Tuesday after Easter, 2021:
I go to the villa to see if the lilacs are blossoming. Open the doors to let in air and light. There’s a box on top of the wardrobe. Photos it says. A few albums, a mix of single photos. Openings into a world of the past. Some are dated in my mother’s clear handwriting. Many are not, although the little girl/teenager in them is recognizable as me.
1935 – 1937:
That three and a half year-old little girl sitting on the kitchen table is waiting to be told she has a brother or sister. Turned out to be a sister.
There I am at six. Running from the living room in tears as Dvorak’s New World Symphony plays Going Home. My grandmother has died. (I never told my parents why I was crying. They never understood.)
That’s my father’s car. I’m playing with my toy dishes and leave them on the running board. They go to school with my father and are still there when he returns. (that was when cars had running boards)
Not just me, but me and my baby sister. She’s blonde and pretty and plump and I am feeding her, telling her she’s a little bird and the spinach is caterpillars. Can’t figure out why she would have liked to eat the spinach if she thought it was caterpillars)
I’m sent to the corner grocery store to buy a can of pineapple but when I get there can’t remember what it’s called in English, I know it’s ananas in German, and so I come home empty handed. (In school of course it was all English but it was German that my mother taught me first)
When did we move to the farm? Must have been in 1936/1937
I’m in the second grade and am walking the mile home from school, along the railroad tracks and then the dirt road. I stop to play and forget about the time. My parents come hunting for me. (I’m surprised I didn’t get punished)
And there I am, third grade in the school playground. Recess. I’m good at skipping rope with two girls twirling it around as I jump. A playmate tells me that God is everywhere. Show me, I tell her. (Don’t ask me how we got on that subject. I pointed to a tree and said I couldn’t see anyone behind it)
I’m sitting in my classroom as the teacher reads the 23rd psalm. The Lord is my shepherd… we had already done the salute to the flag, hand on chest, and said the Lord’s prayer. (I loved the poetry of that psalm –I shall fear no evil, green pastures, still waters, my cup runneth over.)
It’s winter and I’m racing along the freshly plowed road, snow on either side, to catch the school bus, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in one hand. (I sometimes added sardines)
My sister and I fighting over I don’t remember what, pulling each other’s hair. Possibly as to who was to be Gabriel and who Mary as we act out the Annunciation as we had seen it in the Christmas pageant at school. We must have made peace afterwards though. (We were at the bottom of the cellar stairs where our apples were stored)
It’s Easter. My sister and I have been hunting for Easter eggs in the hill across from the house and have found two lovely white angora rabbits. (There were also nests with chocolate bunnies and multicolored jelly beans, red ones cinnamon, black ones liquorice)
There’s time before my father finishes his classes. I’m ten and on my way back from the public library, clutching a treasure trove of books in my arms: The Blue Book of Fairy Tales, the Pink Book of Fairy Tales, East of the Sun and West of the Moon, Gulliver’s Travels. (I loved fairy tales and of course never thought of how they were presenting the role of women)
Bradford Junior College. I might be ten and my father is still teaching. I’m in the woods behind the dorms, making paths lined with acorns in the mossy ground, paths that lead to cavities in the big trees, the abode of gnomes and fairies. (There was also a pond and I loved to play there all by myself.)
Bringing an armful of apple blossom branches to my teacher. Seems to me I was the only one who liked her. Miss MacCormick I think was her name. That was around 80 years ago. She taught me to love Shakespeare. (Romeo and Juliet, to be or not to be)
Oh yes, there I am in manual activities class, the only girl among a bunch of boys. My father thought it was more useful to know how to sauter than how to make a bed with nice neat corners. (One boy brought a piece of apple pie for his breakfast snack and the teacher chided him, saying that wasn’t proper. Except now that I think of it was more balanced than what most of us had and the teacher shouldn’t have shamed that kid)
My mother is showing me what equations are. X + an unknown = Y. I had jumped from the 7th to the 8th grade in the middle of the year and was in tears at what was a mystery to me. (Once I understood, math was fun)
To be continued . . .