Against Wind and Tide: Letters and Journals, 1947-1986

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9780307378880: Against Wind and Tide: Letters and Journals, 1947-1986
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Why, as an eager and talented writer, has Anne Morrow Lindbergh published so relatively little in forty years of marriage?” asked reviewer John Barkham in 1970. “After a promising start with those first books on flying, she tapered off into long silences broken by an infrequent volume of verse or prose.”  Many years later, Lindbergh replied with a quote from Harriet Beecher Stowe, who claimed that writing, for a wife and mother, is “rowing against wind and tide.”
 
In this sixth and final collection of Lindbergh’s diaries and letters, taking us from 1947 to 1986, we mark her progress as she navigated a remarkable life and a remarkable century with enthusiasm and delight, humor and wit, sorrow and bewilderment, but above all devoted to finding the essential truth in life’s experiences through a hard-won spirituality and a passion for literature.
 
Between the inevitable squalls of life with her beloved but elusive husband, the aviator Charles A. Lindbergh, she shepherded their five children through whooping cough, horned toads, fiancés, the Vietnam War, and their own personal tragedies.  She researched and wrote many books and articles on issues ranging from the condition of Europe after World War II to the meaning of marriage to the launch of Apollo 8.  She published one of the most beloved books of inspiration of all time, Gift from the Sea. She left penetrating accounts of meetings with such luminaries as John and Jacqueline Kennedy, Thornton Wilder, Enrico Fermi, Leland and Slim Hayward, and the Frank Lloyd Wrights. And she found time to compose extraordinarily insightful and moving letters of consolation to friends and to others whose losses touched her deeply.
 
More than any previous books by or about Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Against Wind and Tide makes us privy to the demons that plagued this fairy-tale bride, and introduces us to some of the people—men as well as women—who provided solace as she braved the tides of time and aging, war and politics, birth and death. Here is an eloquent and often startling collection of writings from one of the most admired women of our time.

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About the Author:

Anne Morrow Lindbergh was born in 1906. She married Charles Lindbergh in 1929 and became a noted aviator in her own right, eventually publishing several books on the subject and receiving several aviation awards. Gift from the Sea, published in 1955, earned her international acclaim. She was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame, the National Women’s Hall of Fame, and the Aviation Hall of Fame of New Jersey. War Within and Without, the penultimate installment of her published diaries, received the Christopher Award in 1980. Mrs. Lindbergh died in 2001 at the age of ninety-four.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

—From the Introduction by Reeve Lindbergh
 
Anne Morrow Lindbergh was born in the year 1906 and died almost ninety-five years later in 2001. Not only did she live through most of the twentieth century, but her adventures, her personal history, and her written reflections made a significant mark upon her era. A pioneer aviator and an author, she was an explorer of the world outside herself as well as the world within. Her gift in both worlds was for communication, and her writings touch readers deeply to this day.
 
Represented here are four decades of her previously unpublished diaries and letters, written between 1947 and 1986. During her lifetime she published five earlier books of diaries and letters, covering the years 1922 through 1944. These focus upon her meeting, marriage, and early life with my father, Charles Lindbergh. They begin with her school years and go on to the Christmas she spent in Mexico when her father was the ambassador there and the famous young aviator visited on a goodwill tour following his nonstop solo flight from New York to Paris in 1927. The account continues with the Lindberghs’ courtship, wedding, and youthful flying days together, when my mother became a pilot, too, and they explored possible air routes for the fledgling aviation industry, all over the world. The story extends through the tragedy of the death of their first son, Charles, and then into the years before and during the Second World War.
 
My parents’ flying trips together ended before the war, and my mother stopped flying entirely. With the pioneering days of aviation in the past, she turned to her writing and to raising her family.
 
During my lifetime, my parents did not even own an airplane, though my father continued to fly, serving as a consultant with the airline indus­try and the Air Force and traveling throughout the world for the rest of his life. My mother’s path was very different. Outward explorations were replaced by an inward journey, one she described later in her life as a “journey toward insight.”
 
The material collected in the following pages was written between my mother’s fortieth birthday and her eightieth, and follows a period of sub­stantial growth in her life and thought, as well as some marked changes in her relationship with her husband and in her sense of who she was as a woman and an artist. The book begins early in 1947, at a time when she was assessing her own physical and emotional turmoil at the end of her childbearing years, as well as the damage and devastation she witnessed on a trip to postwar France and Germany. It ends in the mid-1980s with a letter to me, her youngest daughter, a year after the death of my infant son. In between these selections is a treasury of vivid, poignant, percep­tive, and often delightful pieces of communication, each in its own way directed toward a greater understanding of what it means to be a human being, a writer, and a woman.
 
