~~And so it goes

marriage certificate When the leaves turn color and drop, I think of generations constantly leaving us and the renewal with the little ones.

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.

The Mixing Bowl

bowlIt seemed like a good day to make a pie.  There was just a tinge of cool air that morning and I spotted a few red leaves here and there amongst all the green still clinging on for dear life.  There is something about the autumn season that makes me want to click on the oven and bake…it is comforting after the ninety-degree days.

I reached under the cupboard and grabbed the stainless steel mixing bowl. I am way past measuring most of the time and flour went in with a swoosh. Out the corner of my eye I noticed my new set of mixing bowls in three beautiful colors.  Why didn’t I grab the bigger of the three instead of this old stainless steel bowl?

I am sitting in my mother’s kitchen in Greenwood, Maine, enjoying one of the few visits I can make because of my work.  She sits at the corner of the kitchen table, tea cup at her elbow and pencil and pad in front of her.

“Are you writing a novel, Ma?” I tease, as she jots another note to herself.

“I’m trying to decide what to take and what to get rid of,” she answers,” and I have accumulated so much trash over the years.”

At last it’s out in the open..the dreaded conversation of perhaps leaving her home in Greenwood. For 65 years, she has lived in the little house, but she seems to sense it is time to move on. She has given me a box of pictures and other paper items she thinks I wil enjoy and if not, in her words, “toss them.”

“Oh, by the way,” she says jumping up from the table, “I wondered if this is anything you can use. God knows I’ve used it enough and if I move, I won’t be doing any cooking or baking..well as far as I know.”  She leans over the little cupboard counter and draws back up, holding a silver colored mixing bowl.  I don’t know what to say because, in its simplicity, it is one of her most treasured possessions.

“Are you sure, Ma?” I ask and she retorts that I am the baker in the family now and she wants to make sure it is in good hands.

There’s a piece of masking tape on the bottom and on it, is a name written neatly so that it would never be lost at a church supper. It is the name of one of her best friends, who did not survive an automobile accident.  After the funeral, her friend’s daughter told her to take anything of her mother’s that she would like as a remembrance.

Her friend’s name still stood out on the masking tape through all the many washings. I think when Ma used it, she was remembering all the good times they shared.

The flour was all crumbed up with the shortening now and soon I will have that all rolled out for another pie.  I held the bowl close and swirled the crumbs for a moment more.

I was holding the memories of the last time I sat in the little kitchen with Ma in Greenwood.  The masking tape holds fast to the bottom of the bowl, faded but it doesn’t give up or pull loose. 

Just like my Ma.

Driving 101

indianThere was no need for me to drive. My brothers both had cars at one time or another or I rode with a friend. My care-free high school days did not include learning to drive nor was it suggested by anyone that I try.

It was not until I was married and living on a farm with the view in the photo above that I decided it might be a good idea to have a driver’s license tucked into my purse. I have no idea when this occurred to me; it could have been that I had just given birth to my first baby who rocked the house screaming with colic. Perhaps the word “flight” dashed in and out of my mind.

It was as though the Almighty read my mind when the husband drove home an old Thirties coupe after work one evening. I say “Thirties” because with my limited knowledge of automobiles, I noticed the color grey and the fact it had a rumble seat.  It was a $50 purchase and one to be proud of, he said.

Each day I looked out at the little coupe and knew, in my heart, it was just the right size for me and my baby. If I could drive that little grey machine up and over Rowe Hill back and forth, she would surely go to sleep. I voiced this suggestion to my now sleep-deprived spouse and surprisingly enough, he agreed to teach me to drive. I don’t care how happy your marriage may seem, let me say that this is a horrid idea. Do not even contemplate such a move.

He seated himself on the passenger side with crying baby child in his lap and I proudly slid (notice I used the word slid..) behind the wheel as if it were second nature. There was the shift stick on the floor which I assumed had to be pushed in several directions in order to proceed down the dirt road.

A long explanation of  1-2-3-4 each meaning a gear and the fact that my left foot had to coordinate with the moving of said stick gave driving a bit more difficulty in my mind…yet I persisted . Finally we left the yard with a few jumps and the spouse’s suprised yell each time the coupe left the ground. Well, let me tell you, I drove that little grey piece of machinery down to Miss Hobbs’ summer home, successfully turned around, back up the hill and the final hill to the front yard and headed that car to the garage. I was feeling mighty proud of myself.

Is this the place I leave the stick?” ( translation..is this the right gear for leaving the car?” I queried.

“That’ll do, that’ll do” was his reply. I took the baby and we trooped into the house…my steps were more of a swagger if I want to be honest.

The baby was lying peacefully in her crib and I passed the front window .  Horror filled my entire body and I said, “There goes your car.”  Talk about an understatement. The husband ran to the window and shrieked( rightfully so) “My car, my car..it’s going down the hill backwards.” Yes it was. It had stopped at this point, but there was a sticking point. It came to rest on top of a small stone wall.

The coupe was never mentioned again after the tractor pulled it up into the side yard where it remained until I think it melded into the earth. My driving was never mentioned again . To his credit, the spouse did not chastise me in any way. I think the shock of it all and losing his $50 purchase was too much for him to comprehend.

Three years passed and there were three children and another due in June. I am now 23 years old and my foot has never touched a gas pedal since the great coupe adventure.

My co-hort in crime, Winnie the neighbor, watched the babies each time a good friend with an automatic shift could sneak into the area and give me lessons. I drove to the top of the mountain, turned and came home again several times until we both deemed it possible I could get my license. I was no longer sliding behind the wheel; indeed, it was more of a huff, puff and thank God I still fit behind the wheel.

The morning of the test arrived. Over the steaming milk pail, I told my husband I was going to try for my driver’s license that day. He looked at me and said, “Good. If you get it, take the Ford station wagon to Bethel and buy a couple bags of grain.” Not one word if I had practiced or how I expected to be coming home with a legitimate way to hit the road.

Fast forward to South Paris and the poor man to ride with me. His eyes took in my very pregnant body squished behind the wheel, reached down and found a penny on the floor and told me to go buy a mink coat. I have no idea what he meant and after 54 years, I still do  not know.

I drove successfully to Market Square. The examiner, who had the eyes of an eagle, noticed a parking spot between two cars. Parallel park. That should be interesting, since I had never, never tried that on top of Rowe Hill mountain. To add to the excitement was a Merrill Transport Truck having to wait for me. This was a worse nightmare than the coupe episode. I inched, I went forward, backwards, inched, finally heard a tiny thump and knew I had nudged something. I could only pray it wasn’t a living , breathing individual. The examiner, perhaps noticing the traffic build-up behind me, told me to drive back to the courthouse. Oh yes, the stop on the hill. Then start up without rolling back. Thank you God and all for automatic shift. Did it. I could feel the beads of sweat on my neck and did not dare to look at the examiner. Back in the yard of the courthouse. The examiner looked at me, took a deep breath and said “you got it”. I said, “Really?” (Probably should just have said thank you.) He got out the car, leaned in and said “Please never park using the sound system again.” I promised and drove home feeling proud. I wonder when the examiner recovered.

True to my word, I retrieved the three babies from Winnie, loaded them in the ’57 Ford station wagon ( longer than a school bus) , drove to Bethel, purchased two bags of grain and successfully maneuvered the grain, babies and all back to Rowe Hill.

I don’t know why, but driving has never been one of my favorite things to do.