UNDER A WING
By Reeve Lindbergh
Simon & Schuster
223 pp., $23
Remembering childhood is a creative act. Adult memories can often have an invented quality. But a writer recollecting famous parents faces the added challenge of sorting out the public and private realities.
In "Under a Wing," Reeve Lindbergh attempts this daunting task. Her father, Charles A. Lindbergh, was a world-class celebrity. Her mother, Anne Morrow Lindbergh, was her husband's partner in flying adventures and an enormously popular author. She recorded their lives in volumes of published detail.
Undaunted, Reeve, the Lindberghs' youngest child, offers her own memoir of growing up with them, discovering and coming to terms with her parents' place in the world outside the family fortress. It's full of poignant anecdotes, epiphanies about generational links, and insights on relationships and love.
The dark memories - coping with her sister's death and her mother's decline, discovering her father's reactionary politics - are handled with sad sensitivity.
In one of many evocative vignettes, Lindbergh describes Saturday flying lessons with her father. Each of his five children took turns in the air with him.
On one occasion when young Reeve was with him, the engine failed, and he was forced to make an emergency landing in a tiny cow pasture ringed with trees, barely big enough for the small plane.
"I learned what flying was for him and for the other early aviators, what happened to him in an airplane and why he kept taking us up to try flying ourselves.... He was persuading and coaxing and willing the plane to do what he wanted it to do;... My father wasn't flying the airplane, he was being the airplane. That's how he did it. That's how he had always done it. Now I knew."
This small book is a touching tribute to beloved parents and family. It warms the heart.
* Ruth Johnstone Wales is the Monitor's Page One editor.