Fever Game by Janet Keyess

I don’t think I ever had any unusual experiences when I had childhood fevers. I would just hunker down and sleep, waking only when my mother urged me to take a few sips of punch or fruit juice mixed with ginger ale. I do remember wishing good stuff like that would be available when I might feel well enough to enjoy it.

When I was bored and not sleeping, I would stare at the cracks in the ceiling and try to see images of dogs or butterflies or faces.  Wallpaper was also a good source of face-like images. Fortunately I never saw anything spooky or scary.

My husband has different memories. When he was young a fever would inspire him to stare at a nearby window and watch it slowly get farther away and smaller. When it got really small, he would blink quickly to make the real world come back. He has also had this experience as an adult, and still blinked.

A few years ago when I had a fever, I too watched a window recede far from me. As it got smaller and more distant I began to feel uneasy.  The experience was mesmerizing, and the feeling of impending irreversibility caused panic and the irresistible urge to blink to return to reality.  That nagging feeling of “what-if-I-couldn’t-return” is overwhelming.

I won’t try that again.

 

Winter Wonderland? by Mildred Grant

Waking early to discover nearly a foot of new snow on the ground seemed a wonderful way to start our Christmas vacation.

 “Let’s get our sleds out and go up past Uncle Will’s to just past the Bear’s Den Road and slide back down to the bridge,” Chester suggested.

Before Allen, Eleanor, or I could answer, Mom responded from the kitchen.

“Not until you have all eaten your breakfast and done your regular Saturday chores. The plows will have gone through by the time you have finished up here and that means brushing your teeth, too.”

Chester groaned, I rolled my eyes, Allen sighed, and Eleanor set her lips in a determined line.

“Let’s get going on the stuff we have to do here, so we can have more time to slide,” Eleanor said as she pushed herself back from the big, square, oak dining table.

Chester’s job was to clear and sweep down the cellar stairs and make sure there was wood brought up from the cellar for the parlor stove. Dusting the dining room and our parents’ bedroom was Eleanor’s assignment, while I dusted the living room, front hall and stairs. Polishing the nickel-plated ornaments on the parlor stove was Allen’s job when the stove wasn’t in use.

Mom bustled in from the kitchen and noticed Allen eyeing the very hot parlor stove.

“Oh, no! You can’t do the stove today! You’d get burned, so, please get the long-handled duster and clean down the front stairs. Be sure to get between the spindles, too.”

Finally—tasks accomplished, we gathered coats, hats, mittens, boots, and sleds. Off we went. As we disappeared over the big pile of snow left by the plow, Mom called, “Be careful, Chester, and take care of Allen. We all have to help your Father clear the walks and driveway when he gets home.”

“Ok, Mom, we’ll take care of Allen and watch out for cars. Be back by lunchtime,” Chet called back.

Boots squeaking on the new snow, we trudged down Montague City Road to Mountain Road where we discovered Allen was having trouble keeping up with the rest of us.

“Come on, Al, hurry up or we won’t be able to get in more than one ride down the hill before we have to home for lunch,” Chet complained.

We younger children rarely questioned or argued with Chester, but I reminded him, in very positive terms, of his promise to Mom as we left the house.

Chet gave in, saying, “Oh, alright! Allen you get on my sled and you girls pull his along with yours.”

“How about putting the rope from his sled around his waist?” I suggested.

Thus arranged, we went by Uncle Wills’ fields, barns, and home, around the curve, up the hill, and a short way beyond Bear’s Den Road where the main road leveled off. This would be our starting point after a brief rest.

Allen didn’t need a rest, having ridden the hardest part of the trip being pulled by Chet on his sled. Hopping off Chet’s sled, grabbing his own “Flexible Flyer” and, imitating his big brother’s running “belly flop” start, Allen was off down the hill at a fast pace.

After a moment of open-mouthed, stunned silence, Mildred shouted, “There’s a car coming up the hill! Allen will run right into it!”

After a hurried slide down to the outside curve at Bear’s Den Road, three frightened children watched as their little brother sped between the iron front wheels and then the full length of the big oil truck to continue on around the curve, passing Uncle Will’s and onto the flat where he slowed to a stop. He scrambled up the snow bank and waved to his brother and sisters.

