New York Times bestselling author Cynthia Freeman’s powerful tale of a woman in search of her sacred heritage, who must decide how much she is willing to sacrifice for love
Nineteen-year-old Janet Stevens leaves Wichita, Kansas, for New York—and a glamorous career as a model. Manhattan in the 1950s is a heady place for a sheltered Midwesterner. A new friend helps her discover her forefathers’ faith, but from the moment she sees Bill McNeil at a party, Janet senses she’s found her future. When they marry, she believes she’s finally gotten what she always wanted—not fame or fortune, but the love that will fulfill and sustain her as nothing else ever could.
From the passionate throes of youth to the stings and shocks of middle age, Come Pour the Wine draws a brilliant portrait of a marriage and a family in search of its roots, written with Cynthia Freeman’s trademark insight and compassion.
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Come Pour the Wine
By Cynthia Freeman
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1980 Cynthia Freeman Enterprises, Inc.
All rights reserved.
JAPAN ORIENT LINES
S.S. Eastern Pearl
April 19, 1981
It hardly seems possible that two years have passed since we said good-by, but what a time this has been.
You and I have shared a great part of our lives together ... perhaps the most important events. Now we also share the joy of two grandchildren, and I thank God that your son Mark and my Nicole were destined to give us that happiness. I received the pictures of our youngest grandchild, Eden. Need I say how full my heart is?
I sit here devouring the magical sight before me. Today the blue Pacific is calm and serene. Her mood matches mine. Oh, dear Kit, if only I were able to articulate the gift of love that is mine, the joys and the wonders I have seen. Since we have been away I've had time for deep introspection and have definitely decided that this is the best time of my life.
Last month I turned forty-seven and I have more vitality than I did at twenty-seven and surely a greater appreciation of what life is all about. Why do we fear growing older? I, for one, am certain that if offered the chance to go back to the uncertainties and frustrations of my twenties I would refuse. Love at this age is so much better, more gentle, more tender, the thrill—yes, and I don't apologize for the word—even greater. The tempestuous urgency may be gone, but the need for love is just as great. And the fulfillment is greater, since nothing needs to be proven any longer. The time for testing is over, and now the years I hope we'll be blessed with can be savored.
I've seen the Taj Mahal, the ancient bazaars of Tunis, the pyramids of Egypt, the shrines of Jerusalem, the beaches of Tahiti—but best of all, I have discovered a new world within myself that I might never have known had I refused to pour the wine of life. The world seems to move on and on, round and round. And if we learned the importance of moving with it, at the end we would surely be able to say we had truly lived, that the excursion had been worth every moment.
My life is so full that if I sound terribly romantic, you are quite right. Yesterday we left Honolulu. It was paradise. We danced, as they say, 'til dawn, made love in the fragrant night, swam in the surf. The sensation of gliding between the giant waves is incredible. Who said second honeymoons aren't better? I never thought anything like this could or would ever happen to me.
I'm not quite sure when we will be home. Neither of us seem quite ready for that, but eventually home we must go, and when we do, these memories will be stored away in a very safe place where few are permitted—in my heart. Until the next port of call, dearest Kit, as always I remain with abounding love,
Janet put down the letter case and lay back in her deck chair to gaze out into the glorious mixture of sun and sea in the distance. Closing her eyes, she gave way to total relaxation. Why were people so frightened of growing older, more mature, she wondered? Between youth and middle age there should be no cul-de-sacs, no blind alleys. Getting on with life should merely be a continuing process, but somehow people were not prepared. What a pity. It should have been taught from the cradle that youth was a temporary condition from which one recovered. No, if Janet were offered the chance to relive the frustrations and uncertainties of being young again she would reject it. Indeed, she would.
Her memory wandered back through time, back to 1953. She could remember so vividly that eager, excited, naive nineteen-year-old Janet Stevens, late of Wichita, Kansas, standing at the airport saying a tearful good-by to her mother and father, family and friends. How pathetic and unsure she had looked as she boarded the plane, holding a bouquet of red roses held together by the wide red satin bow and streamers in one hand and a large box of candy in the other.
As she waved good-by from the top of the stairs it didn't enter her mind how much this one special day would change her life, that it would never be the same. All she knew or thought about was that at long last she had captured what she had dreamed of for so long. She was on her way to New York to pursue the career she had been preparing for since she could remember. Janet Stevens was going to be a famous high-fashion model....
The first night she registered at a hotel on 59th Street near Fifth Avenue. It was quiet and most respectable, and her mother had selected it very carefully through the travel agent back home. But what Janet really wanted was the flavor of Greenwich Village, where she could live the Bohemian life she had heard so much about. It would not meet with her parents' approval, she was sure, but once she was settled she was sure her mother and father would understand.
