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Lions Roar : May 2009
SHAMBHALA SUN MAy 2009 95 Red Leather Diary continued from page 55 she read from the next year’s entry: “At last I’ve arrived! The year has left me wiser, less happy, but still! I’m 15!” “Florence, finding your diary, and then finding you, it’s like I found this young girl and she’s ninety!” “You’ll remember me when you’re ninety,” Florence joked. “You know, you are the heroine of the story,” I told her. “Well, I’m happy to hear you say that, because I don’t feel like a heroine in my own life,” confessed Florence, clasping her diary. “But I have to tell you, I’m much happier now than I was a few years ago when I wasn’t very true to myself. I had a country-club mentality and I’m through with that now. I am what I am, who I am, what I was when I wrote this.” Florence spoke of a dear friend of hers, Gertrude, from the diary, who would go on to marry the preeminent poet of their generation, Delmore Schwartz, “We had so much in common. Gertrude was artistic, creative, and pure. She was purer than I was in terms of material possessions. I think I liked material pos- sessions even in those days.” When Florence hosted her salon, Gertrude, Delmore and the other members were pursuing the Socratic quest, to “know thy- self.” Three quarters of a century later, this remains Florence’s ongoing journey. “How do you feel when a forgotten chunk of your life, full of adolescent angst and passion, is handed to you?” she asks in the foreword she wrote to The Red Leather Diary. “How do you feel when you see your striving, feeling, immature self through your now elderly eyes? It stopped my heart for a moment. That was me?” Florence asks the searching questions about paths not taken: “Where did all of that creativity go? If I was true to myself, would I have ended up living this ordinary life?” Florence recently celebrated her ninety-third birthday. On one of my trips to visit her in Pompano Beach, Florence invited her circle of friends over, a group she began in the sixties, which she called her “Women’s Assertiveness Group.” At the height of the feminist movement, the women gathered to talk about as- serting themselves in their marriages and their roles as mothers, plus orgasms, spirituality, the whole kitchen sink. The reason for today’s get-together was that one of the women and her husband were moving into an assisted living arrangement. Once Mad Men-era housewives, now women in their seven- ties and eighties, many had lost husbands and some were cau- tiously looking for love and companionship again. Florence was the oldest. Many of the women confided in me that Florence had changed their life. With her irreverent, independent nature, she had helped them find a place of freedom in their seemingly ordi- nary lives. On this day, the subject switched to life after death. Florence was skeptical, but listened, curious as always, as one woman spoke of the heaven she believed was waiting for her. I asked Florence what, at ninety-three, she wanted to do with We can’t be sure what’s down the road. But at Prentiss Smith & Company we believe that a disciplined investment approach, and attention to each client’s individual situation, can take an investor a long way. For a brochure that includes our performance record please call. TOLL FREE 800 -223-7851 TheLongRun. PRENTISS SMITH & COMPANY, INC. Portfolio management for the socially conscious investor since 1982 Offices in Brattleboro & Burlington, Vermont • www.socialinvesting.com