You're back again. What a lucky day!" a little boy came up to say to Dr. Tenley Albright Gardiner last December at the Skating Club of Boston. Tenley had found half an hour, as she manages to perhaps three times a week, to satisfy the need "just to get my feet on the ice," and she sat lacing up her skates at the rink where for years she had come to practice at 4 in the morning. Necessity dictated odd hours then and necessity dictates odd hours now. Ten-ley, with the responsibilities of wife, mother and surgeon, has to skate when the responsibilities permit, and she is likely to be practicing her camel spins during children's hours—Tenley and the 5-year-olds. Children approached her now to ask where her daughter Lilla was, to ask for advice, to tell Tenley how they were doing, to look.
"One of the boys said to me the other day, 'Tenley, do you know that Sjoukje Dijkstra is 22 years old and she's still skating?' Oof," Tenley said. She tied her laces and swept off, skating with her old grace, impeccable, and fitting very neatly, at 29, into a skating dress her grandmother had made for her some 10 years ago.
It was, in fact, 10 years ago this month that Tenley Albright of Newton Centre, Mass. won the world figure-skating championship in Vienna for the second time. She won it with a first from all nine judges in both phases of the competition (only those familiar with the mad individuality of figure-skating judges will appreciate this), and the following year she won the Olympic gold medal at Cortina. She had spent that summer taking extra courses, in order to get leave from Radcliffe for the 1956 Olympics, and in the fall she put in every hour she could on the ice. She suspected it would be her last Olympics and she was not planning to botch it. She didn't.
Tenley remains in the minds of many people our most accomplished and impressive champion. A well-bred young lady, she was nevertheless a real competitor, as steely as she was gracious. Her style was distinguished, a technical proficiency rounded by a dancer's training and sensitivity and marked by taste and intellect. "Tenley skates with her head," her old coach, Willie Frick, once said, which was true, even if it failed to convey Tenley's charm upon the ice.
February 8, 1965
"It's hard for me to remember when some things were," Tenley mused recently, trying to recall a particular date. "It all seems like yesterday." It seems like yesterday to many Americans older than 20, and time, in this case, will probably continue to be telescoped. With the loss of the entire U.S. skating team in a 1961 airplane crash in Belgium, American figure skating virtually ceased to exist. The American youngsters who will supersede Tenley in people's minds have not appeared, possibly have not been born, even yet.
If Tenley had cared to she could have continued to compete, turned professional or simply retired with her laurels. She chose instead to go to Harvard Medical School, and Harvard chose to admit her in 1957 after only three years of pre-medical work at Radcliffe—three years punctuated by long absences—instead of the customary four. Harvard was right in assuming her capable and ready. It is probably true to some extent that the remarkable habits of discipline acquired during her years of competitive skating stood Tenley in good stead at Harvard; all medical students could use a capacity for seven or eight hours of intense concentration and a habit of getting up at 4 in the morning.
A first-grade teacher, Marion Proctor, remembers Tenley at 6 coming to her in tears. "I said, 'What's the matter, Tenley?' and Tenley said, 'I made a mistake.' She held out a paper, perfect except that she had forgotten to capitalize the A in Albright. I told her that it wasn't the end of the world, that we could throw the paper away, and she said, 'No, it's wartime.' So I said, 'Well, let's turn the paper over.' 'But the mistake will still be on the other side.' Finally I said that we could erase it, and that seemed to be the most acceptable solution, but she said, 'I still would have made a mistake.' " Obviously, Tenley—uncompromising in her demands upon herself—was born and not made. Harvard could have admitted her when she was 9.
Tenley graduated from medical school in 1961 and is now in practice with her father, Dr. Hollis Albright, who is also a surgeon. She begins the day by getting her baby Lilla up, and then is off five mornings a week to operate, with office hours all the rest of Mondays and Fridays, and hospital rounds every other weekend. These take most of Saturday and Sunday, depending on the number of hospitals—there may be as many as four. In addition to the routine duty, there will be a paper to read at an AMA convention in Miami, a Biodynamics Luncheon at Harvard, a radio or television interview for the Christmas Seal Fund and her spare time she now devotes to work on a sports medicine project for Arthur D. Little Inc. in Cambridge, Mass. The results will be incorporated in a report to the Olympic Committee. It is an unwieldy task involving masses of uncoordinated material and research around the world. "My husband says," Tenley observes, 'When you have a normal day, will you let me know?' "
Tenley's surgery routinely involves such operations as appendectomies and cholecystectomies (removals of the gall bladder), and she has done amputations, subtotal thryoidectomies and, with a senior surgeon in attendance, a subtotal gastrectomy—the partial removal of the stomach, graduate work by any medical standards.
