The other day, coming out of the driveway, I ran (almost) into my old boss and friend, Eleanor. We both live in the same town and as life in the country would have it, we haven't run into each other, so to speak, in several years. (Ironically, we also both grew up in the same local town, just south of where we live now.)
Eleanor worked for over twenty years as communications director at the New England branch of a national graduate school (ok, what's the big secret: Antioch New England). I was fortunate to work with her from 1991-1993 as her assistant and editor of the alumni newsletter. She and a team from the provost's office picked me from a group of over 90 candidates which was a big boost for the old ego at the time. The job also came at a time when my daughter was three and ready for preschool, when I had just finished graduate school myself, and needed a full time job with benefits. In many ways it was the ideal job and perfect nurturing environment.
I have never worked with someone as kind and compassionate as Eleanor. She had precision and a critical eye, both qualities of a fine editor. She knew what it was like to be a single mother, having had to return to work herself when her children were teenagers. She has personally overcome many health hurdles. Before becoming a mother, Eleanor worked with Thomas Hoving at the Met and I had nothing but respect for her talents.
I left Antioch because as a trained museum and history person, I was longing to return to the house museum world. On a whim in the summer of 1993 I applied to be an editorial assistant at the Getty in Los Angeles. I interviewed for that job and decided to step out of the running because upon further inquiry I discovered that my boss would have been a childless middle-aged woman who had risen the ranks and likely would not be too tolerant of single-parent issues. In sum, she was no Eleanor.
The same day I declined to be a part of the Getty process, I was offered a job as site manager at a small house museum in the Monadnock region, Barrett House, owned by the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities (now Historic New England). This came at a time when Eleanor was scheduled to have major surgery. I faced a dilemma and decided the best thing would be to stay at my job through the end of the year while she had her leave.
When I saw Eleanor the other day I realized that sixteen years have passed since I left her employ but that she hasn't aged a day in my mind! She has retired and there is no more deserving person of a more relaxing lifestyle. Antioch New England was lucky to have her. Perhaps now we can finally have that elusive lunch we've been talking about for years!