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Frances Lide: First Woman in a Washington News Room

Alexandria Packet November 13, 1986

by Maria Kavanagh
Special to the Packet

Frances Lide had been in Washington only a few hours when she lost practically everything she owned.

This was 1934 when the Depression blanketed the country and losing everything meant just that.

“I had come to Washington from South Carolina to get a job with one of the New Deal agencies until I could find a job as a journalist. Jobs on newspapers, as most other jobs, were incredibly difficult to come by.”

She tells of her introduction to Washington with a wry detachment:

“A friend had met me at the railroad station with a borrowed car. On the way to my hotel we stopped at his boarding house where I had been invited for dinner. Afterwards, as we were leaving for the hotel we discovered that my large suitcase with all my winter clothes — it was December — and practically everything else I owned, had been stolen. Fortunately, I had carried in with me a small bag with my letters of introduction and a few toilet articles.”

Her letter to the Fourth Assistant Postmaster General got her a job as a clerk-typist in the Treasury Department’s Bureau of Public Works within a few days. But typing up labels wasn’t exactly what she had in mind when she came to Washington. Determined to write, she constantly made the rounds of every newspaper, wire service and agency which might use a journalist. Meanwhile, along with her government job, she wrote regular columns from Washington for North and South Carolina papers.

After a year of dogged persistence, she was hired as the first woman in the news room at the Washington Star.

“I was hired to cover Eleanor Roosevelt’s weekly press conferences. Mrs. Roosevelt insisted upon being covered only by women. Most women journalists at that time were society editors and society columnists and had had no experience.”

But before coming to Washington, Frances Lide had done it all. Forced to leave college because of lack of funds — her father had been an invalid, her mother supported the family on a meager salary — Lide found a job on the local paper in Greenville, S.C. On these papers she had been called upon to do every kind of reporting, as well as some editing and “sometimes sweeping the floors.” she says with a laugh.

After three exhausting years of working six days a week, from 7 a.m often until midnight and sometimes on Sundays, when, because of the Depression, she became one of only two people left on the paper, she realized she had to make a change.

However, it was on the strength of this very experience that she was hired at the Star. Her starting salary was $25 a week.

Lide_cartoonAsked about how she was received in the news room, Lide says with amusement  “They didn’t know how to treat me. When I walked in at 7 a.m. on Monday morning, they were all busy typing at their desks. No one looked up. No one said ‘Good Morning.’ But after a week or so they gradually became more friendly. And after that I never felt uncomfortable.

Newspaper women in those days were not taken too seriously by their male counterparts. Often referred to as ‘sob-sisters’ or ‘news-hens,’ most of them covered social events.

“It sounds curious in today’s world,” she says thoughtfully. “If a breaking story involved a woman, I would be sent on it. But there seemed to be an unwritten rule that only a man could get a particularly tough or grisly story.”

Yet, in a recent profile on Jane Pauley in the Washington Post, her “Today Show” partner, Bryant Gumbel admitted there were territorial lines on their interviews. “I think there may be a tendency if there’s an interview that has to be done with any, shall we say tenderness — a recently widowed father, or a sick child — Jane may get that one, Gumbel says. “And if it’s a real put-on-the-gloves one, Bryant will probably do better than I do,” says Pauley. “But I do those too, and Bryant does some pretty sensitive tear-jerkers.”

Frances is on the left. The woman with the boxes is not Eleanor Roosevelt. The paper printed a correction the next week.
Frances is on the left. The woman with the boxes is not Eleanor Roosevelt. The paper printed a correction the next week.

Eleanor Roosevelt held her press conference every Monday morning.

“Going to the White House was much simpler in those days. The gates were always open. We just walked up to the front door where the butler admitted us, gave our names to an usher and that was all there was to it.”

When asked how the men felt about being excluded, Lide says, “Naturally there was some resentment because Mrs. Roosevelt so often made real news. Although I was in my twenties, I would be completely exhausted when I would have to follow her around for a day on a story.”

Lide remembers only one event which reporters were not allowed to cover except by standing outside the gates.

“Mrs Roosevelt had visited the National Training School for Girls (a sort of detention home). Appalled at the conditions there, she — always warm-hearted and generous — had impulsively invited the girls to come to tea. We had to watch from the outside.”