"There isn't any real exercise or practicing you do, apart from operating," Tenley says, "except perhaps cutting with your left hand or tying knots. You begin by holding a retractor for five hours. My first operation I held a retractor, and I was so far back I couldn't even see the operating field. Then they let you sponge, and then they let you put in one skin stitch, and by the time they let you really do something you can't wait to get in there. Surgery, I think, is all of medicine, plus a little bit more, and I love the idea of being able to do something well technically. Like working on a jump and then doing it higher."
A fondness for good technical work is a pleasing characteristic in a surgeon, and Tenley inspires confidence in other respects as well. She is serene, an attribute that has become all too rare, particularly in women. It is very becoming in a woman and a physician, as is Ten-ley's extraordinary kindness. All in all, one feels ready and willing to climb up on the table for Tenley to have at one's appendix.
It is not too uncommon today for a woman to be a doctor, so it is odd that people should be, as they are, fascinated that Tenley has succeeded in becoming Dr. Albright. Perhaps it is the rarity of a double excellence, or a double excellence spanning the physical and the intellectual. "Wasn't it tough, being a girl in Harvard Medical School?" people invariably ask, and Tenley, whose patience is perfect, answers that it was so tough for everyone that it didn't much matter whether you were a boy or a girl. "Why surgery?" they will want to know next, and Tenley can only say to that that she found herself more and more interested by her courses in it. "I had thought I would want to go into pediatrics, and at first I didn't myself approve of my interest in surgery," she adds. One interviewer—male—pressed on past the last question to inquire, "But isn't it awfully icky?" "My husband says it's all right, just as long as I don't discuss it at mealtime," Tenley told him.
Her husband, Tudor Gardiner, corroborates this and adds that he tries hard not to hear her talking on the telephone.
The Gardiners were married on New Year's Eve 1962. Tudor's father, the late William Tudor Gardiner, was for four years the governor of Maine; the Gardiners have a home in Maine, and it pleases Tudor to think of his as a Maine family: rum-drinking, Church-of-England state-of-Mainers rather than blue-nosed Massachusetts Bay Puritans, as he says, but he says it in the purest of Boston accents. The Gardiners are among the first families of Boston, and Tudor will, in fact, do nicely for a model of the proper Bostonian.
There is more to a proper Bostonian than family, school, dress and accent. It is difficult to describe, but probably the best way to recognize one is by the way he looks at you. Tudor Gardiner advances upon one with the stern, evaluative Bostonian eye. There is something about it that is reminiscent of the mother who called her daughter every day of her adult life to ask, "And what that is worthwhile have you accomplished today?" In the case of the Bostonian eye, however, the question is more inclusive. "What that is worthwhile are you?" it demands. To meet it is to undergo, early, the Day of Judgment.
Tudor, now 46, attended Groton and Harvard, from which he graduated sum-ma cum laude in classics in 1940. He delivered the Latin oration to his class, which included John F. Kennedy. He returned to Harvard after the war to go to law school, took his degree, passed the bar and practiced for four years until he decided to give up law for classical philology. He has obtained his master's and hopes soon to finish his thesis on Thucy-dides for his doctorate, though he is hampered because his time is much taken up, as Tenley puts it, "with having to be a trustee."
Through college, the war, the law and the philology, Tudor's great interest in amateur wrestling has persisted. "All the Gardiners are immense," one Harvard man has observed. "Immense! Tudor is a brute, and he wrestles." Thus in 1962, at the time of their marriage, Tudor, 43 to Tenley's 26, was a socially distinguished 43-year-old wrestling brute of a classical philologist. For those who wondered nervously whether Tenley was doing the right thing, she explained, "But that's just it, he's not a boy."
"On the other hand," Tudor himself added, "I am a good deal younger than Bernard Baruch." And this is fortunate, since from the beginning considerable matrimonial resilience has been required of him. A month after Tenley's graduation from Harvard she began her surgical residency at the Beverly Hospital in Beverly, 17 miles from Boston. She was on duty on the day first proposed for her wedding. The date was adjusted, and marriage and medicine have been a matter for mutual accommodation ever since.
"You know the honeymoon is supposed to be different from what your life will be like," Tenley says, "so we stayed home for two weeks. Then I was on duty at the hospital every other night and every other weekend. For six months I commuted, and for six months Tudor commuted, and then for six months we lived at Beverly, in four rooms in an abandoned pediatrics ward. Lilla had been born, and I wanted to be able to look in on her during the day." It would seem to be asking too much of any new husband to accept this kind of life, but a grave, conservative Tudor Gardiner? No, because that is another thing about the proper Bostonian: there is nothing of which he is incapable if the cause is worthy.
