+CHAPTER 5, BOOK 2 OF “THE DARK SIDE OF MILDRED’S MOUNTAIN” (‘Angel’)

The Dark Side of Mildred’s Mountain series – Angel book 2 beginning with the POP!  Goes Alaska letters – chapter 5

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5.  The Log House

Mildred next described the log house and its surrounds in the second half of her August 1, 1957 letter to her mother.  Readers of the letters Mother and Father wrote to one another while Bill was in Alaska and Mildred was impatiently waiting in the Los Angeles area to join him are familiar with the key code phrase Mildred first introduced and Bill then captured to recite back to her during his house hunting process:  “Find us a house to put our home in.”  Mildred had now entered the most significant “honeymoon stage” in her moving cycle madness history (as described in Story Without Words). 

From this point forward in this book I will use boldface type to emphasis important thought patterns of Mildred’s writings as they appear in her words and phrases.  Searching for and finding “a bit of heaven” in physical locations was part of her moving cycle madness.

Our home is truly beautiful.  As nice a house as I’ve ever lived in – barring none!  The living room is large!  There’s, by the way, a large black bear skin on the wall – really Alaskan!

Mother I can’t describe to you my impression of this house.  It’s plain on the outside, just as the slides showed but is a bit of heaven inside.  Bill performed no less than a miracle when he found this.  It’s shining clean and waxed!  As I said the living room is lovely.  The ceilings are high and the walls are beautiful polished pine (I think).  The beams run across the ceiling and are also smooth and polished.  There’s a beautiful lantern (light fixture) somewhat like an oil lamp hanging from the high point in the ceiling.

A small partition with pretty shelves for what-nots partly divides the dining area – which is bigger than ours in Glendora.  The bedrooms are newly painted and the top half of the walls and ceiling are knotty pine.  The bathroom is large and roomy and modern.

There are custom drapes in one bedroom and a lovely new rug set and plastic shower and window curtain set in the bathroom.

There’s a separate thermostat heater in every room, we have it on now, to take the chill off.  It’s cool this morning but was very warm yesterday – when I landed!  (At least 80°.)  I felt silly with even a sweater on.

Now for the kitchen.  It’s beautiful.  The windows overlook the woods which are full of birch and pines, and little Xmas trees – the window in here, and living room and dining room overlook our beautiful stream!  It’s wide and clear and tumbling.

As you can see, this house has thrilled me and quite taken me by surprise.  It’s so entirely homey and lovely.  She left drapes in the living room, a huge chair, a double bed with new sheets, pillows and bed spread on it!  Large and small throw rugs in every room.  It almost looks furnished!  There’s also a desk and one straight chair.

But Mother the kitchen is modern.  It has the newest Kenmore stove with two ovens, two broilers, a deep fryer, completely push-button electric!  It quite took my breath away.  Next to it is a large dish washer.  Opposite is the sink and cupboards which are knotty pine with black wrought handles (like Elsie’s) for dishes.

There’s a large back hall with a deluxe refrigerator (Bill never told me) with a big freezer!  It was just like Xmas morning seeing this house!  Next to it is a new (less than two years) Kenmore washer and separate dryer!  There are lovely enamel white cupboards over for storage.  Then I have an ironer, really!  I haven’t tried it yet – but will.

She left a sweet letter telling me how to use her wonderful appliances and telling me she took her two dogs but couldn’t take her four cats and didn’t have the heart to do away with them – if I couldn’t keep them would I send them to the vets and send her the bill!  Imagine – after all she left us.  The kitties were fed and loved this morning and are purringly happy and so am I!

I interrupt Mildred’s letter here to bring a brief message from its sponsor – me!  Besides saying “Watch out for what happens to the happy kittens later,” I will say there are things I know about Mother that I cannot pinpoint exactly how I know them.  Certainly during the teen years of her daughters she repeatedly occupied hours of our life by taking out photograph albums and scrapbooks of her own teenage years to reminisce about how  happy and well-liked she had been and about how much fun she had had.

I will write more about my experience of her diatribes when I reach that part of my story, but at this moment I mention here that part of her ritual of remembrance was completely inappropriate as she was married to our father while she wandered down memory lane to describe in great detail her enduring love for her lost love, Guy, who had joined the Merchant Marines during the war to disappear from her life forever.  During these bizarre “lectures” it is likely that Mildred “accidentally” let her daughters know of her fear of impending spinsterdom at the time she met and married Bill when she was 23 (after a short six month courtship).  I certainly knew that in Mother’s mind she had felt quite old and feared running out of hope and prospects for marriage by the time Father appeared in her life which freed her to finally leave the home of her mother and grandmother.