To collect, read through, and edit anyone’s diaries and letters is an unusual kind of journey. To work with material written by a parent is to travel inside one’s own personal history as seen from a very different, yet very intimate perspective. For me there is a quality of double vision and some self-centered, unanswerable questions: Where was I when she was writing all this? Where is she now, as I read it?
 
Surely, I feel, she is not far away. The familiarity and directness of my mother’s voice brings her close to me again, though she has been dead for more than ten years as I write this. And yet, going over these pages with my brother Land, our niece Kristina, and our close friend and col­league Carol Hyman, I begin to realize that the same thing is true for each of us: we feel, unavoidably, close to the writer. This is the effect she has always had upon her readers. She speaks to every one of us directly, personally, offering the whole of herself at every stage of her life.
 
In this book we see her first at the age of forty-one, unexpectedly pregnant for the seventh time and seriously considering abortion. The practice was not only dangerous and illegal, but also violated some of her strongest principles. We see her a few years later on Captiva Island in Florida, in the 1950s, writing home from a rented beach cottage where she was working on a book she referred to in her letters as “The Shells,” later to become Gift from the Sea. We see her again at the end of 1963, writing to my sister, Anne, about Anne’s upcoming wedding plans in France, while reeling from the recent shock of the assassination of Presi­dent John F. Kennedy. We see her writing four years later to President and Mrs. Johnson to decline an invitation to the White House because she does not know, literally, where in the world her husband is, or when he will return. We see her exploring the first years of widowhood in the mid-1970s, after my father’s death from lymphoma, with grief, exhaus­tion, and openness, and we see her reflecting a decade later upon her recent and long-ago losses, and the discoveries she is making as she enters old age.
 
As a writer she was honest, eloquent, and deeply reflective, always seeking to understand life as it unfolded before her, always wanting to share her understanding with others: her husband, her children, her family and friends, and ultimately her readers. It is her openness to life that has made her writing so popular with readers for more than half a century. She struggled with issues women and men have to face in every era: what to make of a complex, difficult marriage to a person one loves; how to reconcile the impulse toward creativity—and the need to work—with the practical demands of home and family; how to respond to the larger events and issues of the day; how to give and receive friendship and love throughout a lifetime; how to meet old age and the certainty of death: first the death of those we love and cannot bear to lose, family and friends, young and old, and then one’s own old age and inevitable death, the end of life.
 
This was her journey, not mine, but the geographical context of these writings is familiar to me. I know the territory: the big house in Connecticut on the shore of Long Island Sound where she raised her five children from 1945 until 1963, when the children had grown and the house was sold to a younger family; the smaller house my parents built on a section of the same property and lived in for much of the rest of their lives. They also built a small chalet in Switzerland in 1963, in a field overlooking Lac Leman, and spent summers there, enjoying visits from my sister, Anne, also known as “Ansy,” who then lived in France with her family, and from their other children, family members, and guests. Finally, I came to know the bare, windswept A-frame they later constructed on a tiny piece of property on the island of Maui, a place my father had visited toward the end of his life and immediately loved for its isolation and wild beauty.
 
They would visit Maui in the spring. This was the house where there were mongooses and bougainvillea, and the floods my mother described in her letters. Although he loved Maui, my father was often absent from this house, too, as he was from the other homes they shared. Even now, when I think of her all alone in the torrential Hawaiian rains and the accompanying mud, trying to bail the floodwater out of her kitchen with an omelet pan, I can only shake my head in amazement.
 
How did she do it? How could she possibly live in such conditions, again and again, without her husband? Another question comes to mind almost simultaneously. How could she possibly live in such conditions, or in any conditions, with him? Neither was easy.
 
Thinking back to the 1950s, I realize that the quality I associate with my father in that era is iron. Those were the iron years. The color of his hair was like iron, and the discipline he administered was like iron: unbending, with stern lectures and occasional spankings. To be fair, there were also moments of joy, when he’d break into an enormous grin at something one of us said, or at some antic of the German shepherd puppy we had then. There was laughter, too, perhaps during a conversa­tion with our mother or during a bout of roughhousing with the boys. There were quiet times with him, sitting on the wide tiled porch over­looking Long Island Sound or walking with him in the woods, not talk­ing at all. I remember how much I loved him, always, no matter how scary he sometimes seemed. I remember that I missed him intensely all the time he was gone, that our family felt only half complete without him. I also remember, though, the relief and relaxation that settled like a kind of warmth over the household when he went away and our mother was once again in gentle command.
 
All these many years later, missing him and puzzling about him, wondering how my mother could have stayed married to such a husband, I have concluded that it must be the very absences we minded so much, the absences she lamented in her letters to him, that made the marriage and our family life possible. I even wonder whether his absences were what she had in mind when she wrote, in Gift from the Sea, about the importance of “intermittency” in relationships.
 
