Saturday, March 19, 2022

Sunday Salon


Indulging in a few scoops of sorbet. I'm reading a lighter-than-air chicklit, Back to the Burbs by Avery Flynn and Tracy Wolff. A 30-something inherits a huge ramshackle suburban disaster from her eccentric aunt. She could sell it, which makes financial sense, but instead she sets out to renovate it. This home improvement project is a metaphor for her life, which she's trying to rebuild after divorce.

I know there will be comedic mishaps as she makes the repairs. I know which new man she will fall in love with. I know she will live happily ever after. I know all this because I've seen more than one Hallmark movie in my life.

And that's fine. I'm enjoying a book that just carries me along without requiring much thought. I just finished reading Lady Bird and Lyndon by Betty Caroli. It was a terrific dual biography, with special emphasis on the First Lady.

I keep thinking about a particular part of the book. Lady Bird was 22. She'd just graduated from University of Texas with two degrees. She was financially independent, thanks to the inheritance from her mother, and was ready to go into a career in either journalism or teaching. She had a couple beaux but wasn't ready to settle down yet. She wanted to travel first. A girlfriends trip to NYC had whetted her curiosity about the world beyond Texas and now she wanted to go abroad.

But she went on a blind date with a 26-year-old congressional aid named Lyndon Johnson and within 90 days, she married him. She used part of her inheritance to finance his early campaigns. She used most of it, however, to purchase a radio station. Independent of her husband, she built a media empire that would eventually include TV stations. She was the first First Lady to be a millionaire in her own right.

Her marriage put her in the history books. She got to fulfill what she believed was her destiny. But it cost her a great deal, too. Her larger-than-life husband demanded her focus and subservience. From looking the other way at his infidelities to leaving their daughters to accompany him on the campaign trail, she put his needs before anyone else's. She never vacationed in Europe until she was a widow in her 60s, because her husband insisted it was inappropriate for the wife of an American public servant to galavant overseas.

Was it worth it to her? Did she ever wonder what her life would have been like if she married one of her college beaux and became a small-town Texas schoolteacher? I'm fascinated by how her interest in journalism led her to buying radio and TV stations. Would she have taken her mother's money and used it to become a media mogul like Katherine Graham? She used that money to finance Lyndon's dreams, but what about hers?

So after reading a biography that captured my imagination and felt like a heavy "main course," I'm cleansing my palate with a light little romance.

How about you? Do you mix up your reading or viewing? Or do you tend to stay in the same lane?

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