PIZZA, PAST AND PRESENT
June 30, 2019
In The Working Waterfront, the Maine seacoast newspaper, there’s a column called “Journal of an Island Kitchen” by Sandy Oliver, a “food historian who lives, gardens, cooks, and writes on [the Maine island of] Islesboro.” The topic of her June column was “Memorable Food and Drink: Stand-outs over the years include first pizza, fresh-harvested mussels, and good coffee.”
She had that first pizza at about the age of fourteen.
I thought of this last week when I met friends for a pizza lunch. As I’ve written before, they live in another town, so we four had a little tradition of meeting halfway at Giuseppe’s Pizzeria & Ristorante in Meredith; they and I have continued the tradition, one empty chair at our foursome table. I opened the menu to the pizzas—so many choices!—and thought of how, when pizzas eventually appeared in Laconia, my mother bought a package of single-size frozen pizzas at the grocery store and that was my introduction.
In Henrietta Snow, at an Italian restaurant Snowy and Tom reminisce thus:
Snowy said, “We’ve never had pizza together.”
“It hadn’t been invented back then.”
She laughed. “It was just reaching New Hampshire in our teens, or Gunthwaite at least. Julia, Bev’s mother, served the first I ever had, a frozen one. Then we began making them from a Chef Boyardee box. But it was really a college thing.”
Sandy Oliver also recalls that pizza didn’t become a “familiar and favorite fare” until she went to college.
While I was living with my grandparents during non-resident terms, my grandmother Ruth did the cooking but I helped on weekends by making a Chef Boyardee pizza for supper. A rectangular pizza on a cookie sheet. Then one day after work an office friend walked with me to Boston’s North Station for the commuter trains home, and on the way she took me into a little Italian bakery, where she bought bread and I did too. We talked about pizza, and the next day she gave me her recipe for making pizza from scratch. And thus I graduated from Chef Boyardee.
And when I joined Don at Keene, he introduced me to his favorite beer-and-pizza joint.
Looking at the Giuseppe’s menu, I thought of how he and I often chose mushrooms and black olives for our pizza toppings here, sometimes saying the hell with worry about the extra salt and having Kalamata olives instead of black. So I ordered a pizza with mushrooms and Kalamata olives.
SETTING UP HOUSEKEEPING
June 23, 2019
Last week, a friend and I were in the Lake Winnipesauke town of Wolfeboro, whose motto is “The Oldest Summer Resort in America.” It’s full of tempting shops, and we went into Butternuts Good Dishes. The Butternuts website’s description says that the place is “a little cookshop with all you need and more! Whether you’re setting up a new kitchen or adding to one, we can help.”
They sure can. We marveled over the sight of so many things on display in such a small shop, dishes and glassware and cookware and gadgets and EVERYTHING. And I immediately longed to be back in my early-married days doing what I called, jokingly but seriously, “setting up housekeeping.” Wasn’t that fun!
As I’ve mentioned before, by the time of my second winter non-resident term of working in Boston at Beacon Press, I knew that in the fall I would be transferring from Bennington to Keene Teachers’ College and Don and I would be setting up housekeeping in the married students’ barracks. “Setting up housekeeping”; I loved the term. I did a lot of browsing and deciding in Jordan Marsh, spending my paychecks. I did more shopping that summer with paychecks from working as a hostess at a Laconia restaurant. In the evenings I’d go over the treasured accumulation.
My goal was to be different from my mother. Modern! Just as my furniture would be different—butterfly and basket chairs; cinderblock bookcases built by Don—so would my appliances and cookware be. Or at least they’d be an updated version. A streamlined, more advanced toaster that never burned toast (I hoped). My MixMaster’s beater was detachable, to use as a hand-beater. No big cast-iron frying pan; an electric frying pan had suddenly become essential in the new modern 1950s kitchen. At Bennington Potters, Don and I bought our smooth black dishes, plates, mugs, even pottery drinking glasses.
Oh yes, what fun that was!
