that would distinguish m y creation from everyone else’s, but I debated for too long, and time was running out. S uddenly inspired, I decided to forget baking cookies and take pickles instead . I loved Grandmother White’s dill pickles. My mother did not care for them . But s he didn’t much care for Father’s mother either , and the jar had sat unopened in the cupboard for a very long time. The night of the Christmas dance I put on my one dressup dress, dark green with white buttons (sash neatly pressed) ; utilitarian high top shoes (freshly polished ) ; and the dreadful cotton stockings . With the jar of pickles and a borrowe d fork, I set off for the schoolhouse . I pu t my contribution on the table decorated with jolly Santa Clauses , among an array of delicious looking treats —tiny tarts with a dab of raspberry jam in the center, a beautiful cake sprinkled with co conut, cookie s in the shape of Christmas trees, rich c ubes of c hocolate fudge arranged on paper doilies . Some thought the pickles were a joke; others weren’t so sure , but no one wanted to sample any of Grandmother White’s sour dills . I made a show of eating three of them myself. W orse th an my spurned pickles , not a single boy asked me to dance. I was a good dancer! I knew all the steps! But the boys asked other girls. Even Tubby got asked, although it was by a boy she couldn’t stand and not the one she had a secret cru sh on. None asked me. I dumped the rest of the pickles behind a bush on the way home and told Mother it was a very nice party . S ecretly I wept. Then I told my sister the truth. I always told her the truth. “Pickles?” Ruth exclaimed. “You took a jar of pickles to the dance? Why on earth did you do that?” Commented [LR25]: Borrowed from who, her mother? This seems like an odd way to put it —doesn’t the fork belong to her family? (This is very nitpicky, sorry! Just s truck me as odd.)


17 “I didn’t want to be like everybody else,” I mumbled. “ Well, I guess you succeeded.” Ruth sat down beside me on my bed and put her arm around my shoulders. “Boys your age are really not at their best . Yo u’re probably smarter than all of them, and they know it, so they stay away from you. That will change as you get older. One of these days—and it’s coming soon , I promise you—the boys will be standing in line for a chance to dance with you. But,” she add ed, “ you probably didn’t help your case by taking pickles.” Commented [LR26]: Isn’t she not allowed to use contractions? (Or is that just in front of Mother?) Commented [LR27]: See previous comment Commented [LR28]: Ditto (I won’t keep marking this) Commented [CY29]: Length of chapter/section OK? Assume most of what happens here is based on real events. Not the pi ckles! I made that up. Commented [LR30R29]: Agree that this chapter feels a bit long and slow —mostly background info and small incidents without a sense of an overarching plot or driving conflict. CAROLYN: CAN YOU TIGHTEN? NEEDS TO KEEP THE PACE OF THAT OPENING PROLOGUE.


18 Chapter 2 : Plainfield High School — 1919 I was not beautiful. I knew that. M y dark, deepset eyes were like my father’s , but my face, like his, was a little too round. I had Mother’s thick, da rk hair, but my lips were a little too thin, like hers . “You’re not pretty , Margaret,” my mother told me frankly —she never attempted to soften her words —“but you have an interesting face.” I did not want to have an interesting face. I wondered what my pa rents were like when they were young. I saw a photogra ph of Minnie Bourke in a white shirtwaist with big leg of mutton sleeves and a bit of lace at her neck, and my mother had confessed in an unguarded moment that a shirtwaist was considered “not quite nic e ” at the time . In the picture she was standing by her bic ycle and smiling . S he wore a skirt that had been shortened a couple of inches to reveal a shocking ankle . On the back of the photograph Minnie had noted that her mother was sure she was going to the devil because she was riding a bicycle—that wasn’t quite nice either. A nd on a Sunday , the Sabbath! Her father wa s Irish, a shi p’s carpenter, and her mother was English and worked as a cook . She was riding her bicycle to meet Joseph White. The Whites li ved in the Bronx, and the Bourkes lived in lower Manhattan. A fter Mother and Father met at a social club , t hey began to go bird watching in Central Park and rode their bicycles out into the country and read philosophy to each other. One day when they were riding in the Catskills , Minnie’s bicycle broke down . “We left our bikes and hiked up the nearest mountain, ” Mother told us, “ and that’s when your father proposed. ” Ruth and I thought their courtship was terribly romantic. Commented [LR31]: Nee d? Readers will likely be aware that Sunday is the Christian Sabbath. Commented [LR32]: This info seems unrelated to the rest of this paragraph (and the previous paragraph)? Commented [LR33]: How does a bicycle break down? Sounds like this implies a mechanical failure (e.g., a car) — the wo rding seems a bit odd.


19 “Do you think he kissed her?” R uth asked me . “Well, of course he kissed her!” I said. “She said yes, and then they kissed.” Ruth was doubtful. “They were very proper. And Mother has told me over and over that I mustn’t let a boy kiss me until we’re married. It could lead to other . . . things.” Mother had given me no such instructions, but then, Ruth was older, even if I was bolder. Mother was an expert seamstress and taught us to sew . “It will come in handy someday ,” she promised . S he gave sewing and cooking lessons to Ruth’s friends , and to Sara Jane and Tubby and me. Mother’s cooking was like her sewing, plain and practical —she made all of my clothes, and Ruth’s —but Tubby, especially, loved everything Mother taught us : how to make a poached egg and rice pudding and the meatloaf that Mother served for dinner every Thur sday . “My mother is a terrible cook,” Tubby c onfessed. “I don’t know how I’d learn anything if it weren’t for Mrs. White. ” I took to sewing more eagerly, because I believed that, if I got good enough , I could eventually ma ke myself the kind of stylish clothes I wanted. The kind I felt I deserved. When I entered Plainfield High School as a lowly freshman , Ruth was a junior . My sister informed me about the social divisions at Plainfield. There was the “crystal chandelier set,” snobbish girls who shopped for stylish clothes in New York City and attended lots of parties. Then there were the “linsey woolseys.” I knew what that meant —linsey woolsey was cloth woven from a mixture of linen and wool, plain and serviceable. Ruth and I were linsey woolseys. It was certainly not what I aspired to be. I had already made up my mind that someday I would be famous, very famous, and rich, too, and the crystal chandelier girls as


20 well as the linsey woolseys would look back at their high scho ol yearbook and marvel at what had become of Peggy White. B oys did seem to like me well enough . I was invited to help them paddle canoes o n the Raritan River and to go on hikes and identify plants and birdcalls. Mother’s fruit pies were popular with boys at picnics . I was what people call ed a “good sport.” But none of the boys who ate my mother’s pies or showed me a snake to identify asked me to dance. I was fourteen years old, I faithfully attended the school mixers and parties, and I still had not been asked. So much for Mother’s promise that if I learned to dance well, I would never lack for partners. She was wrong. How many times did I go to a “mixer” and not mix? How would anybody know I was a good dancer, if nobody ever asked me? Then in my sophomor e year —Ruth was a senior, getting ready to graduate —I heard about a contest. The Babcock Prize was being offered for “exc ellence in literary composition,” an eight hundred word short story to be fini shed by the end of the semester , in June. The prize was f ifteen dollars worth of books to be chosen by the winner. Sophomores were eligible to enter, but no sophomore had ever won, and everyone understood that it would go to a junior or senior. I learned that I would not have to take the usual English exams if I entered the contest . That clinched it. I informed my English teacher , Miss Aubrey, of my plans, and she marked in her grade book that Margaret White would be excused from examinations for the rest of the year. “I know you’ll do well, Margaret ,” she said, smiling up at me . “ You’ve shown that you have talent. But remember that you must never leave a task until you’ve completed it to the best of your ability.” She sounded just like my mother. Commented [LR34]: Why up? Teacher is seated and Margaret is standing? Or teacher is shorter than her?


21 And then I put the whole thing out of my mind. There was plenty o f time to think of an idea for a short story. It wouldn’t be too hard. E ight hundred words wasn’t really that much , and the end of the semester was still a long way off. Spring came , the weather warmed. Others in my class had to sit through dreary exams; I did not. I was wri ting a short story, or would be quite soon. And then, almost without my being aware of it, the last day of school was the next day. My short story was due to be handed in during English class that morning. I’d done nothing —I didn’t have even the germ of an idea. Then I got a reprieve: Miss Aubrey announced that the deadline had been extended. The story now had to be delivered to the front porch of the principal’s house by half past five . At lunch time , Tubby and I sat side by side on a mo ssy stone wall near the school, eating our sandwiches. She swapped half of her bologna for half of my liverwurst. “What am I going to do, Tubby?” I wailed . “If I don’t hand in a story, Miss Aubrey will fail me, because I didn’t take any of the exams. I tol d her I was entering the contest. And I will have let her down. She has such faith in me.” “You’re going to write a story, of course, ” Tubby said. “I don’t have an idea in my head,” I moaned. “I haven’t even thought about it.” “You’re going to start think ing right now.” She began to peel the orange in her lunchbox. She closed her eyes. A sweet orangey smell drifted around us. “A dog story,” she said , as if she were having a vision . “Everybody loves dog stories.” I thought about our dog, Rover . Rover had died a year earlier, carried off by old age . I’d been yearning for another dog ever since, but I had not yet persuaded my parents that we should get one. Mother thought we had enough animals, what with all the rabbits and turtles and snakes , et cetera, that had taken up residence in our house. Everybody loves dog stories! Commented [LR35]: Seems a bit deus ex machine — Rover has not been mentioned previously. Possibly to introduce him earlier? Commented [LR36]: Need? Tubby just said this at the end of p revious paragraph.


22 The bell rang. I had algebra and geography to get through before dismissal. Tubby and I gathered our trash and hurried off to class. “Meet me in the library at three o’clock,” I said. “I’l l have come up with an idea by then.” For the next hour I was not thinking about quadratic equations and coefficients. I was trying to come up with a name for the dog, doodling various possibilities in the margins of my algebra worksheet. By the time class was dismissed, I had settled on Sparky. The name would give a hint to his personality. In the next c lass, while Mr. Bergman droned on about major river systems in Russia, I worked on a suitable boy’s name . I considered calling him Roger, for my brother. Roger, an unhappy little boy with two older sisters. Or maybe with no sisters —that would make him more poignant. Roger, a lonely only child, yearning for a puppy. But Sparky would not be a puppy — he would be an abandoned mutt yearning for a home, just as Ro ger was yearning for a companion . After dismissal Tubby and I retreated to a corner of the library , away from the watchful eyes of Miss Greenlaw, the librarian. “I’m thinking of writing it from Sparky’s point of view,” I whispered to Tubby. “Dog as narrato r? That would certainly be different.” I thought about that: m aybe it was too different. “No, just through his eyes. H ere’s how we’ll do it. I’ll write a page and hand it over to you, and while I’m working on the next part, you check my grammar and spellin g and count the number of words.” The yellow dog was tired and hungry , I scribbled , and also very dirty. I stopped to read my first sentence. Was , I decided, was a weak verb. And the adjectives were pretty weak, too . I scratched out the first sentence and started over. The dog trotted wearily down the dark alley, searching for something — anything — to eat. Stickers matted his filthy yellow fur. Commented [LR37]: Or “burrs”? I wonder if readers will think of plastic stickers here. AGREE. BURRS WORKS BETTER


23 Much better! My pencil raced across the page, describing th e sad life of the abandoned pup who’d escaped from his c ruel owner and now had to avoid the dogcatcher and find some kind of meal or starve. Then I introduced Roger, renamed Robert but otherwise similar to my brother, except that he did not have two older sisters and was allowed to have a nickname, Rob . Rob’s f ather was a sea captain away on a voyage to A frica . The mother, called Mama, stern but loving, told poor Rob that he could not have a dog. Rob, disconsolate, kicked pebbles down the road and trie d to think of ways to change Mama’s mind. Run away from hom e and make her sorry? G et work as a paperboy and earn extra money as well as her admiration? He had to find a solution! I handed the first page over to Tubby. “Two hundred words on page one,” she announced. “Y ou’ll have to write three more pages.” The tab le where we huddled had a view of the wall clock, and I tried not to look at it. T ime keeping was part of Tubby’s job. At four o’clock Miss Greenlaw announced that the library was closing. We moved outside the school building, back to the stone wall where we’d eaten lunch. I balanced the writing tablet on my knees and raced on. Sparky spot ted a lonely looking young boy, the kind of boy who might want a dog . He wag ged his tail and gazed at the boy pleadingly. T he boy was delighted to find the disheveled pup and brought him home. But Mama shook her head, saying harshly , “Rob, get that flea ridden mutt out of here. No, you may not keep him.” Tearfully, the boy took the leftover meatloaf from the icebox, where it ha d been kept to feed mother and son, and gave a bit of it to the famished dog. The dog was obviously still half starving, and Rob gave him the rest of the meatloaf. N ow Mama was angry, and Rob was in deep trouble. Sparky slunk away. Commented [LR38]: I can’t figure out why the story Margaret writes switches to present tense— feels jarring, like a mistake, to me. I’ve changed t/o to past tense to be consistent with the narrative.


24 “Three hundred and eighty five,” Tubby announced. By four thirty I wa s within a hundred and twenty words of the end . Rob went to work, performing extra chores while Sparky lingered hopefully outside the garden gate. Then the captain came home unexpectedly from his voyage , and Sparky greet ed him so joyously that Mama change d her tune and declare d that Sparky , cleaned up and de flea ’ d, must become a member of the family . I n the final scene, Rob, Sparky, and Papa start ed off for a walk in the woods as Mama wave d goodbye from the porch. Tubby didn’t believe the ending. “Why woul d Mama change her mind so suddenly?” On Tubby’s advice, I rewrote that part . Sparky barked his head off when the captain re turn ed , protecting Mama from the unknown intruder. The captain was impressed and persuades Mama the mutt was exactly what she need ed as a watchdog . I hurriedly copied my rough draft onto clean paper. The two of us raced to the principal’s house with only minutes to spare and added my masterpiece to the pile on the front porch. I was only a sophomore and had no hope of winning the conte st , but at least I would not fail my English class and disappoint Miss Aubrey . A week later the winner of the c ontest was announced: I had won! This was even more unlikely than a happy ending for Sparky , who in the real world would have been ha uled off by the dogcatcher to a miserable fate . Nevertheless, I knew exactly which books I wanted as my prize: The Frog Book , The Moth Book , and The Reptile Book . The prize was to be awarded at commencement exercises. Tubby was thrilled for me; Ruth was , too . My siste r was graduating near the top of her class, but that seemed less impressive compared to my achievement. “There’s a dance after the commencement exercises,” she reminded me. “Mother and I are making me a new dress.” Commented [LR39]: This extended summary of the story Margaret writes feels a bit slow to me—is all of it necessary? Or, possibly the actual text of her story might be more engaging—instead of this long paraphrase? AGREE – THE PACE N EEDS TO BE CONSISTENT.


25 O f course I knew about the dance! I alway s knew about the dances, which so far had been complete and utter failures. I was almost fifteen, and I had spent my entire school career as a wallflower, but I believed in my heart that w inning the writing contest was about to change everything . It was as if a fairy godmother had touched me with her magic wand and transformed me into a princess, and every boy at Plainfield High School would recognize this literary Cinderella and want to dance with her . From now on, my life would be completely different. I convinced Mother that I, too, needed a new dress for this special occasion . S he agreed, so pleased for me that she stayed up lat e, her treadle sewing machine ch attering far into the night to finish my dress i n time. Commencement took place on a warm June evening in the school auditorium, normally dull and colorless but transformed by the junior class strewn with festive greenery and white carnations , into a place that seemed almost regal . I had not only the new dress— maroon with a white linen collar and cu ffs, exactly like Ruth’s —but also new shoes. Cotton stockings spoiled the picture, but at least our stockings were white instead of black . The graduating class, solemn in royal blue caps and gowns , took seats in the front rows. Behind them were juniors who were receiving prizes, and one sophomore— me. The orchestra played something by Bizet, only slightly out of tune . A local minister delivered an opening prayer , followed by a piano solo , something loud and fast (Rachmaninoff, maybe), performed by a talented membe r of the graduating class, then speech es by the salutatorian (boy ) and the valedic torian (girl). The orchestra lumbered through “Pomp and Circumstance” as the graduating seniors filed up to the stage to rec eive their diplomas . Then the chairman of the Board of Education exhorted the new graduates to go forth, do good works , et cetera. I was in a delicious froth of excitement about what was going to happen next . My dreams were about to come true.


26 Winners of prizes in mathematics, French, and patriotic oratory were awarded, and the Rotary Club gave medals to The Most Useful Boy and The Most Useful Girl , leaving Ruth disappointed again . She’d had her heart set on being chosen for this honor . My big moment had arrived. Mr. B est , the principal , reappeared at the podium . He was a small, thin man who almost staggered under the weight of a great bundle of fat green books tied with white ribbons. “Miss Margaret White, please step forward to receive the Babcock Award !” I walked up to the stage and waited, smili ng, as the principal spoke of the “fres h, young talent discovered in the person of Miss Margaret White, not yet fifteen years of age, whose short story ‘Rob and Sparky’ shows how much we have to look forward to as Miss White makes her way into the future a s a writer . She is destined to make us all proud .” Mr. Best transferred the tomes to my arms , the audience politely applauded, and I returned to my seat, beaming. The commencement exercises ended, proud parents set out for home ( except for those who would remain as chaperones) , and most of the chairs were folded and stacked to make room for dancing. P otted palms were carried in from the hall and placed strategically around the auditorium, transforming the space into a ballroom . The Aristocrats, a five pie ce band , had been hired for the evening, and as the lights were lowered, they began to play “I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles .” C ouples drift ed out to the center of the ballroom — all of the crystal chandelier girls and boys who’d shed their royal blue gowns to reveal the finery beneath , and most of the linsey woolseys except for a handful who disdained dances and had already left. Even Tubby had a partner, myopic Kenny Strausser with his thick glasses and an overbite . I stood on the sidelines, clutching my bundle of books , sure that at any minute one of the boys in my class, or possibly even in the junior


27 class—a senior would have been too much to hope for —would see me and recognize that I was a star . I had won the Babcock Prize ! The Aristocrats launched into “A Pretty Girl Is Like a Melody.” A s tag line had formed near a long table set with a punch bowl and cookies (no pickles!) , and a few boys stepped out boldly and cut in on the dancing couple s . T he new partner swept off with the girl in his arms, and her forme r partner joined the stag line. It would have made sense for one of those newly available boys to glance my way and ask me to dance. None did. I told myself there was still plenty of time. Tubby now had a new partner —Jack Daniels , a boy with pimpl es. I w ould not have minded if Kenny or Jack , or any other boy, with pi mples or without , asked me to dance. Still , none did. “Yearning,” the trumpet crooned . The dance floor had become crowded. The bundle of books in my arms grew heavier, and so did my heart. T he violinist took up “Beautiful Ohio,” a waltz. I loved to waltz , but nobody even looked in my direction . My hopes dwindled as it began to dawn on me that my prize winning story of a boy and his dog was not going to win me what my heart desired most. Then, out of the crowd stepped Stella Ertley, a friend of Ruth’s. Stella , five feet eleven and a half , who might have qualified as a crystal chandelier girl if she hadn’t been quite so tall , noticed me standing there alone and walked over to me . I suppose she f elt sorry for me. I must have looked pathetic. “Peggy,” said Stella warmly, “congratulations on winning the Babcock ! What an honor! And for a sophomore! This is something worth celebrating, isn’t it? Ruth ’s already left, I believe, but she’s been telling m e that you’re a swell dancer. Come on, let’s get out there and show them some of your fancy steps.” Commented [LR40]: A little funny that he has almost the same name as the whisky? Or maybe kids won’t think of this! Commented [LR41]: The trumpet can’t croon a wordthe singer crooned?


28 A girl, asking me to dance? What utter humiliation! I bit my lip, trying to think of an excuse. But Stella didn’t wait for an answer. “Here, I’ll put those books some where,” she said . She deposited the m behind a potted palm , seized my hand, and whirled me on to the dance floor. The piano thumped out “A Good Man Is Hard to Find,” and I would have given almost anything to disappear .


