Wednesday, November 21, 2007

In Memory of Mildred Raynolds Trivers

Earlier this week I lost a part of my childhood. My former neighbor, Mildred Trivers, passed away in a nursing home in Central Indiana. She was 95. Although nowhere near as well known as fellow Central Indaiana Hooisers Haven Kimmel [author of book club favorite “Zippy”] or Garfield creator Jim Davis or maybe even fellow poet Thomas Thornburg [who “traveled widely in Muncie, Indiana”] Mrs. Trivers and her late husband, diplomat and professor Howard Trivers, were very well known to me from age 10 onward. They encouraged me to read and to be in the world.

Lately, as mom to a Special Needs son, I turned to Mrs. Trivers’ poems for comfort the night I had to sign my son into a mental hospital. Her poem “McClean” appeared in her first published collection, “Flowers for Frill” My copy was signed by the author some years after its publication. Somehow it makes sense that the book was removed from its cover by my son in a rage one day.

Here is the poem:


He is mad, my son,
Behind the Iron gate,
One month twenty-one,
Six feet tall when straight—
And nothing to be done
But to wait.

He droops, my son,
He stares vacant-eyed,
Unbuttoned, undone,
A guard at his side—
And nowhere to run
Or to hide.

He is lost, my son,
Behind the grilled gate,
In wilderness alone,
My flesh and my bone—
And nothing to be done
But wait.

By Mildred Raynolds Trivers, 1964

When I argue, fruitlessly, with my kids over how uncool I can be I think of another poem from this collection—“If You Want a Modern Mother” it explains to her own seven children that she’s “the only kind of mother I can be!” By the time I knew her, that “kind of mother” did not count attending high school cross country meets as within her realm. It did, however, extend to cooking brown rice to keep her teenage son strong. Like the son in "Love You Forever," her baby stayed close enough to be near her to the end.

Mrs. Trivers was named a “Sagamore of the Wabash,” Indiana’s highest award, some years ago for her work as a patron of the Arts in Central Indiana. She was active in her community for years—serving at Church, in a food pantry, playing her recorder, watching elections. She inspired people to reach higher goals than they ever though attainable. In addition to her several volumes of poetry, she is remembered for raising seven outstanding children—businessmen, Coast Guard officer, outstanding law librarian, dedicated mothers and fathers among them. Her grandchildren and children are flung now from Sea to Sea and across the ocean to Paris and the Cedars of Lebanon. She is met in Heaven by one daughter. She is mourned by the other six children and the many grandchildren. And by all those whose lives she touched and enriched.


Leonie said...

So sorry to hear about the loss, but this lady sounds like such a great inspiration!

bethanybeams said...

Mrs. Trivers was an inspiration to me, and I only met her a couple of times. My thoughts on her passing are on my blog Undefeated Since 1929. I'm encouraged to see there are others on the web who will miss her.

Jane said...

I enjoyed reading about the memories of Mildred. I am Mildred's younger sister, Jane. No doubt we have met although I don't remember, I'm sorry. I have a family of my own now and thank Goodness because I am the only surviving member of the Raynolds clan. Ruth Ann (Mildred's daughter) and I have been very close. I recently saw Ruth Ann when she came to celebrate my 91st birthday with me!