Sunday, July 13, 2008

Sunday Salon - Forward From Here, and Memories

Sometime during the week, I picked up Reeve Lindbergh's book of essays, Forward From Here: Leaving Middle Age - and Other Unexpected Adventures. I've already reviewed the book, but I wanted to go back to one chapter, "Gift from Captiva." Here are the first couple paragraphs of that chapter, dated 2004.

"I am in Florida for a few days, staying by myself on the island of Captiva, not far from the little house on the beach, now long gone, where my mother lived while writing her 1955 book, Gift from the Sea, almost fifty years ago....

"This island was a very different place when my mother was here in the 1950s. There was a small local populartion, little tourism or real estate develoment, and above all, no causeway from the mainland to bring the automobiles and vactioning families of today."

I was lucky. I was the library manager of the Captiva Memorial Library for three years in the in between years, 1990-1993. What special years! The causeway was there, or I wouldn't have been working there. And, there were tourists, and families. But, Captiva was still a close-knit community of islanders who had been living there, or coming back for years. I was lucky enough to meet some of the people that had lived on the island during the pre-causeway years, and I heard some of the stories they told of the early years. When I read Reeve Lindbergh's book, it brought back those stories, so I had to pick up my copy of True Tales of Old Captiva,
, a collection of oral history stories of the island, compiled by the Captiva Library Board, ten years before I became librarian there. They interviewed some of the early residents of the island, and told their stories.

Someday, I'll tell the stories of the people I met while I was on the island. We threw a birthday party for Patricia Neal, and she told stories of her romances and movies. One day, I sat alone in the library while Jean Shepherd, author of A Christmas Story, told me about stories he planned to write. When LaVar Burton was on Upper Captiva, filming Reading Rainbow, I went on a boat with a reporter to that island to meet him. Clifton Fadiman brought books for the library, and Willard Scott visited as a patron. I even answered the phone one night to find a researcher from Jeopardy on the phone, with a question about the island. One night, while watching the show, I heard my answer given. It was a magical three years.

One magical day, Bunty Robb, one of the librarians before me, called me up and told me they were tearing down a house she owned, and I was welcome to stop over, tell the workmen I wanted to go through the house, and I could take any of the books I wanted for the library. Oh, and, by the way, I could go through the house, which was the house Anne Morrow Lindbergh stayed in while she wrote Gift from the Sea. Do you know what that felt like, to walk through that house, by myself, saying, this is where she lived that year when she visited Captiva, and wrote the book? I felt so honored, to be allowed to go through the house, before it was torn down.

Looking back, it was such an honor to be the librarian on Captiva, in those years. It was the last years of the older residents, before houses were ripped up, and big houses built for outsiders on the island. My patrons, the storytellers, died, or moved off Captiva soon after I left. I took those memories with me.

But, Reeve Lindbergh brings up another memory as well. Years ago, I read her children's book, Johnny Appleseed. I loved the illustrations by Kathy Jakobsen, bought the book, and sent it to my mother, saying I would love a wallhanging made using colors and ideas from the book. My mother made me a gorgeous wallhanging called Ohio Memories, with similar colors and patterns. It's a map of
, our home state, with a cardinal, a buckeye, and cities marked where I lived. It's a wonderful memory quilt.

So, Reeve, wherever you are, thanks for the memories.


David Cranmer said...

My wife and I went to Sanibel-Captiva just last year. Her family has a timeshare in Lehigh, so we drove to the island a couple of times and relaxed on the beautiful Bowman’s Beach in early December – a nice, peaceful time of the year. We’re looking forward to going back this year, and also looking forward to reading more stories of your time on Captiva!

As someone who is always thinking about aging and who grew up in upstate NY not too far from the Vermont border (loved taking autumn drives on old Rte 7 to the quaint yet bustling town of Manchester), I’m interested in Forward From Here after reading your posts about it.

Lesa said...

Thank you, David.

It took time for me to realize how lucky I was to have those three years on Captiva. It was a very special time.

There are some surprises in Forward From Here. And, it is a thoughtful examination of life, and aging.

Les said...

Oh, how lucky were you!! We threw a birthday party for Patricia Neal!! My goodness!! What a treat. But even better, how wonderful was that to walk through the house Anne stayed in while writing Gift from the Sea. I've read it twice and have listened to it on audio, as well. My husband and I hope to go to Captiva in another year or two for the Christmas holidays.

Reeve's book is high my TBR list. I bought my mom a copy for Mother's Day and am anxious to hear how she likes it.

Lesa said...

Captiva and Sanibel are beautiful during the holidays, although I know they've changed since I left. Hurricane Charlie hit the week we moved to Arizona, and Captiva took a bad hit then. So, I'm sure it doesn't look the same.

I enjoyed Reeve's book. But, my favorite one of her's (other than Johnny Applesee), is still The Names of the Mountains.

Les said...

I have a copy of The Name of the Mountain sitting on my nightstand. I've read the first few pages, but set it aside for a f2f book group read. I'll get back to it.

I'm not sure if you were reading my blog way back, but here's a post about Lindbergh that you might enjoy reading.

Lesa said...


I wasn't reading your blog back then, but it was great! My husband is so jealous, not about your Lindbergh autograph, but your Sandy Koufax one.

The best I can do is Jim Leyland, manager of the Detroit Tigers, is my third cousin.

But, I have shaken Barack Obama's hand!

Isn't life interesting? I love these interesting connections.