29 Chapter 3 : A Glorious Future — 1919 A fter that tortured evening , I moped around so much that my two friends decided to do something to drag me out of the doldrums. “ We have a surprise for you ,” Sara Jane announced . It was the thirteenth of June , the day before I would turn fifteen . “ As a bir thday gift , Tubby and I are taking you to New York , to visit Miss Fowler of the American Phrenology Institute. ” I knew about phrenology. An expert could feel the bumps on your head and analyze your personality , point out your strengths and weaknes ses, and guide you in your future choices. I was skeptical, but it sounded like an adventure. On a hot, muggy day , t he three of us , in our hats and gloves , boarded the local train for the city and made our way to a building on Broadway near 36th Street . The sign of Fowler & Wells was posted above a show window on the first floor with a display of bald china heads . A map of the organs of the mind was drawn on each head . A receptionist directed us to a fusty Victorian parlor crowded with uncomfortable furni ture . There we await ed a summons from Miss Jessie Fowler, described in a dignified brochure as the daughter of one of the founders of the Institute. We were too nervous and excited to talk much. After a tense wait, we were led to Miss Fowler’s darkened in ner sanctum. Despite the heat, the lady behind the large carved des k was dressed in a black suit and a white blouse. Her gray hair struggl ed to escape from the severe bun at the nape of her neck. She glanced at the three of us shifting uneasily from foot to foot and wondering what would happen next. H er gaze came to rest on my head. I was wearing a large blue straw hat, loaned to me by my sister. “Miss White, you are here for a consultation?” I nodded. “Kindly remove your hat.” Commented [LR42]: Correct? (Ch. 2 is set in 1919) PLEASE DOUBLE -CHECK ALL CHAPTER TITLES, NUMBERS, AND YEARS. THEY WERE OFF. Commented [LR43]: I’m somewhat skeptical that Mother, who is oh -so proper, would let these three 15 year -olds go off to New York City by themselvesperhaps needs a bit of explanation?


30 She pointed to a chair beside her desk . Sara Jane and Tubby retreated to a settee against the wall. Outside , the sun baked the city sidewalks, but heavy velvet draperies at every window had blocked off all natural light in Miss Fowler’s office. The only light came from a small desk lamp with a green shade. Miss Fowler stood before me, eyes closed, and ran practiced hands over my skull, beginning around my temples , proceeding up my forehead and across my skull, then working down the sides around my ears. She began again at the crown an d progressed down the back of my head. I sat perfectly still , staring at the lace jabot cascading over her ample bosom. She did not speak . When she had finished her examination, she settled at her desk and made notes on a large sheet of paper printed with a silhouette outline of a head . The head was marked into sections like the china heads in the window , each labeled with a simple drawing or a word: L anguage , for example, was located at the eye; M e mory , on the forehead, close to A greeableness . “Very well, Miss White, I imagine you are quite eager to hear the results of the examination.” “Yes, ma’am,” I said, leaning toward the shadowy figure behind the green lamp. Miss Fowler regarded me with pale blue eyes. “You have a most interesting cranium,” she said . “ Your head measures a little above the average. You show a fair balance of power between body and brain.” Tubby and Sara Jane murmured something unintelligible behind me. “I see that you are eager and adventuresome, prepared to travel to any destination to gather information on whatever topic interests you, regardless of the difficulties you may encounter.” Miss Fowler continued , “I believe that you would benefit greatly from world travel. And I would advise you to take photographs of the places you vis it and the sights you Commented [CY44]: DELETED THE DIMENSIONS. SEEMS UNECESSARY. Commented [LR45]: N eed? We know it’s Miss Fowler speaking. I WOULD DELETE.


31 see, in order to give lectures about your adventures to your friends and family when you return .” The phrenologist went on to give details of the glorious future she envisioned for me. There was more: possible focuses for my energy an d talent in the fields of music, childhood diseases, even home decoration. All this deduced from the shape of my head! She promised to have the receptionist type up her notes and mail them to me with a copy of the map of the human brain, as illustrated on the diagram. Tubby and Sara Jane paid Miss Fowler for the consultation with their pooled funds . I would have paid her double — triple! —had she asked for it. We left the offices of Fowler & Wells and stepped, squinting, into the dazzling sunlight. Of course we talked of practically nothing else as we waited for the train back to Bound Brook . My mood and attitude toward life improved dramatically . I may have been a wallflower at the commencement dance, and at every dance I’d attended before it, but now I had the assurance, the profound belief, that the bumps on my head indicated a glorious future in which I would truly be a star , whatever I chose to do . Commented [LR46]: She tells us this, but I don’t think we really see it in the following chapters —she continues to hope boys will pay attention to her, makes choices based on how to get boys’ attention, and nothing ab out her attitude seems to have changed. Possible to make this change clearer in her thoughts/behavior? Commented [CY47]: Need both?


32 Chapter 4 : Her Glorious Fancies — 1919 My glorious future seemed in no hurry to arrive. I desperately want ed attention, and w ith that goal in mind , I joined the debating society . Most of t he memb ers were boys. I soon realized that girls who join a debating society a re not the type of girls who might be asked to dance , and I probably wouldn’t find a partner here . Should women be granted the right to vote? w as one of the question s be ing debated that fall . After years of marches and rallies and speeches by suffragists, Congress had passed a law granting women the right to vote, but it was now up to the stat es to ratify the law as an amendment to the Constitution. T hirty five states were needed to ratify . New Jersey had not yet voted on the issue . “I hope you’re taking the negative side in the debate ,” said Mother. This came as a shock —I knew she was wholehear tedly in favor of the amendment . “Surely you don’t think I’m opposed to women hav ing the right to vote!” “Of course you’re not!” she snapped. “But for you to take the side you agree with would be a mistake. That’s the easy side! Remember, Margaret, always choose the hard er path. What excellent discipline for you to argue in favor of the side you disagree with!” T hat wa s how I wound up in front of a room full of people, arguing for something I didn’t believe —that women should not be allowed to vote. “Becaus e it’s the proper role of men to protect women,” I declared, “and because women are by their nature unable to protect themselves ” —I nearly choked on that line —“ men must continue to exercise this solemn duty. And since voters also have the duty to serve on juries, and since jurors sometimes hear descriptions of such deplorable acts that would be upsetting to the delicacies of any normal woman , women must be kept off juries —again, for their own protection . Furthermore,” I Commented [LR48]: Is this really why Margaret joined the debate club —just to meet boys? The emphasis on this aspect of her character (her desire for boys’ ap proval) seems a bit odd to me, in a biography about a strong and ground breaking womansee previous comment as well. CAROLYN: THIS COMMENT WAS ONE I MADE EARLIER . I THINK IT REALLY NEEDS TO BE DOWNPLAYED. MAKES HER INCONSISTENT AND NOT RELATE ABLE. Commented [CY49]: Simpl ify. Commented [CY50]: Simplify. Seems like a nonfiction dump. Why do we need the sentence “thirty -five” And you really don’t need “on the issue” Commented [CY51]: Awkward. Actually think we coul d delete this last sentence. Not needed.


33 argued, “a llowing the weaker sex to t ake part in political discussions could upset the harmony of the home. In addition, allowing women to run for public office could pit one woman against another. That is a situation distressing to civilized society .” None of these were my idea s . I found the m in an anti suffragist pamphlet and tried to translate the arrogant nonsense into something that sounded li ke my own words. But I argued s o logically and convincingly that I won the debate . A fterward I felt guilty — what if I had actually persuaded someone to that way of thinking? I did not for a minute believe that women needed to be protected , and I felt like a traitor to my gender arguing that they did. Paul Reed, the boy who had argued in favor of women having the right to vote , invited me to go out for a soda afterward, so that he could talk some sense into my apparently misguided head. I let him think he had persuaded me , but that didn’ t lead to any more soda dates, or to an invitation to dance. In February of 1920, New Jersey became the twenty ninth state to vote in favor of the amendment. F ive years in the future I would be eligible to vote, but the debate club did nothing to change my life in the present . That spring the drama club announced plans to put on two short plays : Rosalie , a three character melodrama , and The Bluffers , a revue with a dozen or so characters. Both plays were set in France. Despite my complete lack of stage experience, I tried out for the title ro le of Rosalie, the maid, and was picked for the part . The role of Monsieur Bol wen t to C harles Drayton — tall, dark, and the handsomest boy in our class . I liked Charley a lot , but he dated crystal chandelier girls and naturally was not interested in a linsey woolsey. V iolet eyed Eleanor Treacy , practically a founding member of the crysta l chandelier set , was cast as Madame Bol . I didn’t know if s he and Charley were dating, but they flirted constantly .


34 “Coming to the cast party?” Eleanor asked casually after the Saturday night performance. We held our conversation in the mirror of the girls’ bathroom. I was wiping off my stage makeup with cold cream, and Eleanor was skillfully applying her usual rouge and lipstick, neither of which I was permitted to wear. “It’s at Charley’s house ,” she said , moving on to eyebrow pencil . “ All the Bluffer boys will be there, and the stage crew, too. There’ll be lots to eat, and dancing, too, of course.” Eye shadow was next. “S orry, but I can’t,” I said. “I already have other plans.” “Oh, too bad,” said Eleanor , but I felt sure she wasn’t at all disappointed. My “other plans” were a fabrication, but I ’d decided that the best way to avoid being humiliated at a dance was simply not to attend one . A t the start of my senior year I signed up to work on the staff of T he Oracle , the school ’s monthly magazine. Charley D r ayton was the editor in chief. Charley was a favorite of Miss Benedict and Miss Daily, the faculty advisors. He had an ingratiating manner and an easy grin, but he was also laz y, and the rest of us had to take up the slack for him, which we performed gl adly at the time and then resented later when he got most of the credit. M y title was School Editor , and my job was to assign and edit articles about activities such as the drama club, the debate club, and the glee club . Mary Nancy Paluso , a linsey woolsey nicknamed Mimsy , was the literary editor overseeing short stories and poetry , an assignment I would have preferred . Printed above the masthead was the magazine’s slo gan : I am Sir Oracle, and when I ope my lips, let no dog bark . “Can somebody tell me what that means?” I asked at an editorial meeting. “It’s a line from Sh akespeare’s Merchant of Venice ,” answered Mimsy. “ A n oracle is a wise person who prophesies the future, and someone who calls himself ‘Sir Oracle’


35 believes that everything he says is so im portant that even the dogs should stop barking and listen. ” Linsey woolseys tended to know things like that. The final issue of the year was published as the class yearbook , with individual photographs of the graduating seniors along with each person’s nic kname, a mbition, list of a ctivities during their four years of high school , and a classical quotation that was supposed to capture something of the senior’s personality. Brainy Mimsy, of course, came up with the quotations. I coul d picture her sitting up a ll night, thumbing through books of poetry. Or maybe she had them all memorized. Tubby’s was from a poem by Alfred Lord Tennyson, “A Dream of Fair Women” : A daughter of the gods, divinely tall, / And most divinely fair . Mine was from a poem by James Russel l Lowell, “My Love” : Her glorious fancies come from far, / Beneath the silver evening star, / And yet her heart is ever near. “Suits you perfectly,” said Tubby. “You and your ‘glorious fancies .’” J ean Runyon, a junior , was in charge of gathering the info rmation on each graduating senior. We went over it together, checking spelling and punctuation. Margaret B. White . (The B was for Bourke, my mother’s maiden name.) Nickname: Peggy . Ambition: Herpetologist. “Herpetologist?” Jean asked. “What’s that?” “Some one who studies reptiles and amphibians,” I explained , thinking she surely ought to know that much. “Snakes, mostly, but also frogs and toads, newts, salamanders. And also lizards and turtles. They’re all herps. Creeping animals.” Jean shudder ed. “ I rememb er the time —was it last year? — you came to school with a snake wrapped around each arm. And back in eighth grade , when you brought a snake to Commented [LR52]: Really? Margaret doesn’t seem particularly fanciful, or at least we haven’t seen that side of her yet Commented [LR53]: Was “Bourke” part of her name at this point? I thought she only added it later in her adult life. IF SO, MAKE IT CLEAR.


36 school and all the girls screamed, and the boys put on a show of not being scared, but I could tell that they were. Then Mr. Patterson said you couldn’t bring snakes to school anymore.” “I didn’t want to scare anybody. The snake wasn’t poisonous. I just thought it was interesting.” “Maybe.” She shuffled through the forms she’d collected. “Other girls want to be teachers, and there are a couple who say they want to be nurses, but I know that Dottie Hen d ricks, for example , gets sick to her stomach when something doesn’t smell right. Eleanor Treacy says she’s planning to study art and become an illustrator. Most of them, though, just want to get married. The boys hope to go to sea or become doctors. But so far you’re the only one who wants to be anything like a herpetologist. Whatever made you decide to do something like that? ” She arranged the papers in a neat stack . “W ha t would you actually do with th o se creepy, scaly things?” “ I’ll vis it dark and interesting jungles and bring back specimens for natural history museums. I’ll learn so much about them that people will inv ite me to come and lecture. May be I’ll be come a famou s scientist, and then I’ll marry a famous scientist, another herpetologist, and we’ll travel all over the world together. ” “You really want to do that? That’s kind of a strange thing for a girl to do.” “ I want to do all kinds of things that girls never do . That women never do. Didn’t you ever think of doing something like that? ” Jean looked at me skeptically. “I just want to go to normal school and get my teaching certificate, because my dad wants me to, and teach for two year s while Tom gets his degree, a nd then we’ll get married . They don’t hire married teachers where we’re going to live. ” She opened her notebook and showed me a section in the back where she’d pasted pictures of bridal gowns and bridesmaids’ dresses. “See, I’ve already begun to plan my we dding.” We Commented [LR54]: The principal? He is not named anywhere else in the text previously —just referred t o as “the principal.”


37 studied the pictures together. “ Which do you like better for my bouquet, lilies or white roses?” “Either,” I said. “Maybe both.” I’d never thought about wedding bouquets . I saw no point in thinking about it weddings . Marriage seemed like someth ing a long way off. I was more interested in becoming a famous herpetologist . We went back to checking the seniors’ forms. My list of activities was among the longest in the class— decorating committees, ice cream committees, receptions, pageants, debating club, dramatic club, class secretary . I added another one: class song . Along with Jack Daniel s —the pimply boy who’d danced with Tubby after commencement two years earlier —I was elected by the staff of The Oracle to write the words to the class song. It would be sung at commencement to the tune of the Plainfield High School alma mater. I’d been writing poetry since I was a young child . Mother kept most of my early scribb lings in a box, along with my report cards , beginning in first grade . She did this for Ru th and for Roger, too, although Roger ’s box was practically empty. “Just look at this,” my mother had said , pulling out a crumpled bit of paper with my handwriting . “ ‘Flit on, lovely butterfly / Into a world more fair / With azure sky far mor e high / Than that blue sky up there.’ You wrote that when you were eleven— see, I put the date on it: August 1915.” Six years after writing that butterfly poem, I sat in the library across from Jack Daniel s , trying to come up with an idea for the song. I didn’t much ca re for Jack. H is pimples were mostly gone, but he seemed overly impressed with his own brilliance. He’d already had his poetry published in some little magazine no one had heard of. “We have to work the class colors in to the poem,” Jack said . “That’s a good place to start.” Commented [CY55]: Think we could delete. Commented [LR56]: When did she say this? Change to “would say” to make it a habitual action rather than a specific incident?


38 “I didn’t know we even had class colors. When was that decided? And what are they?” Jack looked at me with utter disdain. “For your i nformation , they’re red and gray, and we voted on them last fall, before the Autumn Festival dance. You don’t recall that? ” “I didn’t go to the Autumn Festival dance,” I sniffed . “But aren’t there some other school colors? Scarlet and azure? ” I was thinking, I suppose, of the azure sky in my childhood poem. “Red and blue, Peg,” Jack sighed. “Red and blue ar e the school colors. We’re talking now about our class colors.” I had once written a prize winning eight hundred word short story with much less fuss, but then I wasn’t trying to work with a self appointed poet laureate. A fter hours of discussion , we cobbl e d together a poem. Our Red and Gray we’ll ne’er forget, / We’ll always to our Class be true. / What e’er we do thr oughout our lives / We’ll k eep unstained the Red and Blue. “Very colorful,” I allowed. I graduated with high grades and plans to attend Bar nard College in New York City. Mimsy was the valedictorian, no surprise, and gave a stirring ad dress on “Beauty in Modern Life” with references to art, music, poetry, and dance . Prizes were awarded in Latin, physics, chemistry, and mathematics, and Mimsy collected the Babcock Prize for her short story based on Hermione, the daughter of Helen of Troy. “I didn’t even know Helen had a daughter,” Tubby said . “But if anybody would know, it’s Mimsy.” I stayed at the dance for about fifteen minutes after the com mencement exercises with no expectations —a good thing, because not one boy even glanced my way. What boy would want to dance with a girl who loves snakes and frogs? Commented [CY57]: Is this the actual song? Yep. Commented [LR58]: See below — Columbia did not admit women in 1919.


39 “ It’s not the snakes and frogs that are the problem, ” Tubby said. She’d stayed at the danc e until she got tired of Jack Daniel s hanging around and went home . “It’s that you always seem so sure of yourself! And I think that scares them off. Just look at those crystal chandelier girls . W hen a boy they like comes within range, they look as though they couldn’t open a jar of jelly without his help. Maybe you should cultivate some of that — you know, the helpless maiden .” “All right,” I said sarcastically, “but I’m probably incompetent at trying to appear incompetent.” Tubby laughed. “ Maybe so . Anyw ay, you’ll be off to college in the fall, and everything will be different.” That summer I took the train to Rutgers University in New Brunswick, where I enrolled in classes in swimming and aesthetic dancing. I was already a good swimmer —I’d been on the high school girls’ swim team —but I wan ted to become an excellent swimmer, because I believed that , as a herpetologist collecting specimens in the wild , I might frequently be around bodies of water . The Amazon, maybe, or the Nile! When Ruth and I were childr en, our mothe r sent us to dancing class to learn the waltz and the foxtrot , while crystal chandelier girls studied ballet or tap. A esthetic dancing — barefoot, no point shoes or tap shoes required —was different, a form of selfexpression, and it didn’t requ ire a partner. I already had good balance, but I wanted to have complete control of my body, and I thought this kind of dancing would develop it . The instructor , Madame Chartier, was a gaunt woman in a flowing black skirt , her dark hair with a dramatic wh ite streak pulled severely back into a chignon. “Once upon a time,” Madame Chartier told us , “ ballet was my life . I danced en pointe, I had beautiful extension!” She paused to demonstrate, her arms and legs in a n elegant Commented [LR59]: If Tubby and Margare t both went home, where are they talking to each other now? Or is this the next day? Commented [CY60]: Need HIS? Commented [CY61]: Need?


40 pose. “ But m y focus moved away from my limbs to the center of my body . I learned to concentrate on my breathing and how I moved . And that, my dears, is what I want you to do: Breathe! Move! Feel that energy coursing through your entire body!” Day after day I breathed and I moved . T he swim ming and dancing streamlined my roundish figure , and m y body became lithe and sleek . O ne of the dancers loaned me a lipstick and showed me how to use it. I looked in the mi rror and liked what I saw. N o longer a plain, baby faced girl but a pretty seventee n year old smiled back at me. The other thing that happened during that summer was my growing friendship with our well to do neighbors, Mr. Henry Munger and his sister, Miss Jessie Munger , who lived a few blocks away . Bound Brook was not a wealthy town. T he Mungers could very well have lived in nearby Plainfield , a town of large villas, sweeping green lawns, and elaborate flowerbeds, but for some reason they chose not to. Mr. Munger puttered around his flower s and looked after his own lawn, although he had reached an age when that was becoming harder . S ometimes my mother sent Roger over to the Mungers’ to help out. They always tried to pay Roger, but Mother forbade him to accept any money. “It’s what neighbors do ,” she said. “They look out for each other.” Roger objected, saying he wanted to have some extra spending money, and he promised to save half of whatever he made, but Mother was unbending . So Roger rode over on his bicycle to help with the weeding and mowing and snow shoveling and sometimes ran er rands for Miss Munger without pay . She probably slipped him a quarter every now and then and Roger didn’t say no , but he didn’t report this income to Mother . Miss Munger had problems with her eyesigh t, and this was where I came in. T wo or three times a w eek I read to her for an hour or so. We sat in the dark Victorian front parlor with dusty velvet draperies and weighty furniture and inscrutable paintings in heavy gilt Commented [CY62]: Need> Commented [LR63]: In summer?? Commented [CY64]: Need? Commented [CY65]: Another way of saying this?


