As a member of the Cook family, I was determined that I would do everything in my power to make them like me. Furthermore, I was sure they would approve when they saw how devoted I was to their son and brother, and that my motives were alright. Sadly, naiveté was my middle name.
I soon discovered that the George’s mother still carried her grudge. Also, if she made an incorrect statement, that was her affair, not mine. It was an unpleasant discovery. We had been discussing the family of Senator Mason one day and she had added a few (three) extra children to his family roster. When I spoke up suggesting that there were ten, not thirteen, children, she not only stood her ground but also refused to be corrected. (I knew the family well enough to spend weekends with them, as the Senator was the uncle of one of my good friends.) When we arrived at home, George lectured me and informed me that whether right or wrong, Mother Cook always was to have her way.
When I first visited Mother Cook, an ample old Victorian house with bay windows, a plethora of stained glass, tall steps, and a walk that led to the wrought iron gates at the front corner. The house was set above a grassy terraced lawn. It sat firmly on its haunches in the middle of the yard. A brick wall led to the corner entrance gate. The taxi driver delivered us to the stone step that did duty for a porte-cochère and we disembarked.
On this first visit I already knew that it was a large house with an elevator in it. Not many weeks or months before, his mother, in boarding the elevator, had released the catch, fallen and broken her shoulder. I was naturally sympathetic and I had felt very sorry indeed for her misfortune up to the moment of our meeting.
She was sitting on the lawn when the cab carrying George and me arrived and disgorged us. The day was warm and spring-like as we walked down the terrace to meet her. She was seated in a rustic rocker, her dress covered with a big kitchen apron, talking animatedly to a young girl (a niece). In her lap was a pan of strawberries. She was hulling them. This was far from the set-up that I had expected and, as I looked at her, words of sympathy seemed utterly out of place. Now, I’ve no idea what passed between using conversation that day. I was most aware of my appraisal of her, and I knew that she and I would have little in common. I was more sure of it the following week when George told me his mother thought “The least I could have done was to have offered to help her stem strawberries. Her nieces always did.” In plain English, she did not like me and, as on other later occasions when I played piano for George in her presence, I became increasingly convinced of her antagonism toward me.
It was not until the question of marriage had come up that it had become important. My family was dearer to me than anything on earth and I could not face a prospect that involved strained relations. It was only when George assured me that her aversion to me was a thing of the past that I even considered it. “All mothers of sons,” he said, “thought no girl was good enough to marry her son.” That seemed plausible to me at the time.
Now, as a member of the Cook family I was determined that I would do everything in my power make them like me. Furthermore, I was sure they would like me when they saw how devoted I was to their son and brother, and that my motives were alright.
At home Father was quiet and patient. Many a time Mother would say things that no other man would have endured. The most I ever heard him say was, “Be careful, Margaret. Don’t go too far.” I never knew greater patience. According to George, he was, at one time, ready to leave home, and George took him in hand and prevented his going.
George had had an affair with a very attractive girl while he was at Albion College. His mother found out when she visited him there and very soon thereafter he was transferred to Northwestern and put in the care of a prospective preacher. A month or so later his mother, brother and he were taken on a tour of Europe. when George and I first began to go out together, the following year, he had told me about this girl and how near he was to marrying her. I gave little thought to it for I was not enough interested in him to care at that time. She was interested in me, however, and came to call on me at my studio when she was in Evanston.