And we got a chance to do it again, to set up housekeeping almost from scratch after we returned from England. And this time, oddly enough, our goal wasn’t to be modern. Ten years after our first time, we wanted our parents’ decors. At a Woolworth’s I bought a set of dishes that reminded me of my mother’s “everyday china.” We didn’t buy new furniture, and we haunted secondhand stores not only for furniture but also for familiar dishes and knickknacks. I still remember Don’s delight at discovering the very same glass dessert plates as his mother had, on which she always served her strawberry shortcake.
The Butternuts shop also sells take-home meals. But while my friend was deciding on something for her supper, I was still entranced amid dishes and utensils—and amused by a display of big forks with a sign that said Granny Forks, a new-to-me name for an old-fashioned item. (I Googled when I got home.)
LATEST LISTENING AND READING
June 16, 2019
Here’s some springtime listening and reading I’ve been doing.
Amongst the Sandwich library’s new audiobooks is Margery Allingham’s Death of a Ghost, an Albert Campion mystery published in 1934. In it, a famous painter has come up with a bright idea for keeping his work alive after he dies: he leaves instructions to his wife to have one of his previously unseen paintings exhibited every year after his death. And after he does die, this idea opens up all sorts of possibilities and problems—and, of course, murder.
Listening, I remembered moving on from reading my mother’s Agatha Christies to exploring the other murder mysteries in the family bookcases. My best discoveries were Margery Allingham and Dorothy L. Sayers. I think I found Ngaio Marsh and Josephine Tey later. And after listening to this audiobook and being reminded of how much I liked Margery Allingham’s mysteries, I went to our bookshelves for my paperback of 1952’s The Tiger in the Smoke, my favorite book of hers and favorite title. A note in the front explains that “In the shady ways of Britain today it is customary to refer to the metropolis of London as The Smoke.”
Another new audiobook at the library is How To Be a Good Creature: A Memoir in Thirteen Animals, written by Sy Montgomery and read by her. As the CD set’s back cover says, she is an author and a “naturalist and adventurer. To research her books, films, and articles, Sy has done everything from swimming with piranhas and pink dolphins in the Amazon to hiking the Altai Mountains in search of snow leopards.” She lives in New Hampshire. The thirteen animals in this book include emus, a spider named Clarabelle, an octopus named Octavia, a pig named Chris, and two border collies, Tess and Sally. Because Don and I had a border collie, I was as fascinated by the dogs as by the exotic creatures. Her passion for them all is powerful.
When I was writing Site Fidelity, I decided that one of the characters should have a collection of Mary Stewart novels. And to make sure I was remembering them properly, I realized I should reread them. So I did. What wonderful required research! Recently a friend gave me a Mary Stewart I hadn’t read or even heard about. It’s a little book, a novella first published in 1968 : The Wind off the Small Isles. Googling, I learned that it was never published in the United States and went out of print in Britain because of a mess of “copyright details and tax complications.” Her niece has written a foreword to the new edition, saying that she misses “ [Aunty Mary’s] terrific sense of humor, her flashes of brilliance, her kind heart and her generosity to everyone she met or knew.” This 2016 edition was published to celebrate what would have been her one-hundredth birthday. As usual when Mary Stewart takes me traveling, I opened my atlas; with The Wind off the Small Isles it was open to the Canary Islands.
June 9, 2019
Last week Penny and I drove north to celebrate Marjorie’s (our stepmother’s) birthday. Our route led us up through Pinkham Notch. New Hampshire has three great notches between mountains: Franconia Notch, Crawford Notch, and Pinkham. As Dan, our father, wrote in 50 Hikes in the White Mountains, Pinkham Notch is “as near as you can drive on a main highway (NH 16) to the most impressive mountain in New England—Mount Washington.” As you drive, the scenery goes swooping up mesmerizingly.
