Of Baseball, lazy days and July, in General

cloudSaturday afternoon and I am sitting in the rocking chair on Gram’s porch looking out over Twitchell Pond. The sun has warmed the porch nicely; some might say it is a bit too warm. Gram Martin sits at her Singer treadle machine, the cloth hanging down in her lap and bunched up on the other side almost to the wall. She is working on a quilt top for another one of her grandchildren. The whirring stops long enough for her to adjust the quilt for another patch and it begins again. She doesn’t talk much when sewing and neither do I. We just kind of sit and breathe in the nice warm air and let the summer settle in on us.

I can’t sew. Ma has a sewing machine and can sew anything. She once made us winter coats from some old coats her friends gave her. They were nice and warm and looked like they came from a store. But I can’t do it. I am just not the sewing type I guess. Ma has tried and tried but I can’t even thread the needle decently. She doesn’t really want me to learn how to cook as she says she can’t afford to waste ingredients if something doesn’t turn out right. And…in the end, she always says she knows I would rather play baseball anyway.

Ma knows me well. Rex and I have played ball in the front yard for as long as I can remember. We listen to the Red Sox on Dad’s Philco radio and make sure we don’t run the battery down because if he could not hear his boxing matches, there would be a sure fire tantrum and we’d have to stay out of his way til he calmed down!

I am so glad there is a baseball team in Lockes Mills. We go up every Sunday afternoon when there’s a game. I don’t know everyone on the team. I know Chuck Melville is the umpire . Herb Dunham is usually the pitcher and his brother, Leland (Squeek) Dunham is the catcher. Well, let me tell you. One Sunday, Squeek got very angry at some runner on base and he actually got up behind the plate and chased the guy around the field. He ran pretty fast for having all that catcher’s equipment on, too. I just stared because I could not believe it!! The umpire and the pitcher grabbed him and got him under control and the game continued!!

We always wonder if a foul ball will go through the windshield of a parked car, so we try to get there early and choose a safe place. There is no such thing as a safe place, but we try to get behind trees. The wooden benches get a little hard, so we take lawn chairs sometimes. Diddy Seames Johnson yells at every play and makes sure they are playing the game right. She lives right next door to the ball field there on Howe Hill, so is all rested up and ready to go every time the umpire yells “Play Ball!!” 

Dad prefers to go fishing over the weekend as he does not seem to be into the baseball scene.  Ma takes me and she gets a kick out of some of the shenanigans going on. It is a fun way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

But today is Saturday and Grampa is sitting on a little ledge next to the steps that lead into the house. His canes, covered with Black Jack Gum, rest next to him and he gazes off down the road toward his potato field.


“Nellie, Nellie” he yells and Gram sighs and gets up from her sewing. “Do you think the potato plants are free of bugs or should the kids be down there picking them off?” he asks, fiddling with the scarf he always wears around his neck.

“Ross, I am thinking the plants will be fine. They were down there in the middle of the week and filled two jars full for you.”  Gram rolls her eyes when she passes me back to her sewing. That is about as expressive as Gram gets when she runs out of patience. Her little blue sneakers hit the treadle again and the machine whirrs back to life. She reaches into the box next to her and retrieves another pretty patch to sew.

I look out of the corner of my eye and Grampa has headed for the barn, using two canes to walk. It must be very hard for him to move around as he has to balance between the two thick canes.  He is going to check on his pig in the pen at the side of the barn. I imagine it is hard for him to keep busy, because he cannot move around the way he’d like. That is why Dr. Boynton comes to see him on some Saturdays to check on him. I think it is arthritis, but no one ever says a word about Grampa and why he is crippled. I think maybe the pain is what makes him seem so cranky at times. I know that now that I am older, but when I was younger, he scared me to pieces when he yelled.

