Points of View
LOUISE IS IN HER SECOND YEAR at Scarsdale High School. She receives consistently poor marks, and had to drop Latin. She frequently comes home disgruntled with her school mates and wants to move away. She is boy crazy and quite brazen about letting objects of her successive infatuations know how she feels about them. Louise, who has taken piano lessons (without making much progress) since she was five or six, is now changing to voice lessons. She is neat and orderly, courageous and a hard and efficient worker on things other than studies. She has a most difficult disposition, which we are doing our best to smooth off. Louise was sent to her room during dinner for being unpleasant.
Hiram Beach Carpenter, Louise's Father
I LOVE THIS PORTRAYAL OF MY MOTHER when she was fifteen years of age recorded by her father in his diary on the fifth day of January, 1936. From my point of view, it appears to be a proverbial Mexican standoff between father and daughter. My greater family has thirty-five years of our grandfather’s journals, unfortunately, they are scattered in so many places. He faithfully wrote in his journal every day during his corporate life. His characterization of my mother contains some “truths” from his point of view, but it is far from my view of my mother and sets the stage for a few remarks in her defense. I doubt she would have really needed my help, accepting my comments with a nice motherly smile.
I only remember my grandfather when I was a very young boy. He seemed loving enough, but how could I as a 5-year-old have any real insight into his personality? I mostly remember his bushy eyebrows and his long cigars sticking out of his vest pocket. He was dying of lung cancer. His demeanor likely changed from this 1936 time-frame reflected in this journal entry written two decades before his death. He was a corporate lawyer for Domino Sugar, becoming its Chairman in the early 1950s. They were headquartered in New York City and his daily commutes on the train from Westchester County allowed time to write in his diary. I have now read several months of his entries and have come to this conclusion: Humor does not appear to be his strong suit.
My mother’s only disclosure of his temperament was in telling me years ago, that he was very strict but in balance she believed he was a very loving parent. Mom further shared that they played golf together while she was a teenager mostly in the late afternoons at Scarsdale Golf Club, near where they lived. I’m imagining that Mom and he had fun in this recreational activity. I doubt they discussed her school work and certainly not her love life.
Grandpa Carpenter’s comments about her grades summons thoughts from me shifting back to my teenage days in my own family. Mom’s approach to grades for her children was manifested in a very tolerant, laissez-faire, attitude. Thank goodness. I have no idea how we five children ended up with college degrees and advanced ones to boot. I can state unequivocally, none of us finished in the top of our classes, nor in the middle, but we finished.
As suggested in the diary, and eventually as a parent, Mom stayed consistent, maintaining that grades were just not that important. Dad was a bit tougher, but he did not run this department in our household. I am aware that this was quite in contrast to the rest of the world. Mom would comment, “She had the only average children in Birmingham.” A message in stark contrast to the character of the community, where children’s grades were used as proof of great parenting. Not in our household.
She is boy crazy and quite brazen about letting objects of her successive infatuations know how she feels about them.
My first thought, this sentence is one that only a lawyer could compose. Its message has been echoed for centuries from fathers with teenage daughters. I also feel vindicated from my brothers’ dismissive comments about my disclosure in my Memoirs that after my dad’s death, Mom had expressed to me that she wanted to join him in heaven as his wife, but had an interest in having a male relationship on earth that entailed more than dinner and bridge. I will let this rest right here.
She has a most difficult disposition, which we are doing our best to smooth off.
Again, such elocution in the written word. My rebuttal is that most of the conflict lies in the role of being a father and begins and ends with that person making the claim. My dad taught a great lesson, always reminding his children to first look in a mirror before one makes charges about another person, hinting that one should check one’s own pulse before you open your mouth. I suspect on his deathbed, if presented his journal words, Grandpa Carpenter would have admitted that most of the issue about Louise’s disposition was of his order. His own stubbornness revealed.
Mom was rock solid in her constitution and possessed a delightful disposition, at least as my mother, and that point of view is now of record.
By the way, Mom played the piano beautifully, always in her own private space when no one was around. She never read her father’s diaries claiming it would have made her sad and remind her of her loss.