Remembering Gloria Vanderbilt

“My mother comes from a vanished world, a place and a time that no longer exist. I have always thought of her as a visitor stranded here; an emissary from a distant star that burned out long ago.”

Anderson Cooper

Today, June 17, 2019, Gloria Vanderbilt left this world after 95 years.  Extraordinary, determined and fully engaged in living in the moment, she accepted challenges and sustained personal loss with calm resolve.

A few years ago, I read The Rainbow Comes & Goes, a dialogue between Gloria Vanderbilt and her son, Anderson Cooper. A life well-lived.

The Rainbow Comes & Goes

This is not my usual reading choice.  I confess the title caught my attention; rainbows are a powerful symbol of hope, of connection to the past and to other worlds.  The Norse named a burning rainbow bridge “Bifrost” the link between the gods of Asgard to humanity in Midgard (earth).  In ancient Japan, ancestors used rainbows to visit earth.  For the Navajos, rainbows  are the paths taken by holy spirits. Whenever I see a rainbow I feel a lift of my spirits as if, for a moment in time, I have glimpsed into a realm of infinite possibilities.

And besides rainbows, I enjoy Anderson Cooper’s insightful journalism.  As for Gloria Vanderbilt, the name alone envisions a woman of great strength and courage; a woman who lived her life in the limelight with grace and equanimity

On her birthday, Gloria Vanderbilt wrote to her son,

“91 years ago on this day, I was born.

I recall a note from my Aunt Gertrude, received on a birthday long ago. “Just think, today you are 17 whole years old!” she wrote. Well, today — I am 91 whole years old — a hell of a lot wiser, but somewhere still 17.

What is the answer? What is the secret? Is there one?”

Ah, those are marvelous questions.

I chose audio-book format, which I would highly recommend.  Hearing their voices transports listeners into their ongoing discussion and into their world.  As I listened, I realized that I wanted to record conversations with my mother, to share ideas between generations. Time moves ever forward; the only way our stories are remembered is if we write them down.

Rainbows come and go in life; times of celebration and grieving mark our journey. William Wordsworth says it the best in “Intimations of Immortality From Recollections of Early Childhood”

The Rainbow comes and goes,
And lovely is the Rose,
The Moon doth with delight
Look round her when the heavens are bare,
Waters on a starry night
Are beautiful and fair;
The sunshine is a glorious birth;
But yet I know, where’er I go,
That there hath past away a glory from the earth.

And lovely is the Rose,
The Moon doth with delight
Look round her when the heavens are bare,
Waters on a starry night
Are beautiful and fair;
The sunshine is a glorious birth;
But yet I know, where’er I go,
That there hath past away a glory from the earth.

 

Photo of Gloria Vanderbilt from a 1959 acting role on The United States Steel Hour.

5 Comments

  1. Liz

    Oh I love this post, Becky, thank you. ‘Somewhere still 17’ – who would not relate to this as the years go by! We are privileged to be able to learn about the stories of others and I love listening to your conversations with your lovely mum. X

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Clanmother

      Ah, seventeen – a magical age. Ready for the turn in the road ahead, never realizing how enormous the journey would be. You and I are still looking forward to the turn in the road ahead. I agree – it is a privilege when people share their stories. I am enjoying the podcasting conversation with my mom – sod houses, contour farming, in the chicken coop, meditation – all coming up. I didn’t know how I was going to tell our story and fulfill my promise to my father – that I write our family history. “The Rainbow Comes and Go” and your podcast with Rachel were pivotal in my decision to try the podcast route. Thank you!! Many, many hugs!

      Liked by 2 people

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