Thursday, October 25, 2012

Countdown to Departure

"Jan 4, 1921: I did not go to school today for I was sick."
Antique ankle weights.
Eighteen days from now I'll leave Vermont for New York, thence to France. (Pardon the archaic language; I've been living in the nineteenth century for the past week.) Meanwhile, I'm saying my good-byes. Last week it was the Tuesday group at the Senior Center, which will meet without me through the winter. The group has acquired some new members, including Bob Soule, who used to tune John Jackson's piano; they would have enjoyed hearing each other's stories. Yesterday I spent the afternoon with Cynthia Jackson and we had a fine time comparing family memorabilia—she definitely has me beat in the antique serving-spoon department. I didn't even know such things as tomato servers existed until she pulled one from a drawer yesterday. Fascinating. Then there was an odd-shaped thing that we guessed was made for serving asparagus, and an elegant trident that the Jacksons refer to as "the toad stabber." We talked about John and Idora a little (they died less than two months apart), but mostly we joked around and had fun. It was a warm, sunny day and we sat on the porch until we got too hot (!) and had to go inside. That's when Cynthia pulled out a box of old letters. I'm talking old-old—we even found her grandmother Lily Hazwell's handwritten guide to the flag signals young Lily and her next-door neighbor devised in the late 1800s. The red, black, and white flags hung in the windows of their respective houses, in various combinations, transmitting such messages as "Can you come for tea this afternoon?" and "We've got extra butter if you want it." The photographs here are relics from my own family's past. The little diary, above, was kept by my aunt at age eleven. It tells a sad story. The first entry, on October 18, 1920, reads "This is a beautiful day. My birthday is today. I got 2 books from Mama, a dairy, and a bottle of perfume from Marion a tabet (sic) from Ransom and a hair ribbon from Grandma and twenty five cents from Aunt Manda and a dollar from Auntie and a banner note book from Grandpa." On Christmas Eve, Madeline listed her presents, which included two handkerchiefs and a bottle of "perfumery." On January 4 and 5, she noted that she didn't go to school because she was sick. The next two weeks' entries record a visit from her sister Marion, who was attending school in Waitsfield, a visit from the doctor, and her father's purchase of a milk separator. The last entry was made on January 19, 1921. It records her grandfather's trip to Waitsfield, where he "saw Marion." Fourteen days later, on February 2, 1921, eleven-year-old Madeline died of rheumatic fever. My grandmother kept the diary, which was given to my aunt Marion, then to my mother. The ankle weights are of a newer vintage—mid-twentieth century, made by Elmer's of Lubbock, Texas. How they found their way into my mother's attic I have no idea. I am drowning in memorabilia! Maybe it's time to open an Etsy account.


Anonymous said...

Dear Sara,

Thanks so much for the trip back to Arusha. In 2008, courtesy of my Mother in law, I spent Christmas in Tanzania with a party of 17 and Justin, Daoudi and Ole Kirimbai of Wilderness Africa Safaris. I was reluctant to make the 18 hour journey, but the break in Amsterdam on the way to Dar made it palatable (I am sure you have taken KLM from JFK to Dar on a few occasions.)

We began in a camp in the Arusha National Park in the shadow of Mt. Meru. I did not realize it was a volcano till
I read your story of life with Patrick and Thomas.

We moved on to Ngorngoro Crater on Christmas Eve and wound up herding cattle with a six year old on New Year's Day. Ole, as an elder of the Masai gave us some incredible access into the world of the Boma.

Thanks to my white beard I was nicknamed Babu, and my wife became Mrs. Claus. It was a trip I never would have considered taking but I am ever so glad I did.

I came across your book on Amazon and was immediately transported back to the dust and the Pineapple and Fanta Orange Soda.

So from my back porch in suburban Philadelphia, a hearty Sante Sana from your devoted reader.


David Conver

Sara Tucker said...

Dear David:

Thank you for writing to me about your memories of Tanzania and your enjoyment of "Arusha." Mount Meru is indeed a volcano, and though its last major eruption was (if I remember correctly) about 8,000 years ago, that classifies it as an "active" volcano (it has to pass the 10,000-year mark before being categorized as extinct). Eight thousand years was not a wide enough margin to satisfy Patrick. We are now in Fontainebleau, France, for the winter--my mother-in-law, mentioned briefly in "Arusha," is in a nursing home but has kept the lovely apartment where Thomas spent many a weekend and vacation during his childhood, and that's where Patrick and I are staying this winter (due to return to Vermont, my childhood home, in May). Thomas is now in New Zealand, where is has a job as the bar manager of a 300-cover restaurant, and a British girlfriend whom he met in Australia, where he lived for two years. We miss him but are glad he is so happy and doing so well. I am working on my next book, about my mother, Idora, and the writing group that she and I started in Randolph, Vermont, a few years ago, known as The Hale Street Gang. I love to connect with readers, and am very happy that you took the time to write.

Sara Tucker