World War II completely changed the field of journalism. With more and more men called into service, more women were hired and sent out on every kind of story. Women reporters were no longer an oddity in the newsrooms. “Even the society pages focused more on news items than simply accounts of social events,” says Lide.

In her last years on the Star, Lide took over the home furnishing section of the Sunday Magazine. In 1968 she received the National Press Award from the National Society of Interior Designers for outstanding feature reporting of interior design and the decorative home furnishing industry.

Since her retirement in 1970, she has done freelance stories on historic houses and furnishings, has served as the coordinator in publishing a cookbook of old Alexandria recopies for the 40th anniversary of the Beverly Hills Church on Old Dominion Boulevard and did the interviews and research for the North Ridge History Committee for a book on North Ridge lore.

When the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History celebrated the Eleanor Roosevelt Centennial, she was one of the four panelists who spoke on how the First Lady changed her life.

Frances Lide reminisces in the manner of a true reporter. In her soft voice with its trace of a Southern accent, she shares her past with humor and a little surprise that we would find her experiences fascinating.

Her house in Alexandria, tucked away in a quiet, shady cul-de-sac is set in a lovely, almost quaint garden which she cares for with the help of an occasional yard man. Ivy, lilies and quince bushes splash unusual colors here and there.

She cuts the lawn herself, is busy with her family, friends and church work. And she still finds there aren’t enough hours in the day to do the writing she hopes to do.

Maria Kavanaugh last wrote for the Packet on illiteracy in Alexandria.

Patchwork garden

grandma's quiltWhen I was a child and would visit my Grandma Patrick, sometimes she’d tell me about the patchwork quilt that hung over the back of her sofa in her living room. Its pattern was of tulips in pots and suns with beams. Flowered material made up the border. As we sat under the quilt she’d point to a pot or a flower or a sunbeam and tell me about the piece of clothing that it came from. Sometimes her own, sometimes one of her 4 daughters. There even were pieces of shirts from my dad and his dad, her husband.

mountain mintTo me this quilt was special, not only because she made it herself, but it was made up of scraps of material that once clothed her family. This quilt now hangs on a sofa in my house. While I don’t remember whose dress or shirt each flowerpot or sunbeam was made from, I have told my children about it. Maybe someday they will tell their children too.

fall blooming crocusI thought about this quilt last night after thinking of the plants that will go into the bed in my front yard. I’ve hired my neighbor, Terese, a professional garden designer to plan the bed, and she’s come up with a great design. She’s purchased some plants for it, but we will incorporate some existing plants from the bed and take some from other places in my yard that I planted without knowledge of what they needed in the way of sunlight, drainage, etc. A few of these plants were from the garden of my friend, Bob, who reluctantly moved away from the neighborhood last December. We’re also getting a few plants from my friend, Alison. Terese is giving me some plants from her garden and maybe some from a community garden.

So my garden will be somewhat of a patchwork garden, plants from friends and neighbors will grow next to newly purchased plants. Plants that are re-purposed — just like the cloth in Grandma’s quilt. And it will be all the better for it. Maybe, when my future grandchildren visit, I will tell them about the people who gave me each of the plants; about Bob and what a beautiful garden he had or about my friend Alison and her family, with whom we had some amazing times. If only I’d remembered to take the plants that Frances gave me from my yard in Alexandria when we moved to Bethesda.

Secret Grotto, Secret Shrine

Years ago, on what I recalled as a long walk with my friend Candy, we happened upon an amazing discovery. Actually, Candy knew about it and wanted to show me, but it was a discovery for me. Candy called it a “grotto”. I didn’t really know what a grotto was and as the years went by the image of this grotto, in my mind’s eye, became a pagan temple where modern day witches might worship. I imagined that it was built by Pantheists in the early- to mid-1900s and was secretly kept up by followers of non-traditional faiths. I’d been thinking about it recently because I thought it was something that my daughter would like to see.

