Each summer I celebrate my freedom from structure and trying to solve other people's problems, really a fool's errand in the long run, by doing a little traveling and a lot of reading. The first week of summer vacation, I plot out the theme for the summer. Last summer, I tackled the transcendentalists. I would like to tell you that much thought goes into the "summer theme" decision but in reality, it boils down to what books have been mailed to me by my mother or which book caught my eye in the library. In fact, you can judge a book by it's cover but it will lead you down a long and winding path.
This summer, it is a path of war. It started with Winston Churchill: A Life, by Martin Gilbert. This was a pretty depthful book and I now know a bit about English parliamentary procedure, which might come in handy someday, and I feel gratitude toward a heavy drinking, cigar-stomping war monger (who probably didn't have the most enlightened views about women, that bit was glossed over). I feel gratitude toward him because he was from another age; an age where love of country and duty was honorable and because he saw the dangers of fascism early on. He was also brave in a way that has become outdated. Still, one questions one book about a mythological figure, which is how I always get trapped into the summer theme. The next book I read was "No Ordinary Time" by Doris Kearns Goodwin about the Roosevelts and WWII. Winston was featured in the book, as well, and the portraits matched, which is like finding the border pieces to a puzzle...it helps you see the emerging picture more clearly.
Still, Ms. Goodwin left her readers to wonder about Eleanor's reaction to FDR's death. Notable because in 1945 he was sitting for a portrait when he died...a portrait commissioned by his wife's former secretary whom he had an affair with in 1918. When the affair was discovered, he promised his wife he would never see Ms. Lucy Rutherford again. A promise he failed to keep when he asked his daughter to set up a meeting twenty years later. A double betrayal? Or, was Eleanor romantically involved with her own secretaries by this time? These questions led to the next book on my list, a biography of Eleanor Roosevelt. And so it goes, until summer ends.
Studying history is never a waste of time. I will leave you with two Churchill quotations:
Success is not final,
failure is not fatal:
It is the courage to
continue that counts.
You can always count
on Americans to do
the right thing--
after they have tried