A classic 20th century midwestern farm family fable told in Manhattan

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A cold and rainy Sunday in the city. Photo: JH.

Monday, January 29, 2024. Written mid-evening, yesterday. Same weather as all last week (except for a couple of temporary — part of a day— sunny departures). Temps very mild too with a couple late nights drops to the 20s. Some snow predicted for late tonight, early tomorrow morning. Maybe; because the whole winter season has been like that.

Not bad for getting around (although the motor bicycle and four-wheel traffic is horrendous middays during the week). Irony is a good way to think of it and relieve yourself from the other modern anxieties. Although those early and tall snowdrifts that January’s known were also great cover for the anxious.

Click to order A Fascinating Life.

I spent a good part of my weekend days reading a new book, A Fascinating Life, a memoir by Anne Ford, with a very sweet and innocent face of the little one (a cutie pie with an enormous presence) on the cover thanks to her baby blonde coiffure naturally curly.

I met Anne through her sister Charlotte maybe thirty years ago. The sisters are very close and have been all their lives. They have very different personalities and Anne, by nature, likes to kid; and Charlotte tends to takes things the way she sees them.

I have been a guest on some of the sisters’ Mediterranean midsummer voyages — which unquestionably for me were the greatest holidays I’ve ever experienced — cruising the Mediterranean on an enormous yacht looking at the world out before (but out there!)

The sisters chartered it several times over the years, and invited a half-dozen or so friends to join the luxury voyages. The real luxury of course was being in physical position to comfortably look out and over there at the land that we humans occupy; when for a long moment, everything is beautiful.

The back of the book, with navy blue binding and large white print cover reads: “A Memoir by Anne Ford, daughter of Henry Ford II and Anne McDonnell Ford, and great-granddaughter of Henry Ford” (— the one who started it all).

Before I sat down with the book I naturally was reminded of the sisters and my relationship with both. At this stage in our lives all over Eight-Oh” the world we came from has changed dramatically in every way. Opening Anne’s book reviewing her life in print, I could only wonder what she will make of her experience.  I was about to learn.

Anne (obviously terrified”), her great-grandfather Henry Ford, and Charlotte.
Edsel, Anne, and Charlotte at a recent Detroit Lions football game. Anne would have a lot to say about last night’s game.

When I started reading it, as Anne laid out her premise of life, she spoke of herself with certainty and her natural modesty, and referred to her sister Charlotte, and to her parents, in a way that told you something private: it was a gentle childhood that came firstly from her mother and father, and thereafter forever, her sister.

I kind of knew that about her, but as I was reading about her  growing up, and life with that mother and father, there was an all-Americanness to them and their relationship with each other despite the great fortune that came with the name. Her mother was a very nice woman. I only knew her father through his public life (including his marriages). In this book he was a man with a natural big sense of humor, and a respect and kindness toward his children as they began to move through life following that sensibility.

Anne has had a life surrounded by abundance and plenty, not to mention a “famous last name” — possibly the most of all across the world. And she grew up in a good life with it. All of which she appreciated and never let it take her away.

At first her voice in print is conversational and her descriptions are honest and aware of her largesse and kindness toward her own and others as well.  You begin to see how extraordinary  an ordinary life granted by Fate or God or Mother Nature; and how successfully she partook and accepted and celebrated it, before moving on to the reality.

The Henry Ford (The First) story has always fascinated me, how the influence of his personal curiosity, out of Common Sense, the farmer’s son, changed the world forever. What comes out of that in Anne’s memoir is a Common Sense Kindness, the result of an environment of hope that the first Henry and his wife imparted to their own. This book reflects all that but it is also about Anne’s own parents. That was Fate’s prize for her and her brother and sister. And it’s fascinating in the end.

Anne’s parents, Anne and Henry II, on their wedding day.

The Mother and The Father were strict, Anne and Henry II. They had married when she was 19 and he was 21. 13 months later came Charlotte; and 18 months later, Anne; and five years after that, Edsel.

Theirs was a classic 20th century midwestern farm family fable in the growing culture of the automobile in the world. Both parents had been brought up in the “strict middle-American sense of self and behavior.” Strict was a common word to describe what the Parents considered positive future results.

Anne with her first husband, Giancarlo Uzielli, on their wedding day.

Anne was married thrice. All are remembered with the pleasure of the outset of their relationships. Humor and laughter are included. However, her two children — son Alessandro and daughter Allegra of her first marriage to Mr. Uzielli — brought a complete change of priorities in her life, which she handled with much of what she learned from her conscientious parents.

I can’t describe adequately how living her laugh-out loud experience of life cracked me up, but I can state with certainty that women will love this book.

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