The Alone Girl dared to dream…

The dream wouldn’t leave her alone. Every night it came and every morning she woke up in the wrong room. As the youngest family member she was used to receiving the smallest bedroom. That wasn’t the issue. This bedroom was in the wrong house and even in an entirely different state. When would the nightmare end?

She wanted the bedroom that had the little alcove where she played school and house. She wanted the bedroom with the view of Lake Champlain out its windows. She wanted her bedroom at the top of the stairs even though it had the door to the attic in it.

After a month of being the new kid in a different school, the Alone Girl knew she would never again have that bedroom with the view. The bedroom in which she played with her best friend, John, from down the street. The girl did not like the new rented house or the new school. And she didn’t like making new friends though it was not a difficult task. She wanted to be back in Vermont.

As the dream came less frequently, she decided she would keep her former life alive in her own head. She would keep the memories alive and build on them with her own imagination. To feed her imagination and to cope with the fact that New York kids didn’t like playing outdoors, she began to read more. Always a good reader, the girl now devoured books. She wanted fuel for her own stories.

A move the next year into a real house yielded her the smallest bedroom but she liked it. And the best part of this house was its location around the corner from the public library. The girl began a systematic attack on the library’s shelves. When she wasn’t outside playing, she had a book in her hand. Soon her imaginative stories went far beyond Vermont into the old West and to Bayport where the Hardy Boys lived. In a pinch she read the Hardy Boys because her brother possessed a collection.

The Alone Girl’s dream for her future did not pan out as she envisioned. Fate intervened and changed it drastically. Still she dared to dream, life’s events dampened those dreams. She replaced them with new dreams.

One dream will be attained. The Alone Girl will keep writing down the stories from her imagination. It will become a work of fiction, a mystery. Another will follow and then another. It won’t be tomorrow, it won’t be next month, but rest assured it will happen. Dreams may turn to dust but dreams may, and will, come true.

“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.”  C.S. Lewis

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Was he correct?

Prior to my knee replacement, my surgeon told me at least three times that I would hate him for the first month after surgery. I don’t have a tendency to hate people so I thought this unlikely. True to my usual form, I do not hate my surgeon at all. I wasn’t crazy about how I felt the first few weeks, but I’m coming around.

It’s been four weeks since my total knee replacement. I’m walking slowly and carefully and without any assistive device, have been for three weeks. It’s no longer a huge process to get into the car. I don’t have to put the seat all the way back and ease my left leg in, then pull the seat forward in order to drive and then put the seat back once I arrive at a destination. It bends more than 90 degrees.

The steri strips are falling off the incision so I no longer look like I have a zipper knee. The incision is mostly healed and only looks a bit icky. Strength in my quad muscles is returning as I do my exercises each day. And today I was able to make a full pedal revolution on the recumbent bike. Then I pedaled for ten more minutes. This was huge for me.

Bottom line…the people who have encouraged me and told me there is light at the end of the tunnel were correct. It’s easy to lose that perspective when one isn’t sleeping well, one is in pain, or one is unable to do what was once an easy task. Patience is required. Persistence is required. Humility increases at an incredible rate. But only if you allow it and possess it. One needs to listen and absorb before one may make gains. Pride must be pushed aside temporarily. Stubbornness will slow any progress. Most of all, one must have the desire to overcome the challenges of this procedure. I’m very grateful that my experience has gone well thus far. I’m told I’m ahead of schedule whatever that means. I’ve done what I’ve been told, it’s as simple as that. As a diabetic it’s expected I will heal slowly. Thankfully it isn’t the case.

Though I know this is a long process to regain strength and mobility, I’m in it for the long haul. The early feedback is positive so it remains logical to press forward in a similar fashion. Sleep is still an issue, interrupted by my subconscious desire to change positions as I once did. The knee isn’t ready for much of that so it reminds me.

As for my surgeon, was he correct? No. I don’t hate him. I was brought up not to hate though I may feel that emotion toward a few. It’s a strong and destructive emotion, probably more destructive to the hater. Who needs that? I don’t.

Regardless of age-related unsightliness and remaining bruising, the gam is healing and doesn’t look horrible. Here’s to medical advancements that didn’t exist when I was a kid!

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Replace my what?

From time to time I touch on health issues. I’ve managed my way through many odd health challenges so I’m hoping maybe something I share will make it helpful for someone else.