She woke early the next morning and eagerly set out to explore the city. New York was overwhelming and intoxicating. She walked along the streets like Alice in Wonderland, peering up at the tall buildings that seemed to embrace the sky. There was an energy and excitement that permeated the air. As she left the uptown area, however, and gradually worked her way down to Greenwich Village, her spirits began to fall. For all her fantasies about the quaint cobblestoned streets of the Village, the reality turned out to be squalid and depressing, unlike anything she had ever seen or imagined. The bearded and sandaled Bohemians she had envisioned were unkempt, ravaged-looking people who huddled together in coffee houses, reciting incomprehensible beat poems to a tuneless guitar accompaniment. Men wearing wigs, rouge and mascara loitered in the streets and doorways. Women with gray fedoras and pin-striped suits swaggered about, and prostitutes, pushers and would-be poets wandered the Village in a marijuana high. The street-corner musicians playing exotic instruments only added to the grotesque carnival atmosphere, and Janet began to feel panicked. This was a nightmare that she couldn't escape fast enough.
Frightened and shattered, she cried behind a locked door in her hotel room. Maybe she should never have left home ... But to go back now would be too great a defeat. Her parents had asked her to wait a year or so but she had persuaded them that the time was now. It wasn't just that she was eager to get started but also that a young age was basic in establishing herself as a model with a future. After all, it was a business in which one's career lasted only as long as one's looks.
The next morning she looked through the classified section of The New York Times ... "Lovely, sunny furnished apartment on West 53rd Street." It sounded promising, but her heart sank when she arrived at the building that afternoon and the super showed her the apartment. It was dark and looked out to a faded brick wall. The sofa and matching velour chairs were a bilious green and the carpet, once rosy red, was now orange and threadbare. The kitchenette was barely large enough to accommodate a midget, but worst of all, in a way, was the grease that clung to the walls. The porcelain washbasin was worn down to the gray metal. The only redeeming feature was the rent: $65 a month without utilities.
She returned to the living room, where the super waited impatiently.
"Where is the bedroom?" Janet asked uneasily.
"You're standing in it."
"But ... I thought the ad read three rooms."
"It is—a kitchen, a living room and bathroom. What do you want, the Waldorf Towers?"
No, at this moment she wanted her wood-framed home in Wichita, with the crisp organdy curtains at her bedroom windows and the fragrant sheets that Effie ironed so meticulously and the rose garden and the porch and ... Lord, why had she ever imagined she was ready for New York?
"Look, girlie, do you want it or not? I ain't got all day."
On the verge of tears, she said, "I've just come to New York, can I ask you a question—?"
"Is this pretty much like most furnished apartments?"
"Unless you want to move up to Riverside Drive or Central Park West. But this is what you get for sixty-five dollars a month."
Well, there was no debate. Of course, she could write home for a larger allowance ... She had devised a budget that seemed enormous back in Wichita, but honor was honor—not to mention pride—and this would have to do until she was able to sustain herself on a slightly grander scale.
Sighing, she said, "I'll take it."
"Any cats, dogs?"
"That will be two months' rent in advance."
"But I thought it was rented by the month."
"It is, but I got to get a cleaning fee."
"I'll clean it."
"You can do anything you want, but I still got to get a cleaning fee."
When Janet moved in, there was little indication that the cleaning fee had been put to use. She bought a mop, a scrub brush, cleaning detergent, Bon Ami and window solution, then scrubbed until her knuckles wore through the rubber gloves. Her hands were raw. If only Effie could see her now....
The first night she lay awake on the uncomfortable couch, listening to the dripping faucets and the pounding steam pipes. The tenant above her practiced on the piano until midnight, and she could smell the odor of cabbage and other unidentifiable delicacies when the painter across the hall clattered about his kitchen to prepare his one A.M. dinners.
She cried herself to sleep....
The next morning she sat in Schrafft's, having a cup of hot chocolate. She felt alien and disconnected. Should she go home and admit she'd been overwhelmed by the reality of her childhood dreams or should she stop feeling sorry for herself and go to Powers to take the modeling course? The decision had to be made today since she was scheduled for an interview. You'll get used to it, Janet. It's just a whole new world you've entered and you're not giving it a chance. Forget Kansas and the hollyhocks.
Janet sitting on her deck chair of the S.S. Eastern Pearl of the Japan Orient Lines, in the middle of the Pacific, could laugh benignly at the Janet of yesterday. Hard to believe how those two Janets had merged into one. How strange. When this older Janet looked back she saw in her mind's eye that timid young woman of nineteen picking up her portfolio and leaving Schrafft's with a million trepidations....
She sat in the office of Miss Phillips, the director of Powers, waiting nervously while her stills were being scrutinized.
"Would you mind standing, Miss Stevens?"
She stood quickly and obediently.
Miss Phillips gave her a long look from head to toe. "Would you turn sideways, please ... Lean a little forward to the left ... Now, would you turn around ... Very good."
She was asked to be seated again and her heart pounded when Miss Phillips took out a folder and dictated to her secretary all the information pertaining to the agency's requirements.
Height —5', 7"
Weight —100 lbs.
Color —Deep violet to blue
Hair —Thick, shoulder length
Color —Amber to brown
Cheekbones —High and extraordinarily sculptured
Contours —Reflect light and shadow uniquely
Skin —Clear, transparent, bordering on alabaster tones
Classification: Wholesome, sense of style and fashion, has enormous potential
Shy, but energetic and will evolve with sufficient aggressiveness Goals—High-fashion model
When the secretary had finished, the director of Powers stood and extended her hand to Janet. "We're very happy to have you with us, Miss Stevens. I have high hopes for you."
