The Tomboy

18543_1252857814166_5455564_nI was a tomboy growing up in Greenwood Center. I didn’t care if my hair was combed, cut even or even if I had hair, but I wanted the center of my baseball glove to be pounded down so that when a line drive came my way it plopped in there and stayed there. I didn’t care if my jeans were ragged or if my shirt were tucked in, as long as my alder fish pole leaned against the side of the house waiting for me to grab and head for Wagner’s rock. Pole in one hand and a Maxwell House coffee tin in the other and I was a happy camper.

You can imagine what my poor mother endured with her only daughter. I took no interest in any of the pursuits she offered. I couldn’t sit still long enough to learn how to thread a needle in her treadle machine and she finally told me to forget about learning to cook since she had no ingredients to waste. In other words, she gave up. Let her only daughter be her fourth son, it didn’t matter any more!!

Truth is, I took an interest, just not enough to want to learn how to do these things.  I joined the local 4-H club ( with a little prodding from Ma) and attended two meetings in town. We learned how to set a table correctly. Now this was no use to me…or at least not at that time. There were six people in our house with six of each utensil.Simple. We learned to fold napkins. Very pretty, except we didn’t use napkins. Maybe paper towels and surely my youngest brother used his shirt sleeve but cloth napkins?  I could see Ma washing them on the scrub board each Saturday and delicately pinning those to the line between the two trees out back. She would be more than pleased to add those to the ever multiplying pile of clothes.

The second meeting was not as boring, but I had already decided it would be the final one. We were going to make mayonnaise. I could go to Vallee’s store and buy a jar and instead  I had to learn to mix milk, eggs and who knows what . See? There was no logic whatsoever. Suffice it to say, my results were a cross between wallpaper paste and pancake batter. I never went back.

Now you’re thinking I was incorrigible and just did not want to learn. Not true. I sat in one of our high back kitchen chairs near the oven and watched as Ma put together her Finnan Haddie..or at least that is what she called it. I took it all in..the fish, the cream sauce, the butter, and the aroma and before it was cooked and ready to eat, I participated in drool. I just loved it and knew exactly how to make it.  The answer? Give me something I liked and I could do it. Don’t put me in competition with Hellman’s Mayo.Hellman’s is rolling on the floor laughing and I am busy counting the minutes of my wasted time.

Oh those high back kitchen chairs I just mentioned? I remember the day that Ma nagged Dad, saying it was time we had something decent to sit in..the time had come. I cannot remember the vehicle or if all of us piled in, but I would not have missed it for the world. Over Rowe Hill we went, and up Old County Road to a gentleman’s house or store(?) for chairs. His last name was McDaniels because Dad sang his name all the way, irritating Ma no end. We piled chairs in the back seat, trunk and tied some on top and headed for home. You know, when Ma moved out of the house in Greenwood, in her mid eighties, there was still at least one of those high back chairs sitting in the corner.

But back to being a tomboy. How I loved baseball!  The “flat” was the place to be most evenings when some came from Lockes Mills and we chose up teams. I have no idea why I remember this particular play, except being the only girl on the field, I must have been exceedingly proud of myself. I was playing second base, with a runner on first. The batter hit a line drive, I jumped and got it in the webbing of the glove, came down, and threw it to first for the double play. Maybe I remember because the runner was so angry and humiliated that a “girl” doubled him up.

You know, I may be wrong….but an athletic play like that sure lives in the memory a long time after you fail at making mayonnaise or trying to thread a needle.

My poor Ma lived to see me cook for four hungry kids and keep them nourished to the point where they were seldom sitting in one place for long; she saw me make little flannel shirts for my three sons on my own treadle machine. She knew all I needed was to sit by myself and figure it out.

But I still like the double play on the “flat” a lot better.

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The Mighty Lady Slipper

I loved spring in Greenwood Center, Maine. The winds had left with their icy whips and the ground was bare…oh, for it to be warm again to feel the grass between my toes. But for right now, there were puddles of mud, not unlike chocolate pudding, that I jumped over or around  to protect the once a year purchase of school shoes.