My latest health experience is total knee replacement. I was born with those knees that naturally hyperextend. I was active in sports as a young person and continued to play/teach/coach tennis well into my forties. At that point I hit a wall and was completely burned out with tennis.

To go along with my unusual knees, my ankles would turn on a dime. So, yeah, tennis wasn’t the optimal sport for joint health but when you’re young one is unable to fathom the future impacts of chronic sports-related injuries. I’ve sprained each ankle at least half a dozen times, had a stress fracture in one and a severe torsion-fracture in the other.

Pain has never been a stranger and since 1988, when I severely fractured my ankle and tore all of the ligaments, it has been a daily companion. My knees then became the focal point for twenty years of pain and irritation. In January of this year when cortisone shots and gel injections no longer registered on the comfort meter of my left knee, I made the decision to have my knee replaced.

My surgeon and his team did not sugarcoat anything. In fact he told me I would hate him for the first month post-op. I smiled and nodded, feeling confident I could not hate anyone for performing surgery. Besides, I was brought up not to hate anyone.

Over and over I was told my immediate future would be one filled with pain. Folks shared all sorts of horror stories with me. I’m a researcher by nature so I did what I do well, I read. I scoured the Internet for all things knee replacement-related. What I took from most of the information was pretty common sensical. It was like anything one wants to do well. My preparation had to be good, my mindset had to be good, my commitment to rehab had to be good.

One thing I’ve learned from the various health challenges I’ve faced is to do what I’m told. There is a reason the medical professionals tell you to do certain things. I may not like it and it may be uncomfortable, but short term discomfort is far more acceptable to me than a lifetime of pain.

Three weeks ago yesterday I made my way into the hospital, alone due to the pandemic, and underwent my total knee replacement. It is now a same-day procedure though I pushed for an overnight stay due to some chronic health issues that I wanted to be monitored overnight (atrial fibrillation and diabetes). Things went well and during the night the nerve blocks wore off. Ah, the oft-mentioned pain made itself known. One thing I’d learned over the years was to stay ahead of the pain. So began my schedule of Tylenol every six hours and Oxycodone every four.

At noon the next day, after some quick instruction using a walker, I found myself at home. Someone who knows me well had offered to stay with me for the first two weeks since I wouldn’t be able to drive. I’m an even-tempered individual much of the time so nothing prepared me for the “person” who inhabited my body upon my return from the hospital.

The first 24 hours back home were torn from a sketchbook of black comedy. As an independent person, I was determined to be as little trouble as possible. Again, I follow doctor’s orders but am not good at being fussed over or asking for assistance. Those first 24-48 hours was like hell on earth. I can cuss with the best of them but I have no idea who the foul-mouthed being was who lived in my body. In addition to profuse obscenities streaming from my mouth, I also channeled my frustration over negotiating throw rugs, narrow doorways, etc., into a new athletic event called walker toss. Walker toss pairs well with wall slam, activities choreographed to the new playlist of curse-o-rama.

One of the redeeming purchases in anticipation of wellness was the Breg Polar Active Ice machine. This gizmo alleviates the mess of constant ice packs and yet supplies constant cold water with which to “ice” the affected joint.

By day 4 I’d sent my helper home, through no fault of his own. By day 6 the poor walker had been relieved of duties. Thankfully I was able to navigate on my own two feet. I benefitted from some wonderful neighbors who drove me to physical therapy and made sure I had groceries. I’m one of those people who prefers to be alone when I’m not feeling well. I don’t like to subject others to my unpleasant moods however well meaning they are.

From a knee perspective, I kept up with my pain medicine schedule. I had been told over and over that sleep would be very tricky well into the first month. It was and is. I quickly accepted that sleep would be tough so days and nights became pretty much the same and I slept when I was able. It’s good to have a comfortable recliner because bed is not very comfortable. I switched freely between the two.

I just finished my third week post-op. My knee is doing well, so my physical therapist says. I have pain but it’s surgical pain. I know it will end. I no longer have the constant internal arthritic pain for which I am thankful to God.

Is this a breeze? No, it isn’t. It’s painful. It pays to do the exercises and work hard at therapy. Is it always easy to do? Um, no. I still ice my knee frequently. The nice thing about the machine is the timer.

One more important thing is attention to one’s mental health. My surgeon does not use general anesthesia. I had nerve blocks along with a spinal. I take the occasional pain pill but not a steady diet of them. That said, I am liable to burst into tears at a moment’s notice for unknown reasons. Many a night when I am unable to sleep, I sob instead. Why? I don’t know.