Gram sighs and pushes away from the machine and I get out of the rocker . It is almost time for supper. I suspect Gram and Grampa will be eating the same as we will be. Most people will be having beans and hotdogs since it is Saturday night. Once in awhile there is brown bread cooked in a cleaned lard can in the oven and cut with a string. That is so good, even if we only have oleo to  spread on. Gram makes real butter, sitting and churning away and has a pretty little mold with a leaf on it. Her brown bread must really taste good!!

Another warm July day is almost gone and soon the lightning bugs will be out looking like little flying flashlights. I say good bye to Gram and she smiles and I watch her disappear into her kitchen to check the beans in the oven.

I go home with thoughts of tomorrow’s baseball game on Howe Hill and wondering what excitement that will bring.

July in Greenwood Center with the ripples on Twitchell Pond, the screech of the hawks from Rowe’s Ledge and nothing but a quiet breeze through the trees. Life is good.

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Scanning the Journal Part 2-3-4

gangThe humidity has lifted, but after posting my thoughts yesterday on Son #2, I cannot leave out the thoughts on the other three. I have forgotten when I wrote these thoughts, but it must have been a very cold winter day or a sulty humid day when I was just sitting. Period.

Debra

How I miss her

when I see mothers and daughters

sharing lunch…shopping…laughing.

I want to grab her up

hold her close like a treasure

to my heart     forever in a special little box

I’ve reserved just for her

and our memories.

Alan

Maker of music

lover of words

singing his way through life

whistling even when things

don’t look as good.

Runner of races

loving fresh air

hating tread mills

tolerating them on long winter days.

No longer a child

I still see him at

five years..seven..and ten.

Rides with the current

manages the turbulence

radiates love

so proud he’s my youngest son.

Brian

You are my first born son

so you were the model

   for your brothers.

But you step to a different drummer.

You love the land..the earth..the trees

and so you are today

one with the land you love

and I am glad you’re happy.

So just kick up the leaves in Autumn…

take a photo of the first wild flowers

watch the sun rise and deer run down the hill

    to the stone wall

and think of me.

I love you.

That ends the tributes to my “fabulous four” as I called them way back when. Thanks for sticking with me while I took this journey back in time.

Scanning the Journal..one by one

gangOn humid days, I tend to find a fan and let it blow continually until I feel as though I can move without sticking to the floor. These are the days I rummage around through my journals and re-read things I’ve written and forgotten. I found a few things I wrote in tribute to each of my four children. Today we will feature ..ta dah…second son…Gary.

” This morning I needed something high upon the kitchen shelf

oil for the cake I was baking . I reached and there sat my coffee maker. I moved it closer to be taken down and used in a hurry…checking the coffee next to it                   making a mental list of different coffees he’d want to try.

Then I remembered.

       he’s gone again.

For so long he was near, the phone rang and on the other end was his voice asking if he could come up and hang out.   For weeks I waited on week ends for the phone to ring.

Then I remembered.

A thought to give him woopie pies next time he came

Then I remembered.

And so this morning I readied the coffee maker for him…my son and then I remembered.

He’s gone again…down the road..living his life.  He’s thinking of me. I know he is…

–and I remembered again

how much I miss him.”

Little Memories Peek Out

blogIt is the warm, muggy, too hot to do anything days that bring out the memories that have been tucked into corners and hidden on tiny shelves in my mind for these decades. I can feel the splash of cold water as my brother and I wade at my Grammy Martin’s beach at Twitchell Pond. It is the season of high bush blueberries and they hang over the water, as we gingerly tread along the shore line to get our noon meal. The berries are warm from the sun and so sweet that we hum our way as we go. 

We have run through the field to get to the beach because of the “huge milk adder snake” that supposedly lives there and awaits any swimmer’s toes passing through. I loathe snakes and my first encounter was when blueberrying barefoot with my two older brothers. What was, according to all reports later in life, a harmless snake wound its body around my ankle and lower leg and Roland, always the protector of his little sister got the snake off and threw it as far as possible. I understand it took him longer to console his sister than it did to dispose of the snake.

