Mom’s Secret by Janet Keyes

When my older children were young I got into a health food kick. I even asked the Easter Bunny to bring no chocolate, just healthy things like nuts and sesame logs. I was not just being mean; a couple of the kids were slightly allergic to chocolate. The children seemed a little less enthusiastic about Easter baskets in those days.

I sometimes made cookies from ingredients bought at the health food store on Miles Street, even including soy flour.  Occasionally the cookies were pretty good.  I also made my own granola, using stone-ground oats, chopped dates, sunflower seeds, organic almonds, and a hint of honey.  Lightly toasted, that granola tasted great.

My cupboards often contained brown paper bags labeled “Stone-ground Bulgar Wheat” and other earthy crunchy things.  My kids were not truly deprived of chocolate, as they could go next door to Grandma Keyes’ house and get a little chocolate almost any time.  They thought I didn’t know, but I could see the little chocolate rash on small buttocks at bath time.

Sometimes I also had a craving for chocolate.  One day I bought a can of Nestle’s Chocolate Quik to have on hand for my little emergencies.  How could I hide it from the kids? Ah, yes.  I cut up a brown paper grocery bag and created a neat wrap for the Quik container.  Then I used a black Flair pen to label it “Stone-Ground Broccoli.”  This was perfect, and I could place it in plain sight on the top shelf of the cupboard.

This ruse worked well for about two years. Then one day I walked into the kitchen and saw a chair next to the counter near that cupboard, and twelve-year-old Julie and seven-year-old Peter standing next to the kitchen table, where the Stone-Ground Broccoli container stood open.  Both the container and the kids looked at me accusingly.

“Mom! How long have you been hiding Quik in this disguise?  This has been on that shelf a long time!”

Busted! My chocolate secret was destroyed, never to be replicated again.

Our Old Barn by Janet Keyes

Our barn had a great history.  Reportedly it was once the carriage house for the large white building at the corner of Main and High Streets, next to the Walker Funeral Home.  Many years ago, probably before 1910, it was moved all the way to its current location at the end of Colorado Avenue. To move it the new owner (probably Bruno Hartmann) had to dismantle it completely, then move it board by board and beam by beam on horse-drawn wagons.  The old construction involved pegs in addition to nails.  The round wooden pegs and the old-fashioned cut nails were carefully removed, then re-used at the new location.  I’m not sure what the wood was.  Chestnut was the most common old wood, but this was likely something else.

Bruno Hartmann had a small farm, maybe about 70 acres, and he kept a few cows and sold milk to his neighbors in that small German community. The barn was about 30 by 30 with two large lofts connected by a smaller loft at the front of the building.  The barn had to accommodate two or three cows, two draft horses, and lots of hay in addition to a small space for grain, tack, and tools.

Bruno and his brothers, the chemist and the machinist (Rob and Max), owned the property a long time. During World War I they were informally restricted to the farm because of their alleged admiration for the Kaiser.  A kind gentleman named Alphonse Patnode would go into town and buy groceries and other necessities for the family, which included a sister Anna. Neighbors would come to the farm to get their milk.  Down on the hillside there were a couple of small buildings which were probably chicken coops. I assume at least one of those belonged to the Hartmanns, as it was falling into extreme disrepair by 1960. The Hartmanns went back to Germany after the war, and gave the farm to Mr. Patnode in thanks for his kindness.

The barn has stood sturdy and strong for many years.  When I first knew it, there was an old “office” room at the front, with many prize ribbons left there by a horse owner, George Patnode.  There were two large box stalls with half-doors scarred along the top by the “cribbing” of the draft horses. (Bored horses chew the wood on their doors.)  The walk-through door leading into the office still worked.  The lofts were being used as storage space for old furniture, an old ice sled, some scrap lumber, and more obscure treasures.