I’m thankful for my ear buds so it’s easy to listen to music during the middle of the night. It’s also calming. I’m thankful for not needing an assistive device for walking since day 6. I’m missing swimming in the neighborhood pool. I’m unable to do that until the incision heals. I’m thankful to have resumed driving though never after I’ve had a pain pill.

Was it worth it? I think so. The chronic pain is gone. I’ll let you know at the end of the summer when I will be better able to gauge the success. For now, I will keep slogging away at exercises, therapy, and keeping my head on straight. And I will keep the dream alive that someday sleep will return.

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The meaning of memorial

Technically speaking, the word memorial means a record or a memoir. It also indicates something commemorative or that preserves a memory. For us, this weekend is specific to those who have served our country and who perished while doing so. It is a time for reflection and for respect.

While doing genealogical research, I discovered an important aspect to my mother’s paternal line. Much of her family came from Ireland during the hungry time in the mid 1800s. I was surprised to find my Scottish great, great grandfather had served in the Civil War and died of a gunshot wound…in New Orleans of all places. So what was a guy from Scotland via Albany, NY, doing fighting in New Orleans?

He was a member of the NY 131st Infantry, also known as the Metropolitan Guard. The unit was raised in New York City. New York City? But he lived in Albany. There is a great deal that is unknown about these circumstances. I will leave it at that. But his war records show the documentation of a wound sustained during the Port Hudson conflict. He was taken to University Hospital in New Orleans where he died almost two months later.

James Pringle was buried in a now defunct cemetery that was paved over to form Canal Boulevard in New Orleans. As far as I can learn, his remains were never reinterred elsewhere. Thus I am unable to pay my respects. At a time when our country is so divided, our past shows how divisiveness is destructive. There is no memorial to James Pringle to commemorate his 46 years of life.

When I was almost 11 years old, I visited the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery. It had a profound effect on me. I went to the library when I returned home and learned what I could about this tradition. The inscription touches my very soul.  “Here Rests In Honored Glory An American Soldier Known But To God.” Is it glorious to die in battle? I have to think it’s pretty horrible but should respect anyone who has made that sacrifice.

The Tomb of the Unknowns is a lasting memorial to those who died while defending the rights and freedoms of our country. It is a tangible place to mourn our losses just as other numerous military cemeteries do. One of the most poignant to me is the American Cemetery in Normandy. So many boys were never able to come home. They reside for eternity in a beautiful place, interred in a country they fought to defend as allies.

John McRae, a Canadian poet and physician, penned his most famous poems “In Flanders Field” after the burial of one his friends. I will spare you the tedium of dissecting it but it is a blend of beauty and loss.

In Flanders Fields
    In Flanders Fields, the poppies blow
          Between the crosses, row on row,
       That mark our place; and in the sky
       The larks, still bravely singing, fly
    Scarce heard amid the guns below.

        We are the dead, short days ago
      We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
       Loved and were loved, and now we lie
             In Flanders fields.

    Take up our quarrel with the foe:
    To you from failing hands we throw
       The torch; be yours to hold it high.
       If ye break faith with us who die
    We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
             In Flanders fields.

It is ironic that this iconic doctor died of pneumonia just prior to the end of the war.

Preservation of our memorials is as important as our preservation of history. They mean something. They are part of us, like it or not. They speak for the dead.

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So, here’s the story…

I love stories. I love to hear stories and I love to tell stories. Stories were a large part of my teaching style. Students thought I was just using up time but 95% of the time, the stories related to what we were studying. That’s the beauty of language and experience. So much of it is relatable.

“Those who tell the stories rule the world.” –Hopi American Indian proverb

I can identify with this quote from the Hopi culture. I’ve read numerous offerings of Native American literature: novels, plays, poetry, traditional legends. Not many tell a story better than Native Americans. On the surface it’s a tale of events and people, but below the surface its teeming with metaphor and life lessons. I used quite a few different pieces in conjunction with my teaching over the years and a Sherman Alexie novel, The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, was taught in our ninth grade curriculum. It was a great opportunity to introduce the students to so many things they’d probably never known existed, including some of our local Iroquois culture.

