None of us stayed. Jack moved to Colorado for college and settled in Ft. Collins when I was in my teens. Chuck left for college at Franklin and Marshall, then Korea in the Army. Judy left for Swarthmore College, married Hans and followed his career from Harrisburg to Illinois to Virginia, to California, finally. Back from the Army, Chuck lingered at St. Davids to finish medical school, served an internship at Bryn Mawr Hospital, married a nurse and settled in Winona NJ. I left for Amherst College, and then for graduate school, first at Harvard, then Iowa, then Harvard again, and settled in Boston.
When my parents moved to Villanova, I was the only one to still have a room, though it was kept like a museum, and gradually taken over by Mom as her study.
I visited with my wife, Connie. As we left, Dad would accompany us out with Mom. He wouldn’t linger, however. He would shake my hand, maybe give us hugs, run through any practical worries, oil for the car, money, give us a call when you get there, then turn and walk back inside. Mom would be the one who watched us out of sight. I remember over and over, Mom standing small, right arm in air, waving, trying to be brave; smiling, yet helplessly wet-eyed, and tearing our hearts, my heart. There is my car horn's toot, my wave, my glancing back, then resolutely facing forward, knowing she will watch me out of sight, that she would never, herself, turn back to her life without me as long as I was in sight.
We kept in touch by letters and by Dad’s telephone calls, and Mom and Dad traveled to visit each of us in our lives. Once, as they visited, Dad exclaimed: “You can see anything in Harvard Square!” After his death, instead of her traveling, Mom urged us to visit her. She installed a sheltered swimming pool, “Ma’s spa.” My daughter Ruth joined the fifth generation, and learned to swim when Chuck and his three boys came up from Winona to join us.
After my mother’s death in 1985, Chuck served as her executor. He had us go through the house, dividing keepsakes. Connie and I made two or three trips to meet him at the empty house. Mom had given me her aging Buick La Sabre when my car had died, and now we loaded it to the ceiling. Chuck shipped us the larger furniture later on. He also shipped paintings and other items to Jack and to Judy. He oversaw the estate auction on his own and spoke later of the heartbreak, seeing strangers dicker over this or that, the house gutted. He had loaded his own car at the last minute with things he couldn’t see go. The house itself was on the market for more than a year.
Enough of this series, I think. For those who are curious about my family’s story, please order my books. In any case, I hope my memories prompt the readers’ own. Contrary to the saying that you can’t go home again, at a lifetime’s distance, I believe that you can and should, and perhaps must, in memory and imagination. More than an exercise in nostalgia, I believe this is an affirmation of distance and of growth.
As well as my childhood’s memory of Wayne as a community, my adult ironies here are distanced by place, culture and time. This distancing began not only at home, but also in the Radnor Public Schools. I began questioning our world in fifth and sixth grade with Mr. Shock, was encouraged by Mr. Napier in English and Mrs. Spessard in Core in Junior High, and particularly by Rose Ferdinand and Wayne Miller in Senior High. These were remarkable teachers, in a remarkable school system under Mary Carter as principal. How wonderful, I think now, that a caste-ridden 50’s suburb, aptly characterized by David Brooks for its “unabashed elitism and its segregation” (BOBOS IN PARADISE, p. 22), would support such a subversive and “progressive” education.
But this is my Wayne. Tell me about yours!