now in the high desert

March 30, 2009

the old ones

Filed under: Uncategorized — ladyofmaine @ 11:34 am

When I was a child many of my friends had an elderly relative living with their grandparents. Nursing homes were available but parents usually stayed with one of their children when they could no longer live alone.

Both sets of my grandparents had my grandfather’s fathers living with them while I was young and I don’t think of their homes from that time without remembering each of my great-grandfathers sitting in “his” easychair in an out-of-the-way corner.

My maternal grandfather’s father was called “Bi” (pronounced as “bye”) though I discovered later his real name was Almon Ezra. I don’t know how he got his nickname but none of us called him “Grampa” or “Grampie”; just “Bi”. He was a thin, small man with great, shaggy eye brows and good sized ears. A navy blue cardigan, patched at the elbows, and black, laced ankle shoes were everyday wear, summer or winter. When I was very young he would weed in the vegetable garden and a fine, early evening would often find him out there with long tweezers plucking slugs from the new leaves and dropping them in a jar containing a few inches of kerosene. Bi ‘s toes had been amputated and he walked stiff-legged on his heels. We were always warned not to run or play near Bi while he was walking outside because his balance was precarious and an unintended shove would easily knock him over. I recall being very careful to stay a good fifteen feet away from him as he tottered along the uneven lawn and yelling at my younger brother to get away from him. I’m sure “S” would run much closer to Bi just to hear me carry on.

Bi’s chair was in my grandmother’s kitchen in a cozy nook between the woodstove and a window that gave him a view of the road and several of the neighbor’s houses. Actually, he could see all the way to the little general store and postoffice that sat at the end of the street. The window ledge and a small table held an assortment of his stuff; pipes, matches, tobacco, a magnifying glass and other old man accoutrements. Bi didn’t interact much with his great-grandchildren. His feet were apparently very tender and if we started horsing aound in the kitchen and got too close, he would lift his feet and holler, “Old man’s feet! Look out for old man’s feet!” That, of course, would invariably bring a grownup to scold us for playing too closely to Bi.

My paternal grandfather’s father lived a mile or so up the road so I saw him more. He was tall, pleasant and quiet. He usually sat in his chair in a corner of the dining room by the kitchen. The dining room was only used for large family gatherings a few times a year but it was a “pass through” room from the kitchen to the rest of the house. Great-grampa had a small bedroom off the dining room and, unless it was warm enough to sit on the porch, he would always be in his chair or napping on his bed. He never said much to the other grownups but would listen to the conversations in the kitchen from his chair just outside the room.

There were ten of us cousins at that time and when we all got together it could be quite wild. My mother would never allow us to run or yell in the house and I guess my great-grandfather appreciated that because he eventually began to call me to his chair occasionally. He never bothered to learn my name, just called me “little girl”. His son, my grandfather, didn’t like my name because it was too different and he called my by a common variation of my name until the day he died. Maybe that’s why great -grampa just called me “little girl”. Anyway, he would call me over and give me five or six gumdrops, always with the caveat to “…not tell the others”. Then I would sit on the old leather hassock close by and listen to stories of his family and passed generations while chewing on gumdrops. I realize now that he had a real love of history and family history in particular as did his son, my father’s father. Unfortunately, I cannot remember any those stories that he told me when I was between seven and nine years old. By the time I was ten he was becoming increasingly frail and didn’t talk to much of anyone.

Both of these great-grandfathers died in 1964 when I was thirteen. They were quiet men and they smelled alike of tobacco and old pencils.

They have now had their temple ordinances done for them and their families. What an extraordinary thing it is to participate in that work, to link these beloved ancestors back through time for the purpose of living without time in an eternal family.


March 19, 2009

haseltine family reunion

Filed under: Uncategorized — ladyofmaine @ 11:47 am

There were two big events that my brother and I looked forward to all summer. One was the fair in early fall and the other was the Haseltine family reunion held the first sunday in August. Fred and Bertha Haseltine were my maternal grandmother’s parents. They had seven children one of which died of diphtheria as a child and one that lived in California. The other five and their descendents gathered at Fred and Bertha’s camp on Lake Sebasticook for an all-day family gathering every summer while Fred and Bertha were alive.