Tudor says of it all: "It wasn't bad, on the early nights. Some nights she would be off duty by 10 o'clock. But there would be the emergency calls at 3. I would be there taking care of the baby, and she would be upstairs with the bones sticking out and blood spurting and the police and the grieving family."
"Tudor, I thought you were happy there," Tenley put in.
"The conditions were roughly comparable," Tudor continued, "to those under which I lived on Okinawa."
"There was an emergency one night," Tenley said, "and I called Tudor and said, 'I won't be finished in time. Can you feed the baby?" I called later and asked, 'Did you give her her bottle?' and Tudor said, 'Yes. Now I am going to give her her cereal. If she doesn't eat it, I am going to.' Here's a picture of him when I got back."
Tenley produced an album with a photograph of a distinctly predawn Tudor, sitting haggard by the stove and the sterilizer. Through a slit of window between sill and shade the total blackness of 6 o'clock in the morning was pouring in.
The picture explains clearly enough why Tenley did not finish her residency in one uninterrupted four-year stretch. She has thus not taken her national boards yet, but, as her father says, "You don't have to be certified to practice surgery. You probably would to be chief of surgery in a hospital, but for Tenley now this is an individual approach to happiness and a useful life. She can be responsible to her family and is less pigeonholed with a lot of exacting demands." So as the arrangement stands Tenley can practice and operate, and Tudor is safely out of the pediatrics ward and back on Beacon Hill.
The Gardiners' house on Beacon Hill was built before the turn of the century as a ballroom for the house next door, and as such it presented a few problems. The least of them may be whether one refers to it as a house or an apartment. "Tudor calls it a room," Tenley says, and though the house has five floors, with an attic and a proper kitchen, it has not been possible to wholly disguise the ballroom. Of all that the Gardiners have done to break it up and make it a less intimidating living room, nothing has been more successful than their having produced Lilla, now 2, to run around half naked and hide under the chairs. "We named her Lilla because my mother used to be called Lilla Van—family Swedish for little friend," Tenley explained. "We had gone through all the family names, and the only one I liked was Rhys. But it's a boy's name, and Tudor said it had gone far enough, this naming girls with boys' names, so we named her Lilla Reece—Rhys Anglicized." Lilla Reece moved out from beneath a chair and dived under a table with the dispatch of a soldier under lire.
"When my father first saw this room he said, 'Tenley will have a good time jumping over the furniture in here,' " Tenley said, looking around. She was wearing her skating dress and seemed very young by the huge fireplace in the tapestried ex-ballroom. Tenley has a gift for the use of time; give her a small, triangular piece of it and she has a small triangular task that will fit. If the bit of time is too small to allow for changing clothes she will visit patients in her skating dress, dashing from a rink and a clinic for small skaters to the hospital, where she will decline offers to take her coat. She used her trip to the Olympics this year to visit clinics for sports medicine in Japan, and interview doctors from all over the world, whom she would otherwise have had difficulty reaching. She also skated with Japanese champions and donated a silver cup for the best lady free skater. ""It was a whole month," Tenley said, "the longest trip we've had since we've been married." She lunged for Lilla, who had craftily found the spot below the table that was most nearly inaccessible from all points of attack. Tenley extracted her and carried her off to bed.
It was Wednesday, Tudor's afternoon at the gym, and he would be late. When Tenley reappeared, wearing full-length hostess culottes, she asked doubtfully, "Can you drink port before dinner? Tudor usually takes care of cocktails." Ten-ley's lifetime alcoholic consumption can be calculated in tablespoons, and it has only been since she stopped competing that she has allowed herself coffee. She is wary of an inherited Swedish weakness for the latter, and speaks as though if she were not prudent she would end up an abandoned coffee addict.
When Tudor arrived, fresh-faced and glowing, he elected fruit juice and water and reported on his wrestling, which had gone well. "That's the trouble, at my age. You have a good workout and feel all exhilarated, and then you have to rest for a week." Tudor was not planning to rest for a week. He was planning to compete on the coming Saturday, his first serious competition in six years, in an open meet with the best young wrestlers in the Northeast.
"I feel very well," he said, looking ahead fearlessly. "Of course, you don't know until the draw—you might have only two matches, or you might have six long ones. I don't think I am capable of going for six long matches. It is a self-correcting situation, however. If you are tired your opponent is apt to oblige you by pinning you in two minutes."
Tudor judged his weight, for his 6 feet, to be about 220. "I think it is a good idea to eat lightly—my duty to my life insurance company. But I have always been a little overweight. I was always trying to play football, though I was never fast enough to get out of my own way. I held up the dummies. Any physical development that took place was due entirely to wrestling."