Candy and I visited the grotto again this past Wednesday and although I was wrong about the religion, I was right about the purpose — it was a place for worship. It was obviously built by Christians, however, not Pantheists. Symbols of Christianity are all over the structure, so much that it might be better called a shrine. I was also wrong about the location. I thought it was in Elgin and far away from civilization. (or as far away as possible in an urban area) In fact it is a few minutes walk from the Kane County Government center in Geneva, Illinois.

Grotto Shrine in Geneva, Illinois

Candy knew little about its history, so we stopped by the nearby government center to ask about it and the history of the government center buildings. The first person we asked didn’t even know the grotto/shrine existed. The second person we asked looked at us strangely and told us to ask down the hall. The third person we asked told us that the buildings had once been a seminary for monks and they used to worship at the shrine/grotto. She said that occasionally people from “out East” who have some connection with the monks stop by to visit the former seminary.

Candy and I then tried asking about the buildings and grotto at the Geneva History Center and neither of the volunteers on duty knew about the history of the buildings at the government center. One volunteer said that if we wanted someone to research it for us we could request it, but it would cost us money. I politely declined and said I would try to find information online.

I did find a few references to the shrine/grotto in Geneva, Illinois — most were pretty much the same text, however one was much more detailed [PDF, 226KB).

Apparently the Grotto Shrine (which is what the Neighbors of Geneva article* calls it) was designed and built by a Jesuit priest from Germany who came to the Sacred Heart Seminary to study to be a missionary. According to the article, “on special feast days the missionaries and seminarians would walk in candlelight procession to the outdoor chapel.”

While the grotto shrine was not what I remembered it to be, it still fascinates me and I look forward to showing it to my daughter someday. I’m also a little fascinated that no one we talked to knew much, if anything, about the grotto shrine. If I worked at the government center, I know I would want to know as much as possible about the history of the buildings I worked in. I guess everyone is not that way.

*coincidentally written by the Geneva History Center

Best. Neighbors. Ever.

Skippy John Jones G.
Skippy John Jones G.

I look across the street tonight and see the blue Volvo and silver minivan parked where they’ve been for the past couple of years. I see Chris mowing his lawn. The other day I talked to Madeline, Anna, Molly and Carter about vacation Bible camp, Subway meals and trips to the Bay.

Nothing really, except the sad knowledge and “Under Contract” sign, indicates that tomorrow a moving truck will collect their furniture and move everything to Richmond. In two days a new family will move into the house across the street.

The current family couldn’t be any better. They are some of the sweetest people I have ever known. Chris took care of Andrew when he had his skin infection (knowing a dermatologist is handy). Madeline actively  participated in our neighborhood book group. Anna once stage whispered to a friend that Dean was really nice. Molly and Carter entertained us with their 3/4-year old antics.

And then there is Skippy John Jones G. who, although may have pooed on our lawn a few times, was the friendliest cat in the ‘hood. At least to neighbors and the mailman, who on more than one occasion sat on the stoop and gave Skippy a cuddle.

The new family has an incredible act to follow.

The G. family will be missed. Very much.

Pastor Keith

Most of you know by now that my father died in October. I’m not ready to talk about that here, if ever. What I want to talk about, instead, is an incredible man I met in September, but got to know much better in October.

Pastor Keith Fry
Pastor Keith Fry of Christ the Lord Lutheran Church, Elgin, IL

Pastor Keith Fry is the pastor of my mom’s church, Christ the Lord Lutheran Church in Elgin, Illinois. Mom only recently started going to this church, finally giving into her friends’ invitations to attend. I think she’s gone to this church just over a year.

I liked Pastor Keith as soon as I met him in September at my mom’s book group where they discussed Take this Bread by Sara Miles. I met him again the following Sunday when I attended church with my mom. His sermon mentioned someone he’d discussed at the book group — a friend he’d made in Washington DC who had nothing, yet gave him a gift. That tipped me off that this man was a man to whom connections were important.

When, three weeks ago, my mom’s church friends alerted Pastor Keith that my dad was on life support and in critical condition at St. Joesph hospital, he made a trip to the hospital that night. By then my mom and brother had left — knowing that there was little they could do for Dad and they both needed a good night’s sleep in order to have a clear mind to make whatever decisions needed to be made in the coming days. I’m sure Pastor Keith prayed over/for/about my father and for my mom for strength. He probably also got information from the nursing staff on Dad’s condition.

