I may have written about this before. Lydia Coleman Mitchell, Maria Mitchell’s mother – and the mother of ten children in all – has a small, simple writing desk. It has several drawers and a flip down top. It has two compartments where papers and ink can be stored – and in the case of Lydia, the nib of your pen can be mightily sharpened (it’s a HUGE gouge she created!).
This fall, as I do each fall once the humidity is low, I waxed it with an appropriate conservation wax. And while doing so, I realized that I had forgotten all about the back compartment. It has little pigeon-hole cubbies and another news article similar to what she pasted in the front compartment. I am not sure how I forgot about this – but I’ve been in the Mitchell House for quite some time and my brain seems to be overflowing with things. So it was sort of a re-discovery I guess you would call it.
The interesting thing is that this was not Lydia doing the pasting of an article this time. Note the “1862” inked next to the article – which had to be pasted in sideways as the other one was. (I think that I have noted that when I transcribed the first many years ago, it was before mobile phones so taking a photograph was near impossible with trying to focus, light, and so on. Thus, I sat scrunched over in a chair with a pencil and paper holding the desk with one hand and scribbling with the other – the curator at the time said I looked like a pretzel! This time, iPhone in hand and, “Voila!”) Lydia died in 1861 and by 1862, Maria and her father, William, were living in Lynn, MA. I think the writing in the desk on this side is William’s own! Interesting. So, perhaps he was continuing the trend – perhaps he knew she would do this if she were alive, perhaps it was a way to keep her memory going, perhaps it was a way for him to show her what he had done. I’m not sure what was happening here or the intentions but I’m not sure it’s really about William boasting as it is about him loving and missing Lydia. So, while we do not know, that’s the story I will stick to in my mind.