41 frames crowding every wall, the lights all burning, even on the brightest summer day. B etween chapters Miss Munger always called for tea, and it was Mr. Munger who obliged, as though he were a servant, carrying a large silver tray and a plate of slightly stale cookies. When I told Mother, she began sending over a tin of cookies fresh from ou r own oven. Miss Munger was fond of historical novels, particularly if they were set in England and featured the Tudors. She loved every one of Henry VIII’s wives. S he was interested in many other things as well, and I once brought my hognose snake to visi t. Miss Munger squinted at him when he reared up and hissed at her and applauded softly when he played dead . “W hat is it you intend to study, Margaret?” she asked on my last visit before I was to leave for college. “Herpetology. ” “ The study of snakes! Ho w thrilling! ” she said. “But is that a proper calling for a young lady , I wonder ? Still, one does sometimes wish for the unusual, doesn’t one! ” Then she added thoughtfully that the highlight of her life had been a trip to India with her grandmother when she was a girl . “The naja naja! That’s what they call ed the cobra. I remember the snake charmer playing his pungi, and that snake rising up out of his basket, my dear! How exciting for you!” I was packing my clothes, folding another drab dress as well as several pairs of those awful cotton stockings. Ruth, home from Boston where she was in college , sat on her bed , across from mine, and tried to assure me that from now on everything would be different. “C ollege boys aren’t like those boys who di dn’t p ay attention to you in high school ,” she said. “Y ou probably scared them off . You’ re too smart, too ambitious, too driven . Boys Commented [CY66]: Need? Commented [CY67]: Need? Commented [CY68]: Needs tightening. Need “my dear”? OR “How exciting for you”? Commented [CY69]: Or “home from colleg e” Need Boston?


42 mature more slowly than girls, you know, and in high school they don’t know what to make of a girl who is as confident as you seem to be . But that will change. You’ll see.” “Has it changed for you?” I asked. It didn’t seem to me that much had. She was still wearing cotton stockings and the dresses she’d made herself in high school. “I’m not like you, Peg,” Ruth replied . “I’ve never been like you. I love the law classes I’m taking, I get good grades, and I’m contented with that . I’ve never had the slightest desire to do things that other women don’t . I don’t want to be different . And you do .” “Yes,” I said. “ That’s true.” When I’d f inished packing, we all piled into the family car, and Father drove to the residence hall at Barnard College. Columbia University was a men’s college and didn’t admit women, but I could enroll in science courses there and take my other required courses at Barnard, the women’s college on the opposite side of Broadway where I’d be living . “Call if you need anything,” Father said, setting down the battered old suitcase my mother had loaned me. “Remember, Margaret, never take the easy way,” Mother said , predi ctably. Roger promised to take care of my various animals. From now on everything will be different , Ruth had promised . But it wasn’t . Nothing changed — at least , not right away. Commented [LR70]: Really? This doesn’t ring true to me—was it common for a woman to take law classes in 1919? Or, for that matter, go to college at all? Commented [CY71]: Don’t need. Just said the residence hall was at Barnard. Commented [LR72]: Father seems ve ry distant in this goodbye sc ene—would Margaret be sadder to see him go? I wonder if highlighting the close relationship between Margaret and her father here will make the scenes after his death feel more emotional? AGREE. THIS IS A KEY RELATIONSHIP. Commented [LR73]: Right? There’s been no mention of shared pets.


43 Chapter 5 : A Mature and Intelligent Young Woman —1921 I’d signed up for b iology, zoology, mathematics, and chemistry at Columbia . M ost of the students in my classes were boys. The girls in my residence hall laughed at things I d idn’t find funny, and they never seemed to tire of discussing clothes and parties and the handsome ph ilosophy professor . My roommate, Madge Jacobson, a pretty girl with a curly blond bob and a closetful of smart dresses, would have fit in perfectly with the crystalchandeliers. While I was studying in the library, Madge and her friends spent their free time playing bridge and talking incessantly about the Columbia boys t hey met . Madge had an infectious laugh and always seemed ready to have fun. Boys were asking her for dates from her first week on campus. One thing can could be said for Madge: she didn’t seem to mind that I kept a couple of pet snakes in a terrarium next to my desk. We had strict curfews —eight o’clock on weeknights, midnight on weekends, ten on Sundays. The curfews didn’t bother me. Why would I want to stay out any later? There was a telep hone in a booth at the end of the hall, and we had to take turns answering with, “Good evening, Fourth Floor Brooks Hall,” from seve n until quiet hours began at ten; no calls were allowed after ten . I hated that one hour a week when it was my turn to sit by the phone and answer when it rang , then trot off to knock on the door of the fortunate girl who’d gotten the call . I t never rang for me. At the start of Christmas vacation I caught the train from Manhattan out to Bound Brook. As usual, I had brought along a satchel of books. I was deep in a chapter on cycloalkanase when a male voice asked if the seat next to me happened to be available. I glanced up and nodded . He was t all and thin with fine features and bright blue eyes behind horn rimmed glasses that slipped down his nose . He looked older. He observed me observing Commented [LR74]: Isn’t it still fall of 1920? Commented [LR75]: This criticism of the other girls doesn’t ring quite true because Margaret has spent so much of the previous 4 chapters worrying about whether boys will ask her out or ask her to dance. She seems quite concerned with boys —so here, when she suddenly paints herself as totally uninterested in them, I don’t really believe it. Commented [CY76]: Awkward. PERHAPS SAY: “ Boys were always asking her for dates. But one thing could be said for Madge, she ” Commented [CY77]: Need? Commented [CY78]: WORDY: I hated that one hou r I had to answer the phone and knock on the door of the fortunate girl” Don’t think you need “who’d gotten the call” – obvious. Commented [CY79]: The phone Commented [LR80]: Her family never calls? And Tubby and Sara Jane never called her? Seems like her high school friends completely d isappear here. Commented [LR81]: Should this be cycloalkanes (type of hydrocarbon compound)? Could not find a definition for “cycloalkanase.” Commented [CY82]: Or “was” Commented [CY83]: Necessary


44 him and smiled , display ing perfectly even teeth ., . I smiled back , a little nervously . He point ed to the book in my lap. “Organic c hemistry,” he said. “You’re a student, then?” I said I was. “ Columbia University. I p lan to major in herpetology. ” At first I kept my finger in the book to mark my place, b ut I soon forgot about it . He was a scientist, he said, on his way to Cal co Chemical in Bound Brook where he was about to start wor k as a research chemist. “They manufacture dyes,” he explained . “That’s what I’ll be working on.” Brief pause, then, “My name is Franois Gilfillan , but p lease call me Gil.” “Peg gy White,” I said , thinking that m y name sounded terribly dull and ordinary. “ My home is in Bound Brook.” We shook hands. “I’m from Ninnekah, Oklahoma,” he said. “I’m probably the only person from Ninnekah who’s ever been named Franois.” A boy —a man, really — was paying attention to me . A nd he was a scientist! W e got off the train at Bound Brook . He helped me with my small bag — I didn’t need help, but remembering Tubby’s advice, I let him —and introduced him to my father, who had come to meet me. They seemed to make a favorable impression on each other right from the start. “It ap pears that your daughter and I have similar interests in science, Mr. White,” Gil said while they were still shaking hands. “May I have your permission to call on her?” F ather glanced at me, and a little smile twitched at his lips. “Of course, Mr. Gilfill an, ” he said. And Gil did call . At m y mother’s suggestion, I invite d him to come f or Christmas dinner , and he accepted . Commented [CY84]: Delete. Commented [CY85]: General comment: Does she seem too obsessed with the approval of men rather than ALSO being obsessed with her own development and success? Commented [CY86]: He said he was a scientistwhere he was to start work Commented [CY87]: Need? Commented [CY88]: Not sure why he would say this? Delete? Commented [LR89]: Haha!! I was thinking the same thing Commented [CY90]: Awkward. Reword? They seemed to approve of each other right Commented [LR91]: On the ph one? Or “call on her,” i.e. visit? Unclear.


45 I wondered if, while Gil was there, Father would have a sudden inspiration and wander off to make notes or draw diagrams for one of his inventions . He was working on something extremely complicated, he said, the most complicated project yet. Christmas Day dawned. There was no decorated tree, no wreath on the front door. I thought it would have been nice to have some cheerful touch, bu t my parents saw no reason for holly or shiny glass balls. They didn’ t practice any religion, and they would have probably served what we always ate on Sunday—chicken fricassee and dumplings —if Ruth hadn’t persuaded Mother to order a big roasting chicken, instead of one small bird that she usually stretched to feed the five of us. We would stuff the roaster , mash potatoes with cream, fix glazed carrots, bake Parker House rolls, and serve apple pie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream (“ la mode ,” Ruth called it) for dessert. It would be a real holiday feast. “You’ve been spending too much time with the upper crust in Boston,” Mother sniffed. Mother and Ruth and I spent the morning in the kitchen. After everything was ready, I went upstairs to change. I wish ed I had something festive to wear, but everything I owned seemed just the opposite . However, I had the tube of dark red lipstick I’d purchased last summer while I was at Rutgers, and I ’d learned to appl y ied it expertly . I thought that was in the spirit of the day , but w hen I came downstairs, Mother saw me and frowned . “It makes you look cheap, Margaret,” she said, but she did not send me to the bathroom to wipe it off. Gil arrived, cheeks reddened with cold , wishing everyone a m erry Christmas and presen ting Mother with a box of chocolates. Gil and Father hit it off immediately, as I expected they would. Gil was a serious scientist. Even b efore the chicken emerged from the oven, Father had asked all the critical question s . Father: “So, Gil, where do you h ail from?” Commented [LR92]: Why does she wonder this? Is she worried whether Father would embarrass her by being rude to Gil? Not clear what she’s thinking. Commented [CY93]: Awkward. The first parts of this sentence are really not connected. My parents d idn’t practice any religion so there no decorated tree, no wreath on the front door. I thought it would have been nice to have some cheerful touches but my parents saw no need for holly or shiny glassy balls. Thankfully Ruth persuaded Mother to order a big roasting chicken and not our usual Sunday dinner menu of chicken fricassee and dumplings. Commented [LR94]: Unclear why Mother says this — because Ruth says “a la mode”? Doesn’t seem connected, logically, to that parenthetical statement from previous paragraph. Commented [CY95]: OR Lucki ly I still had that tube of dark red lipstick I purchased last summer. I knew how to apply it expertly. Commented [LR96]: The lipstick was not mentioned in the Rutgers section —maybe add it there, so it doesn’t seem to pop up out of nowhere here? And when did she learn how to “apply it expertly,” if she spent her whole fall semester studying and avoiding parties?


46 Gil: “Well, sir, I was born in Oklahoma, and my family moved to Texas when I was a boy.” Father: “Educated in Texas, then?” Gil: “A year at the Polytechnic College, but I left and went to visit an uncle in Oregon and got a job teaching high school. Ended up going to college and getting a degree in pharmacy before I joined the army.” There followed questions about where he’d served during the great war against Germany , and that led to a discussion about chemical warfare. Gil explained that after his discharge he’d gone to Yale on a fellowship from Calco Chemical and had recently gotten hi s doctorate in chemistry. “N ow I’m at Calco as a research chemist. ” Mother (coming in from the kitchen and interrupting): “And how old did you say you are, Mr. Gi lfillan?” Gil (turning his attention from Father): “Twenty eight, Mrs. White. I’ll be twenty nine next month .” Mother (shocked) : “Twenty eight! Are you aware that Margaret is just seventeen?” Gil looked startled , and I suppose I did, too. I’d guessed he w as older, but not that much older. Twelve years sounded like a large age gap, even if it didn’t feel that way. Gil recovered quickly. “Peg —Margaret —strikes me as a very mature and intelligent young woman.” A bright little bubble of happiness expanded in m y chest. Not a seventeen year old girl — a mature and intelligent young woman ! I turned away to hide a grin. Nothing more was said about my age, and we lurched awkwardly to another topic until it was time to bring the food to the table. Father carved inexp ertly, as though he’d never seen a roast chicken, and dishes were passed around. Gil complimented everything, but Commented [CY97]: OR “critical questions like where he was from and where he grew up. Gil talked about growing up in Texas Not sure this works for me. Commented [CY98]: Not sure these exchanges work. Commented [CY99]: OR It really didn’t feel that there were twelve years between us. OR SOME SUCH THING. Commented [CY100]: Need? Commented [CY101]: WHAT?


47 otherwise i t was a quiet meal. My father didn’t like a lot of conversation at meals, but at least he didn’t bolt from the table to make notes on his latest idea . Mother and Ruth eye d Gil surreptitiously ., We rarely had guests for dinner, and Roger stared at him with undisguised curios ity . “You must be pretty important,” said my brother. “We never eat like this.” Mother gasp ed . “I’ll take that as a compliment,” Gil said smoothly , and accepted more mashed potatoes. Roger was not the only one who had no idea how to act. None of us did. I ate silently , feeling vaguely embarrassed , and occasionally jumped up to carry dirty dishes to the kitchen and , industriously scrap e ing them , glad for something to do. “You should be in there entertaining your beau,” Mother whispered as she rinsed the dishes. “Goodness knows your father won’t do it.” “He’s n ot my beau! And he and Father are actually talking .” We crept closer to the door between the kitchen and the dining room to listen . They were deep in conversation and I relaxed a little. For dessert, Ruth had produced a handsome apple pie, and Roger announced that he had cranked the ice cream freezer himself . “I thought my arm would fall off,” he said proudly. My parents didn’t drink coffee, so they didn’t offer any —just another round of ice water from a pitcher with a noticeable chip on the rim. I wasn’t sure what to do ne xt. W e all tried to think of somethin g to say, until Roger spoke up. “Do you want to see my rabbits?” We trooped out to the backyard. Roger introduced his bunnies one by one and allowed Gil to pet them . I t had begun to snow lightly. Finally Gil praised the meal one more Commented [CY102]: Another way to say this? Commented [CY103]: Could this be combined? We rarely had guests for dinner and none of us knew how to act. It was Roger who couldn’t contro l himself and broke the silence. “You must be “I’ll take that as” I spent the whole time feeling slightly embarrassed and occasionally jumped up to carry dirty dishes to the kitchen. I ended up staying there scraping the dishes, glad for something to d o. “You should Commented [CY104]: Transition into this. “But when it began to snow lightly, Gus praised


48 time, wished us a ha ppy Christmas again , shook hands with Father, and retrieved his hat and overcoat. “Goodbye, Peggy ,” he said. “Thank you for inviting me to be a part of your family’s celebration.” Celebration? It hadn’t seemed like much of a celebration. Gil stepped out in to the whirling snow, and t he door closed firmly behind him. I stood at the window, watching. He shove d his hands deep in his pockets, hunched forward, and hurried down the front walk and turn ed the corner. “Where does he live?” Ruth asked. “ How’s he gett ing home ? It’s snowing pretty hard. ” “I don’t know.” “Well,” said Mother, dropping into her chair. “That’s that.” A few d ays later a note arrived addressed to Mr. and Mrs. Joseph White , thanking th em for their kind hospitality. There was n o mention of th e mature and intelligent young woman. But Gil telephoned me at Brooks Hall —the first phone call I’d received there , other than from my mother —and invited me to have dinner with him on January 12 , his birthday. He would take the train in to the city after work in the laboratory . “We can meet at Pierre’s. It’s a nice little French restaurant near the train station. ” When I told Madge that I planned to wear my one “good” outfit , which wasn’t very good at all, and my dreadful cotton stockings, she offered to loan me an entire outfit. “You’re going to Pierre’s, my dear,” she said . “ You can’t go there looking like a farmer’s daughter.” O ut came Madge’s smart little black suit , peacock blue hat and gloves , and silk stockings — the stockings alone made me feel as though I was dressed to the nines. My tweed Commented [CY105]: I watched from the window. Gil shoved Commented [CY106]: Need? Commented [LR107]: Or some sort of transition here? To show that she didn’t expect him to call her (see previous paragraph), but he did . Commented [CY108]: Need?


49 coat would have to do. Mother had bought it for me when I was a freshman in high school, a size larger than I usually wore because she thought I had n’t finished growing . It was an investment and worth every penny, Mother had said, because Irish tweed doesn’t wear out and I’d have it for years. But it was still one size too large and made me look like a middle aged housewife , older and dowdier than a farmer’s daughter . “N ow the makeup,” Madge said , and went to wor k —rouge on the cheeks, powder on the nose, black pencil around the eyes , and finally the lipstick. “Remember to redo the lipstick when you’ve finished eating. Be sure to blot your lips, b ut b e careful when he kisses you that you don’t smudge,” she warne d. When he kisses me ? I hadn’t considered that possibility . The girls in our wing of the residence hall had thoroughly discussed the topic of when it was proper to let a boy kiss you the first time . Most agreed that the third date was all right . A few wh o were considered fast by the others dismissed this as prudish . “If you want to kiss him on the first date, then do it! What’s the harm in that?” “But y ou want the boy to respect you,” argued overweight, sallow skinned Muriel, and the prudes nodded sagely . Madge sided with the fast girls. Kissing was fine, but “No petting,” Madge advised firmly. “Not until you’ve been dating regularly for a couple of months. ” I ’d list ened , not want ing to admit that I didn’t know what petting was. Madge explained it later : “ N o touching below the neck.” T hey all seemed to have had plenty of experience in dating —even Muriel —and most had established time tables for each step beyond the first kiss. But I had no experience at all, and t his would be my first real date. I was sure that Gil must have had plenty of dates and would know what was expected. But h e didn’t seem like the type to take advantage of a girl. Commented [CY109]: “n a larger size, because Commented [CY110]: These could be combines: It was Irish tweed didn’t wear out. It was an investment and worth every sent. But it Commented [CY111]: Need? Commented [CY112]: Need? “the topic of”? Commented [CY113]: Or Most agreed on the third date. A few fast ones dismissed this Commented [CY114]: Don’t li ke this characteristic. NOT ALL prudes are overweight. A stereotype. And, do we know who she is? Commented [LR115]: Later = when? This convenient definition seems awkward. Maybe Margaret would ask one of the other girls later, instead? Like Muriel?


50 I checked the seams on my borrowed stockings one more time; I was ready. I had my doubts about meeting Gil at the restau rant, but Madge thought tha t was fine. “ It’s much more sophisticated to meet him there than to have him make the long haul up to a dormitory in Morningside Heights. ” I arrived at Pierre’s too early . N ot sure what a girl was supposed to do while waiting fo r her date , I ordered coffee, even though I seldom drank it and didn’t care for it, but I felt that ordering a glass of milk would betray my utter lack of sophistication. The waiter in a long white apron appeared indifferent. I poured in as much cream as t he cup would hold and sipped the pale coffee until it was cold. S hould I pay for it? Or wait for Gil to do it? At last he rushed in, overcoat flapping, glasses steaming in the sudden heat of the restaurant , full of apologies and explanations: his boss wan t ed additional data before he could leave, the trains didn’t run as often as he thought. He slid into a chair across from me . “Well,” he said, smiling, “here we are.” “Happy b irthday,” I said . Should I have bought him a gift? But what would have been the r ight thing to buy? “Thank you.” C ould Gil see how nervous I was ? I’d left a red lip print on the rim of the coffee cup . Should I go to the ladies room and put on more? Or wait until after I’d eaten? The waiter saved me. “ Bon soir, m’sieur et mam’selle,” he said with a stiff bow , handing me a menu . T wo years of Madame Bosc’s French class had not included any food vocabulary . I recognized a few words, like poulet , chicken, but I had no idea if the poulet was baked, boiled, or fried. W hen Gil said he’d heard that the potage d ’oignon was excellent, and the waiter recommended the vol au vent , whatever that was, I went along with their suggestions.


51 Gil talked about his work in the lab and asked questions about herpetology that sounded as though he actually cared and wasn’t just being polite. Boys I’d known in high school had always fled when the conversation veered toward my future plans , like wanting to travel and bring back live specimens and give lectures, but Gil paid attention . By the time my empty potage bowl was whisked away and a pastry filled with something or other was set before me, my self consciousness was disappearing. After some delicious mousse au chocolat and another demitasse de caf , I suddenly realized that we ’d have to rush to make it back to the residence hall by curfew. Gil took my elbow and hustled me across streets and along sidewalks to the imposing entry of Brooks Hall , with its row of Greek columns . After a hurried thank you and goodbye — there was no time to even think about a kiss—I st epped through t he door into the brightly lit lobby, past th e house mother frowning at her watch. For five days I thought often of Gil , wondering if there would be another date and another possibility for a kiss. Then, at last, I received a telephone call . But it wasn’ t Gil. It w as Mother. “C ome home as quick as you can , Margaret . Father is in a coma.” Commented [CY116]: “when the conversation veered toward my future – traveling and bringing back specimens and giving lectures – but Gill paid attention. Commented [CY117]: Another word here? After used at beginning of para Commented [LR118]: Great cliffhanger — the pacing really starts to pick up here! CAROLYN: THINK PACE BEFORE THIS .


