Join me in a time and place from the past, my past. Beginning with the death of my mother when I was 18 until I was 23. From Washington to Rome, Paris, and London with a year at the University of Louvain in Belgium, meet royalty, priests, diplomats and students and experience life in the '60s.
"All history properly understood is the history of thought." (Robin George Collingwood) My history (herstory) is based upon diary entries written during the late ‘50s and ‘60s. But memories tend to change with age. Time softens some, sharpens others, distorts and even extracts parts. This fabric of our memories, its threads weaving intermittently in and out of the realm of recall, is not quite the same as it was almost 50 years ago. Yet it is nonetheless the fabric from which my life was woven.
The French have an expression: the more things change, the more they remain the same. Remembering and researching for this memoir led me to that conclusion as well.
Reading the words written so long ago in my diary, I was astounded at what I saw and heard and thought about as a teenager and later a young twenty something living in Europe. Was that really me? Was Paris/Rome/London really like that in the ‘60s? Yes, it is real. Real because I wrote it on the spot. No directives, no hindsight. Now I have integrated all those direct observations into a Memoir. It is for you, dear reader, to enjoy and, at the same time, perhaps gain some appreciation for the past. In this case, my past.
“Anyone who believes you can't change history has never tried to write his memoirs.” (David Ben Gurion)
“Life takes precedence of doctrine, for life leads to the knowledge of truth.”
Father Bede Jarrett, OP (1881–1934
This quote was lent to me by Carola McMurrough. I agree. All life if lived honestly will do that. Often we get pushed and pulled into questions and wonder. Both those avenues can lead to truth. But, as Father Bebe stated, “truth must in turn be holy, for Truth is God.” Now the question, what is the “truth” of my life experience? Perhaps meeting my Great Uncle will shed some light. I admit, at this moment, I am confused.
In 1959, I wrote: “A teenager cannot explain what adolescence is. An explanation needs comparison for illustration (i.e. clarity). Maturity can only be explained after it is experienced. So a teenager cannot explain what he or she does not fully comprehend. The only way to understand a teenager’s inner emotions is to read what is written at that stage of development. Writing reflects thoughts that cannot be put into everyday spoken language. From this writing, the adult can find understanding, questioning, maturity, and childishness. Then only when he or she is an adult, can a teenager understand adolescence.
“A teenager is a philosopher. The study of abstract life fascinates an inquiring mind.”
At the time the above was written, I was intrigued with Russian writers. One of my written notations is a quote from Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago. “Consciousness is a poison when we apply it to ourselves. Consciousness is a light directed outward; it lights up the way ahead of us so that we don’t stumble.” And another, “You in others—this is your soul.” So is this what I was searching for in my adolescence? Directing the light toward and finding myself in others?
The diary continues: “American youth is distressingly shielded from the true significance and value of everyday life as it is on a universal basis.” But it appears that I was trying. Philosophy, abstract thought, appealed to my teenage inquiring mind. This was the year John F. Kennedy was running for President of the United States. The country was torn between political concepts and issues and religious orientation. But, despite my youth, I saw the words of de Tocqueville as a revelation to that enigma. He wrote and I quoted in my diary: “I doubt whether man can ever support at the same time complete religious independence and entire political freedom…if he be free, he must believe.” According to my journal, “Youth needs knowledge to find their truth. But there is a gap between reason and faith and this gap cannot be filled. Faith can be built out of reason, but it is independent of reason. Knowledge can illuminate some of nature’s secrets, but she will always withhold some. Still we must seek wisdom and our goal is to search for truth so that our lives may be enriched and our goals proven worthy. To bridge that gap between reason and faith is to accept the world as being intellectually and spiritually good and carry within ourselves an inner glow, an illumination of reason and belief in order and right. To be in a shadow is to be ignorant.”