Was it pure love of football, then, that had kept Tudor at it? "No. I hated it. I did it because it was my duty. I felt that it was the moral responsibility of anybody big enough to go out for football. Somebody has to hold up those dummies.' In answer to a question about wrestlers' puffy ears Tudor graciously demonstrated a hold on Tenley, who had risen from her chair without being asked, and Tenley produced a medical explanation of the effects upon ears of being ground together, and it was time for dinner.
"I must warn you, Tenley said, "that the soup is not a first course. Tudor likes to eat lightly after he has been exercising, and he's fond of homemade soup." (Not homemade by Tenley, who will explain that she does not "indulge in cooking. I gave Lilla a melba toast round with peanut butter on it once, and Tudor said, 'Lilla, isn't your mother a good cook!' ")
The homemade soup and the salad and the sparkling Catawba grape juice were delicious and light, and Tudor expatiated upon the value of sport and exercise. "One of the good things about sports for teen-agers is that the scope is limited; it frees them from the burden of choice." Tudor, of course, is a particular proponent of amateur wrestling, an insufficiently appreciated sport, in his opinion. He did isometric exercises on the trip to Japan, and he is doing the Royal Canadian Air Force exercises and has lost 18 pounds. "They improved my wind, which I badly needed. After 1959 I had got into worse and worse shape, and older and older, and now my wife is compelling me to be younger and younger." Tudor spoke cheerfully, as a man may, when he is succeeding where a good many have failed. "A good brisk walk is better than nothing," he went on. "Perhaps the only point upon which I am in agreement with Mr. Truman."
The following Saturday the philologist and the physician drove to Lawrence, Mass., for the NEAAAU Open Wrestling Meet. Tudor was going to be the oldest contender, and Tenley was in for a seven-or nine-hour spell of spectating in a small gymnasium with a great many wrestlers. It promised to be a demanding afternoon.
After two hours the atmosphere was heavy with earnestness on the part of the wrestlers, and it was warm. Tudor, in a patched gray sweat suit, a towel tucked in at the neck, made a splendid appearance. Not a line in his face, as they say in the novels, and the light of battle in his eye. He pointed out his three opponents in the heavyweight division, and they looked alarming. One of them weighed over 275 pounds to Tudor's suddenly frail 218. "I never thought I'd see Tudor look small" Tenley said, darting nervous glances at the three mountainous lumps disposed at various points against the wall.
"If I can get him on his back I will have him," Tudor was saying of one of the young men. "On the other hand, if he gets me on my back he will have me." The heavyweights were conserving their strength, as Tudor was, because they were not due to wrestle until fairly late. Tenley regarded some fierce young men wrestling three feet in front of her. It was now very warm. "Tudor," she said, "I think I'll go out for just a breath of air."
"You poor little thing. You must take care of yourself," Tudor said kindly, but was at once intent again on the bout.
Two and a half hours later Tudor was drinking honey. "That's a guillotine, Tenley," he said, pointing to a hold one young man had on another. "Remember I showed you?" "I remember," Tenley said. "It hurts." Tudor went off to warm up. "I like this because I know he is enjoying himself the way I do when I'm skating," Tenley said, and then, "He calls that his Snoopy dance." Tudor, across the gymnasium, was hopping up and down and swinging his arms and achieving a very fair resemblance to the Peanuts dog, Snoopy. Elsewhere the large young men were bestirring themselves and encouraging their blood to circulate. "I'm glad my knees don't shake when I'm skating," Tenley said. Finally Tudor and the first behemoth met. They measured each other, and closed, but appeared to continue to feel each other out, head to head.
"Go on, Tudor, get in there!" a young man behind Tenley said spiritedly and all but inaudibly. "Say it louder," Tenley begged him, incapable of shouting herself. "I can't," the boy said frankly. "I'm afraid he might do it, and get beat. It's been a while since he's wrestled, hasn't it?" he asked delicately.
Tudor lost, after a rather indefinite sort of match, by 1-0, and he came out chiding himself for holding out defensively for a draw.
"What is the plural of mens sana in corpore sano, Tudor?" someone asked him. "Mentes sanae in corporibus saw's," Tudor replied promptly, "but one would probably not use it. Mens sana in corpore sano is usually taken to be plural. I think I had better go and do some more Snoopy-dancing."
He did and tie pinned his next two men handily, to the joy of many there assembled, especially Tenley, the Harvard men and everybody over 46, and then the two of them drove home to Beacon Hill, certainly a pair of mentes sanae in corporibus sanis, sound minds in sound bodies.