My Expat Friend

I met Linda Montgomery through the American Women’s Organization in Moscow, Russia.  I was editor of the newsletter and I could always count on her for an article or two.  We became friends and kept in touch.  She sends out an email from time to time about what she is doing.  I received my previous post on Helen Thomas from her and re-posted it.  Linda also sent me some information about herself and I am including it here.   Please be sure to read both of them!

Linda and husband Dave in Moscow

Linda and husband Dave in Moscow

I’m a native Texan, born in 1947…one of the original Baby Boomers, which meant that my demographic was the one that swelled school populations so much that old Army barracks were used as additional classrooms until new schools were built. Now we’re being blamed for bankrupting Social Security…I guess not enough of us died before retirement age.

My father was a journalist who worked for UPI the majority of his career, then was editor of the Editorial page at the Fort Worth Star Telegram the last couple of years before retirement. As you know, I married a journalist, and from my ode to Helen, you know I never had any other aspirations in life. The truth is I never wanted to marry. I was serious about getting to Washington, and I did, eventually, but with a husband and two kids in tow, and it was his career, not mine that got us there.

After college, I worked for the Dallas Times Herald and covered everything from obits the first few weeks, to the murder/suicide of a prominent Dallas architect and socialite. It was undoubtedly the happiest year of my life. I was young, single, doing what I had always wanted to do and was good at it. The Herald was an afternoon paper with early deadlines, so after we finished working on the next day’s copy, a group of grumbly old veteran reporters and I would retire to the bar across the street to tell tales of scandals and news stories from long ago. I listened, in rapture, until Dave took me away to become a married woman. There was a nepotism rule at the paper, meaning no married couples could work there at the same time, so one of us had to go. My City Editor tried to talk me into living with Dave, rather than marrying him, but in the late 1960’s, that just wasn’t done, at least not in the South.

After our wedding, I worked as PR Director for a Dallas College and hated it. I wrote press releases every day so I could go to the paper and hang out. I quit after a year and took a position with a Dallas advertising agency in their Public Relations department. That wasn’t good, either. Finally I left daily work and freelanced for several magazines. I was also the Dallas stringer for Hill & Knowlton, the largest PR firm in New York, and did outside assignments for various agencies, including one on Hurricane Carla for the Insurance Board. That was fun…you know how journalists love to cover disasters!

We moved to Washington D.C. In January, 1981, just as Reagan was taking office. Dave had to go right to work, but the kids and I had a bird’s eye view of the biggest show in town. Every limousine on the East Coast had been rented and sent to Washington for the inaugural, and it was wild watching the traffic jams with VIP’s trying to out-prestige one another.

I didn’t do much work for pay the next decade, but began writing friends and family in what would much later be called a “blog” before there was such a thing. I was especially prolific after we moved to Moscow in 1998, and I could no longer use the telephone to communicate. Life was so strange and different there. It gave me enough copy to last a lifetime. I wrote virtually every day and as my friends and family passed my letters around, my “audience” grew. From an initial contact list of ten or so, I had more than 50 people getting my daily updates from Russia by the time we left almost four years later.

The only paid freelance job I had in Moscow was an article for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. I forget what the pay was, but whatever it was, I know it disappeared at Ismailovo the next weekend. However, I did continue to publish stories in newsletters for both the American Women’s Organization and the International Women’s Club.

When we returned to Washington D.C. In 2002, I felt a sense of loss that was completely unfamiliar. I had never lived overseas before, and probably would not get a chance to do so again, but the experience in Russia had been life altering. I couldn’t get Russia out of my head. The decompression took a lot longer than I imagined. It was nice to drive a car again, great to have my independence back, wonderful to be able to speak to and understand everyone again, but there were so many other things I missed. I was having such a difficult time adjusting that a friend suggested that I write a book about my time in Russia. Before long, I had four chapters written just from memories of our arrival in 1998.

The project was shelved when life intruded once again. The very fact that we had to live somewhere, eat something, wear clean clothes, drive and refuel cars, contact relatives, visit sick friends and correspond with bill and tax collectors, bank depositors and middle management of every bureaucracy known to man, took more time and attention than it should have.

By 2008 I had lost both my parents and Dave was getting tired of his 56 mile round trip commute downtown from the house we found in Centreville. Inflation had moved in since we left Washington and we couldn’t even afford to buy our old house again. An opportunity came up to take back his old position in Austin as Bureau Chief for the newspaper. It was a different paper from the one he had worked for before, but the job was the same. We jumped at the chance to get back to Austin and out of Washington’s obsessive Type A behavior and moved in before Christmas.

While recuperating from back surgery, I needed something different to do than reading and watching the infernal television, so I joined Ancestry.com online and researched my genealogy. I found a patriot who supplied guns from his foundry in Fredericksburg, Virginia, to the Revolutionary War soldiers, making me eligible to join that venerable institution, the Daughters of the American Revolution. Had you told me in my youth I’d be joining that group someday, I would have argued with you to the grave. But I love history, believe in historic preservation, and knew of no international groups to join in the middle of Central Texas.

Within a year as a member of one of the state’s founding chapter’s (1899), I had started their first newsletter. I never know when to stop. I’m now knee-deep in writing about DAR projects, historical preservation, the wonderful old home we meet in, and some of the 300 members of my chapter. I started something they all love and, of course, want more of, so I dug my own hole and am stuck in it.

The other volunteer work I got into in Austin came about with our two rescued dogs. Both are Scotties, which we have had before, and I decided to get into Scottie Rescue rather than buy puppies from breeders  from now on. I like the people involved and started doing home visits for Scottie adoptions. As our Scottie friend base grew, we met people who published monthly catalogues, magazines and updates on Scottie care. Yes, I’m now writing for them, too.

I hope to get back to the book someday, but am happy with the projects I’m involved in with my writing these days, too. On down days, I still reflect on what might have been, and there have been moments when I wished Dave and I could have switched roles, but no one has the power to change such things, and it’s futile to focus on what didn’t happen. I love the short but brilliant times I had in the newsroom, and am grateful for that. Some people never reach a goal like that, but I did and can be proud that I made it to the top, even if I didn’t stay long.

Dave keeps telling me to tell you about how I worked for the Texas Business Press Magazine, Texas Homes, had a column on historic homes in that magazine, and how I lectured a journalism class on invitation a couple of times. When I quit the job at the college because I couldn’t take the boredom any more, the Editor of the Dallas Times Herald asked if I would be interested in taking a job as Press Secretary for a cantankerous but successful businessman in Dallas in 1972. I was unemployed and agreed.

My boss turned out to be Bill Clements, who later became Governor of Texas, and he was the State Chairman of the Committee to Re-Elect the President…Nixon’s team! While my friends expressed their political horror, I asked if any of them wanted to pay my salary. That stopped the conversation. Clements was a cantankerous old oilman who was bright, outspoken to the point of being rude, and sassy but he was also loyal, a good businessman and truly convinced he could help the state and country he loved so well. We got along famously. Known for his quick judgments, I wondered how it would work but he liked me from the beginning and we had a close, personal relationship that lasted until his death a few short years ago. He never quite trusted Dave, since he was a journalist, but always trusted me and my judgment. I miss him, too.