He showed up on Tuesday morning as well, this time offering support by way of prayer and information. He asked a few questions about our family — he really didn’t know Mom that well — so wanted to know if we had other siblings, what we did for a living, how many kids we had, where we lived, etc. None of what we told him was of any use, really, but, as I mentioned earlier, Pastor Keith is a man to whom connections are important. He wanted to know us in order to connect. At least, that’s what I think he was doing.

On Wednesday and Thursday he was always a phone call away and on Thursday evening my brother called him to tell him that we’d need his support on Friday morning.

I’m not sure what we would have done without Pastor Keith’s support on Friday morning. He was a calm presence the room. He was knowledgeable about the process. He was there when we needed him, but it was not as if there was a stranger in the room with us — more like a dear friend. Most of all, he assured us we were doing the right thing.

All the while we were together, Pastor Keith must have been taking mental notes. He was storing our words, actions, and stories in a file in his head. I know this because he gave the most touching funeral sermon I’ve ever heard — taking what he’d observed the past week, what he’d heard from us the past week, and what he’d seen in a slideshow I posted on Facebook (yes, Pastor Keith is on Facebook). If there is a prize for funeral sermons, this one is a sure winner. It is posted after the break if you want to read it.

One of the memories I shared with Pastor Keith that morning was my vision of Heaven: When my Uncle Don died when I was 6 years old I couldn’t really process it until President Kennedy was assassinated. Then I wondered if they’d meet in Heaven. I pictured Uncle Don and President Kennedy sitting at a table drinking beer. As more and more people that I knew or admired died, they joined the table. If you read the sermon, you’ll see that Pastor Keith really listened.

Unfortunately I don’t have the gift of listening that Pastor Keith possesses. I’d like to tell you more about him, but all I know for sure is that he grew up in Texas, the son of a Baptist minister. He has siblings — maybe 3 or 4? He used to be in publishing, but about 5 years ago decided to go to Seminary. My mom’s church is his first congregation. They love him (I know, I read it on Facebook). I think I love him too.

Continue reading Pastor Keith


I met Cindy my first day of junior high. She sat at the same lunch table as I did that day. It didn’t take us long to start hanging out at each other’s houses — in fact, her father, who was a 6th grade teacher dropped her off at my house each morning and we’d walk to school together. Then each afternoon we’d walk back to my house and spend the afternoon together before her dad picked her up after work.

Cindy’s mom was a vegetarian. The only vegetarian I’d ever met. Her father wasn’t. They lived in the country in an arts and crafts style bungalow on 13 acres they called Walden Oaks. They had a potbelly stove in their living room and Cindy always smelled of woodsmoke. She had long, black curly hair, huge eyes and a large smile. We were inseparable in junior high.

We continued our friendship into high school, but in our junior year Cindy’s father decided to take a sabbatical the following year and spend it in Spain with Cindy and her mother.  That meant that Cindy would need to graduate a year early. She seemed to change that year. She spent more time with seniors and less time with me. Our friendship was strained as it was — the old saying, “familiarity breeds contempt” proved true in our case. I think we’d spent so much time together the first few years of knowing each other, that we got to know each other too much — almost like sisters, I suppose. I remember being jealous of her grades — I guess I thought I  was the smarter of the two of us and when she got better grades than I did, I got angry. My temper was easily roused back then, and there were times when Cindy egged me on just to see me get angry — she admitted it years later.

The summer of our junior year, I went to England and she stayed to finish up high school, then she left for Spain with her parents. We kept in touch through letters — but Cindy was not much of a letter writer. When she returned from Spain, she was no longer Cindy. She was Cynthia.

At some point, when I went to England, Cynthia stayed a few weeks with my parents. I think she must have been in college, because she was learning about ecology (she went to the College of the Atlantic) and unplugged my Mickey Mouse night-light because she said it wasted electricity.

We kept in touch for a few years, but lost touch after a while. I think the real reason we lost touch was because I didn’t send her a card or gift when her daughter, Claire, was born. It was not Cynthia who quit writing then — it was I. I was envious that she had a child and I didn’t — and thought I wouldn’t have children. Then when I finally did have child, I named her Clare,  and was afraid Cynthia would be offended.

