Friday, August 28, 2015

Chidlren* (for Children*)

Tasha Tudor, born August 28, 1915, was a bit of an enigma right from birth. To begin with, her given name was Starling Burgess, which really isn't a bad handle for a nature-loving author of children's books (think Thornton Burgess), and especially one who resembles a small, colorful bird—but so be it. It had been her father's name and he, for some gender-bending reason, had passed it on to her, although he soon changed his mind and decided that Natasha (he was a fan of Tolstoy's War and Peace) sounded a lot nicer. His only daughter was rechristened thusly and later nicknamed "Tasha." Her mother had kept her maiden name and people would often assume that "Rosamund Tudor's daughter" had the same last name. Tasha, who found she liked the alliteration, would later change her surname to Tudor, but that was just the start of a carefully crafted identity and the re-imagining of her world. Tudor's adult family life was rather different from the idyllic image she tried so hard to portray, though. (One writer called her a "kind of Victorian-era Martha Stewart.") Her father, Starling Burgess, had been married five times, was divorced from her mother when Tasha was ten, and was described by a friend of his fifth wife as follows: "With all his brilliance, he is a child, and that is part of his charm. He will not face hard facts, but will hide from them and will love the person who shields him from them." Tasha appears to have taken after her dreamy and restless father. But, while their bucolic and nostalgic upbringing was like something out of, shall we say, a picture book, Tudor's own children seem to have resented being raised like prairie pioneers with a New England twist (for a time, they even lived without electricity) and just wanted to be like normal kids. Embattled over her $2 million estate (Tudor died in 2008), they differ wildly in their memories of childhood. Tudor reportedly could be a controlling parent, an often neglectful one, and one who was wont to play her children off of one another. With the exception of her eldest son (who built her a careful replica of a 1740s house she had admired in Concord, N.H., using only hand tools—and the one the other siblings felt manipulated their mom), Tudor basically cut her "estranged" offspring out of her will. Legal costs were eating up the assets and one daughter was living in a trailer park in Brattleboro, Vermont, which is one of the most sadly ironic things I've heard in a very long time. (Tudor's two sons eventually settled out of court for an undisclosed sum and with undivulged terms. There seems to have been no mention of the daughters.) There were 13 cases of Chidlren* (for children*) in OhioLINK this morning, and 685 in WorldCat.

(Tasha Tudor and her Welsh Corgi dogs, taken from the Web.)

Carol Reid

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