Having lived so much of my adulthood in Princeton, NJ--forty years, in fact--I was unprepared for one of life's major transitions, which arrived last year, when I least expected it. Since 1968, my husband had been teaching and writing at Princeton about the French Enlightenment and in a newish field known as History of the Book. We were beginning to think of his retirement, when he was offered the job of Director of the Harvard libraries--some 100 of them. This was an enormous change of career for him; he went from professor to administrator overnight. And it was an upheaval for the family, made easier, I must say, by the fact that our three children, and their children, are all living in the Boston area. We have moved several times in the last year, first to a rented apartment, then, in July, to one of our own. I am now clearing out every nook and cranny, cupboard and closet, of the Princeton house where we have lived for thirty-two years and raised our family. I should be good at this by now: I emptied my mother's nearby house last year after her death at 95. But, as many of you know, the temptation is great to read the old letters and replay with the children's toys from the attic. A byproduct of the operation has been the rediscovery of archival material from my Fort Smith youth--scrapbooks, a 6th-grade diary, and classmates' letters, some silly, some amusingly pompous. I have reread them all with delight.
Life in Boston looks promising. I have signed on to be trained as a tour guide at the Museum of Fine Arts. Not only will I receive a belated education in art history, but I will also, I am assured, make lots of new friends among the other trainees. In my former life, I dabbled at a few professions--did a little substitute French teaching, some tax accounting, some translating--but I haven't had a real job since my children were born. I wonder, in retrospect, how I could have led such an idle existence, though I believe I felt, and even appeared, constantly busy with my own projects. In this light, I encourage my own daughters to take the time to establish their careers and to maintain them, hard as it is to combine that with child-raising.
Our three children are all now married. The last wedding--of our daughter Margaret, the youngest--occurred in June under a tent in the back yard in Princeton. Our son Nick, the eldest, is a physicist, teaching at Amherst, married to an Italian physicist also teaching in Amherst. They are the parents of an eight-year-old girl and a three-year-old boy. Our daughters, Kate and Margaret, both married 6'4" businessmen and serious sportsmen. There has been much joking about their ability to fit into our bookish family, but neither one takes much notice. They exert their own subtle influence by means of tickets to the Red Sox, and they tell us what to watch and what to eat while watching--useful information for new Bostonians. Katie does freelance editing, much of it for Public Affairs books, while caring for her two young daughters; Margaret teaches fourth grade in Newton, MA.
Susan "Glover" Darnton - 2008