I wondered how it would work, so I went to find out. A literary event in a clothing store in Yonkers, New York. A literary event that had nothing to do with fashion, actually: Reeve Lindbergh, the author of family memoirs, essays and children’s books, would be reading excerpts from the latest volume of her mother Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s writings, Against Wind and Tide:Letters and Journals 1947-1986.
The store was Green Eileen, an offshoot of Eileen Fisher where I often go to replenish my wardrobe.
The clothes Eileen Fisher designs are elegant and serene, with unstructured lines and natural fabrics. If you like linen and silk, this is the place for you. It’s definitely the place for me, but by the same token I often wonder if I can live up to my clothes.
Maybe I like this place so much because the company’s ads showcase graceful silver foxes alongside the usual younger models. Grey is the new brunette, or didn’t you know?
There was an elegant buffet and wine. Reeve began. She read from the book, but even more interesting was the patter that pulled those passages together.
She told us about her mother’s ever-present blue notepads, containing carbon paper to make three copies, one for the letter recipient, one for her personal archives and one for the master archive at Yale (open to all as of April, as it happens). Anne Morrow Lindbergh often wrote three to four long letters in a day, yet despaired of getting enough writing done. Reeve remembers banging on the door of her mother’s “writing house” and how mad her father got – that’s the only time she had to write, he reminded his daughter.
The title of this volume is a quote from Harriet Beecher Stowe, who claimed that writing, for a wife and mother, is “rowing against wind and tide.” When Reeve herself became a writer, at one point she tragically lost a child and was afraid she would never put pen to paper again. Her mother’s reassurances “probably saved my life,” she told us. “Mom said stop reading the things you think you should be reading and instead write on little scraps of paper the things going on around you.” Reeve still makes this a practice, she said.
Anne Morrow married Charles Lindbergh, then the most famous man in the world, in 1927, and got her own pilot’s license the following year. They flew the world over while she continued to produce nonfiction, fiction, articles and poetry, with the 1955 Gift From the Sea a seminal work of feminism and environmentalism, never having gone out of print. A book mothers give to their daughters, who give it to their daughters in turn.
Reeve spoke about her father’s comings and goings, even his infidelities, about the “strong and interdependent relationship” the Lindberghs had nonetheless over 40 some odd years. Charles Lindbergh “showed us a world – his world – that he wanted us to see,” said Reeve of the family, but he could definitely be difficult. Reeve’s mother, she said, always felt her husband’s controversial opinions about Hitler and the Second World War had been misconstrued.
In this volume, Anne Morrow Lindberg talks about her pregnancies, about considering an abortion, about a miscarriage. She rewrites her wedding vows: “Since I know you are not perfect I will not worship you,” is one. “Marriage is not a solution to but a mirror of problems,” another. She wrote a lot about the need for aloneness –how important it is.
“I see life as a journey toward insight,” said Anne Morrow Lindbergh in a speech at the Cosmopolitan Club when she was 75.
Reeve’s editor on the new volume sat in a front row and nodded as she detailed how together they had combed through the archives at Yale to fill the book. All the material was handwritten and had to be typed before the painstaking selection.
The presentation concluded, and I wandered among the garments that lined the store like bright, clean flags. I’d love to be a person to wear textured pink silk.
Two books were being sold: Against Wind and Tide and a children’s book by Reeve Lindbergh called Homer, the Library Cat. Ten bucks from the sale of each book would go to the Eileen Fisher Foundation.
Jen Beato, the Store Leader, told me why a presentation of the work of Anne Morrow Lindbergh fits the setting of Green Eileen. Every book wouldn’t make sense, she said, but this one shows “how challenges she faced are similar to today’s challenges.”
Green Eileen accepts contributions of gently used Eileen Fisher clothing – say you lose some weight, or gain some weight, and you can no longer fit into that perfect pair of pajama-y palazzo pants — which it recycles and sells at an affordable price, with the proceeds going to causes for women and girls locally, nationally and around the world. The National Women’s History Museum, the New York Women’s Foundation and Planned Parenthood, among many others.
The company makes good points, so I feel virtuous running my fingers over that sleek textured silk.
The average American throws away 68 pounds of clothes per year. Over 4% of global landfills are filled with clothing and textiles. Almost 100% of used clothing is in fact recyclable.
Green Eileen has a pretty cool blog. The store is always sponsoring workshops about crazy things like recycling your wool, cashmere and silk into fabric jewelry. Maybe I’ll go to one sometime.
As night fell, inspired and on my way to insight, I wandered past the rack of beautiful castoffs, now reclaimed.
In a simple white bag, I toted my virtuous purchase. Not the pink silk, but a knee-skimming shift of white linen that will look serene and elegant on my daughter. Then I’ll take something out of my closet to give back to the store.