These essays—or as Sydney Williams calls them: “musings”—are evocative of a time and a place—of growing up in a New Hampshire village in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Sydney Williams was the second of nine children whose parents were sculptors and who was raised on a small farm, with horses, goats and chickens—an unconventional life in an unconventional place, but during a conventional time. Williams left Peterborough in 1956 to go off to school, yet his bonds to Peterborough persist. His brother Willard owns and manages the Toadstool. Besides Willard, three sisters—Betsy, Charlotte and Jenny—live nearby.
Sydney lives with his wife Caroline in Old Lyme Connecticut.
Reflections of a moment or a day, reminiscences of family, acquaintances, and events, these essays open a window on life in mid twentieth-century rural New Hampshire. While the time period could be called conventional, Williams’ family was anything but. His parents, both sculptors, chose to rear and nurture their brood of nine in a tiny farmhouse. You’ll read about the Shetland pony that joined the family’s Christmas celebrations; about impromptu days taken off from school to ski; about starting a rubber toy business; about learning the value of charity from an older sister’s founding of a circus and the value of compassion from a younger brother’s struggle with disabilities. Throughout the book, Williams ties his personal experiences to events in the wider world—his father’s return from war on V-J Day; a neighbor’s reaction to the ban on school prayer; the significance of Memorial Day celebrations to different generations—and to the events of his later life, including deaths, births, marital stresses, and school and family reunions.
Williams left home for boarding school at the age of fifteen, and he writes, “While Peterborough was still home, it would never be quite the same. As we live it, childhood seems to last forever. It is only when we are older that we realize how fleeting that time was. But, there is no question that we become who we are largely because of those early years. . . .”
With this book, Williams shares that fleeting time with us—and we are all the better for it.
A poignant, telling, lovely memoir by a caring member of a quintessential New England family. Reading this made me realize that each of us should take the time to “revisit” our personal past, to contemplate what has been and what can be, and to understand the idiosyncrasies and varied characteristics that comprise everyone’s family. Sydney Williams writes with charm, clarity and historical and literary perspective in this, his first book.
author of The Baby Boom: How it Got That Way
In One Man’s Family, Sydney Williams captures the true spirit of small-town New Hampshire. With his thoughtful memories he opens the doors of relations, community, and economic transition that have turned the mountains and forests of the Northeast into what we love today. Visitors and residents alike will treasure this inside look at the Monadnock Region.
CEO, The Onion—America’s Finest News Source
For years I have jump-started my day by reading Sydney Williams’ trenchant observations on everything from the sorry state of politics to the perplexing state of the economy. But I have to confess that my most enjoyable wake-up call comes when I find one of Sydney’s ‘musings’ about growing up in a big family in rural New Hampshire. His writing reminds me of what I loved about reading and re-reading Russell Baker’s autobiography, Growing Up. It’s not fancy, it’s just true. And in that truth lies pure pleasure.
Sydney calls these stories “musings.” They are more than that. They are episodes of lives lived fully, with love and caring, and a sense of adventure. There are family photographs, too. Those rare ones you look at, and smile, and wish you had been a part of.
American Thinker, Military Press
One Man’s Family is a history lesson of the 1940s to the present day, centered around real people, not names from a text book. It is a nostalgic look down memory lane at a time that was simpler and less complicated. It is a journal for this generation about how things used to be. But most importantly it reminds us of the importance of the love and support to be gained from family.