My very first memories were of my Uncle Glenn working on the inside of our house and arguing with him over the word “the”. I was so sure I was right, but he good naturedly did not give in to the nearly four year old. The most vivid memory is of my Dad standing in the middle of our kitchen floor and my looking up at him and asking him if he hurt. I learned over the years that he had just arrived home from the hospital after the tragic sawmill accident that crippled his left hand.
I wonder just how much one generation is like the other. Through the years I recall someone telling me I would look like Aunt Mary when I grew to be her age. Aren’t there people in your immediate family who you never got to know quite as well as others?
I had four uncles and three aunts in the Martin family. My Uncle Roy lived down the road a half mile and I only knew what had been discussed over the kitchen table. He was a woodsman all his life. He was married once and divorced and I never knew his wife…that was way before my time. He was a quiet artist, carving beautiful creations from big toadstools and wood..whatever caught his fancy. I asked him one day what the carving on the wall was supposed to be..was it a map? He explained that it was the “road to Burma” and had to do with World War 11. How wonderful it would be if we digested all this, knowing the full meaning, at an early age. I don’t think any of my brothers had any of Uncle Roy’s traits.
Now, my Uncle Louis(pronounced Louie) was another story! He had eyes of sapphire blue that seemed to look right into my soul. I watched him pile the winter wood in Gram’s shed, stick by stick, in such a neat, precise line that I knew he could have built a pyramid had he wanted! Every move he made was precise, neat and done slowly to perfection. He was a proud woodsman as well. My brother, Roland, was much like my Uncle Louis. He took pride in his home and his lawn and every blade of grass, I swear, was cut to the same length.
What did my brothers or I take from our Uncle Dwight? I think it was the fact that he had a white collar job after he came home from the war. If my brothers did not want to work in the woods all their lives, there were other options. How I loved his big house and could imagine waking up to look out over Twitchell Pond every morning! Uncle Dwight echoed success to us and the fact that we could do whatever we wanted.
Although Uncle Glenn lived next door to us for years, I never really knew him, except in quiet admiration. He was such an artist. He was a taxidermist. He mixed his own paints; he collected the reeds to soak to make packbaskets. He was multi-talented artistically and I like to think that had Roland pursued artistry, he would have painted well. While in his teens, he did a pencil drawing of a frontiersman that was magnificent.
My Aunt Cecile was living away from Greenwood Center and I never really knew her until I was perhaps ten or twelve years old. My Aunt “Vi” also left the Center and I did not get to know her until about the same age. I remember Aunt “Vi”‘s sparkling, silvery laugh and her zest for life. Aunt Cecile wrote a letter to me when she was nearing 100 years old, which of course I kept. Aunt Mary was the aunt who remembered everyone’s birthday, anniversary and took hundreds of pictures. She seemed to be the core of the family and made sure the Martins knew their ancestors through her love of genealogy.
I like to think they all “rubbed off” on us one way or another. There are the little moments that pop into the mind. Uncle Louis had the first car in the family. One day he consented to taking us all to Locke Mills. It was a cold, wintry day and we kids squished together in the back. Need I tell you what happened next? I put the tip of my tongue on the frosted window. Just the tip. Oh, my goodness..as soon as it hit, I knew it wasn’t ice cream, and I DID pull it off. My tongue was sore for a week and I didn’t dare say a word!
I can see Uncle Louis pouring water into the half cut tire while I turned the crank and he held his ax to the grindstone. “How ya doing, Bridget, you still ok?” he asked every five minutes. I loved being with my Uncle Louis.
I visited my Uncle Roy one day and saw something hanging from his cabin ceiling. “What on earth is that?” I asked. He just grinned and said he’d been to the “fair”. I did not ask one more question since it was a woman’s unmentionable hanging there in plain sight! That was my Uncle Roy..he had the very devil in his eyes and that was not a place I was going to tread!!!
On Ma’s side of the family, I had two uncles, neither of whom I remember much. I mention this because my Uncle Bill died at an early age in a TB sanitarium. He wrote beautiful poetry and Ma had a notebook of his poems. Unfortunately it was lost somewhere in the attic. When she was in her late eighties, I asked her and she could not remember the notebook. However, I remember sitting on the edge of my attic bed reading his handwritten poems. I truly believe that is when I first realized how much I loved poetry and began writing.
If I couple that with Dad’s love of story-telling, I guess that would be the biggest influence carried over into my life. Ma taught us manners, respect and the dignity in hard work. She always said no matter what you do for a living, if it is honest work, you should be proud.
There are a couple more leaves fluttering to the ground carrying more memories my way. I’ll save them for another day.