Over the years the barn has leaned a little to the east.  At one time we jacked it up and added bracing to reinforce the strength of the building.  Now when it tries to lean, it actually tightens the bracing and becomes stronger.  We even got the walk-through door working again.  Then in more recent years we got busy.  Allan had some health problems, and we built a house on the other side of town.  The barn started leaning aggressively to the east, pushing the walk-door into the ground.  The west end of the barn started to buckle a little, and panes of glass have popped out of the windows on the south side of the barn.  Occasionally a slate from the roof falls off, and Allan slides a piece of metal roofing into the space. Squirrels like the way the trees north of the barn have grown larger and longer branches, making it easy to include the barn in their daily route.  Squirrels are bad for buildings, and we have seen larger and newer chewed-out holes they have created to improve their traffic flow. An expert tells us our barn could still be jacked and saved, but we are not there to use it.

We have been trying to sell the place on and off for several years, and we realize the barn’s deteriorating condition seriously detracts from what realtors call “curb appeal.” Last year we talked with a man who will take the barn down in exchange for the salvaged materials.  Old barn boards have value even if they aren’t gray.  Varying shades of worn and faded red are also desirable. Late in the fall he told us he had not forgotten us and would see us in the spring.  Spring came very late and now the man is putting on an addition to our daughter’s home so her mother-in-law can move in with them.  I guess we’re not the only procrastinators who overbook our time.

Two years ago we removed a lot of stuff from the lofts.  Allan’s Red Ryder BB gun was there, to his surprise. His oldest bike had been stolen.  Our cellar now has the double-rip sled, the ice sled, several chairs in need of re-building, and boxes of old tools and glassware.  We gave a lot of old metal stuff to my nephew to sell for scrap. Allan still wants to remove the horse stall doors to use again, perhaps in the cheap new barn we hope to build behind our new home.  We have fond memories of the horses we kept in that barn, but Allan likes his memories reinforced with souvenirs.

Our computer still stores the last good photo of the barn, taken when the barn looked presentable.  The barn appears as a dark red shadow, softened and framed in falling snow.  I’ll enjoy remembering it that way.

WE ARE A TOWN by Alice Thomas

I know a man a woman who eats whatever is placed on the plate

Chinese Soul Indian Thai New Food and it’s all from ‘home’

prays the Shema and Our Father all around town

sees all sides of the coin of this realm

whose family comes from Portugal Puerto Rico Moldova Russia Poland and points north

with tongues moving in all directions to the right the left and center

who lives in dwellings of apartment jail farm home congregate rehabilitation shelter motel

makes mis-takes but always does their best … whatever that is

we are all of them Greenfield of Franklin County

Battling Wildlife in my House by Janet Keyes

“Hey, how long was the cat in the house today?” Allan asked me suspiciously.

“I don’t know, why?”

“Well, I was just in the master bathroom, and I’m pretty sure he killed a bird in there!”

“That’s ridiculous,” I protested. “Lightning is old and no longer has any eye teeth so he can’t kill anything! Besides, how on earth could a bird even get inside the house?”

“I dunno. But there are gray and white feathers on the counter right beside the sink!”

A light dawned in my fuzzy brain. “Oh-oh, I gave myself a haircut in the bathroom earlier, and I took at least three fistfuls of hair clippings to the wastebasket but maybe I forgot the last batch.”

Allan shook his head. “No, feathers, definitely feathers,” he insisted. I detected a distinct twinkle in his eyes.

By then I had entered the bathroom. The abandoned hair clippings really did look like feathers.

But poor old Lightning was off the hook. I was the culprit.

Ah, the joys of wildlife. And, oh, the joys of living with Allan’s sense of humor.

No Nuthin’ by Estelle Cade

No secret stairways,
No hidden rooms,
No spectral visitors,
No magic brooms.

No twisting passageways,
No buried treasure.
Watch for low tide lines,
Be sure to measure.

No mossy cave marks,
No bony guests,
Only seaweed, pebbles, shells,
No echo of a lost ship’s bell.

No pirate ship
No pieces of eight
No yo ho ho,
No bottles of rum.

No Treasure Island,
No Captain Hook.
Oh go away, Nancy Drew,
You’re in a different book!

 

Fever Game by Janet Keyes

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. Continue reading

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.