Leo J. Burniski, owner and driver of the oil truck, stopped just beyond the Bear’s Den Road, set the brakes, and emerged from the cab. We expected a full blown lecture, but a glance at his ashen face let us know we’d probably hear a great deal more from our parents. Ignoring we three bank-sitters, and seeing Allen wave to us from the end of his ride, Leo pulled off his cap and ran very unsteady fingers through his short black hair. His ruddy complexion returned to normal as he pulled his cap back on, shook his head, spun on his heel, and went on his way.

“Wait right there for us, Al,” Chet shouted.

The three of us slid the rest of the way down to the flat—not the thrill we’d been hoping for. Chester hadn’t said anything more until we met up with Allen.

Then he said, “We aren’t going to tell Mom about this, but Mr. Burniski probably will, so we’ll just have to wait this one out.”

Mom wondered why we happened to be home early for lunch and how come we were so quiet and subdued. We never told her of that adventure until many years later. Leo never told on us, either. Perhaps he hoped the suspense would make us think twice before we tried something else equally foolish.

Seasons by Estelle Cade

A New Englander, born and bred as they say, I watch the gradual changing of the foliage from green to a myriad of wonderful colors, and while admiring them, begin to dread the season that follows – winter.

Picturesque – oh yes, I’ll admit to the beauty of our snowy days, with feathery, frosty flakes falling softly all around and to the glory of the glittering days following an ice storm, with every branch and wildflower stalk encased in a sheath of ice. When the sun comes out it is an amazing spectacle.

And then, so not picturesque – cars buried in snow drifts as the plows thunder past you; errands left undone because the driveway is not yet cleared and the snow blower today has “issues” or after the ice storm when the power is out for days and people are freezing and frightened.

Shall we speak also of the mundane matters of winter – bundling small children into their layers of winter gear and then stuffing them into uncooperative car seats; of bundling ourselves also into the tyranny of coat, hat, gloves, scarf and probably boots as well, for days on end. And for the many of us who do not have garages there is the unalloyed pleasure of having to go out after every storm and clean off the car.

Ah yes, winter – dark mornings and long dark nights – we all feel like moles after a while. Then suddenly – right around Valentine’s Day – and perhaps another huge snow storm, the sunset comes a few seconds later, a few small bird calls can be heard if you listen carefully enough; there is a lighter feeling to the air around us and the local farmers can be seen in the woods, tapping their maples for the sugaring season.

Spring is tiptoeing to our corner of the world and my disposition switches from Neutral to Positive. I try to avoid saying ‘I hate winter’   – so negative – but I have to admit that I do prefer the days of flowers and softer temperatures.

Here I go – time to put the snow shovel back in the car.

Cajun Pancakes, Anyone? by Janet Keyes

One time when our kids were enjoying a week-long visit from their cousin Jeffrey, we decided to have pancakes for supper as a special treat.  We always had maple syrup and butter on hand so this was an easy choice.  Whenever we made pancakes we usually cooked a few, then allowed the kids to start eating while more were cooking.  This time was a little different.  While I was cooking pancakes, a bout of nausea and intestinal cramping pounced upon me.  I had to run to the bathroom, where I would have to remain for several minutes, tending to the needs of my troubled gut.  Allan, who in those distant days never did any cooking, meal preparation, or serving, stepped right up and took over responsibility for the grill. 
Jeffrey, who was about eleven years old, nervously asked, “Do you know how to cook pancakes, Uncle Allan?”
Allan, always being Allan, confidently answered, “Of course. I just cook them on this side until smoke comes out, then turn them over and cook the second side!”
Because of the great power of suggestion, to this day Jeffrey remembers having burnt pancakes for supper that day.  Everyone else remembers that Allan saved the day by taking over and using his old Boy Scout skills to make absolutely delicious pancakes in a true labor of love. Even I remember that, because later on, when my stomach had settled down, I also had a couple of those mouth-watering treats.

Child of the Wind by Mildred Grant

“Who has seen the wind? Neither you nor I!”

Two lines from a song we sang in grade school. I wonder whether my mood is called to answer that of the velocity of the wind or does the wind match my thoughts and feelings?