52 Chapter 6 : Relatives and Revelations —1922 My f ather had suffered a stroke. It was not his first. Th e first one had happened f ive years earlier . W e’ d ju st finished supper . Ruth hadn’t yet gone away to college, and it was her turn to wash the dishes; I was drying. Father sat in his usual chair, thinking, and Mother sat in her chair, sew ing and probably trying to get him to tal k to her. He made an odd noise and slumped over. Mother jumped up and ran to him. So did I, still holding the dishtowel. He tried to talk , but nothing came out except strange garbled sounds. Ruth rushed to call the doctor. It was a stroke, the doctor told us . I didn’t know what a stro ke was, but I soon learned: Father could not move his left arm or leg, part of his face was paralyzed, and he couldn’t speak . I thought he was going to die. But he didn’t , and every day as soon as I came home from school—I was twelve and in the sixth grad e —I sat beside him and described my day . Mr. Hoe, t he owner of the company where Father worked, came to the house to visit him . “We are much indebted to you, White,” I remembered Mr. Hoe sa ying , patting my father’s hand. “W e wish to assure you that your j ob wi ll be waiting for you when you’ re able to come back to work.” It had been a long and frustrating process, the gradual return of speech and movement, a slow recovery of performing even the simplest tasks. But i n time Father had recovered well enough to return to the foundry . E ventually he was back to normal and took Ruth and Roger and me on a trip to Niagara Falls. T his time it was different. He was unconscious, and the doctor was not optimistic. I stayed by his side in his hospital , holding his hand and speaking to him softly . “Do you remember when I was about eight years old and you took me to your factory?” I asked. Commented [LR119]: Check timeline — by my accounting, it’s now early 1921 Commented [LR120]: Need? DELETE Commented [LR121]: Move up, after “The first one had happened five years earlier”? Seems awkward to interrupt narrative with this info here. Commented [LR122]: I thought R. Hoe & Company manufactured printing presses? Is t hat the same as a foundry? Commented [LR123]: This Niagara Falls detail seems completely unrelated/randomcut? AGREE


53 T he day had been bright and sunny, but inside the foundry where the printing presses were manufactured , it was a different world — hot , dusty, smoky, and terribly noisy. You had to shout to make yourself heard. Clutching Father’s hand, I had climbed metal stairs to an iron balcony where we looked down on a awesome , terrifying scene. A gigantic ladle suspended from an overhead track was guided into place . The n it was tipped , pouring a fiery cascade of red hot liquid metal into molds . Sparks flew and danced, accompanied by a blast of intense heat. “I’ll never forget that, Father,” I whispered now , remembering the heart pounding sense of d anger I’d felt then, and the trust I’d always had in him. I knew he’d keep me safe. I squeezed his hand, willing him to squeeze back, but there was no response. Ruth rushed home from Boston and spelled me at Father’s bedside. I was reluctant to leave, but she and Mother insisted . E xhausted, I gave in. N ot long after I left the hospital and went home to climb into my childhood bed, Father died. I never got over the fact that I was not with him at that moment . Mother was completely shaken . Father’s broth er, Lazar us , called Lazar —an engineer, like Father—a nd Uncle Lazar’s wife, Naomi, came at once. So did Grandmother White and my two cousins, Felicia and David . It was obvious that Mother disliked her mother in law and sister in law, and she had only grudgi ng respect for Uncle Lazar. S he was barely civil to them. Later, w hen I asked why, Mother said, “They t hink they’re bet ter than we are, because Lazar makes more money than your father ever did. ” That was Mother’s explanation, but I knew there had to be mor e . At the funeral, on a blustery January day, Mr. Hoe and a handful of men from the foundry appeared in black suits , with solemn faces. They stood holding their fedora s , beside the open grave in the Plainfield cemetery and assured Mother that Joseph White would never Commented [CY124]: Meaning? Commented [LR125]: I’m not familiar with this use of “spell” and can’t find a definition for it — change? Commented [CY126]: Not long after I reached home and climbed into by childhood bed, my Father died. I never Commented [CY127]: This seems a tad rushed. Commented [LR128]: Wouldn’t they all be? Commented [LR129]: It’s unclear to me in this paragraph whether Margaret has ever met these relatives before?


54 be forgotten, that a plaque in his memory would be mounted outside the main office. A tall, thin man with a goatee began to read from a notebook, droning on and on about what a fine person Joseph White had been. I’d never seen him before. How did he know anything about my father? I glanced at Ruth questioningly . “Ethical Culture Society,” she whispered. “Kind of a non church. Mother’s idea.” Whoever he was, he called on Uncle Lazar to say a few words. Roger leaned against Mother, cry ing quiet ly. Mother looked as though every drop of blood had been drained from her, and I was afraid that she, too, might topple into the yawning grave . Uncle Lazar , Aunt Naomi , and Grandmother White clung to each other as a shovelful of dirt was flung on to the pla in wooden coffin. My cousins stared dolefully at the grave. For days I’d done almost nothing but weep, but now, standing by the graveside, I felt only an awful numbness, as though a hole had been hollowed out inside me. Mother handed each of us a white ros e she’d bought from a florist, and I stepped forward and dropped mine on to the dirt. I wondered when I’d be able to feel again, or if I ever would. It was over. T he men from R. Hoe & Company replaced their fedoras and left. The rest of us drove back to ou r house, and Mother tied on an apron and served lunch, ladling out steaming bowls of pea soup. Uncle Lazar and Aunt Naomi shook their heads, saying they weren’t hungry, and Grandmother White also refused the bowl Mother offered her . “I don’t eat ham,” she said. “You made this soup with a ham bone.” “That’s right,” Mother said , her chin lifted defiantly . “I did.” “You should have known I wouldn’t eat it.” Grandmother White and Mother glared at each other. The others looked away , except for Ruth, who shot me a look and shook her head . I couldn’t tell what she was thinking. Commented [CY130]: Another way of saying this?


55 No one seemed to have much appetite, but the rest of us ate —there was plenty of bread and applesauce for the non soup eaters—and then the in laws prepared to leave. Uncle Lazar gave Roger and Ruth and me tentative hugs. “I’ll do what I can to help you with your schooling, if you need it,” he promis ed. W e thanked him, although I had no idea if we needed it or not . A few days later , I found out we did. Ruth offered to go through Father’s th ings with Mother , who sat at the dining room table, poring over a pile of bills. “Twenty five years,” she muttered. “Twenty five years of marriage, and I never had the slightest idea of any of this.” The door to Roger’s room was closed. I tapped on it and pushed it open. Roger lay on his bed, staring at the ceiling. “Go away,” he growl ed , trying to sound older than a boy of eleven. I ruffled his hair, but he pushed my hand away. I left Roger alone and wandered from room to room, gazing at Father’s photogra phs that crowded every wall. T he one he’d done of Mother in her shawl, lit with a flashlight, her head turned a little, her smile tenuous. Another of Ruth and Roger and me at Niagara Falls, after he’d recovered from his first stroke . Mother had said she di dn’t want to go anywhere , just wanted to stay home, and waved to us as we left , telling us to go and enjoy ourselves. P ictures of flowers, birds, my butterflies , our old dog, Rover . Every photograph brought back another memory of my father Father and the pa inful recognition that there would be no new ones. I was torn between wanting to look at them and being overcome with grief when I did. On t he day before Ruth had to leave for Boston and her law classes, Mother called us together at the dining room table . The flowers sent by friends were wilting , and the pies and covered dishes delivered by sympathetic neighbors had been consumed. Ruth brewed a pot of tea and poured a glass of milk for Roger and brought him the last of the neighbors’ cookies . Commented [LR131]: just Grandmother, right? Seems like an odd moment for this humorous line. Commented [CY132]: This doesn’t really offer much. Needs to be much more heartfelt. OR Even though I knew there would be no more new photographs or memories of my Father, I couldn’t look away. The photographs had too much power. Commented [CY133]: Not sure this makes sense. Why does it matter that the flowers are wilting, etc. Just keep: “Ruth brewed”


56 “There’s something I want to tell all of you,” Mother began. “ T here is no way to make it any easier. The Whites a re Jews. I’m talking about Lazarus, Naomi, G randmother, and the children . All of them are o bservant Jews, meaning they obey certain laws that make not a particle of sense to me.” Roger broke off a corner of his molasses cookie and stuffed it in to his mouth. I opened my mouth and closed it again. Ruth poured milk into her tea and asked calmly , “What about Father?” “Jewish, too, of course, but not observant. He rejected all of that long before we were married, before I even met him. He told me right off about his family and asked if it mattered to me. He knew I was Catholic on one side, Baptist on the other, and I wanted nothing to do with either one. I said it didn’t, as far as he was concerned, but I had to be honest and say I’ve never liked Jews. In general, I mean.” Ruth and I stared at Mother, trying to take in what she was saying. “Why?” Roger piped up. He was chasing a crumb around the saucer in front o f him. “Why don’t you like Jews?” “Because they ’re all like Lazar and Naomi . They call themselves the Chosen People. But they’re greed y and all they care about is money . You don’t see Jews taking the hard jobs. They get someone else to do their dirty work and then make a profit on their labor. So it’s not something you want to brag about, that your own father was born and raised a Jew. ” Mother slapped the table for emphasis. “ When the family moved from Poland to England, their name was Weis, which means “w hite. ” T hey changed it before they came to America, before your father was born. Grandmother White doesn’t let you forget for a minute who she is . That’s why she was making that fuss ab out not eating my soup . Jews don’t eat ham. I didn’t do it to deliberately insult her, but she took it that way, didn’t she?” I was speechless, but Ruth was not. “Why are you telling us this now?” Commented [CY134]: This seems dropped in . Perhaps a transitional sentence to lead into the rest of the dialogue: Have a line about Peg and what she is feeling.


57 S he ’d pushed her chair back from the table stood up abruptly and beg a un pacing , her forehead knotted in a frown . “Because someone might bring it up, and I didn’t want you to be surprised. I wanted you to hear it from me first.” “Is it a secret?” asked Roger. “Not a secret, exactly. You don’t talk about it , but if someone happens to ask you if you’re Jewish, you should say , ‘ I’m n ot, but my father was born to a Jewish family.’ And then change the subject.” “Oh,” said Roger. “May I please be excused?” Mother nodded, and Roger’s chair scraped away from the table. Ruth sat down again and poured herself another cup of tea. I still ha dn’t said anything, mostly because I didn’t know what to say, or even what to think. I listened to the clink clink of Ruth’s spoon aga inst the teacup. In some ways what Mother had just told us seemed the least important thing I ’d ever learned about my fath er , no more important than his shoe size. What could it possibly mean to me ? “Uncle Lazar said he’d help us with tu ition, if we need it,” I said at last, because it seemed necessary to say something . “Well, you probably will,” said Mother . “Your father was not prudent with money.” The next day Ruth got on the train for Boston, and it fell to me to visit the law offices of Calhoun and Reilly. Mr. Calhoun, a half dozen thin strands of pale hair combed in even rows across his skull, sat behind a large desk and examined a single sheet of paper . He explained that, a lthough Father had dra wn up a Last Will and Testament stating that his estate was to be divided evenly in four portions among his wife and three children, there was actually no estate to speak of —just a small savings account and a house with a mortgage. Mother was right: Father had not been prudent with money. Commented [CY135]: Another way of saying t his? Commented [CY136]: Needed? Yes – part of Roger, typical of his age.NO REACTION FROM MARGARET? She needs to react to the BIG moments in her life. PERHAPS instead of OH he could say OK but please may I be excused. Commented [LR137R136]: Agree — I think it’s problematic that Magaret doesn’t rea ct at all to Mother’s virulent anti -Semitism in her reaction, below. Unless we’re meant to understand that it was just a common attitude for the times? I think there has to be some larger recognition of this cultural prejudice, though — especially since the Prologue opens in WWII, now the reader might be wondering if Margaret’s Judaism will affect her during WWII, etc


58 “You and Ruth will have enough to finish out the year,” Calhoun said, blowing cigarette smoke toward the ceiling . “But after that, I’m afraid yo u’re on your own.” When I returned to college a few days later , Madge was in our room, studying . She closed her textbook. “ Oh , Peggy! I was so worr ied when we didn’t hear from you! ” I had left her a note —“Father ill. Going home” —and I’d signed out of Br ooks Hall under the housemother’s suspicious eye, listing “Family emergency” under “Reason for leaving.” “My f ather died,” I said , and I opened my suitcase and started unpacking . I hadn’t broken down in the hospital when I sat by Father’s bedside , or whe n the doctor told us that he was dead, or later at the cemetery, or even as I lay on my bed next to Ruth’s . But suddenly, as I shared this news with Madge , I began to weep . Madge jumped up and threw her arms around me, gently stroking my hair as I cried . W hen I ’d gotten some sort of control again and wiped my face and bl own my nose, she said, “ A Mr. Gilfillan called you a couple of times . He left his number. ” She pointed to the slips of paper on my desk, each with the same message. But I could not bring myself to walk down the hall to the telephone and put the call through , to hear his voice and tell him what had happened . I was afraid I’d start weeping again. I was not the same Peggy White I’d been a few days earlier. My father was dead, and my mother’s l ife was turned upside down. It had finally sunk in that I was half Jewish, whatever that meant, but I had no intention of telling anyone. And I understood that I might not be able to afford to return to classes at Columbia in the fall, if Uncle Lazar decid ed he’d helped enough . I had missed a few classes at the start of the new semester , and the next day I stopped by to speak to my professors, explain what had happened, and find out what I needed to make Commented [LR138]: How long has she been gone, at this point? No sense of how much time has passed since she left. Commented [CY139]: She had “exclaiming” after text book. Need? Commented [CY140]: OR “tell him about my Father.” Commented [CY141]: “what had happened” used above. See suggestion.


59 up. The days passed, a monotonous routine of getting up, attending class, eating meals or skipping them —it seemed to make no difference —going to bed, and suddenly bursting into tears for no particular reason. I felt nothing, unless numbness can be called a feeling. Eve r ything I did took a tremendous effort. I’d been back at college for a week, and it was my turn to answer the telephone . My shift was almost over when Gil phoned. “Peggy!” he cried. “I’ve been trying to reach you! ” “ I know. I got your messages ,” I said . A lump was already forming in my throa t , and I struggled to speak. Finally I got the words out: “My father died.” And I began to sob—again . It seemed I would never get past this. He came into the city to see me after work the next day and took me to the Cafe Prague, a coffee shop owned by a C zech lady famous for her pastries. He asked if I wanted coffee, and I said yes. The girls at Brooks Hall devote d hours to sipping coffee at one of the nondescript coffee shops near campus, and I’d learned to enjoy it, if I added enough cream and sugar . S itting across from me in the cracked leather booth, Gil studied me with kind, thoughtful eyes. “Tell me wha t happened,” he said, and I recoun ted the story of Father’s sudden death. He listened quietly, asking a question now and then. I held my cup in both hands, warming them against a sudden chill. When I set the cup down, Gil reached over and squeezed my hand. I hoped he’d keep holding it, but he didn’t. Gil said he was thinking of going out west the following summer. I told him I plan ned to look for a s ummer job , but didn’t mention I was worried about having enough money to continue college , because my father hadn’t been “prudent with money. ” Of course I didn’t mention that I’d learned my father was Jewish and therefore I was half Jewish , but I did wonde r whether Gil would think less of me if I told him my secret . Commented [CY142]: Perhaps another way of saying this. YOU DON’T REALLY NEED. Commented [LR143]: No response from Gil here? Commented [CY144]: GENERAL COMMENT Herpetology? What happened to that passion? Commented [LR145]: She wouldn’t even try t o hold onto his hand? See next comment — is this really in keeping with her character?


60 He paid for our coffee and the Czech pastries and helped me with my ugly tweed coat. W e walked across the campus under a black sky full of glittering stars. Neither of us spoke. I was thinking of what might come next: a kiss, maybe? As we approached the entrance to Brooks H all , I tried to ignore the couples embracing in shadowy corners of the portico . Gil escorted me into the reception room , where several couples sat quietly, holding hands . Sho uld I ask him to sit down? Gil stepped back, clutch ing his hat brim in both hands. “ Please accept my condolences for the death of your father. I’m happy that we could see each other and talk, Peggy ,” he said . “ May I call you again soon?” “Of course, Gil,” I said, trying to match his formal tone. “And thank you for the coffee and pastry. I enjoyed the evening. ” Gill strode briskly down the walkway a s the campus clock bonged eight times. I climbed slowly to my room on the fourth floor , feeling more alone tha n I had ever felt in my life — not because Gil had not kissed me, but because it hit me one more time that I would never see my father again . Commented [LR146]: For a woman who keeps saying she despises other girls who only care about getting married, and wants to do things differently (and is so socially inept that she carries s nakes around to impress people), she seems to have fallen pretty easily into passive behavior around Gil and typical gender stereotypes of the time. Does she realize this? Would she find it an uncomfortable realization? AGREE. I THINK THIS TAKES AWAY FROM HER CHARACTER. SHE NEEDS TO BE DRIVEN AND NOT BOGGED DOWN. YOU DON’T HAVE TO INCLUDE EVERYTHING ABOUT HER – THINK CONSISTENCY OF CHARACTER. Commented [CY147]: Does this appear dropped in? Commented [LR148R147]: Yes, agree. The emotion here seems to be all building up to that non kiss —I thought she was feeling alone because she thought she’d finally forged a real connection with Gil, and then he turned all awkwardly formal instead of kissing her!


61 Chapter 7 : A Course in Photography—1922 I ’d never had much interest in taking pictures . That was something Fath er did , and I’d been happy to help. But I’d always been interested in composition and design—something I’d noticed in his photographs —and when I heard about a two hour a week class in photography being offered, I saw a connection . I signed up for the cla ss and borrowed one of the cameras available to students. The teacher , Clarence H. White , believed that photography was an art form , not just a simple matter of clicking the shutter to capture an image . I learned in Mr. White’s class that many factors w ere involved —composing the picture, developing the negative, and making the print —in the creation of an image as beautiful as an Impressionist painting. Two hours a week didn’t seem like nearly enough to learn everything I wanted to know. “When I first b egan taking pictures,” he told us, “I had very little money —only enough for two glass plate negatives each week. All week I thought about what I would do with those two plates on the weekend, when I had time to photograph.” I wanted to make lovely, soft f ocus pictures like Mr. White’s , each one carefully planned. That kind of planning, I realized now, was what m y father did . I could almost hear his voice explaining why this angle was better than that one, why the lighting must be adjusted just so , and I fe lt some of the closeness we used to share . White took us seriously . “Experiment!” he instructed us. “Develop your capacity to see!” Then I thought of Father’s old camera, and one weekend on a visit home I asked Mother what had happened to it . “I do n’t know,” she said. “He stopped taking pictures a year or so ago, and the camera disappeared. He might have given it away, or sold it. But it’s gone.” Commented [LR149]: When had she been interested in this? Never mentioned previously. Commented [LR150]: Meaning unclear — a connection to Father? Commented [LR151]: Wouldn’t she think of asking Mother to borrow Father’s camera right away, especially if she signs up for the class because it makes her feel a connection to him? Commented [LR152]: But no relation to Margaret’s family, right? Possibly confusing to readers that he h as the same last name? Commented [CY153]: Factors? Another word? OR We learned in Mr. White’s class to compose the picture, develop the negative, and make the print as beautiful as an Impressionist painting. Commented [LR154]: But she already knew this, from watching Father take photos and develop negatives and make prints — see Chapter 1. Commented [CY155]: OR adjusted just so. Photography brought me closed to my father. Commented [CY156]: Weak transitional word. OR I thought of Father’s old camera and how it had helped him to see. One weekend on a visit home Commented [LR157]: (See previou s comment — wouldn’t she have thought of this when she signed up for the class?)


