The Unforgettable Moment

It was a beautiful fall day…the very first part of October. The mountains were a blaze of color in any direction one looked. It was the era of the Fabulous Fifties. I was in high school. and the world was just one fabulous place to be and mine for the taking.  Maybe that will explain why, after 65 years I still vividly recall one of the moments when my head was in the glorious clouds and nowhere was I on earth! I tried to remember this moment when my own teenage daughter did something so in-explainable, it defied words.

But I digress. It was early one Saturday morning and Ma decided she should visit her parents on Rowe Hill. There was nothing I would rather do that see my Grandfather and Grandmother Libby. Their little house set off on a road from Rowe Hill and Grampa built the house himself in 1905.  Ma was born there in 1915, so it was just a place that I, being a loner and nature lover, loved to just walk around outside and explore while she was inside.

This particular day, I wandered to the hen house on the knoll and proceeded to take count of the chickens. Bored with that, I rounded the house and spied Grampa’s apple tree. Now you remember, my Grandfather Martin was highly particular who touched his apple tree. Not so Grampa Libby.  There the tree stood with red apples everywhere..on every limb it seemed. I spotted one that I knew would be the apple of all apples and Grandpa wouldn’t care if I picked it.

Ah! But there was just one problem. I was about 5’6″ tall and this particular apple was about 6″ up in the air. No problem, I thought, as I looked around for something to nudge it off the limb. No sticks anywhere. Ah, but there’s a rock . I can throw a baseball and hit most anything. There’s no reason why I can’t knock that apple off the tree.  Such went the thoughts through my head and out both ears, obviously. Rock in hand, I gave a mighty throw..I would have called it a strike right over the plate.

The sound of shattering glass  echoed through the valley and I stood dumbfounded. I was so intent on getting the shiny prize of an apple I never looked beyond. I had broken one of my Grandparents’ windows. 

Ma blew around the corner as if shot from a cannon and demanded what on earth was going on. There was no explanation. I was just as dumbfounded as she was and there was no way she could even begin to explain her daughter’s behavior. I was sick with shame.

She marched me into the house to face my Grandfather. He smiled and said, “These things happen” which made me feel even worse. I tried to tell him how sorry I was with Ma interjecting( and correctly so) that I was old enough to know better.

In the end, all was ironed out. Ma got Grampa a new window pane and it was put in a couple days later, but the shame of that moment has never left me. It would have felt better, I think, if Grampa had been angry!!

A lesson learned. When  your eye is on a prize you think you can’t live without, take a moment to look beyond and see how your getting it might affect others.  I didn’t for that two second moment back in 1953 and it still smarts!

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AlMOST A CHRISTENING

It was way back in the Sixties…and the Martin family was still reeling from the unexpected death of my Dad in late 1966. We were all keeping an eye on my mother, although each morning she pulled her whole 4’10” frame behind the wheel of the car and set off to work at Ekco Housewares.

Winter morphed into summer and the little three room house began to show signs of renovations. Ma obtained the services of Charlie Day, the neighbor right down the road, to build an addition on the back of the house where she planned to have a furnace installed. Yes! After years of plugging wood into the old heater, she would be able to flip a switch or a twist of the thermostat and have instant gratification! I had no idea that Ma had a list of three “luxuries” she wanted and found that there was enough insurance money left from my Dad’s services to provide them.

The furnace was installed and I’ll add now that Jake McAllister and Mellen Kimball came often to allay any nervousness on Ma’s part. She wasn’t sure if the motor sounded right; was the motor supposed to come on that often??… her second luxury was now on the wall and she called either Jake or Mellen who reassured her immediately or would come immediately to calm her fears. Bless those two men!

But wait for it….her third “luxury” was –ta da!–a new bathroom. There would be no more shoveling a path to the edge of the woods; no more freezing to the wooden seat in January. It was almost beyond her imagination, but strangely, enough, she said very little about this accomplishment which puzzled me.

I have no idea whose idea it was at the time, but am pretty sure it was Martha who decided we should have a “shower” for the new bathroom. After all, hadn’t it been forever that the family of six had all marched to that little building out back? This was a happening.

And so it was that one Sunday afternoon, my three sisters-in-law, Sylvia, Donna, Martha and I, one by one, drove into her yard. We approached the house with wrapped gifts in hand and found Ma, sitting at the table sipping a cup of tea.

“What on earth?” she exclaimed ( her favorite phrase).

“We’ve come to christen the new bathroom,” said one or all of us. There was a shower curtain, towels, bathroom brush, and I remember bringing a round hamper which would not take up much space. Everything was in blue and at this point Ma would not have cared if they were orange, so surprised she was.

