Wait Till Next Year, by Doris Kearns Goodwin, is a personal memoire of Goodwin’s life growing up in Rockville Centre, New York during the 1950s. Goodwin talks about multiple members of her family, including her father, Michael, her mother, Helen, her two sisters, Charlotte and Jeanne, and her best friend while growing up, Eileen. The memoire includes many memories of how she and her family were affected during the atomic bomb and McCarthyism. Also in her story, she highlights the good and bad things about growing up as a suburban child. Goodwin has great memories about her neighborhood.
She had many memories of her school, church, and time spent with her favorite team, the Dodgers, which were all positive. She said, “Our street…was common land – our playground, our park, our community” (Goodwin 55). Goodwin talks about her neighborhood as similar to that of a safe heaven. Her neighborhood was a little piece of heaven that always stayed the same. She was very close with her friends. They all attended the same school, grew up and played together. School was as well a positive memory Goodwin had and was a very important part of community as well.
Goodwin recalled her time spent in school and said, “I threw myself into high-school affairs with unprecedented zeal…”(Goodwin 245). Goodwin enjoyed being involved being in activities and the people that were involved as well. Though, her friends from school were not the same denomination as she was. Religion was another factor in the community. Goodwin was catholic and many of her friends and other members of the community were protestant. Catholicism wasn’t necessarily a bad thing but it wasn’t the contemporary way of life for Americans in the 1950s.
She very excited to start her life as a catholic, including her first mass and communion. Though school and religion were highpoints in Goodwin’s life, her true love was her favorite baseball team, the Dodgers. The Dodgers were the base of her family and kept many of her friendships alive like Johnny, a boy she meet at the beach, and Eileen when they were separated. Goodwin attended many of the games at Ebbet’s Field, listened to the games on the radio, and watched them on the television. Many of the people in the community liked the Dodgers as well, but there were some who liked teams from the Yankees to the Giants.
Even though there were different team choices throughout the community, baseball was a thing everyone enjoyed. Goodwin remembers most where the events within the community with the people she was surrounded by. Goodwin’s memories of the 1950s were very positive, however the family life made growing up somewhat negative. During most of Goodwin’s life, her mother suffered from different illnesses that would cause problems in the household. Most of the time, her mother, Helen, was too sick to have company over, which was very stereotypical during that time.
When television came around, the family would host gatherings. When Helen was asked if she could have more gatherings Helen would reply, “but I simply can’t do it. Even now, I am so exhausted just from having everyone here that I’ve got to lie down for a little while” (Goodwin 122). Goodwin’s sister, Jeanne, took many roles that Helen could not because Helen was so sick. Goodwin stated that, “For as long as I can remember, she was a surrogate mother, looking out for me, taking care of me when my mother was sick” (Goodwin 37). Goodwin would recall many stories of Jeanne doing tasks that their mother would do.
This made her Goodwin feel embarrassed, which is where the negative memories came in. She loved her Jeanne dearly, but the fact that her mother couldn’t stand up for herself and do what a mother in the 1950s was supposed to be doing. Helen died in 1958. This only made the bad memories worse. The death of her mother led to Goodwin leaving her community and her father becoming an alcoholic. Her family’s problems made the times she spent growing up in the 1950s faint. While there were good and bad memories going on throughout Goodwin’s life.
There were specific historical events that led to different views on her childhood as well. The atomic bomb ended when Russia made their own. The bomb drills and the knowledge about the bombs made growing up difficult for Goodwin, though it did turn out positive. After she realized that the stores of her community were connected below the ground, she came up with the idea for the whole community to survive. The community could set up a system where they all worked together to move everything they needed into the basements that were connected as quickly as possible.
Her plan excited her and she loved challenges. She was able to turn the threat of the bomb into action. Another event that left a major impression on Goodwin was the idea of McCarthyism. Television was broadcasting a lot about the trials, so the mothers of the neighborhood were always updated. Goodwin and her friend created the McCarthyism trials, which her similar to the ones on television. Her friends would accuse each other of saying certain things, so the trails always ended in tears and pain. Eventually, the trials ended, but the damage of those memories were enough to make chapter in her life a bad one.
The historical events in the 1950’s affected a lot of children growing up in that time. It led Goodwin to have positive and negative memories. Growing up in the 1950s was neither a great experience nor awful one for Goodwin. She has a sense of community that is very present in her memoire. There were many things that highlighted her young life. Even though her family life was tough, she got through and made her stronger and the good and bad memories that she had while growing up made her into what she is today.
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