62 That was a disappointment , but a week later she telephoned . This was unusual —she rarely called me . “I h ave a surprise for you,” she said. “It will be here the next time you come home.” She had bought me a camera. Her budget was tight, she had my eleven year old brother, Roge r, to feed and clothe, b ut somehow she’d managed to find twenty dollars for a second hand Ica Reflex . It was unusual for her to buy me something that she would not have considered necessary or practical. I was stunned. I tried to thank her, to tell her how much it meant to me, but she waved me off. “It has a cracked lens,” she said. “That will make it more of a challenge.” The crack didn’t matter, because I was interested in producing the kind of artistic photog raphs that Clarence White was famous for. I proudly carried the German made camera into class. It was the old fashioned kind , like Father’s and Mr. White’s , that used glass plates, rather than film . One evening Mr. White invited several students to his home to discuss the work of Edward Steichen, Alfred Stieglitz , and other well known photographers . I wanted to make an impre ssion on the other students , and s o I did what I had done in high school : I arrived at the Whites’ house with a pet snake coiled around each arm . Mrs. White didn’t seem to mind. She merely smiled and asked if I’d care for a glass of fruit punch. The snake s achieved the desired effect : I attracted attention, from shudders and questions of “ How can you bear to do that?” to admiration of my “herps, ” until the conversation eventually turned to the subject of Steichen and his wellknown disdain for women photo graphers. . I was sure I wanted to be a herpetologist . I still kept pet snakes and reptiles caged in my dormitory room, still dreamed of going an d go on exciting adventures.. B ut lately I’d begun to suspect that the scientists on those expeditions were a lways men , and I wondered how I could ever make a name for myself in a man’s world . Then it occurred to me that Commented [CY158]: Gone? I couldn’t believe it. I had lost another link to my father. OR SOME SUCH THING. New para A week later Commented [LR159]: Cut? We already know who Roger is and how old he is. Commented [LR160]: “unusua l” used in previous paragraph — change here? Commented [LR161]: Does she have any self awareness of just how strange a thing this is to do?? She seems quite socially aware at other times —distinction between crystal chandelier girls and linsey -woolseys —and has a lot of shyness around Gil. But in this scene, she seems quite brazen! Commented [LR162]: Seems contradictory — Mrs. White doesn’t mind the snakes or react to them, but then Margaret says they did achieve the desired effect of lots of attention, shudders, questions. Commented [CY163]: LOST THIS. No sense wha t she is studying in college. Her love of animals is missing at this stage of her life.


63 perhaps those scientific men would need a photographer on their exotic trips . I could be that photographer . , and my camera would be my passpor t! That was quite a revelation, and from this point on I believed I had a goal and a path to reach it. Every week or two Gil telephoned. We fell into a predictable routine , going to a movie or a free concert and end ing the evening at the Cafe Prague. The waitress had become so used to us that she brought two cups of coffee and a plate of , those delicious Czech pancakes, without being asked. We talked about the work Gilhe was doing and about my photography class , but I didn’t mention that I now saw photography as a way in to a life of scientific adventure . I wasn’t sure he’d understand that. Sometimes he held my hand, b ut he didn’t kiss me —just walked me to my dormitory, said good night, and left . I wondered if there was another girl he was in love with . Or maybe he had once been in love with a girl who broke his heart. I didn’t ask , because we didn’t talk about such things . I had no idea how he felt about me, or really, how I felt about him . I remembered the stories Mother had told about her a nd Father’s courtship, their long bicycle rides in the country and walks in the park. Probably , I thought, this was the way it was supposed to be. Gil reminded me of Father in so many ways —his devotion to science and hard work— and that’s why I was attracte d to him in the first place. Even his silences seemed familiar. * * * * The semester was almost over . I needed a job , any kind of a job that would earn money. Madge suggested I apply to be a counselor at a summer camp in Connecticut. Her parents had sent her to Camp Agaming every year when she was very young, and the previous summer she’d worked there as a counselor . N ow s he was going back, and she promised to ask her lawyer father to write a recommendation for me on his firm’s letterhead. Commented [CY164]: This seems forced. See above comment. Perhaps this paragraph could start with her being a woman. Commented [CY165]: OR I believed right then and there I had a goal and a clear path to reach it. Commented [LR166]: Is this still in the scene of the Whites’ party? This revelation occurs as a result of the conversation there? Or is that scene over (abruptly?) and this is separate? Seems like this paragraph would feel less forced if the realization occurs organically at the party —she’s sitting there holding snakes and talking photography, then realizes she could combine her two passions, etc. Commented [LR167]: Really? Seems pretty clear that she wants him to kiss her, and she admits at the bottom of the paragraph that she’s attracted to him. Commented [LR168]: Any acknowledgment needed that this is slightly problematic? (Maybe she’d wonder if she really likes him romantically, or if he’s just comforting because he reminds her of Father? Possibly the answer to previous query?)


64 With only a few months of Mr. White’s classes behind me , I got up the nerve to apply for the position of instructor in photography instructor, and they hired me ! I would also act as a nature counselor, taking the campers on walks , to introduc e them to snakes and butterfli es, teach ing them to identify plants, and show ing them the wonders of the outdoor world . It sounded like the perfect combination of my two great interests : photography and natural science. I knew just enough about each to convince myself that I could keep the young campers interested. I had finished my last final exam and was packing up when Gil telephoned and suggested that we meet at the Cafe Prague. I slid into our usual booth and launched into a n enthusiastic description of my summer job . “W hile you’ re cooped up in your lab,” I told Gil excitedly , “ I’ll be out in the fresh air and sunshine, teaching the campers to take pictures, when I’m not terrifying the m with hognose snakes that pretend to be puff adders. I’ll bet I learn as much as the little girl s do! ” “Sounds swell,” Gil said, smil ing and sipp ing his coffee. That was it! Not a word about what an ideal opportunity this was for me . I’d hoped for more from him . I wondered if he’d miss me over the summer, or if I’d miss him. I tried again to spark some enthusiasm. “Maybe y ou could come up some weekend,” I suggested. “It’s not too far from Bound Brook.” Gil looked away. “I won’t be in the lab at Calco afte r this week. I’ve accepted a position as assistant professor in pharmacy at Oregon Agricultural Co llege in Corvallis. That’s where I got my bachelor’s degree.” “Oh,” I said . I shouldn’t have been surprised. He’d mentioned before that he’d been thinking of going out west . But I wasn’t expecting it so soon . “Well, congratulations!” I said heartily. Commented [CY169]: OR I would als o be a nature counselor. I would take campers on walks to introduce them to snakes and butterflies, to teach them to identify plants. I would be showing them the wonders of the outdoors. Commented [CY170]: SHOW


65 “ I l eave next week. I’ll send you my new address,” he said. “We’ll write, a nd you could come out to visit. Oregon is beautiful. I think you’d like it.” He paid the bill and walked me back to my residence hall . W e stopped under the portico. “Goodbye, Peg. I’ve enjoyed our friendship. ” “Thank you . I’ve enjoyed it, too .” He held out his hand, and I shook it. T hat, I supposed, was the end of that. I climbed the three flig hts of stairs to my room and sat hunched on the edge of my bed, trying sort through my fee lings. I did n’t think I was in love with Gil. H ow would I even know if I was? He was the first boy — man —I’d ever gone out with. But I was deeply disappointed—not that he wasn’t in love with me or hadn’t kissed me , but that he ha dn’t show n any interest in wh at so deeply interested me . Madge burst in , full of cheerful gossip about one of our hall mates who had just acquired a new beau. She stopped mid sentence and peered at me. “You all right, Peg? You look kind of down. Something happen with Gil?” “No, of c ourse not,” I said , mustering a false smile . “Nothing at all. So tell me about Muriel ! ” “Well,” Madge began, and breathlessly launch ed into her tale, but I scarcely listened. Commented [CY171]: Lackluster. Is GIL important to the story? Commented [LR172]: Feels not genuine — she’s disappointed on both counts, isn’t she?


66 Chapter 8 : Camp Agaming — 1922 “Who would like to hear a different story of Sleeping Beauty?” I asked a group of talkative ten year old s on their first evening at Camp Agaming. We sat on logs arranged around a crackling campfire somewhere in the hills of western Connecticut. I produced a chrysalis — the “sleeping beauty” — that I wa s carrying in my pocket . In a second , the girls had stopped talking and were clustered around me. “Once upon a time,” I began, “this little cocoon chrysalis became the home of a very ugly caterpillar. ” I let them pass it around. They were full of question s. Was it still in there? What was it doing? I explained how the caterpillar was indeed in the chrysalis , silently changing from something ugly into something beautiful . “S oon it will emerge as a butterfly and unfold its magnificent wings , and i f we’re luc ky, we might see it happen. ” “Is it magic, Miss Peggy?” asked a little girl with solemn blue eyes. “All of nature has a little bit of magic,” I said. Some campers stayed for two weeks, but others had been packed off by their families for a month or longer, and I was constantly challenged to find ways to engage them. When we went out on a photographing expedition early each morning , I tried to teach them how to see, the way Clarence White had taught me . “Slow down!” I instructed them. “Look carefully.” Mr. White composed each photograph with infinite care before he finally committed to clicking the shutter. He insisted that a photographer left nothing to chance. “Chance is a poor photographer,” he said . “Think like an artist. Study your subject.” This advice was lost Commented [LR173]: 1921? I won’t continue marking these chapter header dates — please check t/o. Commented [CY174]: Rewrote this. Commented [LR175]: Is it a chrysalis (see previous paragraph) or a cocoon? Chrysalis is for a butterfly; cocoon is for a moth. Doesn’t s eem like something Margaret would mix up.


67 on the girls . T hey had no patience. They wanted to rush off with their Kodak Brownie bB ox cameras and take pictures of everything in sight ., snapping away indiscriminately with their Kodak Brownie Box cameras. A fter the campers were worn out fro m riding horses and swimming in the chilly waters of Lake Bantam Lake and were sound asleep, Madge and I rushed to the makeshift darkroom to develop the ir rolls of film and print the ir snapshots , so we would be ready to show the campers the ir pictures the next morning. On my free day s I went off with my camera and hiked to the highest point I could find . A fence spoiled the view, but that did not deter me — I’d been fearlessly balanc ing on fence rails and crossing streams on narrow logs since I was the age of my campers. I climbed over, crept as close to the cliff edge as possible, and lay flat on the ground near the lip or balanced my camera on a rock. The whole valley lay spread out below me. Often I rose long before my the campers were still asleep had aw akened and set off in the moonlight to reach the best possible place from which to photograph the sunrise. Sometimes I had to make several attempts to get the perfect shot, either because it started to rain , or clouds interfered, or the angle of the sun wa sn’t quite what I wanted right . I observed my eighteenth birthday by packing a lunch and hitching a ride to Mohawk Mountain, some fifteen miles away. away from the camp . Most girls would have wanted to celebrate with a party and a cake, but I was more int erested in taking getting at least one breathtaking picture . that would take your breath away. I was paid a small salary, but t uition would soon come due for my sophomore year — nearly seven hundred dollars —and I wasn’t sure how much Uncle Lazar was willi ng to contribute . Then I had an idea for making money : picture postcards . Campers were required to send a postcard home each week. If I took picture s of each girl in front of her cabin , lounging on her bunk , on horseback , or paddling a canoe and m ade them into postcards, the Commented [LR176]: Checked Commented [CY177]: Not sure this transition works. Not sure the tenses in the next paragraph work. Commented [LR178]: Actually about 25 miles from Bantam Lake, per Google maps — important? Commented [CY179]: OVERUSE OF THE WORD GET Commented [LR180]: Was not able to verify Commented [CY181]: Pe rhaps another transitional word. Or a rewrite. OR “Then I made a connection between photography and making money. Campers were” OR Perhaps I could make some money from all the photographs I was taking Commented [CY182]: Specific. Seems “removed”


68 girls would have something different to mail home . Their famil ies surely would clamor for more cards to send to Grandma and aunts and uncles . I was right—o rders poured in by the dozen . I charged a nickel apiece, which t he girls paid out of their pocket money. Encouraged, I expanded my original idea and took a number of photographs of the camp: the carved wooden sign at the end of the road, a row of canoes drawn up on the shore, the archery range framed through a drawn bow . Then I even went into Litchfield and photographed the pretty white church on the green and the old foundry with its bronze cannons . Surely Thinking that summer visitors would like were likely customers for scenes of this quaint colonial village ., I printed up a numb er of sample post cards and set off for to the Old Litchfield Treasure House, a gift shop on the main street. Two An elegant white haired lad y ies called out “Hello, hello!” when I entered. “I’m Margaret White,” I said, thinking that . Margaret was sounded m ore professional sounding than Peggy. “ I’m a student of ph otographer Clarence H. White.” “Clarence White!” exclaimed the lady . “Really?”with her snowy hair in a chignon. J ust like that, h is name open ed the door for me , and . I returned to Camp Agaming ca mp with an order for five hundred postcards . I couldn’t believe my good luck, but now I had to figure out a way to print my photographs them, and to pay for the chemicals I needed before I could collect a cent . “Oh, don’t worry about it,” Madge said airily. “ I’ll be glad to help you , and you don’t need to pay me.” Madge never had to worry about money, the way I did. The campers and their families continued to clamor for my cards. Madge and I worked frantically to keep up with our duties as counselors an d stayed up night after night to keep up with orders that poured in . Commented [CY183]: RETHINK. “Luckily the elegant white-hair lady who ran the shop was pleased with my photographs and more pleased to know that I was a student of Clarence White. His name opened the door for me. Commented [CY184]: Tried to rework this. Commented [CY185]: Need used twice. Stronger verbs. Commented [CY186]: Another way of saying? Really show her IN ACTION. SEE LAST PARAGRAPH. SHOW THIS MORE. THIS IS THE BEGINNING OF HER PASSION – point of the book.


69 Toward the end of August , t he camp program s end ed , Madge left , and the girls went home , except for two sisters , Phyllis and Marian, who liv ed nearby . The sisters had shown real aptitude with their simple cameras. They soon grew used to working in near total darkness with the glowing red light, and they didn’t seem to mind the smell of chemicals. They were fascinated by what happened in the darkroom. Each time an image appeared on the printing paper, they were as excited as the first time they’d seen it happen. They became my eager assistants. By the time they had to go back to school and I returned home , I had sold nearly two thousand cards. A fter I’d paid paying for the supplies, I still had made a small profit, and I saw that it was possible to earn money doing something I loved. But, even with my photo money and my salary from Camp Agaming and the help Uncle Lazar had offered , that I still wasn’t didn’t have nearly enough to pay my tui tion at Columbia .. My mother and I sat at our dining room table, star ing dolefully hopelessly at the figures she’d laid out on a sheet of lined paper . and trying to figure out what to do. Mother had taken a job selling insurance policies , but she ’ d had o nly limited success . She decided to get rid of our car, since she had no desire to learn to drive, but money from the sale that money had gone went to repair the furnace and pay off other bills. I felt sick. It seemed as though I would have to drop out afte r just one year. Give up herpetology, give up photography, give up everything I loved, and go looking for a job. Classes would start soon , but I couldn’t allow myself to think about that . or I’d get depressed . Mother was helping me prepare a list of plac es where I might apply for a position of some sort when Mr. Henry Munger phoned and asked me to come by . Miss Jessie Munger was especially eager to speak with me, he said . I had not visited the Mungers m my neighbors since the first of January, when I ’d st opped by to wish them a happy New Year. The y greeted me warmly now and ushered me Commented [CY187]: A tad clunky Commented [CY188]: Word choice. Get inside her more. GENERAL COMMENT: the beginning of the book, the reader sees more of what makes Margaret tick, her feelings about school, boys, purpose, etc. That inner Margaret is getting lost. Commented [CY189]: Transition doesn’t work.


70 into the parlor where I had spent so many hours reading to Miss Jessie. Mr. Henry brought in a pot of peppermint tea and a plate of cookies. “So, Margaret,” Mr. Munger began when we were settled and sipping . “You’ve finished your first year of college. I hear that you did very well in your courses .” “Yes, I did,” I replied and helped myself to a stale cookie. “I receive d high marks in all my classes. But how did you know tha t? ” “Roger told us. He comes by to help us out from time to time, you know,” said Miss Jessie. “And Henry knows quite a few people on the faculty at Columbia , and he inquired about you. They supported Roger’s view of your accomplishments.” I scarcely knew which surprised me more —that Roger had spoken about me to the Mungers, or that Mr. Henry had spoken about me to my professors. I had no idea he even knew who they were. “And are you still intending to continue with your study of herpetology? ” asked Mr. Hen ry. “ Yes, I am. But perhaps later on. I plan to find a job for a year or two , and then return to school. ” The two old people exchanged glances. “Well, my dear Margaret,” began Mr. Henry in his raspy voice, “Miss Jessie and I are happy to tell you that we’v e decided to pay your college tuition and expenses for the coming year.” Speechless, I stared at them , hardly daring to believ e what I ’d heard. “ L onger , if things go well,” added Miss Jessie. “ And we anticipate that they will,” said Mr. Henry . This could change my entire life! Finally I managed to find my voice. “ Thank you for having so much faith in me, ” I stammered. “ I promise you won’t regret loaning me the money, a nd I promise I’ll repay it, starting the day I graduate .” Commented [CY190]: No sense of this. Are these two developed enough before this? Commented [CY191]: Is that important?


71 “Oh, no, my dear!” Miss Jessie trilled. “We’ll hear of no such talk of a loan . What we do ask, though, is that when you have achieved success , you will seek out another young person in financial need and help her.” “Or him,” said Mr. Henry . “We’re investing in you and you r future, my d ear.” “And another deserving student,” added Miss Jessie. I tried to concentrate as the Mungers laid out their plans for me . T h ey believed that the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor would be a better place for me to study herpetology . Especially with Pro fessor Arthur G. Ruthven, whose reputation they knew. , There was a professor of zoology named Arthur G. Rut hven whose reputation they knew. , and beginning with that term t T hey wanted me to transfer from Columbia to study with a professor of zoology named Arthur G. Ruthven whose reputati on they knew Dr. Ruthven , beginning with that term. Not go back return to New York? Go to Ann Arbor instead? My mind was in such a confused state that I had to ask them to repeat what they had just told me. “ Now about this po stcard business of yours ,” said Miss Munger, pouring herself another cup of tea. Ho w on earth did she know about that ? , I wondered . W hen she noticed my look of surprise, she smiled. “Roger, again , was our informant — he’s quite proud of both of his sisters, you know . It’s clever and industrious of you, Margaret, but I think you can find better way s to invest your time and energy . For one thing, it’s sure to be hard on your eyes, squinting through a lens and spending all that time in the darkroom. For another, a young woman as attractive as you should have an enjoyable social life in the company of other young people. But you must dress the part, my dear! Buy yourself some nice clothes, the proper kind for a young student. We know you won’t be extravagant. It’s not in your nature. That much is clear.”


72 “Silk stockings,” I murmur ed . Could this really be happening? These kind people, whom I didn’t really know very well, making such a generous offer? And all they asked of me was that I help someone else someday . “Ye s, my dear, silk stockings! And a few smart dresses and —for goodness sake —a coat that fits you properly.” “ Of course , Miss Munger .” I hadn’t realized she ever noticed what I wore . “Deep r ose,” Miss Jessie mused thoughtfully. “You would look terribly attractive in a rose colored dress. Please leave the brown and gray ones in Bound Brook.” “Now go home and start packing,” Mr. Munger instructed. “A bank account has been established for you in Ann Arbor. I know you’ll use it wisely. It will be replenished when necessary. We’ve taken the liberty of buying you a train ticket. You are to leave within a fortnight. I’ve sent a letter to Dr. Ruthven, recommending you. Look him up as soon as you get there and sign up for his courses. ” I hugged my benefactors —I’d never done that before —and thanked them over and over, not knowing how to express my gratitude adequately . Then I rushed home to tell Mother the news. She was as amazed as I was at the Mungers’ offer, and just as determined that this was not a gift. “It’s a loa n, of course ,” she said firmly . “ I hope you assured them that w e’ll pay back every penny .” “That’s exactly what I told them,” I said, and repeated what the Mungers had said about helping another needy student in the future . “Miss Jessie also said I should buy some new clothes, and that I should not skimp but get whatever I need . ” Mother h arrumphed. “Then you must keep track of whatever you spend on clothes, although I frankly can’t see that it’s at all necessary,” she said. “What you already have is perfec tly serviceable. One or two new dresses, perhaps, but certainly no more . It’s that much less you will owe the Mungers.”


73 I wrote to Madge , explaining that I would not be returning to school and describing the exciting news. “ My o nly regret is that we won’t be roommates.” Two weeks later I boarded a train bound for Michigan, my money problems miraculously solved, and my future emerging as mysteriously as a photographic negative in the developing bath.