“The human species thinks in metaphors and learns through stories.” –Mary Catherine Bateson

I find this concept to be very true. We do think in metaphors, so many of them becoming phrases we use continually. Since you may have forgotten what a metaphor is: it’s a literary device used to make comparisons, often imaginative, between unlike things. For example: life is a highway, you have ants in your pants, love is a journey…you get the idea.

Metaphors may allow us to visualize.  “He could hear Beatty’s voice. ‘Sit down, Montag. Watch. Delicately, like the petals of a flower. Light the first page, light the second page. Each becomes a black butterfly. Beautiful, eh? Light the third page from the second and so on, chainsmoking, chapter by chapter, all the silly things the words mean, all the false promises, all the second-hand notions and time-worn philosophies.’” Fahrenheit 451Ray Bradbury Here we get a glimpse into the act of burning a book. light the first page and the second. It becomes a black butterfly. A thing of beauty you are using to destroy all of those hateful words and unfulfilled promises that literature offers.

Sometimes the concept is simple.  “Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.” —Will Rogers

Another great idea about story telling comes from Maya Angelou, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” This particular quote speaks to me and, I’m sure, to many other writers. It’s like the premise of dying with your song still inside you. Though I’ve told thousands of stories over the years, there is still much more I need to say. Many of the stories I’ve told contain humor. Humor is a natural element of my personality. I love a good laugh, unless its at the expense of others. Laughing is good for the soul. But, please, don’t ever fall down in front of me. I will ask if you’re okay but then I will laugh like a hyena. It’s some weird release from within. Trust me, I’m a champion faller and I will not be upset of you laugh yourself silly. And yes, I have a few epic stories about falling.

It’s a hard line to draw between stories we tell and stories we’d like to tell. Those often remain in the mind and imagination of the teller. Maybe they aren’t appropriate, or are too personal. Roy Orbison sings about it in his song “In Dreams,”

In dreams I walk with you
In dreams I talk to you
In dreams you’re mine all of the time
We’re together in dreams, in dreams

Our dreams seem to reveal our innermost thoughts and desires. To me, storytellers are also dreamers. Perhaps some dreams are not meant to be attainable but what’s the sense of dreaming if that’s what you believe?

Author Tim O’Brien tells the reader in The Things They Carried, “But this too is true: stories can save us.” Stories help to keep things alive in our memories and to cope with our losses. If we tell the stories, then the people and events are never lost. Think about it. I’m sure you have a story that fits the bill. Tell it to us.

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positive influences

By the way, in response to my previous blog post two folks called and chatted with me. It meant a great deal.

I know many of us older, cranky people talk about how much better it was in the olden days. Much of it was, actually. We kids weren’t over-booked with activities; we didn’t have helicopter parents; we lived in a slightly safer world. That’s not to say we didn’t drink out of the garden hose, rode our bikes behind the town truck spraying mosquito killer, played on all metal jungle gyms, shared a bottle of soda with several friends, rode in cars without seat belts, you get the idea.

It was kind of a wholesome life. Many kids had moms who didn’t work outside of the house. Even those of us with moms who did work, they managed to have a hot dinner on the table for us most nights. We were taught manners, respect for ourselves and for others. As a girl, it was impressed upon me not to let a boy take liberties because I wouldn’t be respected. Besides, I think it made dating a little more exciting if we were still discovering romance rather than counting conquests. It made dating more meaningful in my opinion.

I digress. Two things were instrumental in shaping my life (other than family): books and television. As mentioned in other posts, I was a goofy kid. I was a blend of funny, spontaneous, imaginative, active, bookish, and very shy. I loved to play and if it was outdoors, all the better.

But I also enjoyed watching television. We had a smallish tv when I was a kid, maybe a 14″ screen. It was black and white and we had to get up and change the channel manually. There were a total of three channels. Captain Kangaroo ruled the mornings. Afternoons featured many choices such as My Favorite Martian, My Mother the Car, The Munsters, The Addams Family, Gilligans Island, and a host of others. One of my favorites on the weekend was ABC’s Wide World of Sports where “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat” was captured on film for us to watch. I remember watching arm wrestling one week only to see a competitor’s arm break during the match. Didn’t faze me in the least. Now it would give me the dry heaves. And heaven forbid if the show was interrupted and the words “Special Report” appeared in large letters on your screen. We kids in the 60’s saw that a lot as we were witness to many political assassinations.