The Appalachian Mountain Club’s Visitor Center is here. In Our Last Backpack, Dan wrote about his first visit, in 1929 at age fifteen, when the center consisted of a few log cabins in a clearing. It’s much bigger now. But, he wrote, “Sometimes at Pinkham Notch Camp and the AMC’s elaborate buildings I still feel that blend of ecstasy and excitement I felt at this opportunity, all of a sudden, to climb Mount Washington.” During that boyhood adventure, he and his companions spent the night in a shelter on Mount Washington: “And that night in the log cave, on the fragrant boughs, I listened to the wind outside and I was snug in a mountain fastness and knew the feeling that went with the strange word: fastness. Peaks out there in the darkness. Mount Washington, Jefferson, Adams, Madison.”
You can do less daunting hikes in Pinkham Notch. On a 2 ¼-mile round-trip hike on the Crew-Cut Trail (cut by the AMC crew or “croo”), you can get acquainted with the area. On a 4 1/4-mile round-trip hike to Low’s Bald Spot (another hair—or lack thereof—name!), you can experience, as Dan wrote in 50 Hikes, “[Mount Washington’s] sweep and primitive power . . . Low’s Bald Spot gives you mountain air and sunlight, distant skies, and the near scent of fir balsam.”
And there’s a strenuous 8 ½-mile round-trip hike not to the summit of Mount Washington but still above treeline to the Alpine Garden. When I did it with my hiking group our timing was perfect to see the flowers Dan described: “The flower-blooming time, mid-June to July, brings the Alpine Garden a miraculous shower of colors. Then you see yellow alpine avens, white diapensia, purple Lapland rosebay, and pink bilberry.”
Penny and I continued on through Pinkham Notch, past stripes of snow on the mountains, and eventually came to the small city of Berlin (pronounced BERlin), where at the Northland Restaurant we were joined by Marjorie and by Penny’s daughter at a table with a springtime leafy-green view. The Northland’s food is wonderful. For dessert we decided on “fresh strawberry pie”: uncooked strawberries, fresh indeed, in a baked pie shell, topped with a Mount Washington of whipped cream. The slice our waitress brought to Marjorie had a lighted birthday candle emerging from that whipped cream.
A BOYHOOD IN THE WEIRS
June 2, 2019
In the latest Smithsonian magazine there’s an article titled “American Idyll” about “Summer’s most refreshing tradition, a lazy afternoon at the local swimming hole.” Reading it, I got laughing over how Don’s local swimming hole was Lake Winnipesaukee; that is, the part of the lake in the section of Laconia known as the Weirs.
Then, reading “Remembering D-Day,” an article in a recent Publishers Weekly about the books being published “to mark the 75th anniversary of one of history’s most important military operations,” I thought of how Don had that Weirs boyhood because of World War II.
I’ve written here and in “Ruth’s Neighborhood” about the Weirs, and in the Snowy Series it became “the boardwalk” section of Gunthwaite. Now, a combination of those memories:
The Weirs is the honky-tonk town on Lake Winnipesaukee, but its name comes from the distant past, when Native Americans built rock weirs near the channel between the lake and Paugus Bay. Then in 1652 explorers for the Massachusetts Bay Colony discovered that the lake was the source of the Merrimack River and chiseled a marker on a big rock near those weirs. When we were young kids, there was only a relatively small beach at the Weirs, and in it was this Endicott Rock, protected by a monument—a granite cage. I remember shivering in a towel after a swim and looking at the rock, trying to imagine Indians and intrepid explorers instead of sunbathers.
After their marriage, Don’s maternal grandparents, Julia and Perley, moved from Rumney, NH, to the Weirs. Julia began renting rooms in their home, and her daughters helped her run this boarding house. Both daughters married boarders (thus my inspiration for how Snowy’s mother and father met).
Don and his brother and parents were living in Laconia when Pearl Harbor was attacked. His father enlisted in the Navy; with its Seabees (c.b., construction battalion) he eventually found himself in the Philippines. Don’s mother rented their Laconia house to another family for the duration and with her sons moved to the Weirs into a rented house across the street from her parents’ house, right behind the roller-skating rink on the main street.
