Keepers of Our Memories

Blue Hill First Congregational Church
First Congregational Church, Blue Hill

 

I was recently asked what hardships Emilie Loring endured as she forged her faith. I answered, first, that she was raised in the Universalist Church (before it merged with the Unitarians) and switched to the Congregational Church after her marriage to Victor Loring. As for hardships, I mentioned the deaths of her father, mother, sister, and brother, and her vigil as she awaited news of her sons when they served in World War I.

 

Emilie had faith in God and in prayer. Moreover, she had an abiding optimism that arose not only from faith but from character. “Things have a marvelous, unbelievable way of coming right,” but not by waiting for it; one had to work to make it so.

When they lost their money, Di Vernon (Where Beauty Dwells) and Prue Schuyler (Hilltops Clear) coaxed a living from their land, and Pamela Leigh (Fair Tomorrow) started her Silver Moon Chowder House. When Sandra Duval lost her father (Uncharted Seas), she took a job as a social secretary, so she would be too busy to dwell on the past.

That question about hardships and the reminder it prompted of Emilie Loring’s unshakeable optimism came at a helpful time for me.

santa-fe-chief-ticket
I read my first Emilie Loring on a train

I read my first Emilie Loring on a train when I was ten. My sister, father, and I were returning to Arizona from my grandparents’ home in Wisconsin, and when I had read through my comic books, my sister Judy handed me her copy of How Can the Heart Forget. You will see this when the biography is published:

Thanks to my sister, Judy Bender-Ream, who loaned me her copy of How Can the Heart Forget on the train when we were kids, shared my girlhood love of Emilie Loring books, and who always cheers me on.

Happy Landings: The Life Behind Emilie Loring’s Stories

 

Painted in Waterlogue
Sisters – unconditional belonging

My sister Judy died twelve days ago. She was the person who shared the most memories with me, from toddlerhood on. We shared a bedroom, commiserated over all the steps through school and into marriage, shared our first pregnancies and our developing careers, and planned our father’s funeral together when he died. Shared context is the source of our sense of belonging, and while my sister lived, I had an invincible place of shared memories and unconditional belonging. This wasn’t on our radar. Three weeks ago, we were making plans together for spring.

 

It must have been like this for Emilie when her brother, Robert, died. They had been the “little kids” of the family, like Judy and me. They shared Christmas mornings, family vacations, and their family’s amateur theatricals. They lived next door to each other as they started their families and read each other’s drafts. All was set for them to meet in Blue Hill for the summer… and then he died.

We share memories with many people in our lifetimes–a friend from camp, a roommate from college, a colleague, a neighbor. And every time we get together, they reflect back to us that portion of ourselves that we shared with them. They remind us of who we are.

Tokaji toast
Friends share our joys

In August, I toasted the completion of the Happy Landings draft with a bottle of Tokaji Aszu given to me by a fifty-year friend, Eddie. We knew it was coming, but we hoped there would be more time, maybe years. He died in October, two months after my toast, and with him went the “remember whens” of longtime friendship.

 

Beth Kerley
Beth Kerley

Late in life, Emilie lost her husband, Victor, and her childhood best friend Beth (to whom she dedicated High of Heart). But she still had a friend from her twenties on the Cape, Louise Hallet (to whom she dedicated Fair Tomorrow), who had known all of Emilie’s family. She also had her writing friends, gained later in life–women who were there when she endured early rejections from editors, tried her first novel, and achieved her first best-seller. Each reflected back to her a different part of her history, another aspect of herself.

 

In spite of heartache, memory warmed her eyes with laughter.  Across the Years

Basement memories
Reminders of past times

I am writing this in the basement of our family’s lake home, which used to belong to my grandparents. It’s the place we had just been that summer when Judy and I rode home on the train, and I read my first Emilie Loring. Around me are physical reminders of past times: my grandfather’s tools, my dad’s boat motors and model train, my grandmother’s dishes. Memories fairly leap from each item I pass. Emilie kept some of her reminders with her, and maybe you do, too. When she traveled and in her apartments, she kept photos of her family, her collection of silver boxes, and an assortment of best-loved books.

 

She had added her Lares and Penates.  Silver boxes; bits of choice brocades and embroideries; family photographs in frames which she had picked up in the memorable months she had spent across the sea; a few of her favorite books.  They made her feel at home.   We Ride the Gale!

I read most of my Emilie Lorings here. So did my sisters. The elder two didn’t visit with me about them, but Judy did. We agreed on Rainbow at Dusk as a favorite, and I understood her affection for A Candle in Her Heart. Either of us would have happily been plucked out of a trout stream by Mac Cameron (Where Beauty Dwells).

Emilie wrote her memories into her stories, and when my sister and I read them, they became our shared experience. I felt so happy this morning when I remembered that the inside world of a book is always waiting. Anytime I want, I can shoot the reversing falls, defy Len Calloway, or render aid to an injured Vance Trent and have him say, “Where did you drop from, Angel?”

Emilie’s books are woven into the fabric of my memories, as comforting as the reminiscences of an old friend. As I read, it could be 1966, 1986, or 2016. I could be in shorts ready to jump into a canoe with Judy, or I could be resting in an easy chair in my living room, my babies asleep in their rooms down the hall.

To answer the title, the heart doesn’t forget. It revels in reminders, but when enough is shared, it’s like the song we sang at camp,

“from what we’ve shared,

you must know,

you are a part of me.”

Happy Landings, sister.

Version 2
Patti and Judy


14 thoughts on “Keepers of Our Memories

  1. Hello, Patti,
    I’m so sorry about your sister. My sister and I read the books at the same time, she being 3 years older. We didn’t just love the books; we loved the old book store that carried them, with its creaking wooden floors. I don’t know where or when I ready my first Emilie Loring. But I remember thinking they were wonderfully unlike real life. Who would ever find the kind of man her protagonists married? Well, I did. My beloved Alex died last May, and, ever since then, my sister has called me (She is in Tucson and I am in Yardley, PA.)to check on how I’m doing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My sister was three years older than me, too. Our town library had neat wooden floors, but we bought paperback Emilie Loring books at the dime store. I’m very sorry for the loss of your Alex—how you must miss him. Greet your sister for me, and thank you for sharing here.

      Like

  2. So sorry to hear about your sister! Sisters are such important parts of life. You never know when they are going to shape the course of your life! Lovely post in memory of her.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh, Patti. I am so sorry that your beloved sister died, but I am glad that your shared memories and your joint love of Emilie Loring’s novels will remain. Be very good to yourself as you grieve. There is no timetable. Do not let people rush you. Peace be with you. Barbara Lowe

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I am very sorry to read of the loss of your sister. It is beautiful that you shared Emilie with her. Sadly, there are heartaches in life, but faith and optimism as Emilie describes are what can carry us through, and we can one day smile again. There were times in my life when I needed that optimism and am so grateful for Emilie’s presence in my life through her books.

    I love how you sprinkled memorable snippets from so many of her novels in your post about your sister!

    God bless you and your family.

    Liked by 1 person

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