Friday, January 11, 2013

A Night To Remember

I was so excited to think that a new season of Downton Abbey had begun.  My husband, Big Jimmy, was never interested in watching. As the show was beginning and he was leaving the room,  I asked him if he would put on PBS.  The rest is history...  Within seconds, I was totally wrapped in the story and couldn't wait for each line to be said, I was captivated!  Meanwhile, Big J came back and started reading the newspaper.  Before long, he was wondering about where in England the village was, and what was happening in the story.  I could say very little because I didn't want to miss a word of the episode.

After it was over, I tried to give him a synopsis.  Beginning with the first episode, and learning that someone in the family had been coming to America on the Titanic to look for a wealthy bride.  As I told him this, I thought of Slim Paley's blog and her interest in the story of the Titanic and thought, my, that is me!  I have been so fascinated with the story my whole life and now to tell you why.

Where I grew up, on the outskirts of Philadelphia, there was a 450 acre farm, we called it the Widener Estate it is now known as Erdenheim Farm.  It was the most beautiful piece of land you could imagine with rolling hills, orchards, and streams. There were cattle and sheep grazing,  and horses, stables, outdoor and indoor areas for horse shows and training, plus kennels for the beagle dogs used in hunts.  I can remember going there on my first bus ride with my kindergarten class to see the sheep being sheered.  And, my brother lived across the street from where the kennels were.  My nieces, my best friend, Linda and I would play in the kennels and pretend that we were the owners.  What fun...  Well, Mr. George D. Widener, his wife Eleanor and their son, Harry Elkins Widener, the real owners, were aboard the Titanic. 

    As I grew older, I remember stories that the Widner's were holding a dinner party in honor of the Captain on the night that the ship crashed into the iceberg. And as Mrs. Widener was getting into the lifeboat, Mr. Widener took off his signet ring, and put it on her finger and that their grandson, Fitz Eugene Dixon, whom my father knew, wore it everyday. These memories were buried in my mind.

Then, when I  was in college and spending the weekend at my roommate, Maura's. The movie, 'A Night To Remember' was playing.  I immediately was reliving all of the stories that I had heard growing up and felt as if I knew the Widener's personally.  

When I went on a tour of Harvard, I saw the Widener library and heard that it was donated by Mrs. Widener in memory of her son who collected rare books and had graduated from Harvard.  She made certain stipulations in her will. One being that the building structure could never be altered.  Others were that fresh flowers be always present by her son's portrait, ice cream be served at every meal and that every Harvard student must know how to swim.

The James Cameron movie opened, of course I rushed to see it. 

But the best was, a traveling exhibit of artifacts that had been salvaged from the Titanic.  The exhibit came to Boston, and so did my Linda.  As we examined each find and read the passenger histories, we felt saddened but personally connected to this piece of history as if it had been our relatives.

Within the opening minutes of the first episode of Downton Abbey, I learned of the Titanic disaster and thought of the Wideners and that period of history which I had read and heard so much about and wanted to relive that time again.

Photos from Pintrest

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