Tied into all her repetitions to her daughters in her verbatim accounts of younger self, even as Mildred accounted for her first impressions of her first Alaskan home in this letter, was the dreamy-eyed, take-my-breath-away post-WWII era’s confusion between a woman’s true self and her culturally mandated and approved of image of what was necessary and required for a woman to be adequate and fulfilled as a wife, mother and homemaker.  In the era of the American 1950s great value came to be attached to household items designed to “easify” women’s lives within their home at the same time these pacifiers were marketed as status symbols that gave worth, value, contentment and increased life meaning to the women who used them.  While these items supposedly granted women greater freedom in reality they increasingly imprisoned women in their minds and in their lives by circumventing women’s true personal feelings about themselves in their lives. 

While Mother was not immune from these culturally affirmed and promoted mainstream American constrictions and restrictions on women’s lives, she had lived under similar oppressions long before she married.  Mother told us from the time we were very young that she had wanted to be an actress and that her pursuit of this vocation had been condemned and prevented by her Bostonian mother and grandmother who told her, “Only whores and harlots become actresses!”   The education and training Mildred was allowed to pursue had led her in the direction both of nursing and of early childhood education.  She had accomplished an Associate’s of Arts degree before she married.  This direction was NOT Mother’s own desire, nor was being a mother a choice that a “free Mildred” would have ever made on her own.

Given the writing talent that Mother was born with (see her childhood writings in Story Without Words) and given the great powers of her imagination that were both her great gift and possibly one of her greatest risk factors for developing Borderline Personality Disorder psychosis, under the disguise of being a thrilled and satisfied “Home-Ecky Becky” wife and mother – prancing around her modernized Alaskan log house – lay a tortured and unfulfilled creative woman whose deeply troubled mind and emotions suffered from an unrecognized (and as yet unnamed) severe mental illness. 

Who knew?  Who could have known?  How “inwardly happy” could split-mind Mildred ever be?  Certainly I knew the dysregulated, hate-filled, seething, roiling, explosive dark lower-world side of this woman who craved escape from hell and its threats, this woman who took care of her fears by brutally attacking me.  Certainly Mother’s impetus to homestead fed and was fed by her upper-world side craving for heaven.  Certainly what fundamentally mattered to Mildred had nothing to do with a deep freezer, an ironer or a dishwasher that were never used anyway.

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I haven’t seen too much of the country yet.  We do live in the woods and it’s even in our lease that we can’t cut any trees down.  They have purposely left it this way – it’s beautiful.  John is out raking now and building the beginning of steps down to the creek!  He’s in heaven!  – And very busy!  We seem to have adopted a police dog – that used to hang around her [the landlady] (she loved animals) and John likes him!

The house in front of us is large – even nicer than this.  They have a large front lawn and rustic fence around it (and a fireplace).  It’s just far enough away and is For Sale.  The people moved out yesterday.  I hope for nice neighbors!

There are all kinds of houses in Anchorage and as Bill said, many shacks.  That would have once bothered me – but no longer does!  Now I understand!  People have to live somewhere and if they wanted to come here as much as we did they’ll live anywhere temporarily to do so.  This place – rented – is an exception and I feel God led Bill to it.  There’s no other answer.  Our car is another exception.  It seems to run well, is well priced, and station wagons For Sale are scarce also.

I hope we’ll be happy here and I feel I can be inwardly happy in this house (you know what I mean).

I just added Charlie’s and Carolyn’s names – this is such a long, informative letter I can’t duplicate it.  Please feel free to read it to them and the girls [Mildred’s California friends].  I will write to everyone later.  It was written for you, Mother, up until now but I would like to include them too.  I want everyone to know about the house Bill found and my first reaction to Alaska!

By the way, the airport in Anchorage is very modern and nice!  Anchorage is a mixture of the old and pioneering and the new and modern.  Eventually the old will be gone!

I haven’t seen the downtown section as yet.  We had to go to his Barracks (such an awful room) and get his things.  He borrowed, free of charge, mattresses, sheets and Army blankets at the Army barracks – a service to employers – and the children camped on the floor.  The furnace was on and they were very cozy!

This letter is a BOOK – I must walk now to the store for bread and milk.  I hate to stop as there’s so much more I want to tell you but will save it for next time!

I’ll send you a night letter tonight to let you know I arrived safely – last night I was too tired to budge.  I hadn’t slept a wink the night before and lay down on the bed after dinner last night and never woke until this morning.

I love all of you and hope you can understand a little our reasons for coming – it remains to be seen if we’ll stay or not.  But already the experiences have been invaluable to me and to the children.  The move was a hard one and the trip a tedious one but I am glad we came!

Take care of yourself Mother, get strong and rested and we’ll have fun next summer!  Thank Charlie and Carolyn for taking me to the Green Hotel and helping me.  Charlie I was so excited I couldn’t have even locked my suitcase.

We had your candy Carolyn for dessert last night!  I love you all!  And a X for the children.  Mildred

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