The Lighthouse Keeper’s Wife by Connie Scoville Small
It’s funny how I got this book. My husband was telling his mother about the Maine Lighthouse Museum in Rockland which we visited this past September, and how he found it to be a very haphazardly run place considering their impressive collection. Yeah, I piped up, and told a little story about how they had talked up this memoir written by a lighthouse keeper’s wife, and got me real excited and wanting to read it, and there wasn’t nary a copy of it in their bookshop. My mother-in-law said, oh, I think I have that book; and she fished it out. Sure enough, this was the very book!
“[A] life of people risking their own lives to help men and ships; a life of order and duty.”
This is how Connie Scoville Small describes her life of living in lighthouses along with her husband Elson, in the near-conclusion of her memoir, THE LIGHTHOUSE KEEPER’S WIFE.
From 1919 to 1947 the Smalls tended lighthouses up and down the Maine coast. I myself have little experience with life on the sea, and little patience to read through long descriptions, along with little ability to place myself in long-drawn-out scenes of nature with which I have little familiarity. I don’t think it was just me, though; Connie often seems to drop us into scenes with little in the way of helpful background explanation.
That said, I kept reading because I love slices of ordinary life from early in the last century and beyond. I could not easily picture the lighthouse-specific and maritime and boat scenes, but I loved reading about the family’s cats and cows… and of course the food. Lots of baked goods!
Rarely does Connie give us deep insight into what she, or, perish the thought, Elson, are feeling about the big picture. But here is a glimpse:
“I put inside of me my desires, my longings, things I wanted to do, if they came in conflict with what he wanted. I felt what I wanted were selfish desires… I gave and I’ve never been sorry… I wanted to rebel, desperately so at times, but I didn’t… I filled my life with Elson… I’d be so busy making it work and doing things he wanted me to do… I forgot to be unhappy and found joy.”
So different from us today. That’s why I like to read old memoirs.
Check out the title link for her obituary – she died at 105!