Age is Just a Number

Maybe it was the fact that the year turned to 2024 and we were inundated with all the happenings of 2023 that got me thinking of my age. I admit, I dwell on it more than I did 40 years ago, but do not think I obsess about it, knowing full well I cannot do anything about it and am extremely grateful, especially when I am with my grandchildren, that I am “still aging.” Because if you stop, well, you know what that means. My sister and I talk about when we stopped being able to do such and such and wonder why we did certain things like store your favorite salad bowl on the top shelf and now must ask your son to get it down or do not use it this time.

I do not think I thought about a broken limb as I traversed the Alps in Austria and Switzerland years ago, but now going from my house to the car, or car to store, I think about it. I have a “plan” for every scenario. Like I have my cell phone in my pocket with a car and house key when I am taking out the trash on pickup day. If I go down, I want to be able to call someone. Or if the house door locks by accident, I can get in. I have a lot of these “little plans.” Did not have them 40 years ago because I did not think I needed them!

Last Tuesday I was confronted by my “age” big time! We have had a problem with blocked calls (calls we DO NOT want blocked), and I have spent hours on the phone with Xfinity trying to correct the problem, to no avail. So they sent Tony, an Xfinity technician, to help us out. Within 15 minutes he found the problem: US! We were hitting the “Block Call” button in error – thus, blocked calls!

To somewhat redeem Gary and I, I had thought of that but could not find any place to unblock. I even went to YouTube to see if there was an answer for it, like when I could not open the panel on my dryer, YouTube showed me how. Anyway, in 30 minutes tops, Tony had unblocked my blocked calls; taught me how to get on Netflix, Amazon, and any other app that might suit my fancy; tested the wiring (suggested upgrade); showed me how to record shows, delete all the shows (we didn’t know we had recorded); looked on my computer and found the password I was needing for my Wi-Fi but thought I had changed. Must admit, I was embarrassed as I watched him do all this as easily as I could read a recipe and hope I have not forgotten something! Gary is always saying, “Why don’t they make a start-to-finish instruction book now?” The reason is that most young people do not need all the steps. They know them.

There will always be a gap between ages, what the young ones know as “common knowledge” and some of us “born earlier” trying to catch up. Of course, the young nowadays do not realize that they too in a few years will be trying to catch up.

Another subject, AI, or Artificial Intelligence: What most do not realize is that it isn’t new. Artificial intelligence has been around longer than me!

Shifting to Winter Mode

Well, it happened again. It was like shifting from first to reverse, going from summer to winter gear. It usually happens sometime in the end of September when I start thinking about getting ready for winter. All the summer chores and projects, most of which never got done, get put on “next year’s list” and I think about putting all the summer stuff to bed. Should I put the lawn mower away or will I need it the whole month of October, like this year? Is it time to clear the porch off and put the furniture away or will we still have some warm weather? Do I get the storm windows out or can I wait a few more weeks? Eventually, it all needs to be done and the weather forecast usually is in control.

The first mention of snow and that’s when there is a mad scramble to get it all done. The trouble is, at my house, all the places that the summer stuff goes is filled with other stuff that accumulated during the summer. That stuff never goes away.

There’s the talk around town… When are you having your snow tires put on? Do you think you have enough wood for the winter? Did you notice all the holiday things in the stores already? The weather usually gives us enough time to get it all done, but then one day you realize you finally have to shift to that winter mode. Everything gets done, sort of, and the porch is filled with wood once again. It happens quickly but it usually all gets done. Then, I’m in winter mode.

Yes, I do need new snow tires, and Phil Potvin of Phil’s Automotive in Underhill has ordered the new set. I have found the snow scrapers in the barn, and the snow shovels too. Winter boots and coats? Yes, I know where they are. Gloves too.

The one thing that really throws me off is setting the clocks back. That’s when winter officially starts for me. It’s dark so early and I’m ready for bed about 8.

Somehow, I muddle through the holidays with less enthusiasm every year. A sign of getting older? Do I bake the fruitcakes that Gael liked or not? All the grandkids are adults now so a quick trip to the gift card rack usually takes care of that. Winter sets in. Then, one day, you hear someone talking about the fact that he noticed that the days were getting longer and there is talk about tapping trees. Someone has seen their first robin and someone else has noticed a crocus in bloom somewhere. Is it time to think about shifting from winter mode to summer mode? Maybe not yet, but it always happens. Get out that summer chore list that you put away and throw away that winter list that never got anything crossed off. Reading a book instead has always worked for me.

Winter mode 2023 is here, folks, like it or not, and I’m going to bake fruitcake today.

Happy 90th Birthday, Mom!