We were on summer vacation and I was feeling restless. Though there were occasional patches of blue sky, the clouds in the west looked increasingly ominous. As the wind began to rise, so did my exhilarating need to out race the buffeting gusts of air, so I ran straight into the now-howling turbulence. Sensations of fear to joy took over. As the branches of apple, pear, and maple trees were writhing in wild abandon, I joined them in their dance. Being young and of average size for my age, about six or seven, it wasn’t long before I was securely wind-pinned, lying against a stone wall. Out of breath, I watched as the fury slowly subsided to a gentle summer breeze. The sun reappeared. No longer restless, the lingering sense of excited fear and joy in the whole experience soon settled back to the calmer feelings of my ordinary way of life.

Bucket List by Ted Scott

I think the last time I ever made a big to-do list was when I was 17 and a freshman in college. The items on my list were largely professional ambitions and within three or four months I had forgotten everything on the list. I doubt I ever accomplished any of them, as I kind of reacted my way through life. I wasn’t anything like Lou Holtz who made a very ambitious list at an early stage in his football coaching career. When he retired from his lifetime appointment as head coach at Notre Dame about 15 years ago, he claimed to have achieved all but five or six of the 107 items on the list. His list included things like being invited to the White House for dinner, winning a national championship in football and being head coach at Notre Dame. It was an impressive list and I think it was published in the Wall Street Journal. He’s gone on to write a lot of motivational books and has received many accolades as a motivational speaker. He’s even coached for two or three years since then. About the only things we have in common is that we’re both old, and we’ve been married to our wives for a long time.

No, I wasn’t much like Holtz. Looking back over my life I see that though I started off with some ambition, I wavered and changed my mind a lot. John Kerry was criticized for his votes on the latest Iraq war. He admitted that “first he voted for it before he voted against it.” They called it a flip-flop. That willingness to reexamine an issue doesn’t go over well in politics, and it probably cost him the election in 2004, when he ran against a man who bragged of never changing his mind. I guess I like John Kerry, especially after they criticized him for windsurfing. He was a very good windsurfer, and I admire that. I also admire his courage in speaking out against the Vietnam war as a highly decorated veteran.

The bucket list created by the old men in the movie didn’t really make sense to me. Why would they want to run all over the world, when they were dying and they still had important relationships that needed healing? Why not just work on their relationships and watch some great movies that could surely entertain, while they enjoyed the comforts of home?

When I read the weekly column by the Yoder family in the Springfield Republican newspaper, I see that like the previous writer of this family finance column, they like to travel a lot. They call it an investment in building memories. I think it is good to have memories, but the ones that are most important to me are of things that happened, little stories of unexpected things, that might have occurred anywhere. It’s the human interactions that I remember, the things that fill out my knowledge of people I know or have known. I’m not an artist or a very good photographer, so when I’m at a famous place, I don’t know how to remember it. I need a story line, and just describing a hotel or a dinner doesn’t do it for me. Now that I’m trying to learn how to write, I’m learning that you need some description, so that’s something I will need to add to my repertoire if I’m to make much progress. At this point I don’t feel the need to visit famous places. When I look back on where I’ve been, my best memories are of those times when I’ve kind of surprised myself, doing things that were outside my expectations, changing myself or the way I view the world.

When I was young, I liked having friends who were just like me. That’s what I liked about MIT: we were a very homogeneous lot back then, nearly all male, nearly all left brained, not very athletic, with not very good social skills, with not much interest in writing or arts, but pretty good at math. Somehow, late in my first year, I seemed to change. I looked at the other side, and by spring of sophomore year I was out and on my way to some small adventures. I went back too soon, and was back on the trail of a physics degree. I worked on missiles and briefly Apollo before going off to grad school in physics to get away from the war machine. Now I’m finding that I want to meet and know people different from me. Two weeks ago I went to a Sunday church service, one of my very few in the last 50 years. I’ve got two ministers in my family, but I’ve never heard either of them preach, although we’ve had some interesting discussions. I’m especially interested in people who write. That’s one of the things I like about Greenfield. There are so many writers in the area. I took three courses in memoir writing at GCC, and I’ve been in a writing group since then, and I go to the once a month open mic meetings at Bart’s and at Greenfield Spoken Word. Sometimes I go to Shelburne Falls, or Millers Falls, or Northampton to read. I’m developing a passion for writing.