He traveled so much, in fact, that the later letters in this book make it clear she had difficulty adjusting when he finally stopped traveling, in the last year or two of his life. She wrote to her sister Con, “The trips away (to the Philippines, Africa, etc.) that gave him so much freedom and stimulus and adventure, and which are so creative for him, will not be possible in the near future—if ever—(I don’t know, of course). This virtually isolates me from the people I used to see when he went off.”
 
I am convinced that no woman could have lived with my father full time, twenty-four hours a day, over a long period. And he lived his life in a way that meant no woman ever really did, except for my mother, and then only during their early years together. I was certainly amazed to learn, a few years after my mother’s death, that my father had had several relationships with other women during his travels in the 1950s and 1960s, and that there were children from these relationships. However, it did not surprise me at all to learn from these children, when I met them, that the paternal pattern was the same for them: our lives were all marked by our father’s perpetual comings and goings, by a brief intensity of presence followed by long absences, over and over again.
 
Despite my father’s frequent disappearances, I have an unmistakable sense of the strong and interdependent partnership my parents shared, however strained their connection at certain periods and however deeply my father’s absences impacted their union. They knew each other well and they helped each other immeasurably during the almost forty-five years they spent as husband and wife: first flying together, then writing together while raising their family.
 
In these letters I understand once again how much she relied upon him, as he relied upon her. I saw them working together, sitting side by side, pencils in hand and a manuscript before them, discussing, marking, editing, and proofreading, talking back and forth for hours on end. It might be his manuscript, it might be hers, it made no difference; the depth of concentration was the same. They depended upon each other to make a book complete, right down to the acknowledgments and the final galleys. In this work they were equals, professionals, as they had been a team when they were pilots charting early air routes: Charles and Anne Lindbergh, together.
 
I felt surprised, therefore, and almost queasy when I first read the letter in this collection that my mother wrote to my father on December 18, 1947. She wrote, to my astonishment, “I would rather have you think me ‘a good girl’ than be right myself, or to have anyone else think me a good girl. And I am afraid you will not. All the time I feel like a bad girl—that I am not living up to your idea of a good girl.”
 
I was shocked. The writer of this letter sounded so weak, so clinging and self-deprecating, so cloyingly pathetic, not at all like the woman I knew. “Good girl”? “Bad girl”? What was this? And yet as I kept reading, letter after letter and diary entry upon diary entry through the following years, I found my mother again, the perceptive, quiet, resilient person so familiar to me. I also began to see how the relationship between my parents altered as my mother grew older. There was a time when she thought that he was usually right and that she, especially in opposing him, was usually wrong.
 
But this changed. Oh, how it changed! As I read into the 1950s and 1960s and beyond, I recognized the person who had learned to stand up to a man whose good opinion she had once craved above all else. I knew the wise, quiet woman who trusted her own feelings and convictions, and who taught her children to trust theirs.
 
Her growing freedom became ours as well. Our mother encouraged our development as individuals, and loved us unconditionally. Even when our views or actions became troubling to our formidable father, she defended us: Anne was entitled to consult a psychiatrist at a time of emotional trouble even if our father distrusted psychiatry; Scott had the right to follow his own beliefs about the war in Vietnam, even though our father believed one must fight for one’s country in wartime despite what one believed. (He had flown in the Pacific during the Second World War, even though he’d opposed America’s entry into that conflict.) She herself was perfectly justified in refusing the invitation of President and Mrs. Marcos to visit the Philippines in 1971 because Anne was expecting a baby. The upcoming birth of a grandchild, my mother explained to my father in a letter, took precedence over all other events and invitations.
 
Her refusal to budge on this issue delighted me. No more “good girl”! This was a woman who lived her own life and stated her case with spirit, unafraid to confront her husband on his own terms. “You don’t tell me ahead of time what your plans are: where you are going and how long you’ll be away, when you’ll be back, etc. I don’t mind, actually. I know that’s the way you live, and must live. But I can’t, on the other hand, sit around and wait for you, and make no plans.”
 
She did make plans: to work, to see her family and her friends, to enjoy the outdoors, to nourish her inner self. From the earliest diary entries here, it is clear that her interior existence was as rich as her out­ward, active life. While not willing to withdraw from the world or from her family for too long—she had five children to raise and, even with the household help available to her, she was most often the person in charge—she sought to establish a measure of solitude within her daily routine. She would see friends in the afternoon and evening, but she tried to spend mornings alone at her desk, whether in the house itself, in the trailer that Henry Ford had given my parents after my father worked for Ford during the war, or eventually in the...

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