My life story would be incomplete without remembering those who meant so much in those days before my separation from George.
My new family consisted of Father and Mother Cook and David, George’s younger brother, countless nieces of Uncle Ezra Cook’s extraction, the Bockiuses and their two adopted. The first time I had met George’s mother was when, early in our acquaintance, I had gone to Elgin to play his accompaniment at an evening concert.
He had told me very little about his family at that point. I knew that his father was a publisher of religious papers, Sunday School Quarterlies and the like. The very thought gave me a shudder. Shudder two was that that they had family prayers.
There were many nieces and nephews who visited the Cook family and they flattered Mother in many little ways. Mother love parties.
Sunday was her big day. However, visiting ministers and bishops stayed anywhere but in her home. come tornado or high water, on the Sabbath, George and I were expected to be at her house in time to eat at 5:30 for dinner. It was difficult at times but I complied (for fourteen years), even at times when George rebelled and refused to go. It seemed not too high a price to pay for peace and it was easier than to run the risk of a quarrel.
For the many years that George had smoked, he had hidden it from his parents. The Publishing House had a rule against both smoking and drinking among its employees (and that did seem fanatical), but to conceal things from those you loved was not honest in my way of thinking. We talked it over a good deal, for he had, in the beginning, tried to make me believe that he smoked for his health. I knew better. It was on little points such as this that we usually disagreed. Otherwise we did very well.
Marriage, however, had markedly changed our music relations. Before, he had asked and paid for my criticism. I had been his teacher, though masking it under the guise of playing accompaniments, coaching, etc. Now he resented my suggestions without which he was unable to learn his scores. Practicing for an occasion became an unpleasant and bickering job. He disliked, too, being told by musicians that it was selfish and unfair for him to keep me for himself. Gradually I began to play for others.
One of the important members of Mother Cook’s household was “Minnie,” the Cook housekeeper, shopper and executive. Mother had paid Minnie’s doctor bills (she had had T.B.) and so secured her loyalty. Since the Cook place housed any number of people at any time, it was no wonder that occasionally Minnie had breakdowns. She went south in the winter, if they needed her, with the family and to Saugatuck in the summer. Mother assured everyone that she was dependent onto one.
Minnie was an institution; if there was to be a genial atmosphere in the Cook household, Minnie was essential. It was she who found the extra help to sew or wait on table, clean or save at dinners and parties. She who took care of the linen and silver, kept the place presentable, did all the ordering, cooking and the 1,001 extra things. It was no wonder she got seasick before the boat got out of the Chicago river enroute to Holland. She had a right to insist on going by train or having other neurotic symptoms, Other people got away with much more serious things in the Cook household, and whatever she contributed in amiability and poise, no one else in the family could approach.
Besides Uncle Ezra’s children, the Cook family included Mother’s sister, Aunty Bockius, a nervous, spoiled, neurotic woman who taught school, and her husband Charley, whom Mother praised loudly. The story, as George gave it to me, was that Mr. Bockius was in partnership with his father and practically sold him out when Father was in California. The banks helped out and Father got on his feet again, but Uncle Charley was out of a job. Eventually Auntie complained to him so that they agreed to swap work and, from then on, he tended the cradle, did the housework and the cooking. Incidentally, he lost his confidence while she taught school in Chicago. They had two adopted children, Dorothy, and “Little Willie.” Dorothy was an average little girl but Willie was out of this world. Mother had originally found him somewhere, and being in a yearning mood, had taken him home, thinking to adopt him. Aunty saw him, and shy she was, with more yearning than Mother, and really adopted him. Mother’s favorite name of him was “Angel Willie.” When his conduct was anything but angelic, she used it sarcastically.
Aunty was eager to make George and my home a second stopping place and told me with confidential emphasis that there was “plenty of money in the Cook family for all of us, and she was glad a poor little teacher (me) was going to get some of it.” Since I did not react as she expected, she never again took me into her confidence, although we got along beautifully George was furious when I reported Aunty’s statement and I was instructed as to my future conduct which, among other things, excluded her from our table.
The Ezra cousins included Lyman, a medical student, conscientious and dull, like Aunt Maria; Don, a student at Harvard, chipper and pleased with Don; Julia, who was getting a degree from Hale University now Michigan State University College of Education) and taught at Wheaton. George had once been a student at Wheaton and Julia “told Aunty on him,” so he was thumbs down on Julia; Hannah, agreeable but unattractive; and Grace, an out and out flirt. Mary, one of the oldest, aspired with my experience to capture Bishop Hartzell’s son Morton but finally compromised on an employee of the Publishing House, who had worked for George at Peru Rancho (now Piru, California). The youngest was a sloppy little miss who ran her shoes over and was untidy. Her name I’ve forgotten. Maurice was another younger son and, on the whole, they were all far from attractive and I was never really attached to any of them. They were often at Mother’s, however, and flattered her beyond words.
George’s brother David was seven younger than he. David used to say to me, “Someday, when I can find a girl who loves me as much as you do George, I’ll marry her.” David had nice manners and loved to beau me across busy streets. He would say, “I wouldn’t let that old bugger (George) neglect me the way he does.”
David Cook was just eighteen when George and I were married, a sensitive boy whose chief interest lay in legerdemain and magic.
Before we were married I had been shown a picture of a minister’s daughter who looked very much like David at six years of age. The children had exchanged clothes and photographs taken of them, showing how difficult it was to tell them apart.
David read considerably along the line of hypnotism and abnormal psychology. Indeed, while George was at Northwestern, David had stirred up trouble for himself by hypnotizing a fellow student in High School and the family had had to temporarily remove him from the school.
His mother dominated him so completely that, when we were married, he delighted in coming to our home. I liked him. That was the year that Sherlock Holmes emerged once more and I regularly read the stories aloud to the boys, David was often at our house for dinner. He paid little attention to girls but Mother talked a great deal about daughters of her family friends and, just as George had been expected to marry a girl of her choosing, it was obvious that she intended to prevent any breaking from parental will on David’s part, as George had done by marrying me.