My Journey to Eighty

I never thought of about celebrating my 80th year..I didn’t think I would ever find it , in those days of running the fields of Maine, flying kites with my four children…there was no time to be thinking that far in the future…

But here I am. I like to think I learned a few things along the way..and I know I’ve forgotten  a few as well.

Surround yourself with positive people; there’s enough negativity in the world without your gathering up more.

Forgive when you think you cannot; the weight comes off your shoulders.

Listen. It’s far more important than talking and you’ll learn more than you thought possible.

Honor and respect the elderly. You don’t think you’ll ever be that age, but believe me, you will be.

You will age but be grateful; some never get the opportunity.

Never discuss politics or religion. You will never win the argument. Save your breath.

Walking through grief is like pulling your wellingtons out of a swamp. Every step is like a weight that pulls you down; in time, there will be a rock or a little solid piece of land that makes the walk a bit easier.

Have friends who come to see you and don’t care that your house might be a mess.

Have a grumpy day occasionally without guilt. No one can be a cheerful cherub all the time.

Now there are just a few little suggestions and to write everything that I’ve learned on this journey would fill a book.  The things I’ve forgotten would probably fill two.

So much for my thoughts on this Monday morning!

Leaving School Behind

( This is a special piece, invited by my editor, to give you a sneak peak at my upcoming book….)

The music starts; Pomp and Circumstance echoes through the Woodstock High school  gymnasium and I stand, white gown and cap, shaking in my white shoes. I glance to my left and the boys are lined , ready to make the march down the aisle, which looks as long as a highway at this point. I catch my brother’s eye, Rex decked out in his blue gown and cap and wonder if he is thinking of the four years we have just completed and more so, if he is as nervous as I am.

There are ten of us graduating and we have become close over the years.  How can I forget our class trip to New York City? All of us piled on a subway ( none of us had seen one before) for a trip to the Bronx Zoo; half of us managed to get off at the stop and the rest kept traveling, to arrive at the Zoo an hour later. I never knew how they managed the loop..probably afraid to ask. Sitting in the balcony at the old Madison Square Garden watching the trapeze artists from Ringling Brothers swaying in front of us. Oooh, but the side shows downstairs made me sick when I saw a lady with a huge snake. Up into the balcony I dashed in a hurry.

We sat in the balcony of the theater and watched the Tonight Show with Steve Allen as host and wandered down the street at midnight to our hotel with no fear. But the highlight was standing in the rain for two hours to see Perry Como with his 15 minute television show. I am still in shock that I had a front row seat and he smiled..yes he did..actually smiled at me and asked me if I were nervous because he wasn’t. What a sweet man! Never mind that I have a scrapbook full of pictures of him at home!!

Oh , those are such good memories. Hmm, there are a few I would rather forget. I love Mrs. Herrick, our English teacher, Mrs. Crockett, our commercial teacher, and of course Mr. Lago, our principal. We all get along fine, but there was one critical moment in my four years that Mrs. Crockett and I crossed swords. One half of the year we studied Commercial Law; the other half was ..eeek..Math. If there is one subject I hate, it is Math and all its figures. Well, this day there were problems; is there anything worse than Math problems? I sighed, chewed my pencil, dawdled until Mrs. Crockett asked me if I was going to solve it. I told her that I could not. She maintained that I could if I put my mind to it.. well, suffice it to say, I lost all patience, slammed my book shut ( some say I threw it..not true, I don’t think) and within a moment’s notice, I was sitting in the principal’s office.

Mr. Lago looked at me and said, “Did your sense of humor get you in here again?” where upon Mrs. Crockett laid out the details in fine fashion. I was no longer a member of the Math class and I would not be getting a Commercial diploma, which I think would be helpful in getting a secretarial position. Again, still smarting over being thrown out of class, I told her I did not care what kind of diploma I received as long as I had one in my hand. I never knew when to keep quiet and it took Mrs. Crockett a few seconds to recover as she had never seen me in such a state before. I know now that I was wrong and being disrespectful. I was one of her best pupils in typing and shorthand and she had great hopes for me and here I was, so dumb I could not figure out a math problem.  This was not one of my good memories.

I will not be playing softball and basketball anymore. I won’t be finding Rex to get a  nickle for a bag of potato chips to go with my tuna fish sandwich at noon.  What am I to expect out there in the world? I won’t be seeing Mrs. Herrick any more and having a toga party at her little house down in the village.

OK, the music is going; I am the tallest so will be the last girl in the line and the boys will intermix as we go down the aisle. I am so happy because my Dad is sitting near the front. Earlier this evening, he came into the kitchen with his best brown suit on and Ma said, “Where are you going?” He cocked an eye and said, “to see Muff and Rex graduate”. Well Ma almost keeled over, but there he is.

We’ve gone through the whole ceremony and no one has passed out from fright, though I thought I might when giving a long, boring speech. Even Dad made it through that without leaving.

We have all been handed our diplomas, all ten of us, switched our tassels to the other side and are ready to leave the stage.

It has been a long four years..our class numbers dwindled over the years, but the fun and companionship lived on. I am going to miss climbing those long steps into our little high school.

Those were good days. How fortunate we were to be students in the Fifties!




Stranger in the Center

threeofusIn today’s world, parents are always warning their children about strangers and what could happen if they do not choose wisely. Well, you know, this is nothing new..not at all!

Ma told us to always look for any strange men we might see walking down the “flat” and to come to the house if we ever saw anyone suspicious. Well, we could see a half mile up the “flat” and knew everyone who lived in the Center, so if someone different came wandering down that piece of road, we would know for sure.

They were called “tramps” and Ma explained that most of them were not bad; just down on their luck. If one came to Gram Martin’s house, she might give them a sandwich or a little bowl of soup, but they had to sit outside to eat it. She never let them in the house. Well, no one ever came to our house as it was far back from the road and probably they could tell we had a hard job feeding ourselves!  Ma said if a tramp found a house that gave some food, they would leave a mark for the next one to see so that he could be fed, as well.  Well, I spent a good afternoon looking for marks around our house and came up empty handed.

But then it happened!  One hot Saturday afternoon, Rex and I were rolling our tires on the narrow tarred road and stopped to catch our breath at our mailbox.  I looked up the road and in the distance, there was a man coming down the road! He was too far off for me to see his face, but he was dressed in dark clothing.  Rex and I stared and both agreed we did not know who he was..certainly no one who lived near us!

We did just what Ma had told us to do…we took off running for the house and told her what we had seen..a strange man coming down the road. Well, she told us to stay right in the kitchen with her and we’d watch to see him as he passed by.

Time seemed to stand still and of course, with my vivid imagination, had him almost knocking on our door for a sandwich.  After a bit, we saw him by our mailbox and I bet Gram Martin had seen him now! Oh, No!!  He was turning in our driveway and coming to our house!  This had never happened before. Ma said, Oh my Lord and I guess she was praying that she had something to offer him while he sat on our steps.

He walked ever so slowly up our driveway and soon close enough so we could see his face. Ma started laughing and we thought she was hysterical…then she said, ” that’s not a tramp, that’s your Uncle Pete!”  Well, if we didn’t let out a sigh of relief.

Rex and I had no way of knowing as Uncle Pete lived and worked in Portland. He had come home for the weekend and decided to walk the three miles to see Ma.

We all had a good laugh afterwards, but Ma still insisted that we continue to watch out for strangers and to run to the house should we see one. 

Some things change; other things remain the same…

Photo: Roland, chubby me, Rex