And the Cold War always hovered just behind us. Our basements were stocked with canned goods, sterno, and bottles of water. Not the type of bottles you see today, but real glass bottles that had once contained juice, milk, or other products. Living in a city that had a missile silo made me all too aware of the threat. Yet, we carried on.

Kids these days will never know the thrill of watching a space shot or a splashdown. A thrill to see the launch but we never knew if they were going to return or not. It was a joyous event when they did. Classes were often stopped for us to be taken into the cafeteria or gym to have 200 of us watch the event on a single 19″ tv set. Then there were the magical sleepy afternoons of fall when we might catch a glimpse of a World Series game. Or if one was lucky enough to own a transistor radio with an earphone, it was brought into school and hidden in the desk. That student’s job was to provide score updates.

I don’t know. Things were good back then. It was fairly uncomplicated. We appreciated what we had and didn’t expect things like $700 cell phones to be handed to us. If we wanted stuff, we saved for it. We mowed lawns, babysat and did odd jobs for the neighbors. We stuck with our part-time jobs as it spoke well for our work ethic. Kids have jobs du jour now. and their work ethics are often horrible.

I don’t deign to return to those days. But, as a memory, it was a special time. A time that had an impact on my character, on my morals, and ethics. I’m proud to be a product of those days. It means something to me. I will touch on reading another time.

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Let’s talk…

Social media provides almost instant gratification. We are used to it and expect it. And that’s nice to an extent. But it’s two dimensional. It’s hard to really know what a person’s tone or mood is, unless they’re like me who tends to be brusque and clipped when I’d prefer to talk rather than type.

Today was one of those days when I wanted to talk to a friend, someone who understands me. But I’m hesitant to reach out because most of my friends have families or other responsibilities. Or I reach out and someone doesn’t want to converse. I’d have to say this has been the way of it for much of my life. I often felt I was always the one to initiate contact and after a while one feels one is being a pest or that the other party maybe doesn’t want to speak with me. Whatever.

Perhaps it’s a downside to living alone. But 99% of the time I have no problem keeping busy and it’s rare for me to feel lonely. I didn’t feel lonely today, just wanted to connect with a friendly voice. I generally speak with the same few people each day. But today I wanted to connect with different folks. What I got was crickets.

Due to the fact I’m not one to be overt, I feel some don’t perceive the subtlety of the way I reach out at times. However, some get it right away and back off. That’s kind of sad, for me anyway.

At these times I turn to music or books. Some of them get how I feel but they don’t talk back. Sometimes you just need someone to listen and respond. I’ve always got a great deal swirling through my head. It’s just the way I am. And there are days that I definitely feel I can’t keep juggling all of the balls. I never drop them, though.

One of my favorite 80s power anthems came to the rescue this evening. I’ve always enjoyed listening to Heart and their song “Alone” has been flipping through my mind:

“I hear the ticking of the clock
I’m lying here the room’s pitch dark
I wonder where you are tonight
No answer on the telephone”

Naturally, this song is about desire and relationships but that’s not how I’m looking at it. Just wanted to talk to someone and the feeling of loneliness in the song was akin to my feelings. There you have it, sometimes it’s just simple.

So, when you have some time, let’s chat.

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Thanks for stopping on your way through…

Smiles, expressions, funny quips…all things delivered in a heartbeat or less. Yet, they may be remembered for eternity. Within the last several years, two women who reside in my memory departed this life through their own decisions.

I became acquainted with one of them in high school. She was funny, quirky, smart, and accomplished. She sang beautifully and participated on the tennis team. Her opponents were often flummoxed by her innate ability to switch hands while playing. It was unnerving to witness but it worked very well for her game. I only knew her in high school though our paths crossed in adulthood due to both of us living in our hometown. Little more than pleasantries passed between us.

We had taken different paths and didn’t seem to have much in common any longer. And we were both wrapped up in our own busy lives. Could I have been more willing to connect? Probably. I was content remembering the fun we’d had. Crazy sleepovers involving M&M’s fights, riding around in her mother’s green Duster, and flashing “the Fang.”

My other friend was a friend from adulthood though we attended the same high school two years apart. We didn’t run in the same social circles as teens but becoming an adult erases much of that. Thank goodness. We had loads of fun, loads of laughs, loads of memories. Just as with my high school friend, many of my memories include cookies, beer, and laughter. And smiles, so many smiles.

Each relationship harbors its own bunch of memorable quotes and vocabulary. Whenever something comes to mind I never cease to smile or laugh. I’m so thankful to have that part of them with me always.