I noticed the big “to-do” online about the restaurant owner and the two year old screaming for 40 minutes.  That reminds me of the Sunday drives we used to take with Dad to East B Hill. We were in the back seat with one statement…”You kids keep quiet back there..” and we did!   It never occurred to my brothers and me to even question either of our parents! Ma had what she called her “switch” straight from the alder patch at the side of the house and I felt that sting. One time I was having too good a time next door with my cousins and the parents arrived home from work, not knowing where their only daughter was and not a sign of her in sight. From my perch on the cousins’ picnic table ( I think we were putting on a play), I saw Ma come around the bend in the path between our houses with switch in hand. Suffice it to say, I did not take a leisurely walk back home over the path..the posies were a blur and she was right on my tail every step of the way. Now I realize she was more scared than mad, but at the time of course it was grossly unfair and my world was ruined.

Do you remember being finger printed by the State Police when you were in grammar school?? I was in the fourth grade and I remember this tall policeman taking each of my fingers and rolling them in ink. Then he stood in front of me and noted that I had a “mole” on the side of my face. Grammy Martin always called it a beauty mark, so I thought “mole” was an ugly word and knew that I could never commit a crime now because the world had my fingerprints.

Every time I read the vaccination arguements, I remember standing in line with the other fourth graders. Dr. Boynton stood there and I could hear the yips and yelps as we received our smallpox vaccinations. I made up my mind he would not make me yip or  yelp. I didn’t, but that was sore and ugly for what seemed like weeks.

When I read about fund raisers, I think of the time as a senior in high school, we held a paper drive to earn money for our New York City trip.  I am not condoning this behavior, but will admit to it. My friend, Louise, borrowed her brother-in-law’s car and decided we would take the day to knock on doors asking for old newspapers. Howe Hill was our destination. We drove and knocked, piled the back seat of the car full of papers and surprisingly most people were glad to be rid of them. It never occurred to either of us that Louise could drive, but had no license. We were in that age category where naw, no “cop” would stop us and if he did, he would realize the good deed we were doing. I cannot remember , honestly, I cannot….but at one house, we collected the old papers, Louise backed the car around and hit a mail box. Well, I won’t say the whole thing went to the ground, but it was leaning precariously as we sped off leaving a cloud of dust behind us.  As it were, karma stepped in and after all papers were collected, we were told a month later that our work was in vain. Someone at the company who processed the papers had absconded with our funds. Well, it was a day off from school.

Did you have Career Day in high school?  We could not wait!  I wanted to be a disc jockey and had contacted one at WCOU in Lewiston about coming down to see how everything worked. He answered that it would be fine. When asked by our principal what careers we were pursuing, I told him flat out and he replied that NO woman would ever be a disc jockey and if I were to pursue that on career day I would get a definite F. Long story short: Louise and I went to Lewiston with Ted Dunham and the mail; she went shopping ( I have no idea what her career was going to be) and I sat in with Lou Dennis for four hours on the radio. We met Ted at a pre-determined spot and rode home to Bryant Pond. That is a memory I will cherish…I got a definite day off from school and a definite F for my musical career.

That was 1955…yup, back in the days of crinoline and poodle skirts, ankle bracelets that looked like dog collars, the jukebox at Denny’s restaurant in Bryant Pond and Jordan’s restaurant in Locke’s Mills, and let’s not forget those saddle shoes! Anyone not experiencing the Fifties missed so much.

Time to put the lid on the little boxes in my mind and come back home to the present. Thanks for sharing my memories.

Remembering Bethel, Maine, the Metropolis

Growing up, I thought Bethel was “our” city. When we climbed in my Dad’s car to go to Bethel, we were going big time! Some of my earliest memories are climbing the steps to Brown’s Variety. It was Magic Land.  All sorts of things laid out in neat little rows, other things in small piles but oh, so neat. There was always someone behind the counter as I entered, to greet me with a smile and “how are you” to make me feel really welcomed. While Ma looked for her usual sewing supplies, threads, needle for her treadle Singer machine, Curt and I wandered into the “other room” to look at all the treasures. There were coloring books and story books and oh, the wonders of it all. Usually, Ma bought the essentials she intended to buy and that was all, but it was a fun time to just browse without anyone pestering us to buy or asking us what we wanted or anyone grimacing for fear the “kids” might put something out of place. Even after marriage, I went to Brown’s Variety and the thrill was still there.