There was an aroma in the air…so hard to describe, but Ma had taught me how to tell if it was going to rain. “You can smell it coming,” she told me over and over. “Just stick your nose up in the air and you can smell a soft, sweet tinge to the air.” Well, you know, at first I didn’t believe her, but as I grew older, I came to realize she was right and before long, I could see the rain drops hit the far side of Twitchell Pond and come closer and closer until it hit our front yard and we all ran inside….well, that is, unless it was a really hot day and then we might let a few of those rain drops cool us off!

Ma was of Native American heritage and to this day I am not sure how much and all the details but she was passionate about flowers and all that went with the earth. One of the very first things I remember her saying was, “Don’t pick the lady slippers.” “If you see a yellow lady slipper, they are very rare. Walk way around it.” Well, every time I picked up my alder fishing pole to  go down behind Wagner’s camp, she picked it right up on her radar. “Don’t you go picking those lady slippers, now.” I would no more thought of picking a lady slipper than I would have robbed a bank. That has stayed with me to this day.

Trilliums were fair game and the white with the blood red centers were abundant on the path to my cousins’ home. I often picked a bouquet and Ma would put them in a jam jar on the kitchen table. However, there was one bouquet she did not appreciate. It seems it was my turn to wipe the dishes and being me, I managed to disappear. Ma was not amused and I knew it…it was in the air. I went up the path and there, amongst the white trilliums, were loads of wine colored trilliums. I picked the biggest bouquet in the hopes of gaining Ma’s favor. Back I came, bouquet in hand, and she took the flowers without saying a word and into the jam jar they went. Dad came in a few minutes later, took one look and asked, “Where did you get those Stinkin’ Benjamins?” Well, had I bent my head a little more, I would have noticed the awful smell, but the color was so pretty I figured that was all that mattered!

About this time, Gram Martin’s lilacs opened and hung over the ditch by the side of the road. Oh, the perfume in the air when we walked by. We did not touch her lilac bush , simply because it belonged to Gram and we had never asked permission. That, however, did not stop a summer resident who left with an armful one late spring day and my Gram  sputtering on the porch just about as loud as I had ever heard her!! She thought that was pretty “nervy” but had that person asked, Gram would probably helped fill her arms full. It was a matter of principle!!

Time for Uncle Louis to ready his row boat for the season. It sat upside down on blocks during the winter months and now one could hear as he scraped…scraped..scraped the old paint off and applied new green paint for the season. When it was absolutely, perfectly, pristine in his eyes, the boat was launched.  He shared it with Dad in their fishing pursuits and it was duly noted that the boat was as clean when it was brought back to shore as it was when it left.

Usually one day in spring, my Uncle Louis would bring a sack of things to be thrown on “our dump.”  Back then, most houses had their own dump set back in the woods away from the main house and there the tin cans went and other throw aways. I knew that Gram did not have a dump but marveled at Uncle Louis having just one sack of things each year to be tossed!

Spring was a magic time . We played out later at night..marbles in the ditch by the road, jumping rope with a piece of Ma’s left over clothes line, rolling tires on the tarred road. We were always tired enough to sleep once Ma called from the doorway.

Best of all, Rex and I hooked up the old Philco and many an afternoon, sat on the doorsteps and marveled as Curt Gowdy described another Red Sox game. Johnny Pesky, Ted Williams, Bobby Doerr and all the other greats. That was the beginning of my love for baseball which has never left.

I miss it all …well, let’s be honest. I don’t miss the old outhouse at the edge of the woods. The best part was that in the spring, there was no path to shovel to get to it.

Memories. Another box opened this morning.

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And Ever in Peace may it wave

Another Memorial Day has passed with the marching bands, groups of Boy and Girl Scouts and we can’t forget the fire engines which makes every little boy’s heart jump with excitement.

My eyes always seek out the old veterans, who now hold the honor of riding  the parade route. They have done their share of walking, marching, crawling over the years. It is time to pay them homage.

