Sunday, April 25, 2010
AFTER THE WAR: THE INBETWEEN YEARS AND MARGARET'S EPIPHANY
The Great War had ended and life was slowly returning to normal. Except it never really would be the same. Margaret’s brother-in-law had survived the war, though just barely having suffered the effects of mustard gas. Tragedies of the war became even more personal for her husband when they learned Edward's cousin had been killed in action. In an entry to the lighthouse log books, Keeper Hunter recorded that Keeper Herman was planting a walnut tree on the grounds of the lighthouse in memory of his cousin who was killed in battle. Those trees still remain today even though the name of the cousin is lost to history.
Now the lighthouse was undergoing changes. The accessibility of the automobile and the construction of new roadways throughout the country meant more Americans were traveling. As with any war fought, the years immediately after were filled with a renewed hope and a zest for the experiences men had longed for on the battlefields, but were almost lost by the close encounters with death. This hope spurned a desire to travel and take in the sights of the country they had just defended. The new roads and cars meant ever-increasing numbers to Marblehead Lighthouse. The 1920’s were the celebration years. For Margaret it was time to re-evaluate her life. The war years had infused her with a sense of responsibility and self -worth. She had made a name for herself; she had done something apart from her husband. She wanted more then her world was offering. January of 1923 landed Edward in the Providence Hospital in Sandusky. The navigational season had ended. There is one letter from his sister Esther wishing him success with his operation. Nothing survives to tell the nature of his medical condition.
Margaret was approaching fifty. It was probably clear to her that she and Edward would not have children. Again, there are no letters to give insight about her feelings on the subject. Yet, the year 1924 provides a clue, which echoes Margaret’s discontent twelve years before when she left Buffalo for Waterloo. This time the postcard is sent from Hudson. It is the beginning of fall and she writes with a lack of intensity as though she were far and detached from her husband. “Dear Ed, Your letter and card received. Am glad you are getting along as well as you are. Do not know just when I will be home. Will let you know”. Her thoughts turn to news about friends and finally she mentions they are having “lovely fall weather”. As if she just now remembered, a reference is made to a “fire”. She is “sorry to hear of it, a dreadful loss.” Whatever the circumstance surrounding the fire it is clear this is not her concern. She is there with family and friends. They are clearly more important then the life her husband is having at the lighthouse. The fire is terrible, yet not so devastating to end the correspondence. She goes on to mention that, “Matie’s little cats are as cunning as ever. Love from all. Margaret”. From 1924 to the beginning of 1928, there are no postcards. On January 18, 1928 a postcard with a hand written note across the bottom, “stopped here over-night, Jan 18, 1928”, is saved. Sent to no one and without any further message the picture on the front is the Long View Lodge, Scrub Ridge on the Lincoln Highway located in the Blue Ridge Mountains. This is the last postcard written in Margaret’s hand to survive. Her family was still a presence in her life well into the 1940’s. Yet when Edward was hospitalized, the postcards that survive to tell his story are written to Matie in Hudson by his pen, not Margaret’s pen
The celebration years ended two years after the last postcard. Margaret, at some point returned to the lighthouse. She was approaching fifty-two years of age when once again her world changed. A new decade was about to encounter a new disaster when the nation was thrown into what would be called, “The Great Depression”. Margaret’s thriftiness would serve her well, just as it had throughout her life. In fact, her family fifty years later would still remember how thrifty she was. Yet, while many would find not hope but despair during the 1930’s, the Lighthouse Keeper’s wife would experience an epiphany. In the middle of the depression, Margaret found a place for herself in a most unexpected way. When she settled into this place, it would breathe new life into her soul and she would once again thrive. Margaret was home to stay.