Cynthia was also extremely eco-conscious. I’m not sure she and her family had a television, much less a VHS player. We had a couple televisions and probably didn’t always turn out the lights when we should have. I was ashamed.

I kept up on her life through her dad, who wrote me each Christmas until the year before he died. I didn’t know he’d died until a couple of years later when my sister-in-law told me. I was a little miffed that Cindy hadn’t told me herself, but, I guess, by then, she must have figured our friendship had ended.

I did find Cindy/Cynthia via email and we wrote back and forth once. Then we found each other on Facebook and wrote back and forth a bit, but have not written anything in a while.

People change — friendships come and go. I’m not the same person I was when I was in junior high and neither is Cindy/Cynthia. Why can’t I let go? Just because we were best friends 35 years ago doesn’t mean we still should be. However, it would be nice to see her again, you know?

Red & Blue by Doug Miller

Remember Doug? My multi-talented hair stylist/colorist & friend? He’s back to songwriting and has a fun and timely song ready for the world (and the upcoming elections).

Red and Blue

Here are the lyrics:

Red and Blue

It was logical to use red and blue
No one could foresee the damage it would do
Now we stand divided by a load of crap
And that terrible red state/blue state map

When it started I cannot say
But I will never forget November Y2K
When we stared at that damn thing every day
‘Till we began to see ourselves that way

And the media, whether left or right
Likes to keep it simple, paint in black and white
And the red state/blue state paradigm
Reinforced their dumb-ass storyline

Shape Up! Grow Up! Wise Up! Rise Up!
Wake Up! Grow Up! Wise Up! Rise Up!

Everywhere I go I have always found
The greatest folks and much common ground
In this promised land there is room for all
But I fear divided we will fall

And the problem now, from what I can see
Isn’t with the views of group A or B
But the ever growing tendency
To see the other guy as the enemy

Shape Up! Grow Up! Wise Up! Rise Up!
Wake Up! Grow Up! Wise Up! Rise Up!

Riding shotgun with Mom and Dad
On the way to Grandma’s, they got so mad
Which road to take, they could not agree
But there was never a doubt that they both loved me

So when Glen Beck’s off his meds again
In a war of words with Keith Olberman
Over who’s the true American
Can we admit that it’s way out of hand

Shape Up! Grow Up! Wise Up! Rise Up!
Wake Up! Grow Up! Wise Up! Rise Up!

And maybe next time use yellow and green-

Music and lyrics by Doug Miller © 2010
mp3 and lyrics posted with permission

Rupert and the God Cod

Indigo Bunting, Cedar Waxwing & Lali
Indigo Bunting, Cedar Waxwing & Lali

Rupert was happy that his American family remembered to take him on their trip to visit colleges in the Northeast. Sometimes they forgot to take him along on their journeys and that always made him sad. He especially wished he’d been along for the Ireland trip.

Rupert was also happy that he had a warm and cozy place to ride when his American family toured colleges in the cold rain. While they were soaked, Rupert stayed dry — although he does regret not seeing Diane Lane. He thinks she’s hot.

On Wednesday, April 1, Rupert and his American family visited Middlebury College in Vermont. The day was cold, but not rainy, which made them all happy. At this point on the tour, at least for Dean and Dona, the schools began to blur together. They all had lovely campuses, lots of trees and perky and overachieving tour guides. Andrew liked Middlebury, but it is not at the top of his list.

After the information session and tour, Rupert and his American family had lunch at a cafe in the town of Middlebury. Andrew and Dona liked the food, Dean was not happy with his soup. Dona liked the friendly people who were behind the counter. That kind of thing doesn’t usually impress Dean.

After lunch Rupert and his American family took a slight detour to the town of Parts West, Vermont to visit with Dona’s blogging friends, Indigo Bunting and Lali. Rupert was excited about this visit. He’d met a few other of Dona’s Internet friends as well as Dona’s favorite singer-songwriter, but he’d never met another blogger.

