Maplewood resident Harriet Ribot had her very first book “Ember” published, at the age of 95.
It’s the first of a three book poetry series. The other two, “Willow Tree” and “Dormant” will be published next month.
The fact that Ribot is 95 is irrelevant to her. She feels that it’s wonderful any time in your life, to be recognized by peers.
“You feel as though you’re validated,” she said. “You’re doing something nice. And you’re happy with what you’re doing. It’s a wonderful thing.”
By being published Ribot feels she now has a voice.
“I was Mama and Harriet, and whatever else they wanted,” she said. “I wrote stories and little poems and I’d say, ‘What do you think?’ They’d say, ‘Very nice’ and ‘That’s good.’ I wasn’t contented. I wasn’t going anywhere.”
But that all changed this year for Ribot, who was always a go-getter.
Born in Brooklyn, Ribot left home at 17 because she wanted an education. Her older siblings had a college education, but her parents didn’t see it as useful. “They were impatient,” Ribot clarified. “They wanted me to go to work.”
When Ribot left home, she took her path into her own hands. She went to the Jewish Hospital of Brooklyn with visions of becoming a registered nurse. However, she wasn’t old enough to sign herself in.
Her boyfriend said, “I think she should do it and I want to marry her.”
Ribot excitedly said, “That’s how I got signed in.”
At 20, Ribot became a registered nurse and married at 22. She worked for the Red Cross and moved around because her husband was in the service. With a desire for a B.A., Ribot got into Rutger’s University in Newark.
In addition to nursing, Ribot also became an entrepreneur, creating an at-home design industry making wooden and plastic beads that were translucent and compatible with shower curtains, windows, and doorways.
“It was exciting,” she said. I had to learn everything from making appointments. Then I became more positive about what I was doing. I would meet with customers, and they would tell me what they liked. I’d give them a sample.”
She eventually sold her designs to Bloomingdales.
In her spare time, Ribot likes to read. She also belongs to a poetry appreciation group.
“I enjoy that,” she said.
Ribot has lived in Essex County for 50 years.
“Essex County was a wonderful place for my children to grow,” she said. “I enjoyed New Jersey because it was close to the seashore, close to the mountains, close to the big city—an entrance to the rest of the world. It has rails. It has airplanes. It has buses. It’s got it all. Weather-wise, we’ve been lucky. We’re in a good spot.”
She has another book in the works, but it’s not quite ready yet. It’s a compilation of short stories. One of the story titles is “What Does a Nobel Prize Winner Have in Common with a Bag Lady?”
The stories are about Ribot’s observations with the people around her, and “getting to be me.”
“I was really unable to make my own choices at first,” she said. “So, I got my own voice and was able to express myself.”
Updates on Harriet Ribot’s books can be found on her son Jessie Ribot’s website at: https://www.jesseribot.com/updates.