In the summer, despite wartime gas rationing, the Weirs still teemed with tourists. Don recalled that their presence was both exciting and annoying. The local kids stuck to their own pursuits, diving off the dance-hall deck, jumping off the pier. After swimming until waterlogged, they would search for redeemable soda bottles and dropped money under the boardwalk. Don would only return home from his busy lazy day when he heard his mother calling him and his brother to supper, the sound ringing out across the Weirs: “DONALD! RICHARD!”
After the War, the family moved back to Laconia, returning often to visit. And at age fourteen Don worked on the boardwalk at the Karamel Korn store, cooking hot dogs in the front window. I know I must have seen him there, before I finally met him in high school three years later.
THE BIG BEAR
MAY 26, 2019
My first literary effort, at the age of six, was a story that I titled “The Big Bear.” The choice of subject matter was probably inspired not only by fairy tales but also by the tales my father told about the bear-hunting adventures of a friend, whom my father had sometimes accompanied in his younger years, acquiring the bearskin rug (minus, mercifully, the head) that was almost as familiar to me in our household as the regular rugs.
The main thing I remember about writing the story is the mental search for the right word to describe the bear’s scary walk. I decided on the verb “tramp.”
Last Wednesday at about five a.m., still flabbergasted by springtime, I was looking out a kitchen window at the green scenery when I sensed motion offstage, so to speak. Then, close in front of me out the window, there appeared a big bear. A very big bear. I realized it was “the BIG male bear” that a neighbor had told me she’d seen.
The bear wasn’t tramping. He was moseying. And he was, I think, the biggest bear I’ve ever seen. He paused to inspect the sump-pump trench; he seemed to graze in the lawn (ants? grubs? violets?). He continued moseying around the back of the house, and I hurried from window to window following his progress. I hadn’t yet pulled up a bedroom window shade; when I did, he stopped and seemed to look straight at me. Then he proceeded down the driveway, across the road, along the brook.
As at age six, I struggled for a right word. The mot juste. How to describe his size? His bigness was round. Rotund, like Santa Claus? No. Ponderous? Massive? I remembered the mother bear I wrote about in A Gunthwaite Girl: “ . . . out of the woods plodded Mama Bear. Her fur shone glossy in the sun, and her vast bulk was just plain terrifying.”
My Big Bear’s vast bulk was emphasized against the delicacy of the springtime background, the green grass blooming with dandelions, bluets, wild strawberries, and all those violets, the fragile new leaves of the woods. I suddenly felt so lucky, filled with wonder, to have seen this “wild” creature at home in my neighborhood.
And his size made his vanishing act extra-startling. After he moseyed along the brook, he simply disappeared into the woods. How could he do this? It’s understandable when a dainty deer vanishes, but it’s magic with a bear. And a moose. As I also wrote in A Gunthwaite Girl:
“ . . . eek!” [Bev] slammed on the brake.
A moose capered across the road, its awkward legs seeming too skinny to support its prodigious body. Snowy grabbed at her seat belt, which had caught her tight. The moose dodged a front-yard birdbath and went kitty-corner toward the woods behind a house. Perhaps, she speculated, it had some genetic memory of the Cat Path as all woods. And into the woods it went, disappearing into leafiness as completely as if it were a wraith instead of a ruminant mammal weighing a ton.
MAY 19, 2019
During her visit, Penny and I watched New Hampshire Chronicle, a nightly magazine-type TV program. One evening as a segment began about a subject called “audio dramas,” we sat there bewildered—and then we turned to each other and exclaimed, “It’s radio!”
We learned that Rick Coste of Modern Audio Drama writes and produces these drama podcasts, which include The Behemoth, Bryar Lane, Inhale, and Is Anybody Out There?, and he directs the “voice actors.”
Well! Needless to say, by the end of that segment we were teeming with radio memories. As I wrote about Snowy and Tom’s first date in The Cheerleader, these memories and sounds from childhood remained in our minds and our ears:
The first movie was a Western with Zachary Scott. Tom and Snowy had each seen so many Westerns, from childhood Saturday matinees of Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, and Hopalong Cassidy to the latest on television (Range Rider was one of Snowy’s favorite programs), that the violent stories were as soothingly familiar as nursery rhymes, and they usually watched them with cozy anticipation of the stagecoach chase, the fistfights, the leap from the hotel roof into the saddle, the posse, the box canyon, the ambush, the wild riding, the gunfight, the sunset, and because they’d grown up listening to the radio, they enjoyed the sounds as much as the scenes, the clip-clop of horses, the bang of six-guns, the silence and slap of poker games, the chink and glug of whiskey.