Rupert could tell that Dona was excited, but nervous, about meeting Indigo Bunting and Lali. He thinks Dona was nervous because she felt she was overstepping an unmarked boundary — that some people like to be more anonymous than she does online and that Indigo Bunting and Lali might only be agreeing to the meeting because they were too nice to say no. He suspected Dona was also nervous because Dean was never comfortable meeting Dona’s Internet friends.

Rupert and the God Cod
Rupert and the God Cod

As soon as Dona phoned Indigo Bunting and heard her voice, Rupert knew that Dona was no longer nervous. It was exciting to turn that last corner and see Route 153 for real. She saw the post office and other landmarks she’d read about in IB’s blog posts.

Rupert and his American family arrived at Indigo Bunting’s house at exactly the same time as Lali did. When Indigo Bunting opened the door she hugged everyone, saying “I hope you’re huggers!” It was exactly how Dona hoped it would be.

Dona, Dean and Andrew had (delicious) coffee, cookies and pie with Indigo Bunting and Lali while enjoying a lively conversation about everything from college visits to birds to coffee to towns in Vermont. Rupert got a thrilling ride on the God Cod, some photos were taken and everyone drove over to visit Lali’s home where they met Bisou, Lexi, Wolfie, Lali’s husband and the chickens. They admired the wattle fence as well.

Indigo Bunting gave Rupert and his American family a loaf of Rupert Rising Bread which they tasted about an hour later as they drove to their next college town. It was delicious and they planned the meal it would compliment when they got home the next evening.

On the way back to Bethesda the next evening, Andrew answered Dona’s question, “So what did we learn on this trip?” with “We learned that blogging friends are really nice!” Rupert, Dean and Dona all agreed.

And they lived to tell about it

As we walked into the admissions office of Wesleyan University yesterday morning, Dean looked at the rain clouds  and wondered if any statistics were kept on what the weather was like the day students who applied to certain schools visited for the first time. If more were likely to apply if the weather was good and fewer if the weather was bad. Given  yesterday’s weather and if students chose their schools based on the weather the day of the visit, both schools we visited yesterday would have lost several potential applications. It was horrible and all of us (excepting Rupert who was snug and warm in my waterproof purse) were wet to the skin by the time each tour was over.

Andrew loved Wesleyan University (as did I). We had an excellent tour guide (Wesleyan admissions folks, in case you monitor blog mentions about your school, the tour was the March 29, 9 am tour  and our guide was the woman who was on the played rugby) and, despite the lousy weather, got a great sense of what the school was all about.

After a delicious lunch at a sandwich shop in town possibly called Brew Bakers, we headed towards New London and Connecticut College. On the way we saw signs for Gillette Castle State Park, and recalling a happy visit there with a friend who lived in Bridgeport in the 1980’s, thought we could spare a few minutes to drive past the castle so Andrew could see it.

It took much longer than we expected to find the state park, and even longer to drive to the castle, which was closed, but since it was raining and we were already wet from the tour, didn’t consider getting out of the car anyway.

Our trusty GPS took us through back roads to New London, which would have been fine — we had plenty of time before the tour — had the local rivers not been flooding. Did I mention there were flood warnings in Connecticut yesterday?

The car rounded a bend and we were dismayed to see the road ahead was flooded. I was ready to turn back and retrace our steps, but Dean drove on, deaf to my squeals of “OHMYGODOHMYGODOHMYGOD” and Andrew’s echos of “ohmygodohmygodohmygod”. The Highlander made it easily through the first part of the flooded road, but we could feel the pull of the water in the second half as the wheels began to lose contact with the road. All the time I was thinking about the warnings to NEVER drive through a flooded road and wondering if the fences on the side of the road were strong enough to hold our truck from being plunged into the pond on the other side.

We did make it through the flooded road, but Dean realized after that he should never have driven into it. We all have different opinions of how deep it was. I said 8 inches. Dean thinks 6. Andrew thought 4.

We made it to Connecticut College with no more mishaps and Dean had time for a nap before the tour.

This time we were given plastic ponchos with Connecticut College logos on them. Dean and I opted to wear ours. Andrew chose to not. Andrew looked much less silly than we did, but we kept reasonably dry. The tour group was smaller than the one at Wesleyan, but instead of stopping and talking to the group the Connecticut College tour guide walked backwards while talking and, unless you were in the very front, could not hear her over the sound of rain on the poncho hoods.