Who can forget the grand Bethel Theater with its red velvet plush seats?  It was another Wonderland to enter the lobby and inhale the perfume of the popcorn machine! Freddie Grover always had a huge smile to greet the movie goers. I loved sitting way up back because it seemed if I had to sit down front, I always left with a stiff neck. No matter where my seat was, I got excited as soon as the news was on, the previews of coming attractions and the short subjects!  How exciting when the Three Stooges were the short subject of the night!!!

I loved riding up Main Street, making the big circle at the end and coming back down again. In my young mind, this WAS the city. I always glanced down the street where Gould Academy is and wondered how anyone could go to such a big school!

The drugstore was at the head of the street and occasionally Ma had to go in there for a minute. I don’t remember going in often, but I think I remember the gentleman who owned it, standing on the steps wearing knickers.Hmm, was his name Carroll or Mr. Carroll… now maybe I am wrong, but that is the picture in my mind.  Usually if we stopped , Ma would be buying a box of chocolates for Grammy’s birthday or some other occasion.

In my earliest years, and this is a faint memory, Ma took me to have a tooth extracted at Dr. Brown’s. That was the era of being given gas to put you in another world while the deed was done. I remember my mother standing next to me and shaking me and telling me to wake up…and she sputtered to my father that night.

Years later, I climbed the steps to Dr. John Trinward for any “mouth work”.  A finer dentist I’ve not had before or since!!

When I was in high school, Dad always bought a car from a dealer in Bethel…I think it was a Chevvy dealer, but on the other hand, one time he bought a Dodge that had push buttons for gears. He didn’t like that at all but held on to it for a couple years. After years of having a ’36 Ford, ’33 Chevvy, ’38 Chevvy and of all things, a ’49 Kaiser-Fraiser ( as he called it), he loved to have a new vehicle and each time he went back to Bethel. Perhaps it was Bennett’s Garage. In my mind, he went to the city, no matter the name!!

Bethel was my go-to place even after I had my four children. Remember the A & P store?? Every week, the three older kids holding hands and the youngest in the wagon and I doing the pushing , got all our food there. I promised them animal crackers at the checkout if they were good and it always worked. Drew Webster worked there at the time and always had a smile for us.

In the early ’50’s my brother and I drove to Bethel and parked near Dr. Hudson, the vet’s place, to see the flood at the bottom of the hill. The mighty Androscoggin had overflowed its banks again. I remember when they planted the evergreens in the field to abort any floods in the future. 

It was a grand place to visit as a child and through my young years. I’ve been away a long time now, but keep track of all the “goings-on” through the Bethel Citizen each week. Ah, come to think of it, that was another Magic Place. I worked one summer as a secretary to Miss Hobbs, using a typewriter she rented from that office.

Such memories! My first date was at the Bethel Theater; my first fairy tale book came from Brown’s Variety!.The date went out of my life  but the book is still on my closet shelf.

Thanks, Bethel for the memories!

Sweet Summer Time

greeOh the last day of school …what a wondrous sound…say it over and over and over. About the end of the first week of sleeping until we wanted to crawl out, time began to drag.  It wasn’t as though there were a host of activities planned for the neighborhood kids in Greenwood Center.

Rex and I loved baseball and would play in the front yard. First base was a piece of cardboard, second base was the rock by the long driveway and third base was a piece of wood or whatever placed near a little flower bed. We had no rules ..if we did, they must have changed every day.  Occasionally, we had a little dust-up. I remember one day he would not allot me the number of times I should have been up to bat. That is MY story. The end of the game resulted in my taking the bat, stomping behind the house, placing it on the sawhorse and cutting it in two with Dad’s bucksaw. 