That morning, my brother and I would wait impatiently for Mom to pack the salads, pies, chips and other special treats she had prepared the previous day. We were given the delightful job of waking our father earlier than he was wont to arise on Sunday morning. Fresh and clean from our Saturday bath the night before, we had donned our best play clothes, making sure our bathing suits and towels were included in the bundles destined for “camp”.

We were off by midmorning and though it seemed an interminable drive for two excited children, I realize now that it couldn’t have been more than a half hour ride to Camp Mi-an-ti-no-mo on the shores of Lake Sebasticook in Newport. I have no idea what the camp name means (and neither does Mom) but I remember thinking how wonderfully Indian it sounded and I would repeat the phrase, “camp Mi-an-ti-no-mo on the shores of Lake Sebasticook” frequently throughout the summer, conjuring the smells, sounds, and scenes of that treasured place.

We strained to see the first glimpse of blue water as the car turned onto a dirt road that accessed the lake and soon arrived at various vehicals nosed into leafy bowers at road’s edge. Dad would slowly drive through looking for a parking space while I would practically burst with eagerness to be out of the hot car and into the water.

At last we were parked, everyone laden with bags and boxes, and walking down the dusty road and onto the lawn where chairs and tables were set, covered in hampers, bags, and boxes like ours. I always hated the first few minutes of shy greetings between cousins and second cousins who hadn’t seen each other for six months or a year. But soon we were swimming, playing hide-and-go-seek, and all the other rowdy games that children played before video games were invented. My mother’s warnings to “be ladylike” and not to “act like a wild indian” were forgotten until I got “the eye” or until she grabbed my ponytail amid an enthusiastic game of tag that had invaded the grownup’s turf.

Another source of pleasure was the big galvanized tub filled with ice and bottles of soda (or “pop” as we called it). We didn’t have that treat very often but on this day anyone was allowed to have all he or she wanted and the children made the most of it. In those days soda was only sold in bottles and the colors were marvelous in that white ice; grape, strawberry, orange, rootbeer, gingerale, colas, and always a few bottles of Moxie.

Around noon the ladies started unpacking food and the men would tend a homemade grill where hotdogs and hamburgers sizzled and the aroma would bring children in from woods or water. Baked beans, potatoe salads, various jello salads, fruit salads, always at least one chop suey, pies, cakes, and cookies covered every available table space. It didn’t take us kids long to eat and then we would be pestering parents to let us go swimming again. In those days it was believed that swimming directly after a meal lead to cramps that would drown a person so we weren’t allowed in the water until an hour after we’d eaten. But after the meal was consumed and the grill fire extinguished it was time for business. As some cleared food and picked up trash, others were preparing for a business meeting and entertainment.

The Haseltines were an arty people. Everyone played an instrument, wrote music or poetry or both, sang, acted, or recited and it was expected that these talents should be displayed at the annual reunion. The business meeting was quite short and after that children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren showed their stuff. Instrumental numbers, songs, poems, recitations, skits, and one baton twirling act were performed every year. Great-grammie Bertha was fairly disabled with severe arthritis when I knew her but great-grampa Fred still liked to perform and somewhere in the middle of the program he would appear, dressed as a hobo and carrying an old bandana with what he alledged was “all (he had) in the world”. He would shuffle into the “stage” area, tell jokes and sing funny songs. We children thought he was a scream and would laugh uproariously at his jokes and ask him questions as if he was a real hobo.

I remember specific people so well from year to year. My grandmother, for instance, was always bustling around seeing to things and she sometimes would read a poem she had written or play the accordian. Great-uncle Harry was kind, good-natured, and funny and always had something personal to say to each child. His wife, great-aunt Mary was one of the nicest, most “lady-like” women I have known. Great-aunt Vera dressed really well and I don’t think I ever saw her frown. Great-uncle Tim had a band and no reunion was complete without a trumpet solo from him and then a duet or trio with Tim and a few others. Tim’s wife, Lib, was always so kind and very involved in helping others. Great-aunt Nellie had seven children and I loved playing with them. Even Great-grammie Bertha would have written a poem sometime during the year and it would be read aloud at the reunion.