Years later Snowy is reminded of radio when she and Bev are going to their fortieth high-school reunion in Henrietta Snow:
She and Bev scooted up the walk, around the building to the front door, high heels clattering on the pavement like the sound effects in old radio mystery shows. Margo Lane in The Shadow.
The Shadow was one of the programs Penny and I reminisced about, still able in our Golden Years to recite the eerie introduction—“Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows!” At the kitchen table on Saturday afternoons we had sat listening to the many programs (The House of Mystery; Martin Kane, Private Eye; etc., etc., etc.!) on the small brown radio (not the big console radio in the living room), and as we listened we would draw pictures, our mother having supplied us with pencils and crayons and pieces of our father’s manila typewriter paper. Sometimes we played Double Solitaire, taught by this card-shark mother. We dipped into the bowl of popcorn we’d made, overseen by Mama, in the wire popper shaken on a stove burner, in memory the best popcorn ever made even though it was margarine-d, not buttered.
“And remember,” we said, “if there was leftover popcorn we’d have it next morning cold, with milk, for breakfast!”
MAY 12, 2019
My sister was visiting last week, so together we saw the news on TV about the birth of the royal baby and then learned the baby’s name. Archie. And we vowed, “This summer we must go see the Archie statue!”
A statue, that is, of the Archie Andrews of comic-book fame. It’s nearby, in Meredith, NH. In 1942 Bob Montana rented a cottage on Lake Waukewan and drew the first comic book there, and in 2018 the unveiling of the bronze Archie statue was part of Meredith’s 250th anniversary celebration.
Bob Montana came to Meredith as a child, when his parents retired from their vaudeville careers and in 1924 started a Meredith restaurant called Montana’s. Alas, the Great Depression closed it. They moved to Boston. His father died; his mother remarried and settled in Haverhill, Massachusetts. And Haverhill High School inspired the characters and setting for the Archie comics.
However, while Penny and I were growing up we knew that Laconia folks liked to think that Laconia High School was also an inspiration. After all, LHS was the big high school in the Lakes Region, and Bob Montana had returned here, buying a sixty-acre farm on Meredith Neck in 1948 and making Meredith his home. In an article in the November 19, 2016, issue of the Laconia Daily Sun, reporter Bea Lewis quoted his daughter, Lynn, who remarked that her father “frequently said that the best thing he ever did was raise his family in Meredith.” In the April 5, 2018, issue of the Laconia newspaper, reporter Thomas P. Caldwell wrote that “in a book about Montana’s life and connection to the community, author Carol Lee Anderson noted that he placed Archie and the Gang at various New Hampshire locations, skiing at the Gunstock Recreation Area [near Laconia] and boating on Lake Winnipesaukee.”
In 1967 Bob Montana bought a closed gas station on Meredith’s Main Street and turned it into an art gallery and framing shop. Don once went in looking for some framing materials but didn’t meet him. Bea Lewis reported that Bob Montana’s wife took over the running of the shop: “Lynn Montana recounted that her father attracted an icy stare from her mother when she got back to the farm after spending all day at the gallery, found him enjoying a drink and would be cheerily asked, ‘What’s for dinner?’”
Having been reminded of this Archie by the royal Archie, Penny and I reminisced about how we’d discovered him in the comic-books treasure-trove of our childhood, the upstairs of a friend’s garage. Her father had a grocery store that sold comic books, and stacks of old ones were stored there. Many a sunny afternoon we spent upstairs in that dusty gloom with, amongst other favorites, the Archie comic books. Even though we weren’t teenagers yet, we felt that the high-school situations were somewhat dated (dated! We hadn’t dated yet, either!), but we appreciated the bright clarity of the drawings and enjoyed cheering for Betty and booing Veronica.