Janet almost fainted. And if this wasn't enough to lift her spirits after her uncertain welcome to New York, after eight weeks of instruction at Powers, she was ready to sign with an agency. She was on cloud nine when she was accepted by Conover, one of the most important modeling agencies in the world.
But being a model wasn't quite the glamorous, exciting profession that people thought it was, she soon discovered. The pace was so grueling she had neither the time nor the inclination to add on a social life. By the end of the day she was often so exhausted she skipped dinner, showered and collapsed into bed by seven. Each day began at six in the morning, when she rose and dressed in the uniform of all models. She would zip up the back of her black shift, adjust the small straw hat, step into the high- heeled patent pumps and leave her room with the ever-present portfolio under her arm and a heavy tote bag. She was aware that her glamorous appearance brought whistles from construction workers or looks from young aspirants who wished that they too could some day be a part of what they imagined was her exciting world ... If only they knew, thought Janet, that her life consisted of running from one assignment to the next or waiting nervously by the phone and hoping to be called for an assignment. No indeed, modeling wasn't quite what she had dreamed it would be. It meant going to an interview and often waiting with a half dozen other girls for hours, only to be told that somebody else had been selected. She was beginning to become disenchanted with hailing cabs in snowstorms, or getting on a stuffy, crowded bus in the sweltering heat. All the models she knew were striving for the greatest possible exposure and recognition, but Janet was discovering that hers was a temperament that didn't seem to require such great acclaim. Perhaps it was that lack of eagerness that made it appear she was overly selective, a quality her peers resented. They labeled her a snob, and because she was shy and lacked the New York savvy of the people she met she was able to make few to no friends.
Still, though her social life might be all but nonexistent, she was doing well professionally. Within a very short time she had become a face that was recognized in the industry and top photographers were beginning to ask for her. Imagine, Janet Stevens ...
She found herself being helped into Christian Dior, Oleg Cassini and Chanel creations and being whisked away to pose in front of the cameras with a fan gently blowing her hair and billowing her gown seductively against her body.
In spite of the things she disliked about modeling, these moments of make-believe lifted her. And, to be honest, it was difficult not to succumb to near intoxication when she saw herself for the first time on the covers of Vogue and Harper's Bazaar. Her heart skipped a beat, her pulse quickened as she stood in her capris and cotton shirt at the newsstand looking at the face ... her face ... on the covers of the magazines. Yet for all her pleasure there was also a residue of embarrassment that went back to her Kansas upbringing ... vanity ... beauty was inherited, God-given, not manufactured. Beauty shone from the heart ... Those sage tidbits made her happy that no one recognized her as they picked up the magazine from the newsstand and paid for it without a glance in her direction.
Embarrassed or not, that day she walked through the streets of Manhattan five feet off the ground. But the sensation did not sustain her for long, there seemed to be so much missing in her life ...
Although her days were filled, the nights were long and lonely. At times she wondered what she was proving and why she went on. Yet she was unable to convince herself that the thing to do was go home. That indecision kept her on an emotional seesaw, that and her loneliness. A part of her wanted this life and another part longed for Kansas, love and family, reassurance and stability.
Sundays were the worst. She dreaded the prospect of week's end....
Janet woke and lay listlessly. She sighed. Sunday ... What was there to get out of bed for? Her gaze wandered around the room. The sight of it depressed her. Sunday in Kansas ...
Quickly she got up and went to the bathroom. As the tub filled she brushed her teeth. What are you going to do today, Janet? she asked the reflection in the mirror. She sighed and answered the echo in the silent room, I don't know ... I really don't know. Immersing herself in the soothing water, she took a bar of scented soap in her hands and watched as the lather became iridescent tiny bubbles. She blew on them and watched as they floated in midair. Somewhat like you, isn't it? It's pretty, but soon it will burst and disintegrate and—
Oh come on, Janet, stop feeling sorry for yourself, this is what you dreamed of. You couldn't wait, remember?
Yes, but I had no idea what I was giving up. I didn't realize I'd be so lonely, I only thought about the excitement and glamor ... well, it isn't exciting or glamorous and I'm not the most adventuresome person in the world ...
True, but on the other hand you have to sacrifice something to achieve what you gained.
What have I gained?
A position most girls would give their eyeteeth for ... remember the feeling of seeing your face stare back at you on the cover of—
I remember and I'm still lonely, so I guess it didn't really mean that much ...
Excerpted from Come Pour the Wine by Cynthia Freeman. Copyright © 1980 Cynthia Freeman Enterprises, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I enjoyed the book. At times though it was exactly like another book writtenby this author. So that was disappointing
Read this book years ago, long before digital reads were available. Love Cynthia Freeman and throughly enjoyed this book. Would highly recommend for a good read.
Read this book years ago and it was one of my very favorites. Going to read it again...
once the foundation of the lending library book clubs and the book of the month clubs not a romance regency but modern modest though can go historical u s a like drums along the mohawk true a little more s__x editors demand it now but much like a steel benchly etc