My grandparents, my mother and I lived on 45 acres at the edge of town. Dexter, Maine was a small town with a population of about 5000. Our home sat at the top of a high hill and on a clear day you could see the White Mountains. There were no children to play with, but I did have Scrappy, a brindle boxer. He was my best buddy. I was told that if I could not be found, they would call the dog and there I would be. Scrappy was obviously better trained than I was. I wasn't bad, but I was mischievous. I locked my grandmother in a room when I was three. She had to climb out onto the roof and called to people driving by to be rescued. At five, I climbed out and up onto the top of that same roof. The challenge was getting me down...
... We moved to Falls Church, Virginia... memories of Virginia — a red raincoat with a cape, the ceiling in a theater that had moving stars, being lost in the woods and found by the neighbor's dog, chain gangs, the mean billy goat, praying mantises and walking sticks and hitting a boy over the head with a milk bottle because he was throwing rocks at my cat.
... My grandmother was amazing. She worked full time in the businesses and managed a home without help. She even ironed underwear. On Saturdays she baked. I awoke Saturday mornings to the smell of doughnuts, molasses doughnuts, cinnamon sugar doughnuts, chocolate doughnuts and plain doughnuts. She did her baking for the week which included bread, Parker House rolls, cinnamon rolls, cookies, a cake, and a pie. We would sit at the kitchen table, have doughnuts and milk and talk. She was always interested in what I was doing and what I was thinking.
The memories just keep bubbling to the surface. My grandfather taught me to drive when I was ten. Ten seems young, but I looked like I was 14. I learned on a big double wheeler truck and my first lessons were around the circular drive. On the first trip out to the road I drove into a ditch when I turned a corner. My grandfather calmly said, "Give her some gas and turn the wheel to the left."
She (my Aunt Roberta) and my Uncle Shelly had a very good marriage. There was never any doubt about their attraction and affection for each other. He was a nuclear engineer and was responsible for quality control on the first atomic sub and on others that followed. On one of his inspection trips he had a major heart attack and died. My Aunt was devastated, but in time she did tell me that now she was going to live her life as she wanted. And she did. She even decided that she did not want to be 80, and she died the month before her 80th birthday.
During recess on the first day of kindergarten, I became a truant. I walked off the school grounds and headed home. I wasn't sure how to get there, but I was heading in the right direction. Uncle Harold saw me walking along as though I knew exactly where I was going.
The recess game in grade school was the boys chasing the girls around the building. It was in the fourth or fifth grade when I stuck my foot out and tripped Punky Gallant sending him flying. That gave me the reputation of being the toughest girl in my class. With that reputation came the responsibility of defending people or I thought that was my responsibility.
I was more comfortable with my grandparents than I was with my mother and stepfather. My grandparents and I had a similar sense of humor, similar interests (horses) and we truly enjoyed being together. I have never felt as close to anyone as I did to my grandfather nor have I ever felt as loved by anyone.
My grandfather bought me a sea dingy and he and I would go out night fishing to catch catfish that were wonderful in fish stew. We also made a couple of trips each summer to Rockland for a lobster bake on the beach. The Fourth of July was a big event because I always rode my horse in the parade and there was the picnic and the music at the band shelter.
My closest friend was Barbi Dyer and I spent many days at her cottage where I kept my boat. We swam, caught frogs and mesmerized them by rubbing their bellies. We hunted for crawfish and blood suckers. Bloods suckers offered experiments. We would remove a scab, we always had scabs, and put a blood sucker on the bloody spot. They would of course attach and then we would put salt on them to force them to let go. It was too painful just to pull them off. We also collected garter snakes. Three of us had collected quite a few and we decided to have a little fun with them. My grandmother was having a bridge party so we put the snakes in out hair and walked into the room. As we talked to the ladies the snakes began popping out of our hair. What a wonderful reaction that was!
Much of my time was still spent at Barbi Dyer's cottage, but now the interest in boys entered the picture... there was a boys' summer school across the lake from Barbi's cottage. That provided all sorts of fun and games. We would tip a canoe over in front of the school and the boys would rush out in boats to rescue us. The most exciting game was to take our bathing suits off under water and wave them around over our heads while treading water. We knew we were being watched through binoculars. Within three minutes a flotilla of boats and boys would be frantically paddling across the lake. Our challenge was to get the wet bathing suits back on before the boys reached us.
SONG: "Don't Fence Me In"
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