So few left. Why are there so few left? My brain wraps around my age and I know…I know that it is impossible for many of our World War II veterans to still be with us. Oh, but that can’t be , because that is where my most precious memories lay.

Grammie Martin hurrying up the hill from the mailbox, trying to open the letter she has received, but so afraid with all the cut out censor marks, she might tear a bit and lose a word. She opens the letter to find pieces cut out here, there and blacked out letters. That is ok. She knows. She knows that her sons are ok; her grandson is ok. They have to be ok. She settles into her padded cushion covering the little rocking chair, crosses her little blue sneakers at the ankles, and a hush comes over the porch. Even I, at my young age, know this is a precious moment and not one to be disturbed. She reads, shuffles the papers and finally with a sigh, folds it tenderly and tucks it back into the envelope. She will relay what news she has to Grampa when he comes in from the barn, but for now it is enough to hold in her hand the same piece of paper her son held so many days ago as he wrote to her.

The Canadian Air Force gave me one of the biggest phobias to overcome in my young life. One day I was fishing on Minna Jacob’s wharf and out of nowhere came this huge plane dipping over Twitchell Pond. My first thought was that the Japanese had somehow got to us and bombs would be next! I dropped the pole and ran for the house, up the stairs, threw myself on the bed and covered my head with my pillows. It was to be  years before I could be outside , hear an airplane and not run for the house and hide upstairs. I never told my parents; I never told anyone as I found it to be a sign of weakness.

Oh, those cans of evaporated milk mixed half and half with water to “stretch”it out for coffee and cereal. I cannot stand the smell of evaporated milk to this day. I didn’t mind the squeezing of the white greasy mess in the plastic bag with its little yellow dot. I ground that in my hands forever until it was a lovely shade of pale yellow and not one streak could be found. Sugar!! What a treat to have a slice of bread with a thin spread of oleo sprinkled with sugar. Ma stood with the teaspoon and gently shook it as we stood in line with our breads. I can still feel the gritty sugar in my teeth but how sweet after the molasses!

How Dad missed his brothers, Dwight and Glenn. He always felt guilty because the saw mill accident had maimed his hand until there was no way he could get into the service. I think my Uncle Dwight realized this as he kept sending him souveniers as he traveled. There was a long rattle snake skin pinned to the wall at the foot of my parents’ bed which came from Arizona, I think. I never could bear to look at it. It was my father’s pride and joy. As the years went by and his brothers still gone, he was the recipient of many kinds of coins and other little memorabilia. I think he carried one coin in his pants pocket so when he touched it, he thought of Dwight.

And oh, the memory of my Uncle Dwight lying on a bed on Gram’s porch in the years after the war. Gram seldom came to the house , but on these occasions she quite often did, I think, for reassurance that he was going to be ok. Uncle Dwight had reoccurance of Malaria and when it happened, I guess it was awful. WE kids were not allowed near the porch or the house while he was sick and while he was recovering.

After all these years I still have the fan he brought me from Japan and on the back is the date and Kobe, Japan. The more delicate one from the Phillipines was brought to me by my Uncle Glenn. It was hard for me to believe that they thought of me while so many miles away.

Patriotism will never again be known the way it was during WWII, in my opinion. There was nothing that the people would not do to support the troops. School kids picked milkweed for parachute cloth and people stomped on tin cans all for the great cause.

I thought, with the ending of WWII, we would never again know the horrors of war. Oh, how wrong I was..the innocence of a child. I read the headlines of Korea and our local boys there; lost relatives in Viet Nam…sent care packages to a neighbor in Desert Storm…and on and on it goes.

Will it ever end? Will there ever be peace on earth? Sadly I do not think so. But sometimes on a Memorial weekend, I remember standing in front of my relatives seated so sedately on Gram’s couch and singing “There’s a Star Spangled Banner Waving Somewhere” and believing with all my heart that there was a special place in heaven just for all the heroes who died.

I still believe there is.

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