(Host) All this week, commentator Cyndy Bittinger has been sampling a collection of the private letters of Grace Goodhue Coolidge. The letters were recently given to the Coolidge Foundation in Plymouth by her family and are being made available to scholars and the public for the first time.
Grace Coolidge was a Burlington native who became First Lady when her husband Calvin Coolidge, a native of Plymouth, became the 30th President of the United States. Grace Coolidge was a keen observer of the world around her and a gifted writer with an optimistic spirit. In this, the last of our special series of commentaries on the letters of Grace Coolidge, we hear some of her observations about life and the natural world, and an unpublished poem.
(Bittinger) On October 27, 1931 Grace wrote Maude Trumbull from Plymouth:
“If you could only be here this lovely morning! The wind and rain, last Sunday, stripped the leaves pretty well off the trees so that our coloring has gone but the hills are dark in evergreen patches and gray with bare branches. The moonlight, last evening, gave an understandable meaning to lunacy and I could see where too much of that sort of thing, either real or imaginary, would necessitate heavy iron bars to keep mere human beings from doing all sorts of moon-mad deeds.”
Grace Coolidge clearly enjoyed writing to her friends and relatives and occasionally she even wrote poetry. In an unpublished poem, she wrote about the simple, natural beauty of the country cemetery in Plymouth where she, the President and other family members are now buried. She titled the poem, “Communion”.
A quiet place, amid enfolding hills,
Green grass beneath my feet
And overhead, blue sky
With in between long, distances
To dream about;
Within a green-roofed house,
Sweet memories blessing every room;
Across the road, a small white church
Whose open door invites to prayer;
And just around the turn,
On yonder hill, Gods plot
Where sleep His dead and mine
Beneath two guardian pines;
So dear a place on earth,
So near the home called heaven;
And yet, the unwise ask,
Where is thy God.
Grace’s philosophy of life comes through clearly in her letters and poetry. After the death of her husband, she wrote to her friend, Joel Boone, on July 6, 1934:
“In whatever way we live, it is a great experience and as long as we make the most of it the greater life to come appears attractive. As we rise above ourselves and conquer in the struggle to overcome human weaknesses so do our spirits wax stronger and that is the main objective, it seems to me.”
On June 1, 1955, in one of her last letters she wrote:
“I simply have no ginger nor any ideas left for the letters that I would enjoy writing&It is no fun to lead a restricted life but if that is the way it has to be I still enjoy it.”
This is Cyndy Bittinger documenting the Coolidge legacy in Plymouth Notch.
Cyndy Bittinger is Executive Director of The Calvin Coolidge Memorial Foundation. She spoke from our studio in Norwich.