I felt nothing of the excitement I’d felt for Wesleyan. The campus was pretty enough, but I preferred the architecture of Wesleyan over Connecticut. Andrew preferred Wesleyan as well.

We had just enough time to check into our hotel in Raynham, Massachusetts before we needed to head out to meet our friend (and my matron of honor) Marie for dinner. She’d not known of a place to eat around where we were staying except for an outlet mall with chain restaurants. While we’re not so big on chain restaurants, we noted that there was a Timberland shoe store among the outlet stores, and Andrew had been wanting a pair of Timberland boots for a while.  Dean found a couple of pairs of shoes as well.

Dinner with Marie was wonderful. We’d not seen her since the summer before she and Neal divorced about 5 years ago. This was the longest we’d gone without seeing her since we met in 1981. We used to visit Neal and Marie at least once ever couple of years and they would visit us occasionally. Despite not having seen her for so long, I always consider her one of my best friends.

Today we visit Wheaton College and Tufts University. The rain is not going to be quite as bad, but I imagine we’ll still get wet.

Ok, breakfast….

Modern Day Letters from 3 Women

I get a lot of email. Yesterday I got over 80 messages in my gmail box (which is actually 5 accounts that come into one “box”). I have not checked other email accounts, but I imagine that yesterday I received well over 100 emails in all of my accounts together — closer to 200 if you include the account that houses emails from freecycle and DC Web Women lists.

In a typical week I receive maybe one personal email (not counting  work emails or the emails that alert me to comments on my blog or emails from the email lists I manage asking how to do this or that).  Sometimes I get a little annoyed that of all those emails none is directed personally to me. None ask how I am or what I’ve been up to. But then how many of those emails do I send out myself? Um… None?

So I was surprised and delighted when I received three personal emails yesterday all from women who have been important parts of my life.

The first email arrived around 8:30 am and was from a woman who was the principal at a school where I taught when we first moved to the DC area. She left the area, but we kept in touch for a few years. We lost touch for a while but Linked-In got us back in touch. The years I worked at her school were the best years in my teaching career. She was a wonderful principal and I’m glad she is working as a principal again. I’m envious of the teachers who work with her.

The second email was even more of a surprise, but should not have been since I’d sent an email to this person a few days ago. It was a surprise because more than half of me thought I would not get a response and as the days went by I expected a response less and less.

The email was from a woman who was my roommate when I first moved out of my parent’s house. I was a late bloomer, so that was when I was 23 or so. Maybe 24. She and I met in 1974 — she was a Jeremy’s schoolmate and friend. We were pen pals during the time Jeremy and I were a “couple” and after we broke up this woman came to the US for a visit. She liked it so much she came back as soon as she could and moved into an apartment with me on Mosley Street in Elgin. We had a bit of a rough time — I wasn’t used to roommates. I was envious of her blond hair, beautiful face and ease with other people. We parted on bad terms sometime early in 1980 and never spoke again.

Well, through a series of fortunate events (and my superior stalking research skills) I was able to obtain her email address (from her brother) and wrote her a brief and apologetic email on February 12.

She wrote me that she’d also been thinking about me and that she was happy that I found her and would like to keep in touch. She also mentioned she was in the hospital and had come close to not making it a few days ago.  I pray for her speedy recovery. I still can’t believe we’re in touch again.

The third email was not really a surprise at all, because I’d emailed the sender yesterday morning. She was a neighbor when we lived in Alexandria and one of the few people I feel completely at ease with. I wish we’d see each other more often, but it just doesn’t happen.

Keeping in touch is something I used to be much better at. I used to have at least 3 pen pals at a time. Writing letters was a high point in my day. I rarely write letters anymore — finding addresses, putting stamps on them and sending them just seems too much bother. I’m better with emails but I don’t always remember to  follow through.  I’m going to try to remember my joy at receiving the 3 emails yesterday and be more conscientious about emailing people I care about more often. I might even write a real letter now and then.

[Update: The English friend is out of the hospital and at home. The clot was dissolved.]