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#1762: Willa Cather to Helen Sherman McNeny, January 5 [1935]

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⬩W⬩S⬩C⬩ My Dear Nell1;

What a frightful time you must have had just before Christmas!! If there is any worse pain than a mastoid3 process, I don’t know it. I have been thinking of you so often since Helen’s4 letter came; thinking of you especially on my way to and from hospitals. I never knew such a Christmas for accidents. On December 10th one of my oldest and dearest friends5, a professional pianist, fell through a concealed stairway in a country house where she was visiting and broke her arm and shoulder. Noone can say yet whether she will ever be able to play again. A few days later my stnographer6 broke her ankle, skating. At the same time Alma Gluck7 went through such a very major surgical operation that she says she is more absent than present. For the last month I have often wished that the hospitals of New York2 lay close together. I became as frightened at the sight of a telegraph boy at the door as I used to be when Mother8 was ill. You seem to have made a quicker recovery that most of my friends; the others are still in casts, or have tubes in them. I am sure Mac9 would say that is because the air in Nebraska10 is better!

When Elsie11 started for Bladen12 in her car, and our papers were at the same time full of ‘Blizzard in Nebraska’, I did feel pretty anxious. I didn’t hear from her for a week after she started, and I knew she would have a hard time out there in the snow. She didn’t have time to telegraph me until after the funeral13. She had written me since that the peaceful way in ⬩W⬩S⬩C⬩everything ended was a real comfort to her, and that she has had a real rest during the vacation. Elsie did the duty of all seven of us14, and I know we will always be grateful to her.

I wish I could drop down into Red Cloud15 for a week and see all my friends. So much has happened since I was there last. I want so much to see your grandchildren16, though I cannot get used to the idea that you are a grandmother. On the contrary, you seem to me [illegible] about thirty, and kittenish for your age. You do, honestly, and you needn’t toss your chin, for it’s a compliment I’m making you. It’s a kindness to the community when people, especially women, can keep young and spirited as you have. I’m sure neither your eyes or your figure will ever change. And then, as Mother used to murmur with a slight sigh of envy, “All the Shermans had nice noses to begin with.” A nice nose goes a long way in this world, and it’s the one feature that never changes: if one ‘begins’ with it, as mother said, one ends with it. A good nose may grow better with years, (I’ve seen it happen) but it can never grow worse, unless a windshield slices it.

The McNenys seem to save all their illnesses for the merry Yuletide, and as that is now past, according to the Church calendar17, I have reason to hope that you will all be well and happy for another year. My love to you all, and every good wish in the world,

Affectionately Willa Cather

Excuse the typewriter, please. Most of my friends prefer it to my script.