MY SISTER AND I REMEMBER STILL, and always will, the joy that best defines the years we shared with our father, Tom Clark, and mother, Mary Ramsey. We were a happy family, but not in the same way as all happy families.
The principal source of our happiness, if I can identify it, was a sense felt by all four that we were involved, each in our own way, in a cause that was of overriding importance to other interests we might have. That cause, even when we didn’t know what he was doing, was Dad’s career. And apparently the major reason, entirely subjective, we felt the cause was of such great importance was the diligence with which Dad pursued it. That pursuit, in our case, was tempered by his clear and excessive love for each of us and by his always good nature, which tended to bring out the same in us.
Indeed, all our years were afflicted by only one profound—and for our parents, enduring—sadness, the death of their firstborn, Tommy, at age six. Mother was devastated. One of my earliest (I was three) and most troubling memories is of mother’s absence for what seemed a long time, their bedroom darkened and empty in the daytime, then later still darkened in the daytime with mother in bed. Mother often said to me, even in her last years, that Mimi’s birth some fifteen months after Tommy’s death saved her life. The birth of a healthy baby is a source of joy that makes the deepest sorrow seem selfish.
Our happiness was free of anger. I do not recall a single family incident or disagreement that brought distress, shouts, tears, punishment, or even a sense of unfairness. Important decisions were the prerogative of the parents. We seemed to resolve differences, which involved only minor matters—where to eat on the rare occasions when we went out, or what to do on a free weekend—by who was most determined to have his or her way. Mimi, though the smallest, was a tenacious contender when she