74 Chapter 9 : Michigan — 1922 I’d been assigned a single room on the third floor of Betsy Barbour House, the women’s residence hall that everyone called “Betsy’s.” My room was cramped and dark, but the two parlors were bright and elegant, one with a grand piano and a fireplace, the other with windows looking out on the sweep of green lawn. I did wish that Madge had come with me. She owned a closetful of pretty clothes and never had to worry about whether she was stylishly dressed. I was still feeling my way along, not sure what my style should be. Madge could ha ve advised me . We’d been close all summer , but now she barely had time to answer my letters. There were far more men than women at the university, and t he telephone on the third floor hall rang constantly for other girl s. Not surprisingly , people thought I was odd, peculiar even , for keeping snakes in my room. But why should I not have snakes? I wa s going to be a herpetologist! The first week of classes, Oscar , a handsomely banded milk snake, escaped from his glass terrarium and slithered down the hall, te rrifying a n unsuspecting girl who assumed he must be poisonous. I explain ed that Oscar was quite benign. “Red on yellow, deadly fellow, red on black, venom lack,” I told her helpfully, but she screamed , “I don’t care! I don’t care ! Get that thing away from me!” I had been in Ann Arbor for about a month when one of the girls, Florence, suggested we go to a dance that at a nearby church was holding for students . I dreaded another dance like in high school where I’d be unasked for an entire evening, as I’d be en in high school , but I agreed to go. I had taken the Mungers’ advice and their money and bought a dress of knit crepe in the soft rose color Miss Jessie had recommended, the most expensive dress I’d ever owned, and I wor e it that night . It must have caug ht the eye of every male in th e dingy church Commented [CY192]: IMPORTANT I worry about the pace of the previous chapters. Where are the tensions? What is Margaret really overcoming? It tends to be too slow compared to the beginning of the book. Don’t have to include everything – more novel in direction. Sometimes narrative gets bogged down in similar details. Commented [CY193]: The reader really needs to SEE her – see her as someone who has snakes. Who stands out. Commented [LR194]: This reads awkwardly to me. Perhaps: “I dreaded a repeat of my high school dances”?


75 basement . I danced every dance. Boys cut in right one after an other. W hen I started waltzing with one boy, I was soon foxtrotting with another, and then two stepping with partner number t hree. My wallflower days seem ed to be over. I went back to the church dances with Florence a couple of times, and then I began going alone . Each time, I met more boys who were attracted to me. But I learned a lesson: not to talk a bout my dr eam of becoming a herpetologist, traveling to exotic places, and taking pictures. “You can’t be serious, Peggy,” one boy said, laughing, and another told me earnestly , “That’s not what girls do.” I f I wanted to be invited to evening parties, i t was better not to talk about my dreams , but and to talk about theirs . So I did , and it worked . I studied hard and generally pulled good grades in all my classes, and I might have had straight A’s if I had not been so caught up with photography. I roamed the campus and town with my camera, always alert for the next possible shot . I loved old buildings with steeply pitched gables and arched windows , and I’d become fascinated with trains , from the enormous locomotive s to the abstract patterns of the ir small mechanical parts. Frank Howarth , a new acquaint ance who was studying business administration and cultivating a thin mustache , called for me on a golden autumn S unday afternoon and asked where I’d like to go walking . “To the railroad station. ” Frank raised an eyebrow , but he agreed. The light that d ay was excellent . Frank stood by patiently while I focused on a locomotive taking on coal and water. I moved in close and set up my shot . “Isn’t this exciting , Frank?” I shouted over the racket of the steam bellowing monster. I couldn’t hear his reply . Commented [CY195]: Tighten to convey the thought that she wanted to fit in and then it worked. Make this more poignant – and shorter. Commented [LR196]: Meaning unclear? It worked = she was invited to evening parties? (Is this really a good thing? Unclear how older Margaret, narrating this, feels about it.) Commented [CY197]: The passion for photography needs to be much stronger. Commented [LR198]: As in “came c alling” or called on the phone? If phone, how does she see him raise his eyebrow (a few lines down)? Commented [LR199]: Did they have previous plans? This transition seems abrupt/unclear to me.


76 “Yo u’re certainly not like the other girls I know,” Frank said after an hour or two of being ignore d while I took pictures. “May I take you somewhere for a bite to eat?” He chose a tearoom near the campus. R avenous after an afternoon of photographing pistons and wheels, I gobbled up a plate of dainty sandwiches . Frank mostly watched. “I’m the business manager for T he Michiganensian ,” he said. “ T he student yearbook. You should stop by and meet the editor. I think he’d be interested in some of the photographs yo u took this afternoon . I’ll introduce you, if you like .” A few days later I found the office of the ’ Ensian . Frank wasn’t there , so I introduced myself to the editor, Harold Martin. “I’m Pegg y White, and I’m a photographer.” “ Is that so ?” Martin drawled and smiled mockingly. “Bring in some samples of your work. I can use some good pictures of campus buildings , if you have any.” It was the kind of assignment he might have give n to an annoying new kid to get her out of his hair . I took it as a challenge. Two weeks later I was back in Martin’s office with a portfolio of prints . He spread them out on a table and studied each one . The mocking smile had been wiped off his face. “I don’t think I’ve seen anything quite like these before. They’re like paintings. Somehow you’ve captured the personality in each building.” “I’ve studied with Clarence White,” I explained. He glanced up at the mention of White’s name. “He taught you well. As of now, y ou’re a staff photographer.” From then on I was out taking pictures whenever I could spare time from my studies and my busy social life. I’d always wanted to be popular, and now, suddenly, I was caught up in a n intoxicating whirl of dates and dances. I was making up for lost time. One of my biggest admirers was Joe Vlack, also a photographer for the ’Ensian . Joe was tall and thin with unruly hair , rumpled clothes, and a long, narrow face like Abraham Commented [CY200]: Overuse of “get” GENERAL COMMENT: Has the reader really seen her as a photogra pher? Seen her growing passion? Commented [CY201]: Not sure this works. OR “might have given to just about anybody”


77 Lincoln’s that made him look older than he was —he’d just turned twenty two. Joe figured out that one way to eliminate any com petition for my time and attention was to propose new photography subject s . “I have an idea for some pictures ,” he’d say, and we would go off on another photographic adventure. Joe suggested photograph ing the clock tower in the Engineering Shops Building. The clock and chimes had been moved there w hen the library was knocked down, and the chimes continued to ring at eight in the morning and six at night. “The best view is from the men’s toilet on the fourth floor,” Joe said. “You can get a great angle from there, but I don’t know if —” “I’m game,” I said. We w aited until classes were over and climb ed to the fourth floor. Jo e made sure the coast was clear, and we shut ourselves into the toilet and latched the door . I balanced on the seat and rested my camera on the window ledge above it . I was setting up the shot w hen someone knocked. Joe ca lled out, “Sorry — occupied ! Come back later!” T he building grew quiet . I worked until Joe remembered that the janitor always locked up the building as soon as the clock str uck six . “Just one more shot,” I said, and then I grabbed my camera and we fled. Some of Joe’s ideas were frightening. “ T here’s a magnificent view from the roof of the Engi neering Shops ,” he said . “ I know how to get us out there, if you’re not afraid .” “ Af raid ?” I responded scornfully. “Let’s do it.” “Wear trousers and shoes with rubber soles. G loves would be a good idea. Fasten your camera to your belt. You’ ll need to have both hands free. ” The next evening, dressed like a mountaineer, I signed out of the dormitory “to study in th e library” and returned to the e ngineering building. Joe had persuaded the janitor to leave a side door unlocked and was waiting for me. He had already climbed out through a Commented [LR202]: Just a general note: This section, where Peggy and Joe take photos in all kinds of odd/dangerous places, is where I first start to feel her spunkiness —s he really starts to come to life here! AGREE. CAROLYN: REVIEW THE CHAPTERS BEFORE TO GET AT THE INNER MARGARET/PEG


78 classroom window on the fourth floor, fasten ed ing anchored one end of a rope , tossed the rest of the rope over the ridgeline , and anchored the other end on the opposite side. I was supposed to use the rope to haul myself up the steep slope of the roof. My stomach lurched and my hands started to sweat. “I’ll be right behind you,” he promised, “in case you start to slide back. ” You’re not too scared, are you? ” “I won’t,” I said, sounding more positive than I felt. “Certainly not,” I lied. I was glad I’d worked on strength in my arms in gym class. I f I was goin g to be part of scientific expeditions and t ak e photographs in difficult places, I needed to be physically strong. My throat tight with fear, I scrambled up the side of the roof, planting one foot ahead of the other and hanging onto the rope . Joe was right ; the view of the campus was magnificent. I got the pictures I wanted , sure that no one had ever done anything like this before. and doubted that anyone had done anything like it before. A fter we were back on solid groundward , he suggested that we celeb rate our achievement go somewhere at the Royal Cafe. B ut I had to sneak back into Betsy’s without getting caught, and that would take some doing . A few nights later, sitting across from me in the cafe, Joe stirred a third spoonful of sugar into his coffe e and laid out another idea: descending into the tunnels that ran beneath the streets of Ann Arbor. I was all for it, and we left as soon as he’d gulped his coffee. He lifted off a heavy manhole cover and plunged down into the darkness, calling up to me, “ Hand me your camera, Peg. And watch your step on the ladder. It’s pretty slippery.” Commented [LR203]: Fastened it to what? Commented [CY204]: Not sure you really need this exchange. Commented [CY205]: A tad awkward. Commented [LR206]: Need?


79 I made my way down one rung at a time , clinging to the rung above me . It was dank and fetid and I was not eager to stay long, but I was able to photograph some valves and pipes . When we saw the prints, Joe pronounced them first rate . Whenever some new machine was assembled in his class in the Engineering Shops, Joe called me. “You’ll love this thing,” he’d say , and I’d race over and we’d study it together. Joe’s ideas were always creative, and he had a knack for suggesting the most interesting angle s for me to photograph. Still, I fretted that my photographs weren’t turning out as well as I wanted . I had Clarence White’s ethereal , painterly pictu res as the standard I aim ed for, and I tried to use his methods, like stretching one of my precious silk stockings o ver the lens to soften the edges o f the image. I thought my pictures looked amateurish compared to his . T he composition was not elegant enough, my use of natural lig ht never achieved the subtle effect I wanted . I was getting better, but I knew I had a long way to go to become as accomplished as Mr. White. Joe disagreed. “Don’t be so hard on yourself, Peggy . You r ’re pictures are really works of art. Y ou’re going to be famous —I’m positive of that. In fact, I’ve never been surer of anything in my life.” Sometimes I was too tired to meet him , but from staying up late to study for an exam, or maybe simply worn out from a dance the night before , and I’d tell him I couldn’t do it. hH e refused to take no for an answer. “This is for your future , Peg,” he’d insist argue . And off I’d go I’d give in and go off to meet him , on the chance that the new piece of machinery he insisted I photograph was worth the exhaustion the next day. . Joe Vlack was the only one I knew who who took absolutely seriously my goal of someday becoming famous . . He believed in me as much as I believed in myself. Maybe even more. Commented [CY207]: OR “Joe always had a knack for thinking of the most ” Commented [CY208]: Need? Commented [CY209]: More of an inner struggle.


80 * * * * Toward the end of the semester , Dr. Ruthven called me to h is office . I was uneasy about this interview. Maybe he’d heard about my social life or my picture taking and thought I wasn’t concentrating enough on my coursework. The professor’s desk was piled high with stacks of papers, publications, and reference books. Framed c ert i ficates and award plaques hung haphazardly on the wall. It had been snowing heavily, and his galoshes sat in a spreading puddle of water. Dr. Ruthven leaned back in a swivel chair , lit a pipe , and puffed on it. The scent of cherry flavored tobacco filled the crowded office. I perched on the edge of my seat , nervously tucking my fingers beneath my thighs to keep my ha nds from shaking . “Now, Miss White, you are enrolled as a student in the zoology department, and I’d like you to tell me, if yo u will, what your plans might be for the future.” “I’m studying to be a herpetologist,” I replied, knowing that’s what I was expected to say . “And may I ask what has led you to that particular field of study?” I was aware of Professor Ruthven’s stature in the scientific community . Most of his research had been done with garter snakes. I tried to give a sensible answer to his question, explaining that since childhood I ’d had an interest in living creatures of all kinds. I described my collection of caterpil lars and my efforts to capture the moment of the butterfly’s emergence from their metamorphosis. I told him about encountering the hognose snake with m y father, observing the snake’s behavior, and bringing the snake home . I left out the part about how I’d frightened my schoolmates with it. Commented [LR210]: We haven’t heard about him at all yet —and the Mungers said he was the whole reason they were sending Margaret to U Mich. Should he enter the chapter sooner? Commented [CY211]: This has been established. Need? Commented [LR212]: No, wasn’t this her father ’s project? (Back at the beginning of the story —she rushed home from school every day to see if the butterflies had emerged yet, and her father was photographing them)


81 The professor listened, prodding me along occasionally, gesturing with the stem of his pipe. “I understand that you have other interests as well. I’ve heard many favorable comments about your photographs.” Maybe this was the time to speak honestly about my interest in photography. So I described my classes with Clarence White, but I omitted any mention of my escapades with Joe Vlack , which probably violated all sorts of university policies . Dr. Ruthven knocked the ash from his pipe and refilled it, tamped the tobacco, struck a match, and puffed and puffed while I anxiously waited . “Tell me what you wish to accomplish in the world, ” he said. I hesitated, thinking of the best way to answer. I loved my “herps,” but I no longe r saw th em as my focus in life . I enjoyed writing, and I knew I was good at it —my papers were always graded A plus . But photography had become my true passion . I believed my life was heading in a new and challenging direction . Looking the distinguished sc ientist bold ly in the eye , I admitted, “I want to become a photographer.” He blew a perfect smoke ring. “I assume you mean that you wish to concentrate on scientific subjects,” he said. “And n ot, I trust , to snap pictures of babies for their parents to di splay on the mantel piece.” His tone made it clear that was not an acceptable choice. “I like to take pictures and I like to write. The more I do it, the more I want to do it. I hope to become a news photographer and reporter.” Then I added unnecessarily, “And I intend to be a very good one. ” “Well put!” Dr. Ruthven exclaimed. “Now let me think about how I may be able to help you along in this ve ry interesting trajectory you envision . Come back next week, Miss White, and we’ll talk again.” Commented [LR213]: I think this is the first time she’s mentioned writing since she won the writing conte st in high school (with the story about the puppy) Commented [CY214]: Need? Commented [CY215]: WHY? I would delete. Commented [CY216]: Need?


82 I sailed out of Dr. Ruthven’s smoky office and headed straight for the ’ Ensian , in search of Joe Vlack . Joe grinned when I told him about my conversation with the professor. “You’re on your way, Peg. There’ll be no stopping you.” Commented [LR217]: Is she dating Joe at this point? It’s not clear if she’s romantically interested in him or not.


83 Chapter 10 : Successes— 1923 The ’ Ensian accepted a dozen of my photographs. Harold Martin was particularly struck by a nighttime picture of a building , lights glowing in every window . “I’m not sure how you did that,” the editor said admiringly. There were photographs of a building’s harsh lines muffled in snow, the capital of a classical column shown in its geometric simplicity, the dome of the observatory cloaked in shadow. He wanted them all. Each would be published as a full page, in a special section . Suddenly everything seemed to be going my way. And not just in my growing passion for photography . I remembered my painful years in high school, longing to fit in . I had simply been ignored. Now all that changed . I had a social life. I n the past few months I had danced with lots and lot s of boys, met them for coffee dates, and been careful not to talk about my ambitions. But I still had not been kissed. Most of the boys I knew were not my type . They were just boys , and . I preferred m en who had already achieved something on campus and were going places — men like Wesley . T he head of the science honor soc iety , Wesley informed me that men were more strongly attracted to women than women were to men. “Is that so?” I asked. “Can you cite any scientific evidence to prove your point?” He could not. “It’s just a theory.” Philip, the president of the photography club , and I were alone in the darkroom, working on prints for the ’ Ensian . I’d just taken a set of prints from the fixative, when Philip clasped my wrist. “Peg , ” he said, “you’re the most interesting, the most beautiful, the most desirable girl I’ve ever met.” He hesitated and then stammered, “And I want very much to kiss you.” Commented [CY218]: Number of chapters are off. PLEASE REVIEW AND FIX IF NECESSARY Commented [LR219]: Word m issing? The capital what of the classical column? Commented [LR220]: Repeated info? Commented [CY221]: Need? Commented [LR222]: Wesley and Philip kind of appear out of nowhere hereand what happened to Joe Vlack?


84 He bent closer. It was about to happen! But I hesitated. I liked Philip , but I wasn’t crazy about him. And I wa nted to be crazy about the first boy who kissed me. Otherwise, it wouldn’t mean anything. That was my theory. I ducked away from him. “No, Philip ,” I said, “I think that would be a mistake. I’m afraid it would spoil our professional relationship.” He sighe d. “I don’t agree, but I do understand.” We went back to making prints . as though nothing had happened. Just before the Christmas holidays , Fritz Snyder, a senior and the president of the men’s glee club, invited me to a party at the Sig ma Chi fraterni ty house. I wore my “ Parrish blue ” dress, the color named for Maxfield Parrish, an artist noted for his brilliant colors. I had new silk stockings and a pair of shoes with rhinestone buckles I’d found on sale. I had also taken the b old step of cutting my h air and wore it in a smooth bob. I felt extremely stylish , and I knew I was making more of an impression than I ever had with snakes wrapped around my arms . At the height of the party Fritz disappeared and returned a few minutes later with three of his fr aternity brothers, who dropped to their knees in front of me . Fritz announced, “This is dedicated to our own sweetheart, Peg White,” and the quartet serenaded me with their famous song, “The Sweetheart of Sigma Chi .” I c ould not have been more thrilled! A few days after the party I made the long trip home for the holidays . Mother was perplexed by the changes she saw in me , beginning with the shockingly bobbed hair . “I’m afraid you’re becoming superficial, Margaret,” she said sternly . “The fancy clothes, a nd that garish lipstick! ” Ruth was still wearing drab and dreary dresses like the ones we’d worn in high school, the same thick cotton stockings and clumsy shoes. N ow tha t I had this new found sense of style, I realized how dowdy we I must have appeared the n, and my for such a long Commented [CY223]: Why delete? Commented [LR224]: Implying that she is now “over” that phase (of going places with snakes wrapped aro und her arms)? Not sure what the message is supposed to be here— beauty’s better than eccentricity? Or just that she has outgrown that former quirkiness? Commented [CY225]: Right verb? “disturbed”?


85 time . My sister still did. She looked like an old maid , and I wondered if she would end up as one. She seemed sad — had she always? I loved Ruth, but I felt I had less in common with my sister than I did with the girls who lived on my hall. Roger had grown an inch or two since last summer, and somehow I felt more comfortable with my little brother than I did with Mother or Ruth. Sara Jane Cassidy and Tubby Luf were both home from college and , eager to demonstrate our new sophist ication as college girls, we made a date for lunch at the Queen City Hotel, the most elegant eating place in Plainfield. Mother thought this was pure foolishness. “Why don’t you just invite your friends to come here? I could fix some hot soup, and I have a jar of the sour cherries I put up last summer that would make a nice pie.” I made excuses. “T he girls ha ve their hearts set on the Queen City .” Tubby had learned to drive and would pick us up in her father’s Model T Ford. More foolishness, Mother declared; we could easily have taken the streetcar to Plainfield. I t was the last straw , then, when I appeared wearing a smartly tailored burgundy dress with a matching jacket , another outfit financed by the Mungers . “Silk stockings!” Mother exclaimed when she saw me. “In this weather? Have you lost all your common sense?” Tubby and Sara Jane pulled up, honking the horn . All three of us were dressed to the nines in our best flapper dresses with skirts up to the knees, and Sara Jane even sported a raccoon coat. I think my old friends were stunned when I showed up in my fashionable outfit, no longer the dull little wren of our high school days . Tubby was studying at the women’s college at Rutgers, and Sara Jane was at Buc knell out in Pennsylvania . S he could hardly wait to tell us she wa s considering getting pinned to a fraternity boy she ’d met in the drama club . “If I wear his pin, then it’s like being engaged to be engaged,” she said. Commented [CY226]: Really need? Commented [LR227]: This comes as a surprise to me — Sara Jane and Tubby have not been mentioned at all since Margaret left home. Has she missed them? Have they kept up their friendship at all via letters, seeing each other on holidays, etc? THINK STORY AND CHARACTER PERHAPS MORE THAN FACT S AT TIMES. Commented [CY228]: Is the reader really prepared for t his change in her? Has the reader seen her like this in college? It’s been shown several times.