I’ve seen newspaper-and-online photos of the statue: life-size Archie is sitting on a park bench in Main Street’s Community Park. This summer Penny and I will go sit beside him.
MAY 5, 2019
Recently my niece told me about rediscovering the joys of department stores when she was in Greenfield, Massachusetts, and she and a friend went to Wilson’s Department Store. Everything they wanted, all in one store! Googling, I read that Wilson’s has been “a fixture in downtown Greenfield for 137 years” and has “three floors of name-brand merchandise spanning 20 departments.”
This all brought back my introduction to department stores, O’Shea’s in Laconia. It was an impressive place, in a grand building that had once been an opera house. Its wonders included an overwhelming array of children’s clothes, men’s clothes, women’s clothes, perfume, shoes, and everything else (Girl Scout uniforms!)—but especially fascinating was its method of payment: your mother’s money was put in a little container that went zooming off overhead to the business department and came zooming back with her change.
As I grew up, I literally went up in O’Shea’s, climbing up to the second floor and the women’s clothing there. In A Gunthwaite Girl, Snowy and Bev and Puddles reminisce about Ship’n Shore blouses. Ah, yes.
When our high-school’s Junior Prom Decoration Committee went to Boston to consult Dennison’s about our decorations, we girls explored a huge (compared with O’Shea’s) department store, Jordan Marsh. I put this experience in The Cheerleader:
. . . The girls were so dazzled by such an enormous store that they couldn’t make up their minds what to buy and finally chose only shortie nighties, which they could have bought at Dunlap’s Department Store. Then they got lost. They couldn’t find the entrance where they were supposed to meet the boys—“Wasn’t it the one near the perfume?” “Or was it the one near the pocketbooks?”—and Snowy, beginning to panic, fearing they’d miss the train, said, “Let’s go outdoors, I think I can recognize it from outside.” They walked around the building and there were Dudley and Ron waiting.
During my Bennington Non-Resident Terms working in Boston I got well acquainted with Jordan Marsh and Filene’s in my lunch hours, and later when Don and I spent a year in Boston I even bravely ventured into Filene’s Basement, renowned for its fearsome bargain-hunters.
Thinking about my niece’s news, I tried to remember the last time I had been in a true department store. And I realized it had been dear old O’Shea’s. During Laconia’s urban renewal, my mother phoned to tell me that O’Shea’s was scheduled to be torn down very soon. Demolished. Don and I were living in Dover, NH, then. We came home and I went into the venerable, historic building for the last time. I wandered around, feeling sad disbelief, and finally just bought a scarf for a souvenir.
SPRING IS HERE!
April 28, 2019
I knew that spring had truly arrived when last week a neighbor reported that a BIG bear was making his rounds.
I had taken down my bird feeder a few days earlier after seeing an entry in my diary on April 20, 2011, that said, “I began deskwork—and Don yelled, ‘Bear!’ A young bear had got the suet feeder and retreated behind the shed and returned. It would not leave—too young even to be scared by Don charging it in the truck, horn blaring. But finally it wandered off. I returned to deskwork.”
In addition to the bear news last week, Sandwich (known to be a snow pocket) finally really looked like spring. A rainy spell has washed away the snow, including the last white blob lingering under my front-yard maple, and turned the surprised grass rapidly green. The brook is roaring. In the brimming pond the spring peepers have begun shrilling so loudly I can hear them inside the house. Two chipmunks have emerged from their burrows and I find one or the other waiting impatiently on the rock where they know I’ll lovingly leave sunflower seeds for them. Phoebes have returned; usually they nest in the ell’s eaves but I saw two inspecting the possibilities of the eaves in that shed Don built.
Of course rain means that the springtime mud has got muddier. During National Poetry Month, Sandwich’s Yeoman’s Fund for the Arts group has been posting a daily poem. Here’s a mud poem, an anonymous poem found several years ago pinned on the bulletin board between the North Sandwich Post Office and the North Sandwich Store:
NORTH SANDWICH WHOPPER
(by a Center Sandwichite)
In North Sandwich they will tell you
that if you see a hat
lying in the road on Basket Street
in April, you had best not pick it up,
not unless you have a lot of time.
