September 2, 1931
“There is a magic in the world and all you need do is open your eyes to it.” That’s what my elementary teacher, Mrs. Ham used to say every Monday morning before she called roll. Now that I’m older, I realize that everyone needs to recognize the possibility of something magical on something as awful as a Monday morning. Thinking back on it, Mrs. Ham probably did it to remind herself of the world’s enchantment as she stood bleary-eyed in front of the responsibility of twenty-six children. But as I climbed out of bed on this morning, some years after the days of Mrs. Ham, I saw a world full of magic. The late August morning I found outside my window had a fine mist covering it. The field outside that I have looked on for all eighteen years of my memory was a bright green, wet with the dew of late summer. Dad’s horses trotted by for the first run of the morning. Their nostrils expelled the vapor and the hooves kicked up the moisture. Mother’s coffee called from the kitchen downstairs and all was as it always had been.
My life has always been in Saratoga on my father’s ranch. The routines have been unbroken from grammar to high school where I unlocked the academic mysteries of my own small world. I spent my time working carefully on words until their meanings were revealed and their relationships established. Words are my greatest friend and constant companion. I want to make them my life’s work. My teachers have told me again and again that I have a gift for language seeing as I mastered French and Spanish before I was in high school. While in high school I conquered Greek, Latin, and I am now trying to master German. With recent events in world history, German may work to be useful. It seems that Americans are wary of anything associated with Germany, but I feel a need to understand them may arise.
It is also my ability to master languages that has given me the opportunity to start a new page in my life. This morning as I write in this diary, I am sitting in a nearly empty passenger car bound for New York City. Tomorrow morning I will begin my first class at Barnard University where I have received a full scholarship to study linguistics. I am the first person in the Graydon family to receive a college education. I’ve watched many of my friends leave school to marry or work for their families in these difficult times. I tried to convince them that leaving school would not help; their educations would lead them to prosperity. My own parents told me there would be no higher education because they couldn’t afford it. The tracks have suffered because of the Depression. My father has not seen as much business as in past years. He had to let most of his stable hands go, leaving most of the work to him and my brother Henry. My mother has taken to working up at the spas waiting on the rich women who come in for the baths. Yet even those patrons have become few and far between since those who had fortunes have lost them. My only comfort is that I will be one less charge for my family being out of the house and on my own.
When I came down the old wooden stairs this morning I had three green trunks packed with my most important possessions. One was clothing and two were books that I simply couldn’t part with. Mother was annoyed that I didn’t wait for Henry to help me with them. She told me a lady has no need for so many books or such heavy trunks. She’s so old-fashioned and has never been able to understand my independence. In her eyes I should be staying in Saratoga searching desperately for a husband to sweep me off my feet and knock some sense into me. But father believes in my education and encourages it. When I received word of my scholarship from Barnard, he was the first to say that I needed to go and then eventually insisted, much to my mother’s protest. Deep inside of my mother, I feel it is the regret of her own choices which raised her objections. She left school after the fifth grade to help on her family’s orchard, and at the age of seventeen met my father and was quickly married. Her life has been her husband and children. Mine will be words.
Just an hour ago, as I stood on the platform, looking on my home town and seeing my family sending me off, I could not help but think that I never belonged there. That was never my life. For eighteen years I was only marking time for this moment; to leave for a much bigger world. Of course, I will miss my family and look forward to returning for holidays, but my life will now be in the city. This diary will be a record of the events that soon mark that life. On this very morning as I ride through these green valleys, I am speeding toward the wonder of New York City.