86 Tubby and I were excited for her and had to know all about the fraternity boy . We ordered expensive oysters and roast beef , and Sara Jane regaled us with the virtues of her new flame . “He’s going to be a doctor, because that’s what his family wants, but his heart is in the theater,” she said. “He plays the leading man in most of the Ca p and Dagger productions.” On and on she went, until I finally interrupted. “He sounds wonderful,” I said, “truly he does, but do you really want to settle down with just one boy at this point? I sn’t it more fun to date lots of boys?” My friends looked at me quizzically. “Is that what you’re doing, Peg? Dating lots of boys?” “Well, yes,” I admitted , “and I enjoy it.” I knew what they were thinking: Is this the wallflower who never got asked to dance even once in all the time we knew her? “ I’m meeting new bo ys all the time, and they all want to date me, and I hardly ever say no, at least not the first time .” I enjoyed their shocked incredulous expressions. “Aren’t you afraid you’ll get a reputation?” Tubby asked with a worried look. “For what? Being a good dancer? No, I’m not worried—I’m eighteen, and I haven’t even been kissed yet!” The girls gaped at me. “I think you’re setting some kind of a record, Peg,” Sara Jane said. “I’ll drink to that,” Tubby said, raising her coffee cup . L aughing, she proposed a toast to my unkissed state coming to an end in the new year , to Sara Jane and her getting pinned to the fraternity boy , and to Tubby ’s her own fond hope and her hopes that the interesting boy who sat next to her in Medieval Literature would notice her and ask her out. Not a word about our academic careers or future plans. I made only a passing mention of my fascination with photography. Mother would have frowned darkly and told us how Commented [CY229]: OR “lots of boys” to avoid repeat of “all” Commented [CY230]: See below.


87 disappointed she was that three of the smartest girls in our graduating c lass had all become superficial . A t least for that one afternoon together, we wouldn’t have cared. Ruth and I were in the bedroom we had shared as young girls , lying in our separate beds . “Ruth?” I whispered into the darkness. “Are you still awake?” “Yes .” I propped myself up on one elbow. “Ruth, have you ever been kissed?” When she didn’t answer, I hurried on, “You don’t have to answer that. It’s none of my business. But I haven’t, not yet, and I’m wondering if you could give me some sisterly advice— how I ought to feel about a boy before I let him kiss me .” Silence from the other bed. I lay back down and wondered if I should apologize for asking such a personal question. “Yes,” Ruth replied at last, “I have been kissed, by a man I loved very much, and it was the most natural thing in the world. I didn’t have to stop and wonder if it was the right thing. I didn’t care if it was or if it wasn’t .” I heard her start to cry. “Ruth?” I sat up, straining to see in the darkness. “Ruth, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to upset you.” “It’s all right,” she said. “I do n’t mind telling you about it. I fell in love, and he was crazy about me. He asked me to marry him , and I accepted. But Mother refused to allow it.” I climbed out of my bed and crossed over to her bed. “Why hav en’t I heard about any of this until now?” I asked. Ruth was blowing her nose. “Because Mother didn’t want you or anyone else to know about my indiscretion. That’s what she called it —an indiscretion .” “But why ? Why the big secret?” Commented [LR231]: It’s not clear to me how Margaret feels in this paragraph —is she thrilled to be acting “superficial ” for once with her old friends? Or is she disappointed in the surface y level of their friendship? Commented [LR232]: How long ago did this happen?


88 “ Dennis’s mother is Iris h but his father is Chinese and he owns a laundry in Lowell, north o f Boston . It was the only way he c ould make a living after he came to this country . Dennis works in a Chinese restaurant in Boston. That’s where I met him. We got acquainted. Then we began to meet secretly”. I reached for her hand and squeezed it . “Tell me what happened,” I whispered. “ Oh, Peg , I was so much in love! He asked me to marry him, and I said yes without a second’s hesitation . But t here is a lot of discrimination against the Ch inese . I don’t know why I ever thought Mother would allow it , but one day I gathered all my courage and made the trip out here to tell her I wanted to bring a friend to meet her . I didn’t tell her how serious I was about him. S he asked his full name, and I couldn’t lie . She’d know the minute she saw him —the Oriental eyes, the color of his skin. S he said, ‘Ruth, if you don’t break this off imm ediately, I will disown you. I will not speak to you again.’ ” “Mother said that ? But she married a Jew!” “She did, but she kept it a secret, didn’t she ? Not a word until after Father died! If she doesn’t want us telling people we’re half Jewish, what do you imagine she’d say if one of her daughters married a Chinaman? ” “And you did what she told you? You broke off with him? ” I bristled, although frankly I was as shocked as Mother must have been . “ I knew what my life would be like if I didn’t . Uncle Lazar would probably object too , and since he’ s helping with my tuition, I’d have to drop out of college. Everyone I kn ow wo uld turn their back s on me. Maybe even you, Peg !” “I wouldn’t have turned my back, Ruth,” I said. “I would have wanted you to do whatever made you happy.” Ruth shook her head and choke d back a sob. “ I had to let him go.” Commented [CY233]: Does the family know Margaret/Peg as a photographer? Bought her a camera. Commented [LR234]: OK? Since just “Dennis” doesn’t betray anything a bout his race. Commented [CY235]: OR “you to be happy.”


89 “Oh, dear Ruth,” I sighed. “How h ard it must have been for you! But no doubt someone more suitable will come along, and you’ll fall in love again.” “No ,” Ruth said. “ I’ve never been attractive to men. I’m not like you, Peg! But please don’t say anything to Mother. I promised I wouldn’t te ll you, but I thought you ought to know.” I leaned down and stroked Ruth’s wet cheek, and then I crept back to my own bed and lay listen ing to her quiet weeping . Suppose people reacted like that w hen they found out I was Jewish! Mother and Father had kept it a secret for years, so obviously they’d been ashamed of it. Were there telltale signs , like the shape of your nose ? Was it just as bad if you were only half ? How hard would it be to keep it a secret? It was a long night until sleep finally came. . Commented [CY237]: No inner reaction? Commented [CY236]: Need? If so, we need a much stronger ending.


90 Ch apter 11 : Chappie — 1923 I t was a relief to get away from my disapprovi ng mother and my unhappy sister , and m ake the long train ride back to Ann Arbor . Roger clung to m y hand when I left, begging me to come back soon . “It’s lonesome here without you,” he sai d. “And Mother’s always mad at me.” “It’s not you she’s mad at,” I assured him. “It’s because she’s lonesome, too. I ’ll come as often as I can,” I promised, not sure , though, that I c ould keep my word. A few days after I returned to campus , I was on my way in to the cafeteria on the West Quad for lunch . I had just stepped into the revolving door when I noticed a tall, handsome man on his way out. “ How do you do,” he said, smiling, and I replied, “How do you do,” and smiled back. We were so busy smiling that the door kept revolving, and neither of us exited. “Glad to meet you,” said the dark eyed stranger , who was indeed quite tall, at least six feet , with the shoulders of a football player, and quite handsome . His dark eyes gleamed shone with amusement beh ind spectacles. “Likewise,” I said , and the door revolved again . I could have made my escape then , had my usual bowl of soup, and gone on with my life. But I did not . H e gave the door a nother firm push, and we went around still another time , both of us la ughing . “We must meet again ,” he said. “How about this evening?” “I have a paper due tomorrow,” I answered truthfully. “Maybe another time.” “I won’t ta ke no for an answer,” he said . “This door keeps turning until you a gree to meet me tonight at the Seal .” Commented [CY238]: Move above. We already know he was smiling – A LOT.


91 The Seal was the university seal embedded at the Diag, where two diagonal paths crossed on the quadrangle between the main buildings . It was a traditional meeting place. “Yes!” I cried . “The answer is yes!” The door stopped turning, and we stepped out. “ On official forms I’m Everett Chapman, but e veryone except my mother calls me Chappie . And you’ve just ag reed to meet me at eight tonight . Your name, please? ” “Margaret White on official forms , but everyone calls me Peg except my mother .M ock solemnly , we shook hands . Eight o’clock at the S eal , Peg to meet Chappie ,” I said and hurried away. I finished my project in the zoology lab, and, stomach rumbling —I’d forgotten about lunch —and sat through a discussion of Paradise Lost in a class on the works of Jo hn Milton . Then, pelted with biting crystals of snow and blasted by a relentless arctic wind , I rushed back to my room to drop off my book s before head ing out again into the frigid Michigan winter. Chappie and I reached the Seal almost at the same time. H e grabbed my arm and , our heads lowered against the wind, we raced across the Diag and hurried along snowy sidewalks leading away from the campus. “ I know you were expecting to go to the Royal Cafe , ” Chappie said, “ b ecause that’s where e verybody goes. But everybody knows you there and I want you all to myself.” That caught my attention. I want you all to myself. At a down at the heels diner , Chappi e picked a booth with patched upholstery next to a steamy window, and without even asking what I’d like, ordere d melted cheese sandwiches for both of us. “My favorite,” he explained . Commented [CY239]: ? I still don’t get.


92 Melted cheese happened to be mine, too, although by then I was so hungry I c ould have chewed the leg on the table. I gobbled my sandwich while Chappie talked . After eating half his s andwich, he push ed the still uneaten half of his across the table , and I ate tha t, too. Everett Chapman was a senior studying electrical engineering , and he was twenty two . H e specialized in electric welding, about which I knew nothing at all but was now e ager to learn. I discovered that he had a whimsical sense of humor, but underneath the easy mann er I sensed a person who worked hard and took life seriously . I may have taken my first step toward falling in love with him in that dingy diner over a congeali ng melted cheese sandwich. As a sophomore , my weeknight curfew was 10:30 , a half hour after the library closed. We had to rush to get back in time before I was given demerits and risked losing going out privileges . I did not have to wait for his first goo dnight kiss. It happened on our very first date, and it was everything I had longed for. T here were many more kisses a fter that, and I knew by the way he held me that he longed for the closeness. But Chappie was always a gentleman. I never had to stop his hands from roaming into dangerous territory, but eventually, to keep our passion in check, I told him we had to stop the ardent kisses. He agreed. There would be just one goodnight kiss, we decided, and not the long, lingering kind I yearned for but was a fraid to allow . We had so much in common! If there was a movie, we went to see it and talked about it afterwards and almost always agreed on whether it was a good movie or not . We saw plays put on by the drama department: The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde, and Volpone , about a lecherous old miser who pretends to be fatally ill . We went da ncing every chance we got, a nd I learned to dance the Charleston to songs like “ Ballin’ the Jack ” and “ Muskrat Ramble.” Commented [LR240]: Which sandwich is congealing? Didn’t Peg just gobble all of hers and the un eaten half of his? Commented [LR241]: A lot of time seems to pass very quickly here — OK? Commented [LR242]: Checked Commented [LR243]: Not written until 1926 — change?


93 We read to each other. Milton: The mind is its own place, and in itself Can make a heav ’ ' n of hell, a hell of heav ’ ' n. And Carl SandburgRobert Frost : Two roads diverged in a wood, and I — I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference. “I feel as though San dburg Frost wrote that for me,” I told Chappie . “I’m taking the road less traveled.” H e said he knew exactly what I meant. Later, I wondered if he really did know, or if he was just telling me what I wanted to hear. When spring came, we went for long wal ks in the woods, search ing for snakes. Most wonderful of all, though, was discovering that Chappie was also a photographer. He took highly technical pictures —fascinating photographs of wedge shaped steel particles fusing under high heat. H is developing and printing skills were much better than mine , and we began to work together in the darkroom . Then we started going out with our cameras and tak ing photographs together. I found in Chappie everything I had ever hoped for: a mix of my father’s virtues of ded ication and hard work, combined with a boyish kind of playfulness and sense of fun. He bought a kazoo and serenaded me. He hid silly notes around the darkroom for me to find. And when we went dancing, he w ould suddenly break into a tap routine . Then , in M ay, Chappie told me he loved me. He belonged to me, he said, heart and soul. I should have expected it , but I was only eighteen , and not prepared to give myself to any one at this stage of my life. If I did, what would that mean for my dreams of accomplish ing great things? O f becoming a famous photographer ? If I allowed myself to Commented [CY244]: Need this here? Commented [LR245R244]: Agree — this takes me out of the scene. Commented [LR246]: Check dates. If this is May 1923 as per chapter title, Peg is 19 years old, a month away from turning 20.


94 belong to him “heart and soul,” as he seemed to want, would I lose sight of the person I wanted to be? When I tried to explain this to Chappie , he became very unhappy , although h e tried to understand. “Peggy,” he declared , “I’m mad about you. I never believed I could love anyone as I love you. And I know how you feel. You’re younger than me, and I know that you want to experience more of life before you settle down. You must finis h your studies, and I must begin my career. I promise to wait for you for at least two years —e ven three , if it comes to that! And then you must promise you’ll be mine for the rest of our lives ! ” For the rest of our lives! The idea was frightening. The wor ld was spinning too fast. I felt confused. O ne minute I was happy , and the n ext I plunged into despair. I could see dreams of my future dissolving into dust. Chappie was no better. He complain ed that he couldn’t concentrate. “F inals are coming up , and I ha ve to focus on my studies , but how can I think about molecules when all I can think about is you ?” I didn’t know how to respond to his pressure . And there was no one I c ould talk to. All t he girls I knew had their sights set on marriage. Not one seemed to have any ambitions of her own. When Chappie was accept ed into the graduate school in engineering and offered a teaching job in his department , we decided to celebrate. I proposed staying up all night to watch the sunrise. Chappie owned a dilapidated old a utomobile . The only reliable thing about his ancient Dodge was the regularity with which it broke down, but mostly it got us where we wanted to go. We parked and climbed onto the hood to wait, and when the first bright rays shot above the purple horizon, w e cheered . That was how we celebrated. * * * * Commented [CY247]: Is this repetitious? Commented [LR248]: This line rhymes — “Chappie/unhappy”—a bit unfortunate, to my ear. Maybe change “unhappy” to “upset” (etc)? Commented [LR249]: Need?


95 Toward the end of May my mother came to Ann Arbor to visit for the first time. Naturally I wanted her to meet Chappie, and he was anxious to meet her . “But without you there, Peg ,” he said . “ I want your mother to get to know me on my own, so she can ask me whatever she wants.” The two of them went for a walk and were gone for about an hour . I waited nervously in the parlor at Betsy’s while girls gathered around the piano and entertain ed visiting parents wit h popular songs . After Chappie left, Mother and I went to have our supper in the cafeteria. I showed her the revolving door where Chappie and I first met. “It was the fun niest thing! He kept me going around and around until I agreed to have a date with him .” Mother smiled indulgently. “And it seems you’ve been going around and around ever since.” I felt myself blush. “Yes, I guess I have.” “ Chappie and I had a long talk,” she said when we were halfway through our meal . “I can see that he’s serious about you .” She pushed a lima bean through the mashed potatoes and gravy. “ He made an excellent impression on me. He assured me that he has led a clean life and has the greatest respect for you.” She eyed me, waiting for my reaction. I looked away . “Yes, it’s true. We’re very careful not to l et things get out of hand.” I wanted to steer the conversation in a more comfortable direction, but Mother would not allow it . “It’s important to control your ardor before marriage ,” she said . “ It’s not easy. I suppose every co uple goes through the same struggle. Your father and I did , a nd it was worth it. We were pure when we married. ” The awkward conversation ended, and we didn’t talk about Chappie again. After she went home to New Jersey, I had a letter from her. “I can tell , just by hearing your voice, ” she wrote, “ that you’re in love with this delightful young man.” Commented [CY250]: Parents’ weekend? See below. Commented [CY251]: Another way to say?


96 I read my mother’s letter several times and decided to stop questioning myself. She was righ t —I was in love with Chappie . But I was also determined to realize m y ambitions. Maybe I wouldn’t be going into the wilds as part of a team of scientists, yet surely I could find a way to become successful , first as a photographer but also as a writer. Surely I could have both a career and marriage. It didn’t have to be e ither/or, did it? Chappie and I would be separated for the summer —he ’d be staying with his parents in Detroit where he had a summer job playing traps in a dance band, and I was going back to Camp Agaming in Connecticut to earn money for the next term . T h e time apart would be good for us. I’d have a chance to think through this vision of my future that included Chappie . B efore the end of the semester , Dr. Doctor Ruthven called me into his office again . “I’ve been thinking about you a great deal, Miss White,” he began , in his usual formal manner. “What are your plans for the summer?” I told him about Camp Agaming, adding , “ I hope to do something different this year . I I ’d like to teach nature studies to the children. I t would be less demanding than the photography classes that kept me all night in the darkroom and earned very little money. ” “Mmm,” he said, and out came the pipe, the tobacco pouch , and the match. I waited while he finished the ritual of tamping, lighting, puffing . “I have another idea f or you. You’ve told me that you hope to become a writer as well as a photographer. You seem to have a rapport with young children , or the camp would not have invited you to return. Why not write nature stories for the youngsters , and take photographs to illustrate them ? Y ou might enjoy creating such a book, and I’m sure the children would enjoy reading it . I’m certain I could help you find a publis her .” Commented [LR252]: ?? Peg has never mentioned writing as a careerju st photography and herpetology. Commented [LR253]: drums? Commented [CY254]: A tad awkward Commented [LR255]: Again, I wonder if she’s ever taken a class with this guy? She never talks about him and their interaction seems to consist only of this once-a -semester meeting. Isn’t he the whole reason she went to University of Michigan? Commented [CY256]: SENSE? See bove. But she goes there to MAKE money and she WILL be spending long hours in the darkroom. Commented [CY257]: DELETE? See below. Commented [LR258]: See previous comment — this has never been mentioned before in the story. Commented [CY259]: How does he know this? This seem s a tad forced and comes out of nowhere. THIS STILL HOLDS TRUE. SEEM? Did they talk of camp before? Commented [CY260]: She takes them on nature hikes


97 I quickly agreed and sailed out of Dr. Ruthven’s office feeling as if I’d just taken a giant step int o my future . When I went home to Bound Brook early in June, I found our house in a state of upheaval. Mother had decided to sell it and move with twelve year old Roger to Ohio . Her attempt to sell insurance had not been successful, but now she believed sh e had found her vocation. “I’ve always though t I’d make a good teacher, and I’ve made up my mind to study Braille and become a teacher of the blind. There’s an excellen t training school in Cleveland. I’ve already enrolled .” She hadn’t said anything at all about this when she was in Ann Arbor . It seemed like a radical change, but when Mother made up her mind to do something, she did it . “I’ve found a duplex near the two universities . We’ll live on the second floor and rent out the first floor to students, and that will help cover our expenses . There’s even a room for you and Ruth when you come to visit. ” Ruth had graduated from college and accepted a job at a law office in Boston, and I wondered if she had gotten over the end of her love affair. Mother nev er mentioned it , and I wasn’t going to ask. It was painful to see our home dismantled, the furniture sold, the pale rectangles on the walls where Father’s photographs had once hung . Everything reminded me of his absence. After a week or two of helping Mo ther pack for the move , the empty windowsills where I’d tended the chrysalises, the neglected garden. I left for Camp Agaming to begin the task of setting up a darkroom for my students . As it turned out, I would still have to teach photography, but I would not be taking pictures of the campers to sell as postcards. Instead, I would work on the book that Dr. Ruthven had proposed. Commented [CY261]: Need? Commented [CY262]: Said above – OK? Commented [CY263]: Need? Commented [CY264]: How is she earning money for school? CLEAR?

PAGE 100

98 Madge Jacobson was also back as a counselor , and she arrived at the camp the day after I did . We hadn’t seen each other since th e previous summer, and she couldn’t wait to tell me that s he was head over heels in love with the boy from Yale she’d been dating . I t was “Ben said this” and “Ben thinks that” until I wanted to scream. They plan ned to announce their engagement at Christmas and marry in two years , right after she graduate d . “Our parents want us to have a big wedding, but we’re thinking of eloping instead ,” she confided. “So,” I said, “no career plans then? You ’re a good student. You made almost straight A’s, didn’t you? ” M adge laughed. “Yes, I pulled good grades, but I’m major ing in English, and I don’t want to teach . I’m not really driven —not the way you are , Peg!” Madge seemed so sure about her life; it was all laid out for her. Dr. Ruthven had high hopes for my future —ev eryone who saw my photographs did , and I did for myself. But I still wasn’t sure what shape that future would take. When I thought about being a successful writer photographer, I pictured myself alone , bold ly going into challenging situations to obtain th e best shot s and the best story. But I often thought of how nice it might be to share a cozy home with Chappie always waiting for me when I returned from my latest adventures. Could I have it both ways? I didn’t know , and there was no one to advise me. Commented [CY265]: So. Commented [LR266]: Awkward? Maybe just “and I did, too.” Commented [CY267]: Hasn’t she said this before? Could this GO?

