Reeve Morrow Lindbergh, the youngest child of Charles and Anne Morrow Lindbergh, was recently in town to attend meetings at the Elisabeth Morrow School (the “Little School”) and the Harry F. Guggenheim Foundation. Her aunt, Elisabeth Morrow, founded the Little School in 1931 in Englewood, New Jersey. Harry F. Guggenheim was a friend of her parents. His foundation, where Reeve is a trustee, supports research related to aggression and violence.
I had the chance to catch up with Reeve at the Cosmopolitan Club on New York’s Upper East Side, where she shared memories of her famous parents. Dressed in a wine-colored turtleneck sweater and black wool slacks, Reeve has her mother’s petiteness and her father’s coloring.
Exuding cheerfulness, we spoke about her work in preserving her mother’s prolific letters and diaries and about her father’s legacy. Charles Lindbergh died in 1974; Anne Morrow Lindbergh died in 2001.
When I ask Reeve to describe her parents in a few words, she says of her father, “ intelligence, energy and focus.” And of her mother, she says, “intelligence, depth, warmth, sensitivity and a great sense of humor.”
Without boasting she adds, “ My parents represented this country in an extraordinary way and people identified with them in a very personal way.” Charles and Anne Morrow Lindbergh were indeed a golden couple.
Lindbergh was the first person to complete a non-stop, solo transatlantic flight, flying from New York to Paris in 1927. Hailed as a hero, he went on to marry the daughter of the U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, Anne Morrow. Aside from the obvious, I ask Reeve what drew her mother to her father. “My mother thought of him as clear and unaffected, “ she says, “He had a great sense of integrity and simplicity, which was appealing to her.”
The two married in 1929 and began a life of shared joy, sorrow and controversy. In 1932, the Lindbergh’s first-born child, Charles Lindbergh Jr., was kidnapped from the Lindbergh home in Hopewell, New Jersey. Six weeks later, the baby’s body was found near the Hopewell home. Her parents “never” discussed the kidnapping with Reeve and her four older siblings. As Reeve notes, “ As the youngest, it’s been easiest for me. My brothers and older sister grew up under the shadow of the kidnapping and the war years.”
If the kidnapping and death of the Lindbergh baby brought sorrow, the war years brought controversy. Charles Lindbergh was an isolationist and major critic of U.S. involvement against Nazi Germany just before World War II. Her father’s perceived anti-Semitism was hurtful to the family. But Reeve in a matter-of-fact way says, “Even though my father’s views were controversial, he represented a lot of the thinking of the day. Isolationism was characteristic among many Americans at that time, otherwise President Roosevelt wouldn’t have had such a tough time swaying public opinion.”
In part because of the controversy surrounding Lindbergh, the family grew up away from the public eye. “My father didn’t like to be approached. Privacy was important,” says Reeve. So important was the family’s privacy that Reeve recalls a family ski trip to Canada where the children were told to use an alias last name so that no one would recognize them.
But for all the fame and controversy surrounding her parents, Reeve, who grew up in Darien, Connecticut, established a life and career away from the Lindbergh fame. After graduating from Radcliffe, she and her first husband moved to Vermont’s “Northeast Kingdom” near St. Johnsbury and never left. She taught school there and wrote novels. They had three children together, two daughters and a son.
Sadly, their infant son, Jonathan, died of encephalitis in 1985. Reeve recalls her mother’s reaction to her infant son’s death. Anne Morrow Lindbergh, who was visiting her daughter at the time of Jonathan’s death, told Reeve, “the most important thing to do now was to go and sit in the room with the baby… I never saw my child’s body. I never sat with my son this way.”
As so often happens with the death of a child, the marriage fell apart. In 1987 Reeve found personal happiness, and remarried a fellow writer and documentary filmmaker, Nathaniel Tripp. They have a son together.
Shortly after Jonathan’s death, Reeve took up writing children’s books and in addition to writing novels and her memoirs, has become a successful children’s book author. “I would be lost without writing, “ says Reeve.
Writing also played a major part in Reeve’s parents’ lives. Both Charles and Anne Morrow Lindbergh published accounts of their adventures and thoughts. Lindbergh won a Pulitzer Prize for his book, Spirit of St. Louis and Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s book, Gift from the Sea, is viewed as a type of feminist treatise on women’s lives in the 20th century.
In 1998, Scott Berg’s biography of Lindbergh was published to critical acclaim. When he approached the Lindbergh family about writing a biography, Berg told them, “I won’t do the book unless I have full access.” Access he got. Reeve smiles remembering her mother’s comment about Berg, “He’s such a nice young man.” It was important to Anne Morrow Lindbergh that she participate in the book in every way. As she wrote Berg, “You can’t write about Charles without writing about me.”
At the same time as the Lindbergh biography was published, Reeve wrote a memoir titled, Under a Wing describing her childhood and life with her famous family. In discussing the Lindbergh legacy and its effect on her and her siblings she wrote, “It has been hard for us, too, to separate individual identity for family identity.”
But Reeve seems to have certainly found her own identity while appreciating the Morrow/Lindbergh legacy. She is currently writing a memoir about her understanding of her family history over time. Her mother often admonished her children to “Write it down!” believing that any experience worth living through was worth writing about.
Books by Reeve Lindbergh
BOOKS FOR ADULTS:
Moving To The Country (a novel, Doubleday 1983)
View From The Kingdom (with photographer Richard Brown, Harcourt Brace 1987)
The Names Of The Mountains (a novel, Simon & Schuster, 1992)
Under A Wing (a memoir, Simon & Schuster, 1998)
No More Words: A Journal of My Mother, Anne Morrow Lindbergh (Simon & Schuster, 2001)
Forward From Here: Leaving Middle Age and Other Unexpected Adventures (Simon & Schuster 2008)
BOOKS FOR CHILDREN:
The Midnight Farm, paintings Susan Jeffers, Dial Books for Young Readers, 1987
The Day The Goose Got Loose, paintings Steven Kellog, Dial 1990
Benjamin’s Barn, paintings Susan Jeffers, Dial 1990
Johnny Appleseed, paintings Kathy Jakobsen, Little, Brown 1990
View From The Air, photographs Richard Brown, Viking 1990
Grandfather’s Lovesong, paintings Rachel Isadora, Viking 1993
There’s A Cow In The Road, paintings Tracey Campbell Pearson, Dial 1993
What Is The Sun?, paintings Stephen Lambert, Candlewick Press 1994
If I’d Known Then What I Know Now, paintings Kimberly Root, Viking 1994
Nobody Owns The Sky, paintings Pamela Paparone, Candlewick 1996
North Country Spring, paintings Liz Sivertson, Houghton Mifflin 1997
The Awful Aardvarks Go To School, paintings Tracey Campbell Pearson, Viking 1997
The Circle Of Days, paintings Cathie Felsted, Candlewick 1998
The Awful Aardvarks Shop For School, paintings Tracey Campbell Pearson, Viking 2000
In Every Tiny Grain of Sand: A Child’s Book of Prayer and Praise, paintings Christine Davenier, Bob Graham, Anita Jeram, Elisa Kleven, Candlewick 2000
On Morning Wings: Adapted from Psalm 139, paintings Holly Meade, Candlewick 2002
My Hippie Grandmother, paintings Abby Carter, Candlewick 2003
Our Nest, paintings by Jill McElmurry, Candlewick 2004
The Visit, paintings by Wendy Anderson Halperin, Dial Books For Young Readers 2005
My Little Grandmother Often Forgets, paintings by Kathryn Brown, Candlewick 2008
Homer, The Library Cat, paintings by Anne Wilsdorf, Candlewick 2011