Friday, March 25, 2011

Those Were the Days, My Friend.

In her early days of marriage and motherhood in Marlboro, Massachusetts, my mother had a small group of friends who also had young children. Our families would gather at Fort Meadow Lake in our neighborhood to play, swim, or parade for the much anticipated Spree Day.  We didn't live there for long, but nearly fifty years later, I'm still acquainted with some of the friends and families from those days.

Swimming at Fort Meadow Lake 1957

Spree Day, Marlboro, Mass. 1959

My mother's girlfriend from those days, Carolyn Brewer (now Carolyn Towles) is my godmother.  Carolyn and her daughter Brenda, who is my sister's age, have both visited New Brunswick and Cleveland Place, and I visited Carolyn at her home in Florida just a year ago.  Since my mother died several years ago, it was special to get reacquainted with one of her peers and recall good memories.

Grey Shingles February 1962
Carolyn happily recalled an incident at Grey Shingles, which was the wee house my folks and grandfather, Allyn, built in Marlboro. When my grandmother, Anne Carritt, came by and found nobody home and the house locked, she climbed in through a window. Our dog Mixie, a large shepherd mix, cowered and hid under a bed, too afraid to be coaxed out.  Carolyn was incredulous that this large dog would be so petrified of a tiny old lady to the point of incapacitation. She never forgot it, and laughed easily recalling it.

Mixie with her pups 1961

I don't know how Carolyn and her then husband, Bud, landed in Massachusetts.  Carolyn's mother was a doffer girl at Dixie Mercerizing in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where her father was a plant manager.  That seems like a time far away and long ago to me.  I imagine it was Bud's engineering career that brought them to the growing technology sector that Massachusetts was becoming in the 50's and 60's along Route 128.  Those are the stories I absorb and relish -- the chaos of the universe that brings people together in place and time. 

My folks called Carolyn a classy lady -- high praise from my parents -- and I easily recognize that quality in her.  She was genuinely gracious and welcoming with hospitality during our visit.  She remarked that she could still see the little girl in me.   

Little Jane 1964
In the day we spent with Carolyn in Florida, I admired the array of artwork in her home and was impressed to learn that most of them were her own work. She pointed out those of a few other artists, but hers was the real talent on the wall.

Carolyn, Jane, and Bill 2010
I was surprised to see two New Brunswick landscape scenes that I immediately recognized.  One of Red Head at Waterside, and the other of the marsh at Waterside. Carolyn had taken photographs of the local area during a visit to Cleveland Place when my folks were still operating the B&B together.  She then painted these landmarks.  It was strange and thrilling to see these familiar scenes captured by Carolyn's hand, so far away from their natural setting that was so familiar to me.

Having forgotten the names of the locations, Carolyn got pen and paper to write them down and I remarked that the Red Head scene (a local tidal promontory) that she'd captured had since eroded into the ocean.  Our friends Tim Issac and Jim Blewett wrote a song about it, and made it the cover shot and title song for one of their albums.  I especially appreciated that Tim remarked to me that his song is a metaphor for my mother, as Red Head fell around the time my mother died.  Her ashes are scattered at Waterside.

Carolyn met Jim Blewett at his 50th birthday party celebration during her visit to New Brunswick.  I'm quite sure that the party was one like none other she'd been to before, as she and her husband Bill, my folks, friends, and neighbors gathered in a large circle on the wooden floor of an old farmhouse and each guest shared deeply personal anecdotes, feelings, admiration, and memories of the birthday boy.  It was quite emotional for everyone.

I sent Carolyn a copy of Issac & Blewett's Red Head CD, and in return she sent me the two large paintings.  Priceless.

Red Head and Waterside, by Carolyn Towles

Though my mother was a private person, she did tell a few stories on herself. In those early years in Marlboro, she and Carolyn had an acquaintance about their same age who'd recently had twin babies. My mother described how they'd gone to the friend's house and stood in the doorway, anticipating a visit with the new mother, when they noticed a crib and high-chair folded and unused off to the side.  The woman explained that one of the twins had inexplicably and unexpectedly died.

Saddened, the two friends silently stood searching for words of comfort, and one of them asked what was to be done with the baby furniture. The mother explained that it had been sold to another family who also had a new child.  Trying to find supportive words of optimism, my mother cheerfully replied, "Well, it won't be a total loss, then."

She immediately heard how grossly inappropriate it was, but it was too late.

I have to assume they were all good friends enough to know it was an aberration of thought and speech, and thus easily forgiven, knowing the intention.

I hope that eventually I'll have friends that long-lasting and forgiving.

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