If you pick up that hat, they tell you,
underneath it you will find a man
whom you will have to dig out
(April is mud time up on Basket Street)
only to find that he is riding a horse.
But what they will not tell you
is that the horse’s hooves are planted
on the carapace of an enormous
nor that the tortoise rests
with one foot each upon the patient backs
of four majestic elephants who stand
facing the four directions, on the coils
of the primeval serpent.
And that snake?
DOROTHY PARKER POEM
April 21, 2019
After rereading Ogden Nash’s poems during this National Poetry Month, I decided to reread another old-favorite poet, Dorothy Parker. I have my parents’ collection that I used to pore over, Not So Deep As a Well. I’ve mentioned before that during our—er—courtship I quoted to Don a Dorothy Parker poem; rereading the collection I came to it and laughed:
Say my love is easy had,
Say I’m bitten raw with pride,
Say I am too often sad—
Still behold me at your side.
Say I’m neither brave nor young,
Say I woo and coddle care,
Say the devil touched my tongue—
Still you have my heart to wear.
But say my verses do not scan,
And I get me another man!
Amused, we agreed that he’d only correct me on technical stuff, such as cars and carpentry.
During the ensuing years I consulted him about much more, and when he read my manuscripts he mentioned problems he encountered. Of the “do not scan” type of problems I can only remember in detail the first one: In a short story I’d written for the Advanced Writing course we both were taking at Keene Teachers’ College, I wrote that my distraught heroine “ran out into the night.” Don gently told me that he hated when people ran out into the night in stories.
I immediately rewrote, and I think I can safely say nobody has run out into the night in anything I’ve written since.
I depended on him for help with all I wrote. As I work on Lazy Beds I’m still making mental notes to ask him this or that and I almost jot “ask Don!” in the margins of the manuscript.
NATIONAL LIBRARY WEEK, 2019
April 14, 2019
Last week was National Library Week, which reminded me how very lucky I’ve been with libraries, the Laconia library in my youth, the Sandwich library during most of my adult years.
On June 7, 2003, the Laconia library celebrated its 100th birthday with a party. Here’s an excerpt from a piece about this I wrote at the time for “Ruth’s Neighborhood.” I titled it “Happy Birthday, Dear Library.”
. . . A hundred years before this library was built, the first library was organized in Laconia, then called Meredith Bridge. So the party also commemorated two hundred years of interest in—and devotion to—books.
A bequest from a rich Laconia resident with the glorious name of Major Napoleon Bonaparte Gale financed the construction of the grand new library. It is an imposing edifice of red-pink granite and gray granite, with a tower and a turret, and nowadays the architecture makes me smile affectionately, but I still feel the thrilling awe that used to overwhelm me when my mother led me up the long series of steps to the massive doors whose knobs were too big for me to turn by myself and I entered this fairy-tale castle.
These emotions vied within me as Don and I approached the library for the party. A tent had been set up on the lawn . . . [we] kept on along the walk, past spiffed-up gardens, to the library pond at the back. This was a very special place in our childhoods. Don remembers taking a shortcut through it every day on his way from his home on River Street (“Snowy’s House”) to his elementary school, but this route didn’t actually save him time because the pond was such a peaceful place to dawdle that he was apt to be late going to and fro. Indeed, in our years together the library pond has entered our language; when he’s daydreaming or otherwise abstracted and not doing something he should be doing, we say he’s “library-ponding.”
. . . When the welcoming ceremony ended, we went up the steps, through the formidable doors, into the stained-glass entry. . . Of the books on the shelves [in the children’s room in my day] I remember most fondly a series of biographies, with orange covers, illustrated with black silhouettes—Julia Ward Howe and Jane Addams were favorites—and a series about twins from different lands, such as . . . the Scotch (not Scottish, I’m pretty sure) Twins, Jean and Jock. During the following years, there were the Rosamund du Jardins and Betty Cavannas and all. I was allowed into the stacks.