Both of these women dealt with depression and mental health challenges. Both were caretakers for their mothers. Both were dearly loved by friends and family.

As someone who has dealt with depression daily for forty years, I know how they felt some of the time. I’ve also known that dark place where you don’t feel you can go on. I will never act on that thought yet I know how easy it could be. And I felt anger toward both of these gals that they took that step and left us behind. My calmer mind understands and is not angry except for the fact that they weren’t able to stay with us. I believe they are at peace, laughing among the angels, no longer depressed or anxious.

Betsy and Tracy, you enriched my life immeasurably in such different ways. It was an honor to be counted as a friend to each of you. So glad you stopped by to be part of my life.

Fly with the angels, my friends.

For those of us left behind. We need to grieve. There will be a time when I will smile always when I think of these two. Some words I find comforting come from The Band Perry’s If I Die Young:

“The ballad of a dove
Go with peace and love
Gather up your tears, keep ’em in your pocket
Save ’em for a time when you’re really gonna need ’em…”

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The Alone Girl travels

Most anything was worth it, the Alone Girl thought as she gazed out at the meadow. The grass had a hay-like smell and the world was clean and heavy with dew. In the near distance, the apparition of a lake of clouds. It was late summer in Vermont, the Jeffersonville area to be exact. The girl and her mother were visiting friends in Burlington who also had a lovely summer cabin in the nearby mountains.

An awkward time of life, the girl was about to enter the ninth grade. In an attempt to forge her own path, the girl was working on her look. Photos show a smoldering glance, almost obscured by long dark blond hair. The girl slouched in photos, not yet accustomed to the power of her figure, embarrassed by and self conscious of it. She would learn, in time, but it would be too late.

The benefits of visiting in Vermont were counterbalanced by the fact they would have to return, eventually, to New York. Time spent in an idyllic setting would evaporate just like the lake of clouds in early morning. It would seem like a dream, always like a dream. But it was real, truly.

The girl would spend an abundance of time with another girl who was socially awkward. The girl would classify her old acquaintance as “different.” And she was. But the girl was always kind to others, especially those who were different. Besides, it was companionship in a place where the activities were limitless.

On this day, the girls and their mothers were not slated to go to the old swimming hole. The mothers were headed to a nearby town for lunch and window shopping. The girls were on their own for the day. After an early lunch the girls headed down the small road for a visit to the cow pond at the nearby farm. They knew not to swim in it. It was loaded with leeches. But there was always a chance for a glimpse at the horses, the huge Belgian draft horses.

By noon, the sun was hidden behind thick clouds and the air was thick with moisture. The allure of the pond had passed and the girls were headed back to the cabin to read, one of their favorite pastimes. A jingling noise and the beat of heavy hoofs pounding on the dirt road captured their attention. They were horse crazy, after all. Two draft horses, in full harness, were creating powder puffs of dust as they made their way toward the girls. Two strapping young men were astride the horses. They were the boys from the farm and brothers. Hard to know their ages but they had to be in their late teens, bodies well muscled from their farm labor.

The girl’s friend knew them slightly and hailed them. They were in the process of dragging fallen logs from the woods back to the farm. Did we want to go with them? Without a backward thought, each of us swung up behind a brother. The Alone Girl was not used to riding a draft horse, her supple legs stretched to their limit. Her companion, Ben, encouraged her to hold on to him to keep steady. The fiercely independent girl resisted, she didn’t need a boy to tell her what to do. As they began their climb into the woods, she found herself losing her balance and grabbed the boy around the waist.

Up until this time, boys were fun to have around because the girl was proficient in athletics. She could throw and catch just as well as most boys and also excelled at kickball. This was different, though. Pressed against the back of a sweaty, muscular young man wasn’t such a bad thing, the girl decided. There was an underlying odor of the sweat of hard labor, but there was also a fresh smell of hay and sunshine. And the muscles she felt through the boy’s tee shirt were much more developed than the boys at home.

Disappointed when Ben swung down to hook up the lumber to be dragged back, the girl exchanged glances with her friend. It was hard to suppress grins. The horses were turned and they headed toward the farm where they knew comfort awaited them. Resolved to enjoy the ride back, the girl settled against Ben’s back and reveled in the experience. When they reached the smaller dirt road where the girls would get off, the boys helped them down. In a halting fashion, the other boy announced there was a square dance that Saturday and the girls were welcome. The Alone Girl explained she would be back in New York by then and her friend would be back in Burlington. Maybe another time, the boys said as they began leading the horses to the farm.

