This week I am sharing a conversation I recently had with Davida, the main character in my novel, Davida: Model & Mistress of Augustus Saint-Gaudens. This is a biographical novel based on the love affair between my great-grandparents. If I could sit down with my great-grandmother today, this is how I imagine our conversation might take place.
Karen: "I am so happy to finally meet you in person. I have dreamed about you and tried to imagine the life you had."
Davida: "You have been a wonderful granddaughter to my son, Louis and to me, your great-grandmother."
Karen: "There is so little known about you so I have many questions, if you do not mind. First, what is your birth name?"
Davida: "My birth name was Albertina Hultgren and I was born in Stockholm, Sweden."
Karen: "Oh my goodness. I had your correct name, but not your birthplace."
Davida: "My life in Stockholm was very harsh and difficult. My recently widowed mother had to marry Mr. Hallgren so we would have a home in which to live and food to eat." Davida pauses and wipes a tear that is gently falling down her cheek. "I was with you every time you were writing your story. You may not know it but I was whispering ideas in your head of the way I wanted my life to be as a child and young girl."
Karen: "So many times as I was writing I felt like I was transported to a different time and place. The words just flowed off my fingertips onto the keyboard. It was all very magical and beautiful." The room grows quiet as Karen takes in all that has just been revealed. "I could not find any record of your arrival into the United States. How did you get here?"
Davida: "Mother worked as a cook for a very wealthy family in Stockholm besides running the house of Mr. Hallgren. She would hear such exciting stories about America from her employer that she soon realized this was where she and I needed to go." With a smile on her face and light in her eyes, Davida continued, "Mother kept hiding some money over several years until she had enough for us to board a freighter that was going to Canada. From New Brunswick Mother and I made our way to New York City."
Karen: "That was a long journey for two women to travel alone."
Davida: "Yes, we had some fearful times. Mother was very beautiful, but very strong physically and emotionally. She kept us safe and was very smart how to manage our frugal situation. Once we were in New York, Mother got a job as the cook for the Saint-Gaudens' home and that is how he and I met."
Karen: "Your love story is so beautiful. It is too bad that it was in the late 1800's when the morality of such a love affair was not acceptable. My heart goes out to my grandfather who suffered his whole life as the "bastard child" and to you and Gus who were never able to marry."
Davida: "Louis was always a sweet and gentle child who continued to be that way as a man. He grew up without a strong male role model and I think he had ill-feelings towards his father, Gus for not leaving his wife and marry me. Gus had a difficult choice to make and as much as it hurt, I think he made the right one."
Karen: "My sister, Joan and I loved our grandparents very much. They were very important to us and helped us through some difficult times. As an adult now I see that Pa (Louis) never learned how to be a father, and therefore his sons did not learn it either."
Davida: "I loved Gus with all my heart and was always faithful to him. I did the best I could raising Louis basically alone. Gus provided for us financially and he loved us, but art was his 'real mistress.'"
Karen: "I have so many more questions and things to say. Perhaps you could come back someday soon and we will visit some more. You are everything I dreamed you to be and I love you."
Davida: "I am always with you, Karen. We will get together again soon."
Davida: Model & Mistress of Augustus Saint-Gaudens is available at goo.gl/68D6QT.
Or, order signed paperback copy for $4.99 from firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please check out the video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FNLHvrnlqRY&feature=youtu.be