There are times when you learn things about a person you thought you so completely knew that you are stunned beyond words. SU decided to clean out a part of his closet to organize work clothes. Ordinarily this is not prose worthy...and yet. On the floor of his closet was a large manilla envelope, which upon further inspection , revealed some things belonging to my late mother. One of those items was her high school year book from 1947, the year she graduated from Winthrop High School. I don't recall seeing this before....ever.
Curiosity got the better of me so I started to thumb through it.
Then I had to sit down. I never knew that my mother was the feature editor of the yearbook. Bear in mind that Winthrop was and still is a very tiny town in Minnesota . her class was very small, so there must have logically been a lot of competition for a few choice spots. The school, grades K - 12 are all in one building . This was true in 1947 and still true in 1968 when I also attended the school . I never realized that my mother had the same passion for writing that I do.
She also graduated with honors, lettered in band and choir and was a member of the schools glee club all through her high school years. I always knew that she at one time had possessed a beautiful voice, it stood to reason since her father was one of the local Lutheran Ministers . But I never knew that she was considered to have been actually gifted in music according to the comments from her teachers which are written by them in the yearbook.
I also never knew just how popular she was. Entry after entry from her classmates, male and female attest to this. Her beauty, humor and sense of fun come up again and again in these comments. Remember also, this is just after the war. These kids were not flighty or silly, they were sincere and genuine in their friendships . These bright and shining faces meant every word that they wrote, that comes out loud and clear with each of their words. Many of them, my mother included were excited to go off to Gustavus Adolphus or G.A as they called it. I also learned from one comment from one of her closest gal pals that MY MOTHER Hitchhiked to New Ulm and back. That stunned me. It seems so completely foreign to me to think of her doing that on a lark. For the fun of it. Fun ? My Mother ?????????????????????????
I read and re-read each and every comment and have such a completely different concept of her at that age. I matched names and pictures to comments, and I looked at her face over and over again. She really was quite beautiful . Young and eager, she looked like she could have taken on the world.
This makes her life tragic to me when I think about it. Why did she feel the need to hide her intellect ? Was this what a mid century female had to do to be accepted ? She certainly never, ever encouraged me in any form of academia ....ever. Was this her way of somehow trying to protect me from a dissapointing life ? She never graduated from G.A , and I don't think she ever got over that. She had two brothers very close in age and considering my grandfathers paltry salary, even with scholarships...something had to give . We all know who that was. She never begrudged this to her brothers, whom she loved so completely . But it was unfair to her. I am outraged at the life that was wasted. She always hid her talents, it wasn't proper to exceed. She was the wife of a Naval Officer and a mother. I guess this is the only thing in life she felt she could excell at. And when she couldn't sustain the illlusion she drank until the pain and the reality were a blur . I really understand that now.
Deep in my heart and soul I will mourn the loss of a person I really would have liked to have known . I would have liked her...a hell of a lot. I have a silver name bracelet with seven or eight names on it. I can now identify all those girls who were so close and chose to honor their friendships by having these bracelets made. These girls are real to me now and not an abstract anymore.
Goodnite Betts .
There is one person here that now knows how bright and pretty and popular you were . I am proud to be your daughter and I love you.
Take a moment this weekend to stop and understand what Memorial Day really means..it's worth the time .
Aunty Pol .