Late afternoon and people started leaving. I would invariably go swimming again while Mom was packing up and helping clean. I never wanted to leave and my mother would have to get quite stern to get me out of the water and dressed for home. I don’t remember any rainy reunions though I’m sure there must have been some since we were in Maine. Those memories are always couched in sunny, warm days, blue lake, green trees and grass, the scent of water, pine trees, and grilling meat, much laughter, a lot of conversation and a great sense of belonging.

March 15, 2009


Filed under: Uncategorized — ladyofmaine @ 6:03 pm

We lived in the country until I was twelve. A month before my twelfth birthday we moved “to town” and my adolescence was experienced in a different world from that of my childhood in a rural area.

My mother had to work outside the home and all of our sitters apparently felt their only resposibility was to make sure we were physically safe. We had no close neighbors to play with, no daytime television (not a bad thing), of course no computers and not even a telephone. But we lived in a fantasy world that children always create for themselves. My brother and I would roam the fields and forests around our little house, making paths through four foot ferns that had colonized a small meadow, eating green apples and salt in the cool shade of a huge cow-crossing culvert that ran under the road, gathering bunches of dandylion blossoms and bluets that always closed before we could reach the house, and buttercups and daisies which lasted a few days stuck in Loony Tunes jelly jars, eventually dropping petals and tiny ants all over the kitchen table.

Mom was home most Saturdays and every Sunday. We knew that Saturday morning would be devoted to cleaning. She would be up early washing woodwork, stripping beds, scrubbing floors and keeping the old wringer/washer agitating with the week’s laundry. We were to pick up our rooms and then get out of her way. Fortunately, we lived in a four room house so she was usually finished by noon and then it would often be “our” time.

A beautiful Saturday summer afternoon sometimes meant a picnic! Mom would pack mayonnaise sandwiches or fluffernutters, her soft molasses cookies, plastic cups, and whatever she was reading at the time in a big grocery bag. I would carry a jug of koolaid and my younger brother would lug the blanket and off we’d go to find a lunch spot. Mom didn’t drive so it had to be within walking distance. Sometimes we’d cross the road into an old apple orchard if our neighbor didn’t have his cows in it. Occasionally, we’d just sit under a huge old maple tree in the yard. At least once we ventured into the woods and spread our blanket in a lovely little evergreen clearing that was covered in thick, cushiony moss. We ate lunch and then Mom sat in a shaft of sunlight to read her book while we played at the edges of the clearing. It was hot that day and I remember lying down on the soft moss and feeling drowsy and pleasantly aware of the resinous fragrance of the forest.

My parents often didn’t get home from work until six in the evening and Dad wasn’t usually available on Friday nights or Saturdays. Since Mom didn’t drive, she realized that we would need to live much closer to the school if her children were to participate in school activities as we grew older. I shall always be grateful that she insisted we move to a town because there I had access to a library, was able to be involved in school functions, and that is also where the missionaries found us and we joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

March 12, 2009

the smell of rain

Filed under: Uncategorized — ladyofmaine @ 11:28 am

It was cloudy today and we could smell rain. That is an unusual occurance here in the desert during the winter months.
R went to Kingston around 5 pm and a few minutes later I saw there were actual rain drops against the window. I went outside to enjoy it but it was just a tease. Looking forward to seeing the real thing in 7 or 8 weeks…but especially wanting to see my family!

Can hardly wait to see Calandria and Georgie, Lidia, Marcus and Bernie. They can change so from the fall to spring and I have to keep looking at them to hold them in my mind since I don’t see them often. Then on to Maine for the rest of the family. Lm and Lulu will have grown some, too, but I get to see them all summer and for most of the fall.

Sometimes, if I am a bit down when it is bedtime, I lay in the dark and make believe it’s 25 years ago and all of my children are young and sleeping in sleeping bags around the bed. In my mind I have just finished telling the story, “Micky Mouse and the Haunted House” and singing the favorite songs that the children like (my voice is crummy but I guess a child loves to hear her mother’s voice). The last metaphysical question has been asked, the final giggle has sounded and all is quiet. I know they are reasonably happy spending the night in mom and dad’s bedroom; such a contented and peaceful atmosphere.

The very best memories seem to be the simplest for me and they always involve my beautiful children.

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