The Alone Girl knew there would never be another time. Instead she vowed to cherish that experience and store it in her memory for the long haul. The girls never divulged the experience to the adults. They knew they would have been reprimanded for running off with strange boys. Indeed, it’s a wonder the experience remained innocent. But innocent it was, and sweet. Whenever the air is thick with humidity and the smell of turned earth is prominent, the girl’s mind travels back to that sultry summer afternoon when her face rested against the boy’s back amidst the smell of his honest labor. And she knew boys would occupy a different place in her mind from then on.

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Isn’t the past important?

I certainly think so. I’ve always stated that if I hadn’t majored in English, I would have majored in American History. To that end, I love reading and learning about our country’s history. looking at historical and social trends over the centuries is very interesting. Customs, traditions, and how they’ve come to be is well worth knowing. This allows us to understand how we’ve become who we are.

Up until the past twenty years or so there had been a longstanding tradition for brides to receive china, silver, and perhaps crystal. Brides would register at shops to receive the items they needed and desired. I suppose since our society has morphed into one where many young people cohabit before marriage, the need for household items isn’t so necessary.

There is no longer a desire for silver and china as possessions and I feel sad about that. Not only are the items beautiful, but much of it has been handed down from generation to generation. Because I love history and language, I love the stories that accompany many of these items. Many families worked so hard to complete a set of china and acquired it with great pride.

Now, I’ve been lucky enough to receive my grandmother’s china. She married in 1926. I also have some pieces of her mother’s (my great-grandmother). My grandmother was born in 1888 and her mother in 1865. I treasure these pieces.

When I was deemed trustworthy to care for the china, I was probably 45, I was thrilled to have it and afraid to use it. However, when I hosted the next holiday dinner for my small family both my uncle and my mother grew teary-eyed when talking about all of the family dinners they remembered. That’s how much my grandmother’s things meant to them. They weren’t just looking at dishes and silverware, they were spending time with the memory of their mother. I think this is sweet. And it never failed, each time I used it for a holiday dinner they teared up all over again and told some great stories. I was happy to provide this experience for them.

My grandmother originally had 12 place settings of both her china and silver. Many of the dinner plates were gone and over the years I’ve been able to replace them. Recently I bought 4 coffee cups and saucers. There had been no cups. Though the cups seem ludicrously small, I love them anyway. Last year I had decided to start having small dinner parties in order to use the china. Then the pandemic began. I’m still planning my idea for the future.

I’m dedicated to preserving these items and will try to leave some stories in my will to go with them. I hope I’m able to find someone who will treasure them even half as much as I do. At some point I will probably absorb my mother’s china and silver. Much of her crystal doesn’t survive. While her china pattern is very pretty, I vastly prefer my grandmother’s. But I prefer my mom’s silver pattern to that of my grandmother’s. Still, I’d be loathe to get rid of it. All of the silver is kept under lock and key and is not located in our houses, just in case someone gets ideas.

Here is a fun story from elsewhere within the family. When I was 15, my uncle took me, my mom, and grandmother to the Cape for a week. On the way back we stopped to stay overnight with my Aunt Marge. She was my grandmother’s only sister. As staid and formal as my grandmother was, Aunt Marge was just the opposite. She was full of fun, a little bawdy, and an excellent cook. She could also crochet an afghan faster than you could think about it. This was the mid 1970s. My grandmother was 85, so Marge was 79.

Right before we were to leave, Marge took my mother aside. She was holding a large and beautiful dark-blue Wedgewood pitcher. It seems as though when our people came over to Connecticut in the mid 1800s from Ireland, some of them worked as domestics in large mansions. A favorite practice was for the household help to play poker when the family was not at home. And, you guessed it, many of the winnings were filched from the home. With that, Marge handed over the pitcher to my mother. She said for her to take good care of it as it was earned the hard way. None of us had ever heard that story, including my grandmother. But she had moved away when she was married and may not have been privy to all of the family secrets. I have no reason not to believe my Aunt Marge and I’ve since heard some similar stories from other families.

It makes me sad that young people don’t seem to care for the past and the items related to such. I just hope it’s something they don’t come to regret. As for me, I love having those items around. It’s like a part of my family is still with me.

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