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Even Then We Knew

Even Then We Knew

    At the Christmas break in the fall semester in December 1950 I found a ride home with a senior on his way to Greenwich CT, with another passenger, a junior making plane connections to his home in San Antonio TX. My mother, who knew a thing or two about the appetites of young men, had ready for each of us when we arrived a generous helping of apple crisp topped with vanilla ice cream.  As my two fraternity brothers continued on their way, one of them, the Texan, complimented my mother so eloquently mom must have thought she had just won the Betty Crocker Cook-off.  The treat was worthy of the fuss, but twenty year old men are not famous for their diplomacy.  Henry E. Catto, Jr. was (famous for his diplomacy), then and for the remainder of his eighty-one years.

    Henry was graduated from Williams College in June 1952.  I never saw him again face to face. Not without trying.  When our second daughter was spending a semester in London, Barbara and I visited with her.  One afternoon we made our way to the American Embassy and asked if we could see my friend from college.  I was advised, "The boss is in Colorado."  With Margaret Thatcher?  Aspen is where Henry retreated to escape the summer heat of San Antonio. 

    Earlier, much earlier, the summer of 1952, in the company of three Bostonians, I made a tour of the U. S. A.  We stopped in San Antonio, went to Henry's home, met his dad, but our friend was somewhere else.  Dad treated us to dinner in a Mexican restaurant where I first tasted enchiladas. Catto generosity, I gather, is genetic.

    Henry took leave of us in late December.  A memorial service will be held tomorrow, Saturday, January 7th, at an Episcopal church in San Antonio.  I am attaching to the Email alert three obituaries found online.  The best one, however, one mainly written by Henry himself, printed in the Houston Chronicle, contains a warning not to publish or forward or in anyway violate the author's sole claim to his column.  But you can trace the steps I took to access it by activating the following hyperlink:  Henry Catto by Jan Jarboe Russell.   Go there soon: the link to the obit will not be available for very long.  And pay particular note to the final line, containing the dry wit for which we envied Henry in our salad days.  

    I wonder.  What would that immigrant girl who identified herself as British, the woman who never attended school in this country lest the authorities discover she was here illegally, the housewife who collected English teacups and spoke fondly of the Queen, my own mother, Evelyn Weir Howard, baker of apple crisp... what would she have done in response to the flattery of a future Ambassador to the Court of St. James?  Oh, the paths we trod, crisscrossing, hobnobbing, and rubbing elbows with all sorts and conditions of mankind, including the rich and famous!  Mom wouldn't have curtsied; she might have blushed a little. And smiled at the thought she had not crossed the pond in vain, that her own little boy might be moving in the right circles. 

    No, she never wanted me to be president.  From day one she wanted me to be a minister of the Gospel. 




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