Here in 2003, in the reading room four long tables had been set up for four of us authors from Laconia or the surrounding area, with our books displayed . . . I met my youngest reader, age seven, who had started in on The Cheerleader even though her mother had told her she must wait until she’s older. When this adorable, solemn little girl asked me to sign her copy, I said, “Do you want to be a cheerleader?” She put me in my place by replying, “No, a football player!”
Then a barbershop quartet began singing, “Happy Birthday, Dear Library.”
NATIONAL POETRY MONTH, 2019
April 7, 2019
It’s April, National Poetry Month, and I’ve been rereading two poets who are—er—strange bedfellows: Anne Bradstreet and Ogden Nash.
Recently when I was looking up some other poet in my Oxford Book of American Verse, I happened to see Anne Bradstreet’s name leading the list in the table of contents. Her name usually does because she’s our oldest American poet, so to speak; she was born (in England) in 1612 and died in 1672. I realized I hadn’t reread her since college and resolved to read these selections. So now I have, starting with “The Prologue”:
. . . I am obnoxious to each carping tongue
Who says my hand a needle better fits,
A Poet’s pen all scorn I should thus wrong,
For such despite they cast on Female wits:
If what I do prove well, it won’t advance,
They’l say it’s stoln, or else it was by chance . . .
And recently in the Sandwich library I paused at the poetry bookcase, my eye caught by the Selected Poetry of Ogden Nash: 650 Rhymes, Lyrics, and Poems. As I’ve mentioned, I spent a lot of time in my youth poring over my parents’ collections of his and Dorothy Parker’s poems. So I took Ogden Nash’s Selected Poetry home from the library and in my own poetry bookcase I located that very copy of my parents’ Ogden Nash collection, The Face Is Familiar, published in 1940. I settled down happily with both books and started with the Selected Poetry, published in 1995. It has a trenchant introduction by Archibald MacLeish and the poems are organized by subject, very handy. I went to the section titled “Parents—And Oh, Those Children!” and found one of the verses I remembered best, “Reflection on Babies”:
A bit of talcum
Is always walcum.
In my high-school journal I switched that around to apply to the girls’ locker room, where Cashmere Bouquet was always walcum (as I later noted in The Cheerleader).
For National Poetry Month, here’s his April poem, “Always Marry an April Girl”:
Praise the spells and bless the charms,
I found April in my arms.
April golden, April cloudy,
Gracious, cruel, tender, rowdy;
April soft in flowered languor,
April cold with sudden anger,
Ever changing, ever true—
I love April, I love you.
© 2019 by Ruth Doan MacDougall; all rights reserved
APRIL - JUNE, 2019
National Poetry Month, 2019 (April 7)
National Library Week, 2019 (April 14)
Dorothy Parker Poem (April 21)
Spring Is Here! (April 28)
Department Stores (May 5)
Archie (May 12)
It's Radio! (May 19)
The Big Bear (May 26)
A Boyhood in the Weirs (June 2)
Pinkham Notch (June 9)
Latest Listening and Reading (June 16)
Setting Up Housekeeping (June 23)
Pizza, Past and Present (June 30)
Squirrels (January 6)
Mills & Factories (January 13)
Kingfisher (January 19)
A Rockland Restaurant (January 27)
Home Ec (February 3)
Ice Fishing Remembered (February 10)
Our First Date (February 17)
Sandwiches Past and Present (February 23)
Snowy Owls & Chicadees (March 3)
Car Inspection (March 10)
Latest Reading & Listening (March 17)
Frost Heaves, Again (March 24)
Signs of Spring, 2019 (March 31)
March, 2018 (first entry)
Earlier: See Ruth's Neighborhood
The Old Country Store (March 25)
The Galloping Gourmet (April 1)
The Poor Man's Fertilizer (April 7)
Miniskirts and Bell-Bottoms (041518)
Henrietta Snow, Second Printing;;
Food & Drink Poems (April 22)
Recipe Box and Notebook (April 29)
All rights reserved