My fact-finding days of secondary and elementary school were over. In my studies at Vassar, I began to assimilate principles and most important, I began to find out what I myself believed. I threw myself into the college curriculum taking the required English and history classes, but choosing philosophy classes from my heart. I was barely started in my college career when I wrote, “Poor old Vassar is full of dense, fact-learning, fact-forgetting, one time geniuses who will never amount to anything I would call accomplishment.” Later, including myself this time, I wrote “We are idealistic without ideals.” American authors, scholars, philosophers repeat again and again their fear of American complacency, of American materialism, and of our subsequent downfall. Perhaps that is why I chose philosophy as my major, not to validate these concerns, but to find a way out.
Before coming home to Washington and the debutante parties, I celebrated my 18th birthday. My friends made a poster which had a drawing of me holding a glass with the words, “What vile stuff is this?” Below it says, “Miss Highleyman – You’re now legal- in more ways than one!!!” That night they took me out to the local pub and I had my first alcoholic drink. I had sipped watered down wine at my grandmother’s, but this was truly a “stiff” drink. It tasted awful. I wondered what the fuss was all about. I would stick with wine!
Vacation began and I was back in Washington. The famous Debutante Season was about to begin. Last fall, I had been “interviewed” by Miss Hetzell. She is in charge of the parties and it is she who decides if a young lady is or is not eligible. Clearly I was thanks to my family heritage. I was proud of my family although I really did not know my renowned relatives. My mother’s father had died before I was born. I was twelve when my grandmother died.
I will never forget how Miss Hetzell just stared at me. I squirmed in my chair crossing and uncrossing my knees. Mother gave me that look and I tried to be quietly courteous. Then suddenly she popped up with, “You wear contact lenses.” How could she tell? Her objective was to make sure one of the other debutantes bought contact lenses before her party. Glasses, she said, were “inappropriate.” This was actually my third pair. The first I obtained when I was thirteen. They were vent-air lenses. Hard to put into the eye and equally hard to take out. My mother said my eyes were weak because I read too much Russian literature!
One of my friends from the Holton Arms School days was Mamie Moore. She is the niece of Mamie Eisenhower. For her debut, her aunt hosted a tea at the White House. I had been to the White House when Mamie and I were class mates in 1955. She and I sat in the back seat as her father drove up to the gate, presented some papers, and we proceeded up to the front door of the home of the President of the Unites States. I did not have a chance to meet the President, but just driving up was enough. The Moores only came to drop off some package or present. Now Mamie, my friend, was making her debut in the White House and making history. It was the first time in fifty years that a President and his wife would host a debutant party. In 1910, Helen Taft was presented by her parents, President and Mrs. William Howard Taft. Many political celebrities were there including Teddy Roosevelt’s daughter, Alice Longworth, who also had made her debut in the White House some fifty-eight years ago. At her party, she said, there was no Champagne. Tonight we had punch laced with Champagne. However, manners prevailed and no one misbehaved or drank too much.
Barbara Casey, author
ALL ALONE, From Washington to Rome, a 60s Memoir is an extraordinary memoir that immediately transports the reader to another time and place; a time when art and culture and ideas matter, and a place where beauty and love are natural and innocent. Patricia Daly-Lipe, in a style that is both literary and eloquent, paints a picture of Rome as seen by a young girl coming of age during the ‘60s and left all alone. Her bittersweet memories of the loss of her mother and a failed first love are contrasted by the unbridled joy and wonderment for life she experiences in a foreign country. All ALONE is an honest and thought provoking look into the past that offers all who read it a better understanding of themselves.
This memoir about a talented and intelligent young lady’s transition from late teen age years to young adulthood opens another world beyond the direct experience of most, including this reader. We are taken to and from Europe where we meet individuals who place high value on ideas and philosophy, where the author describes art, architecture and ambiance, and introduces the reader to individuals of another almost (as I see it) bygone high culture. Among others, I was intrigued by the author’s great uncle, Msgr. William A. Hemmick, the only American Canon of St. Peter’s Basilica. I’ll say no more, but suggest one read the book. The author uses contemporaneous diary entries coupled with the perspective of the well-educated and successful mature woman. In this, the author succeeds. The memoir is not in strict chronological order but arranged as one might remember long ago, which I found helpful. The book held my attention due to the flow of the writing and my interest due to the subject matter. The book is easily a one evening read and well worth the effort.