I was inspired by a book written by Helen Hills, a woman from Warwick in Franklin county, who volunteers as a visitor to elders. She came many times to visit my mother-in-law who was often depressed. Helen always cheered her up. Helen’s in her 80s with a husband in his 90s. She wrote a book based on 15 years of volunteer work with the elderly. Her book is called “Aging Well.” It’s full of wonderful wisdom about successful aging. She provides many pages of references to professional and popular articles on the subject. She points out the benefits as well as the downside of aging. Her main advice is to have a passion. That seems the main difference between those who are happy and those who aren’t, as they age.

If you ask me what my aims are now, I could make a short list.

  1. Do a lot more writing. Try to make it a passion. Learn to appreciate it and work to      get better. Read it, and send it out to the on-line publishers, and make more friends who are writers.
  2. Be nice to my family, especially my wife. I know I need a best friend. I’m probably      more in love than ever before. That’s a big plus.
  3. Make lots of new friends in all walks of life. I need to remind myself that I don’t know it all. I’ve still got a lot to learn. That’s something to look forward to.

If it was my last year of life, I would probably do it differently. I would look up all my old friends. I would write out a message for each. I’d try to visit or have them come, one by one. I’d give each a nice gift and I’d thank them for being my friend.

Opportunity Knocking by Mildred Grant

Several years ago The National Embroiderers Guild had a chapter here in Greenfield. Anyone could belong as long as their handwork was accomplished with the use of a needle with an eye. Individuals with all skill levels were encouraged to join the group with an eye toward improving methods and learning new crafts, as well as using the latest techniques and tools in accomplishing our own specialties.

Our original members comprised a wide spectrum in needle artistry, but there was no one person with an all-encompassing knowledge of the subject. We learned new skills from each other each month by designating one of our members, who was skilled in the process the majority wanted to learn, as the next month’s teacher. Many of us found a great teaching tool in small, pre-assembled sampler kits. In this way we learned basic and Crewel embroidery, Needlepoint, Bargello, Black and white, Shisha, Kogin, Brazillian, Continue reading

The Shape of Things to Come by Lettice Randall

 I don’t really care the shape I’m in

I don’t really care that my hair is thin

I’ve got wrinkles on my face. Is that a crime?

It just means I’ve been here for a long, long time.

I could get a face lift and have a boob job done

But I don’t think that sounds like a lot of fun!

And if I had that face lift, I think all you’d see

Is the only one I’m fooling is most likely me!

Allen at Goose Pond by Mildred Grant

His inner voice kept nagging as he stood ankle-deep in the cooling water at the shore of Goose Pond.

“Don’t do it! It’s too far and puts too much at risk,” the voice warned.

Recently honorably discharged from service in the Navy, Allen was used to following orders, but, realizing these commands were self-inflicted fears, he took a shallow dive and started to swim for the eastern shore of the pond a quarter-mile away.

The water temperature changed from refreshing to icy cold, quite often. The cold areas were numbing, fed by springs in the bottom of the pond. Much like the ups and downs of his life, lately.

His high school diploma and Navy experience took him nowhere in the post-war job market, but with his savings and financial help from his parents, they now owned a sizable piece of shore-front property, with cabins.

Though he had reached the eastern shore, his doubts and anxieties came back to plague him in full force: No experience in renting out the cabins to summer vacationers or hunting parties in the fall and a very slim budget to repair and up-grade the property. Boats, such as they were, that came with the property, could be made to hold together for a while. Was the whole venture worth the up-coming struggle?

Allen tried to blank out thoughts of the huge burden he had assumed, by diving back into the pond to complete his half mile swim. Half way across, a cramp struck in his right leg. Floating on his back, he watched the evening star appear, a large sun dog was suddenly pierced by shining shafts of light from the disappearing sun. An owl hooted, its mate answered. Allen’s mind, body, and soul felt the peace and quiet of this place.

Gaining his own shore, he thought, “We will make this work!”

POPSICLES, BEER AND BREAD CRUST! by Lettice Randall

When I really take the time to sit and think about my father, one thing that comes to mind about him is that he never, ever, raised his voice at me even if I probably deserved it. My mom was more the disciplinarian and Dad was the one who thought up the fun things to do. He taught me how to fish in the little brook near our home, and he even had me baiting my own hook at a very early age. And while Mom was more the academic, Dad is the one who encouraged me to tell stories about things we’d see or talk about. These subjects ranged from the deer we’d see in the woods near our home, to the tree fort we were planning to build.

Another image that comes up when I think of my dad is orange popsicles and beer! Sounds like a strange combination, I know. But Continue reading