We united in cheering for the Red Sox. The Philco radio stood in the kitchen corner, its wires running out the window and grounded to the side of the house. We had to be careful not to run down the battery as Dad liked two things: boxing matches and an occasional newscast. We sat on the front steps and cheered on Ted Williams, Johnny Pesky and Bobby Doerr.

Since our parents worked at the mill, as most parents did, we had the day to ourselves. I was to watch Curt and make sure he had something to eat at noon and make sure his face was clean when Ma came home at night.

There wasn’t much to look forward to in the summer for holidays. We liked the Fourth of July and our older brother, Tink, ordered fireworks from some place in Ohio and we waited for them to arrive at the railroad station in Lockes Mills. Curt and I were allowed sparklers; Tink set off rockets and roman candles on the shore of the pond much to my Grandmother Martin’s delight. 

If I close my eyes, I can see my mother rowing my Uncle Louie’s meticulously clean green boat across Twitchell Pond and feel the bumps if the pond had a few waves on that day. Our house grew smaller and smaller as we neared Nick’s point for our annual picnic. How I loved looking up at Rowe’s Ledge searching for the hawks who shrieked and circled. They were quiet and I visualized them looking down at us with curious eyes from their humongous nests.

Watermelon and Kool-aid were the two main treats on our Fourth of July picnic. Sandwiches made up the rest and Ma rowed us back across the pond, bellies full and exceedingly happy. She warned us not to dirty up the boat, though I am sure Uncle Louie would have grinned and just cleaned it again.

One thing we could depend on was my Grandfather Martin swinging his Black jack gum covered cane to demonstrate it was time to pick the bugs off his potato plants. Carrying pint glass jars, we walked the rows and filled the jars to be rewarded by whatever change he had in his pocket upon the completion of the “de-bugging.” AND whats more…there was still the hay to get in the barn. If one didn’t mind being covered with hay chaff clinging to a sweaty body, it was a good way to earn 50 cents on a summer afternoon. Treading hay in the back of a pickup truck is hard, hot work but to have the coins jingle in the pocket after it was done and the pond just waiting for your swim made it ok.

One year I went to Vacation Bible School.  That was a treat as I stayed a whole week with Winnie Hanscom on Rowe Hill and each morning walked to the very top of the mountain. Rev. Lord put together the whole program and it was a fun time of learning and games.  Ma said Curt was too young and Winnie had her hands full with my staying there, to say nothing of having another one.

Rex was busy catching frogs and selling them to fishermen who stayed at Birch Villa Inn in Bryant Pond. He sold them for three cents each and kept them in a cage in the cool water of the brook.

We looked forward to Oz Palmer coming from his farm on Rowe Hill with his great team of horses and his huge hay wagon. How I wanted to ride on the side of the wagon but we were taught to stay out of the way and just watch. It was one of those times when my brother, Tink, was standing in Uncle Louie’s boat, tethered to the shore, but he fell out of it into the water. I barely remember screaming and Ma running from the house, down the long driveway and diving into the pond to drag him out and take him home. We talked about Ma saving Tink from drowning for years, but I have no idea how close he was to his demise. I just know he got a severe tongue lashing, only because Ma was so scared.

We had the Sunday rides in the ’38 Chevvy if Dad was in the mood.  There were years when Dad lined honeybees, timing them and in the fall when it was really cold, found their honey. I think that is against the law  now. It could have been then, for all I know. I just remember Dad putting my hand in his box of honeybees and letting them crawl all over my hand. He told me if I didn’t crush them, I wouldn’t get stung. Oh, the faith a child has in a parent. In retrospect, I have no idea whether he knew what he was talking about or not.

The summers were hot; our feet were bare; treats few and far between, but I would give anything to spend a few days looking out on Twitchell Pond . ….and hearing the hawks shriek on Rowe’s Ledge again.