One Man’s Family

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Sydney M. Williams, III

160 pp., 6 x 9, Gatefold paperback


June 2014

Category: Books


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.

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