You had to know my Ma. She was not accustomed to being gifted with much of anything and I think the most she could say, “Oh for heavens sakes”.  The new little bathroom just fairly gleamed as we put everything in place.

Because of our work schedules, it was seldom all of us assembled in one place at one time, so that added to the atmosphere. Sipping tea, nibbling on cookies from Ma’s secret jar and exchanging news soon had Ma relaxing and enjoying the whole afternoon.

Lacking a bottle of champagne, ( and where would we have smashed it?), we never did officially christen the new bathroom, but by the look in Ma’s eyes when we left, she was one happy woman.  I figured she was thinking about being inside and the snow drifts outside in the oncoming winter.

Heat with a flip, a phone for emergencies and a bathroom that required no shoveled path.  I have never seen Ma any happier than that Sunday.

 

 

 

 

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September is closing in and I can see clear to Indian Pond now; in the early morning I see the smoke from the Hanscom homestead chimney rise into the air. It is the time of year when the morning’s chill has to be eased with a small wood fire. I have the Ashley wood heater going in the kitchen and soon the warmth will spread as the kids rush down the stairs to catch the early morning school bus.

Soon they will be off and I will hold down the fort with the animals. It’s strange how I go from day to day concentrating on the inside of the farm, but not really noticing what is going on outside. Many a time I have glanced through the kitchen window and seen a new beast and wondered when it appeared on the range. It was as though Noah rounded up all the animals two by two, but there were spares and they landed in our pasture.

There was Toby, the horse, who came to live on the farm. Brian rode him the most, I think. I just know one day when we woke, he was lying on his side in the field behind the house, never to be ridden again. What about the day I arrived home from the grocery store to find the lamb..well, at that point a full grown sheep…lying on his side on the front lawn..never to bleat again.  One of my favorites was Jack, the burro. We even had a little saddle for him and somewhere there is a glorious photo of my standing next to Jack. I was wearing a very popular 1960’s paper dress. I know I never got on Jack’s back but guess I liked him well enough to have a photo taken with him. Same thing. Got up one morning and he was in the back yard as well.

By now, you are wondering what kind of curse existed around the old farm? I believe there had to be some poisonous plant the animals ate which must have killed them. I have no idea and at that time, we never thought of autopsies. I just knew every time another animal went down, I had four kids who were in the throes of grief for quite some time. Why none of the cows kicked up their hooves and perished is beyond me. But then, probably knowing cows, their stomachs are cast iron. (No, I don’t like cows..have I mentioned that?)

If there were one visitor to the farm I wish would kick up his spurs and die, it was the miserable old rooster. Now this bird came to the farm in a far more attractive state.  A friend asked if I had room for a little colored chick at Easter. Well, yes, what was one little chicken in all the flurry of our every day living. But that little colored chick slowly morphed into a big feathered bird from hell…The kids gave it a name, which I forget. Frankly, I had names for it and hopefully the kids never heard me when it was uttered.

I remember the evening the husband was gone and for some reason, I thought I should take something to the cows. I meandered out there, breathing in the sweet air of the mountain with my head somewhere in the clouds, delivered whatever I was carrying and was on my way back to the house, still with my head in the clouds. Out of nowhere I heard a screaming noise and suddenly I had a rooster attached to the back of one leg and he was hanging on with his spur. I screamed, danced a jig to rid myself of the crazed feathers to no avail. This was pure pain. In desperation, I grabbed a stick by the path and tried beating him off…I probably whacked him a dozen times and I guess the spur got tired or he became unhinged.  I had a bloody leg to show for it and swore if it happened again, I personally would do him in. He contributed nothing to the farm. I can’t remember that he even crowed to wake us up in the morning. A parasite with feathers, I always thought. I prayed for that rooster to be on his side some morning when I awoke. It never happened. We don’t have that rooster any more. I don’t know what happened to him and I don’t care. That was the end of my good deed of adopting Easter chicks.

Cats! Oh, Lord, we have barn cats. I have almost lost count of how many we have. Some come in the house to eat; others stay outside most of the time. They’re good company…don’t say much and don’t argue back. Occasionally I get a dirty look and a couple might get to a hair raising stage, but no fights.

So it is peaceful this September day. The house is quiet with all the kids gone and time passes slowly, it seems, until I get accustomed to their leaving. It is an early morning for them, having to be at the bus stop before seven. Around three this afternoon, I will be watching as they come up the hill, school papers waving in their hands to show me and tales of the day.

The dog will bark her welcome; the farm will come alive again.

 

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