PAGE 101

99 Chapter 1 2: Torn — 1923 M y nineteenth birthday came and went in June . At first everything seemed to be fine. When I had time away from my campers, I immersed myself in the nature book Dr. Ruthven had suggested. I tried to imagine what might fire the imagin ation of an eight year old , a child like myself at that age, in telligent and curious about the world around me. I created miniature stage sets with pebbles and bits of greenery and posed a series of insects— dragonflies, spiders, ladybugs, gently chlorofor med to keep them still — while I made dozens of photographs. Then I wrote a story about each insect in a few simple paragraphs. I knew how to make the story come to life on the page. I enjoyed working on the book project, and m y campers were lively and eng aging . I should have been content , but I couldn’t sleep. My eyes were ringed with dark circles. Food had no taste, and so I lost weight . I couldn’t bear to be alone , yet being with other people irritated me . I’d never been like this befor e . I told myself t hat all I had to do was to get through the next few weeks. In the fall I would be back in Ann Arbor, Chappie would be there in graduate school, and I would keep work ing on my nature book . Everything would be fine! But I wasn’t fine now. I’d promised to wr ite to Chappie at least three times a week, but whenever I started a letter , I burst into tears and tore up what I’d just written. When he didn’t hear from me, h e called , and that just made it worse. Madge, who was used to seeing me as the girl in charge of her life, now watched me turning into a wreck. “I think you should go to a doctor,” she said . “I’m worried about you, Peg! You just don’t seem like yourself.” “I don’t feel like myself,” I confessed, already teary . Why was I weeping all the time? I could n’t understand it . Commented [LR268]: All sources I found say she was born in June 1904, which would make her 1923 birthday her 20th— not her 19th. (Check chapter header dates.) PLEASE CHECK THROUGHOUT. Commented [CY269]: WHY NOT JUST SAY 8 year old? This seems awkward. Commented [LR270]: How did she know how to do this? We’ve never seen her work on her writing

PAGE 102

100 I took Madge’s advice and looked up a doctor in Litchfield . She drove me to his office in her flashy roadster . “I’ll be right here when you come out,” she promised and squeezed my hand. “We all feel blue sometimes. You’ll be yourself aga in in no time. ” I tried to smile, and failed. Dr. Graham had wire rimmed glasses, a little gray mustache , and a pointy beard. He was reassuringly grandfatherly as I recited my symptoms: fe el tired, can’t sleep, no appetite . He peered in my throat and ears and listened to my heart. “Miss White,” he said, laying aside his stethoscope, “I don’t believe there is anything physically wrong with you. But you appear to be on the verge of a nervous breakdown. You are perhaps demanding too much of yourself, working too hard, studying too much. Your brain is unable to tolerate any more, and your nerves are strained. ” He removed his glasses, folded them, and slid them in to the pocket of his white coat. “I advise you to refrain from all intellectual activity. Try to rela x. Rest as much as you can. Go for long walks. Drink tea in the afternoons. Do you swim? Swimming is beneficial to the nervous system.” I nodded, promising to do as he suggested . Afterward, I climbed into Madge’s roadster , slammed the door, and burst into wrenching sobs. “Oh dear, dear, dear,” Madge murmured sympathetically as we bounced along the bumpy road back to camp. “Didn’t he prescribe something for you? Some pill or tonic ?” “No,” I said between sobs and dug for my handkerchief . “ Just told me to le t my brain rest .” “But how are you supposed to do that ?” “ Swimming. Long walks. Afternoon tea . And relax! He doesn’t seem to understand — I’d relax if I could.”

PAGE 103

101 The summer dragged on, and I dragged on with it. My little girls , some of whom had been Agamin g campers the summer before and had come back eager for more of my enthusiasm , watched me warily. They must have noticed that I had changed. I no longer stayed up all night to develop their pictures, no longer started off with my camera in total darkness to catch the best sunrise from a nearby hilltop . Somehow Madge kept things going for both of us, and I was grateful. At last the summer ended, the campers left for home, and I made plans to visit Mother and Roger in Cleveland before I went on to Ann Arbor. “Y ou’ll be fine, Peg,” Madge said as she prepared to leave. “I’m sure you will. You know that Chappie is madly in love with you.” I did know that. And that was part of the problem. Or maybe the whole problem. Mother’s new home was on the second floor of a p lain clapboard house , on a dreary street with a weedy patch of a front yard, so unlike the unique house and exotic garden Father had created in Bound Brook . Mother, Roger, and I kept bumping into each other in the crowded apartment. Students had not yet b egun returning to the two nearby universities , and the downstairs apartment sat vacant with a FOR RENT sign in the window of the sun porch. I had been there for three days when Chappie called to ask if he could visit. “Chappie’s coming ,” I told my mother. Mother was pleased . He had made a good impression on her , as he did on everyone . “Chappie reminds me of your father,” she said wistfully . She didn’t say so, but I knew she thought he would be an excellent husband. From the very beginning I had mixed feel ings about the visit. None of Dr. Graham’s recommendations had done me a scrap of good. No matter how many long walks I took and how many cups of tea I drank, I was still miserable. I didn’t want Chappie to see how tired I looked, how nervous I seemed, how thin and gaunt I had become. I didn’t want him to see Commented [CY271]: Has the reader really seen this? Commented [CY272]: Do we know what university? Yes, but leave it this way; the names all changed Commented [CY273]: The reader needs to see her struggle. They need to empa thize with her.

PAGE 104

102 how easily I burst into tears. Nevertheless, I made an effort to pull myself together, put on one of my nice dresses, and fix my hair. I was watching from the window when his old car pull ed up in fron t of the house . He step ped out and adjust ed a panama hat —he must have just bought it , I ’d never seen him wear one, and somehow he looked different . He straighten ed his tie . Then he came striding up the crumbling sidewalk and rang the bell marked “M. White .” I made no move to go down and answer the door. Mother came out of the small kitchen, wiping her hands on a dishtowel, and glanced at me. “Aren’t you going to let him in?” I shook my head. S he sighed and hurried to greet him . Their voices sounded cheery as they climbed the narrow stairs together. My mouth was dry as dust, but I forced myself to smile when Chappie appeared at the sitting room door and hesitated for a moment before h e swooped in . He gathered me in his arms, murmuring, “ Darling, I’ve missed you so much!” I could not bring myself to respond. I backed away. I opened my mouth and tried to speak, but nothing came out. Every ounce of strength seemed to have drained out of me. Mother stepped in. “Margaret has been a little overwrought lately,” s he said in a bright voice that sounded entirely false. “Let’s give her a chance to rest, and you and I can have a cup of tea and a nice chat.” She took my arm and steered me back to the spare bed room. It was scarcely larger than a closet . She eased me down onto the bed and threw a quilt over me. “Rest,” she said. “But not too long. I’ll keep Chappie entertained for a while, but you must come out sooner or later.” T he feeling that I’d been holding my breath for too long didn’t go away even when Mother retur ned to announce that supper was on the table. With an effort I got up, straightened my clothes, and walked unsteadily to the little nook by the kitchen . Mother had set the table with her good china. I forced a smile and let Chappie pull out my chair. The Commented [CY274]: Important? Yeah STILL WONDER WHY? Commented [CY275]: Not sure this works.

PAGE 105

103 t able was so small that our knees touched. There had been a time when that kind of closeness would have thrilled me. Now it frightened me, and I couldn’t say why. Still I could not u tter more than a word or two, “please” and “thank you” and “ no more,” a nd f inally, before the meal was over, “excuse me.” I crept back to the stifling little bedroom, lay down, and wept . The voices of Chappie and Mother continued for a while, and then I didn’t hear Chappie ’s any more. The old Dodge coughed and started up under m y window. My mo ther sat by my bedside, not say ing anything, asking no questions, just sitting there in silence. Eventually I slept. The next day she said that Chappie had told her he loved me and wanted to marry me, and that he was prepared to wait as long as necessary. “He said he was going on to Ann Arbor, and he will see you when you return for classes,” Mother said . “H e’s sure that whatever is bothering you is temporary and will soon pass.” But unfortunately, i t wasn’t temporary, and it didn’t pass .

PAGE 106

104 Cha pter 1 3 : Ind ecision —1923 During the fall semester I threw myself into my courses and tried to ignore all my different the feelings that tossed me around in a stormy sea of emotions. It didn’t help that Chappie and I were constantly together. We often wen t out to take pictures for the ’Ensian . He was interested in capturing people in action — playing ball, for instance. B ut people didn’t interest me nearly as much as the small detail that escaped nearly everyone’s notice: an unusual lock on a gate, or the re flection on the coffee urn in the R oyal Cafe. We would then develop and print our pictures together. Chappie was a genius in the darkroom. And he told me, over and over, “Peg, you have the eye of an artist. You see things in a way no one else does .” I told Chappie about the picture postcards that had been so popular with the campers and their families, and w e thought that might be a good way to earn money. He was as poor as I was. Together and separately we photographed campus buildings and roamed the nei ghborhoods of Ann Arbor in search of other unusual shots. Since Chappie was serving on the advisory board of the ’ Ensian and also taking pictures for a school magazine and the Ann Arbor newspaper , I took over most of the darkroom work , developing and print ing his pictures as well as mine . A ll of this in addition to my classes. Chappie and often I talked about what our lives would be like when we were married, the children we would have , and I sometimes happily pictured myself in the middle of that domesti c scene, our two sons and two daughters running to greet their papa when he came home from work while I tended a potroast pot roast on the stove. But other times I imagined myself on a grand adventure , expl oring some faraway place with my camera and then wr iting about it . Chappie was nowhere in the picture . Commented [CY276]: Or some such change. Commented [CY277]: Lost the chain of thought that she had to pay for college. What about the nature book? Commented [LR278]: What happened to her depression and nervous fatigue when she thought about Chappie? Has that gone away now? THIS IS KEY. Commented [CY279]: Pot roast on the stove? OK?

PAGE 107

105 How could I have it both ways? I could ’ n ’ t not , and realistically I knew I would have to choose between placid domesticity and exciting adventure . That seemed impossible . Chappie sensed my ambivalenc e and pressed me to make up my mind. I could not. The more I le aned one way and then the other, the more morose, peevish, and sullen he became. He apologized: he didn’t want his wretched moods to affect mine. Naturally, they did. At times he threatened to break off our relationship. If he couldn’t have all of me, then he would have none. He refuse d to speak to me for days , or else we argue d . I lashed out at him , and then it was my turn to apologize . We wept in each other’s arms, swore our love, tried to be kinder to each other. Then we started all over again . We were going nowhere. I had no one to confide in, and who c ould understand what I didn’t understand myself? Ruth was in Boston. Mother had witnessed my unhappiness, and she struggled as much as I did to make sense of it. Finally s he wrote me a long letter, urg ing me to see a psychiat rist. “ You must not continue in your misery. It will destroy you. ” I wondered what a psychiatrist would make of m e . The Litchfield doctor’s prescription , that I give my mi nd a rest , had been impossible to follow. It was as if he had told me to give my lungs a rest by not breathing. When I could not stand it any longer, I took Mother’s advice . I asked the nurse at the campus infirmary to recommend a psychiatrist. She looked at me oddly , but she wrote a name and address on a slip of paper and handed it to me without a word. I stood outside his door, staring at the name on the shingle — Wesley D. Stan sfie l d, MD —and trying to work up my courage to go inside . I hesitated so long that I nearly missed the appointment. Dr. Stansfield was thin and bald and had saggy little pouches under his eyes , and he wore a pince nez. H is barren office was furnished with a chair, a couch, and a row of framed diplomas printed in Latin . Commented [CY280]: Struggle . Is this really what she is struggling with? Commented [CY281]: Need?

PAGE 108

106 “Now tell me, Miss White, why have you come to see me?” I began to cry. Dr. Stansf ield waited until I stopped and then asked me why I was crying. “Because I’m miserable!” I wailed. “And why are you miserable?” “Because I can ’t make up my mind what I want. ” “What do yo u see as your choices?” Haltingly, I talked about Chappie and my conflicting desire to make a name for myself as a photographer and writer. The psychiatrist listened, sometimes asking a question , and gave me an appointment to come back in a week. Every Wed nesday for two months I recounted the incidents during the previous week that upset me . But nothing changed. I was still miserable, and I began to wonder if perhaps I could not be cured. Then one day Dr. Stansfield asked me to describe my childhood. I gav e him a glowing account of my walks with Father, the stories he’d told me, the snakes we’d brought home , the caterpillars we’d watched changing into butterflies . I described the high standards set for me by my mother . “ ‘T he hard way is alwa ys the better wa y,’ she always told me.” “So, you admired your demanding mother and perhaps idolized your father?” “ Oh , yes! I’ve never known anyone like him ! ” I listed my reasons: his dedication to his work, his genius , his love of the natural world, his passion for pho tography . I described my childhood visit to the found ry with him , the vision of the fier y cascade of molten metal b eing poured into molds , seared into my memory . “Ah, so perhaps your father was perfect! And Chappie can never measure up!”

PAGE 109

107 Dr. Stansfield wa ited for my reaction, and it was immediate. I heard myself blurt out the words I had never spoken , words I rarely even allowed myself to think : “But my father was Jewish!” There it was. I had given away our secret, said what Mother had warned me not to say , the secret I had buried so that I would not have to deal with it . Jewishness had been the basic flaw in Father’s character, the one thing my mother could not forgive. The psychiatrist regarded me calmly, his expression neutral . “I t bothers you, Miss Whi te — that your father was a Jew?” I stared at my hands, clenched in my lap. I couldn’t bear to look at him. “Yes,” I admitted. “I suppose it does. My mother dislikes Jews —she won’t have anything to do with my father’s family. And I’m half Jewish!” I glanced up. Dr. Stansfield did not appear to be shocked. “A re you afraid that others would reject you if they knew you have Jewish blood running through your veins?” “Yes,” I whispered. “ But Dr. Stansfield ,” I cried, suddenly animated after w eeks of slumping listlessly in the leather chair across from his , “so many people dislike Jews!” I sank back , my face buried in my hands . “And what about you, Miss White? Do you also dislike Jews?” “I — I don’t know!” “You mentioned your father’s family. How do you feel about t hem?” I had to regain my composure before I answered. “My father’s brother, Uncle Lazar, is very kind. He’s helping to pay for my education. I don’t know my cousins very well . I’ve spent so little time with them, because my mother dislikes them so much.” “ Do you know why she dislikes them?” Commented [CY282]: Perhaps another way of saying this.

PAGE 110

108 “She says they ’re like all Jews and think they’re the Chosen People and better than anyone else. I guess I never questioned that.” “I believe that we may have learned something important here today, ” said the doctor in h is usual dispassionate manner, scribbling notes on a pad. “We have perhaps discovered the source of your inner turmoil. You have kept this secret for a very long time, is that not so?” I nodded. “Since just after Father died almost two years ago. Mother to ld us then. I had no idea before that.” “And you have shared it with no one?” “No.” “Y ou’ve kept your secret even from your friend Chappie?” “Especially from Chappie! What if I lose him because of this —this flaw? You’re the first person I’ve told, doctor.” “And how do you feel, now that you have told the first person? And that person has not turned away from you, or made you feel worthless ?” I considered his question, and then I admitted —first to myself, and then to the doctor —that I felt relieved . The doc tor smiled. “ Doesn’t it seem likely , then, that Chappie will not turn away from you when you share your deepest secret with him ? And that perhaps your self doubt has clouded your ability to make sensible decisions about what is important in your life? ” I d idn’t see how revealing my secret would solve the other problems, but I agreed to tell Chappie . The next day we went for a long walk in the countryside . The day was bright and clear, the leaves that had changed color weeks earlier had drifted down, and I shuffled through the piles of dry leaves with childish glee . like when I was a child. Chappie watch ed Commented [CY283]: Or some such change. Not keen on ”childish glee”?

PAGE 111

109 me warily, as though he expected me to begin sobbing for no apparent reason , as I had done so often in the past weeks . I gathered my courage and grabbed Chappie’s hand. “Chappie, I have something to tell you,” I said, struggling to keep my voice steady . “There is a secret in my family , something I think you should know . My father was a Jew, and so I’m half Jewish. I’ve been afraid to tell you , because I di dn’t want your feelings for me to change.” Chappie had long ago given up asking me what was wrong or how he could help, and l ately he seemed afraid even to touch me, fearing that might set off another storm of tears. But now he turned to face me, his eyes gaz ing into mine. “Peggy, my darling girl! How could you ever believe that something like that would make me feel any differently about you! I wouldn’t care if your parents came from an other planet. I love you so deeply, that nothing you tell me will ever make me change the way I feel .” He kissed me passionately, and I returned his kisses with more fervor than I had felt in months. But even then , as autumn faded and the unforgiving Michigan winter closed in , its icy grip around us , my uneasiness did not disappear. I worried about money, and so did Chappie , who earned extra income playing traps in local dance bands . My budget was painfully tight. I moved out of the residence hall and into a cheap boarding house. When t he snows melted and spring came, an d w e set up a show in the library to sell prints of our the pictures we’d taken around campus in the different seasons. we’d taken of campus landmarks at various times of day and night and in different seasons.. We hope d to make a little money, and we did —but not enough. We were talk ing again about marriage . I thought we should delay for several years . There was still so much I wanted to accomplish! If I finished the nature book I ’d been working on and it sold well, maybe I’d be asked to create other book s. I knew my Commented [CY284]: Two feels Commented [CY285]: Another way of saying this? Commented [LR286]: So telling Chappie she’s half Jewish has (at least temporarily) cured her depression and her doubts about marrying him? I think the modernday reader might find this both hard to believe and troubling/ problematic . Commented [CY287]: Who is we? Commented [CY288]: No sense of this

PAGE 112

110 photographs were good , and I wanted to explore every possibil ity . If I settled into the conventional kind of marriage Chappie expected and the only kind I knew, how would I ever become recognized —famous, even — for my talent? B ut we were passi onately in love, and we both wondered how we could possibly wait that long to marry . Chappie was offered a teaching position at Purdue University in Indiana, far from Ann Arbor. Of course he accepted, but now the pressure increased for me to make up my m ind . To marry or not to marry? To go with Chappie to Indiana, or stay in Michigan and finish my degree? What would it be? The more I wavered, the more Chappie’s impatience grew. He wanted me with him all the time, and when I tried to go off and do t hings on my own, he became unreasonable and possessive. H e pouted like a child if I so much as spoke to another man, so jealous that he wept. And sometimes he shouted at me, “Why can’t you be like other girls and just want to get married? What’s so hard about th at?” And when I told him the truth—“Because I’m afraid of losing who I am and what I want to do with my life ” —he replied caustically, “Maybe you should talk to that psychiatrist again.” But none of this diminished our intense physical longing for each oth er , which frustrated us and made us both even more short tempered. By the end of the term , with the prospect of a long, hot summer ahead , we could hardly stand to be apart , but the tension of being together without surrendering to our passion was more than either of us could bear . And so I made my decision. W e would not wait any longer. We would get married — now! Commented [LR289]: So has she decided to marry him now? I find this section confusing —can’t tell if she wants to marry him or not. Commented [CY290]: Might be a tad over the top.


Download Options [CUSTOM IMAGE]

No images are available for this item.
Cite this item close


Cras ut cursus ante, a fringilla nunc. Mauris lorem nunc, cursus sit amet enim ac, vehicula vestibulum mi. Mauris viverra nisl vel enim faucibus porta. Praesent sit amet ornare diam, non finibus nulla.


Cras efficitur magna et sapien varius, luctus ullamcorper dolor convallis. Orci varius natoque penatibus et magnis dis parturient montes, nascetur ridiculus mus. Fusce sit amet justo ut erat laoreet congue sed a ante.


Phasellus ornare in augue eu imperdiet. Donec malesuada sapien ante, at vehicula orci tempor molestie. Proin vitae urna elit. Pellentesque vitae nisi et diam euismod malesuada aliquet non erat.


Nunc fringilla dolor ut dictum placerat. Proin ac neque rutrum, consectetur ligula id, laoreet ligula. Nulla lorem massa, consectetur vitae consequat in, lobortis at dolor. Nunc sed leo odio.