My mother celebrated her 90th birthday last month. It really got me thinking about how we throw around the terms “old folks,” “elderly,” “getting up there,” etc. That is definitely not my mother. She is in great health, lives by herself a couple of miles from my husband and I, still drives, and takes care of others in her condominium neighborhood who are 10-15 years younger than herself. She’ll get a call from her across-the street neighbor asking if she would take her to Shaw’s. Yep, in the car and off to Shaw’s. Another neighbor calls on my mom to accompany her to doc appointments. Does my mom ever say no? Nope. Never.

Can anyone say they’ve had a best friend for 90 years? That’s ninety years. Yep, Mom and Barb still chat every couple months, and the stories they reminisce about that I overhear are just too funny.

At the beginning of the pandemic, before we were all buttoned up in our homes, Mom, at 87 years old, had knee replacement surgery, and after 2 weeks of the VNA physical therapist visiting her post-surgery, that was to be no more, so I took over as her personal physical therapist. I went over every day, and we’d lie on her bed and we’d start off with whatever the first exercise was on her list. I’d say, “Up, 2, 3, 4, 5; down, 2, 3, 4, 5. Up, 2, 3, 4, 5; down, 2, 3, 4, 5.” Over and over and over again. It wasn’t just “up.” It was more like “uuuuuup.” And then we’d start laughing and laughing all the while getting the exercises done. It turned plain old PT into a fun time! At her post-op appointment, her doc commented that she was the oldest (there’s that word again), healthiest patient he had ever done surgery on! What a compliment to my mom! He then asked her when she wanted her other knee done, to which she promptly replied, “Now.” And it happened soon after that.

My mother was born during the Great Depression. She remembers little things from childhood but, thankfully, wasn’t as affected by the depression as others were across the country due to her age. But she does remember walking up to the creamery for her family’s ration of butter and eggs, and collecting metal for the war effort. And one of her most memorable stories happened when she was in grade school, which was just around the corner from her house. The school caught fire in the dead of winter, and everyone was evacuated safely though without coats, hats, boots. She remembers looking over her shoulder on the way out the door to see the curtains in the gym going up in flames! Her father happened to be driving down Main Street at that exact time and glanced over to School Street and wondered to himself why all the kids were outside without their winter coats!

It’s hard to reconcile the terms “old,” “elderly,” “aged” when my mom is going strong. Yet we at times flippantly use those terms to describe friends and family members in their 70s and 80s who are sick or suffering from dementia or dying. I often wonder what my mom thinks when we use those terms, and I’m noticing myself more and more trying to downplay the age as opposed to the condition because, to me, my mom is not old, elderly or aged.

Is life fair? No, we all know life is not fair. We take the good with the bad and keep on plugging away hoping to reach whatever magic age number we choose happy and healthy. And I hope to follow in my mom’s footsteps.

Happy 90th Birthday, Mom!! You’re the best. And Happy New Year!

What Difference 70 Years Makes!

In 1953, I was 5 years old and anxiously waiting to start first grade the next year. There was no kindergarten, no Head Start, no play schools, so you just waited until you were 6 and could start first grade.

Here I might add that in Athens, Vermont, there was no bus, so transportation was walking and in good weather biking.

My granddaughter was here the other day, which got me to thinking of what she has been privileged with at 5 years of age. In ’53, there was no TV, no internet, no cell phones (for my family anyway), no computers, tablets. You get the idea. We had what is now called a “landline,” which the line part was shared with about five other houses. Every group had at least one person who had the time (or took the time) to monitor the calls. Everyone had a different ring, so you would become accustomed to who was getting a call and I guess you would decide if you should listen!

We were a one-car, one-bathroom family, a washer with no dryer, no dishwasher. (My sister and I became the dishwashers and the clothes dryer by helping hang them on the line or, in bad weather, the wooden bars near the stove.) There was still snow in 1953 but no snowblower, just shovels for us, and Grandpa would plow with the tractor. The insulation at our house was lacking so hay bales and piles of leaves went around the foundation. The storm windows were put on every fall and removed in the spring.
My mother had a huge garden and would can, pickle, and store up everything we needed in that line for the winter. I don’t recall having a store-bought vegetable, pickle, relish until I was 13 when we left the farm to move five miles to Cambridgeport, where there wasn’t room for such a big garden. I remember about that time we were “gifted” with a loaf of Wonder bread! Mother always made her own bread and rolls. As kids we were thrilled with that loaf of store-bought! How mixed up that was?? My uncle tapped five trees and Mother would boil the sap and get about three gallons of syrup. In her “free time,” she made a good share of my sisters’ and my clothes. My two brothers wore jeans and shirts, and they were bought or handed down (can’t recall).

I should mention here that Mother was a bookkeeper in a retail store in Bellows Falls while doing everything she did for us at home. I get tired just thinking about it!

I won’t be around to see what another 70 years will bring and I guess, being truthful, I don’t want to!

DO I REMEMBER 1953?

Not really. I was twelve years old (now you know how old I am), taking piano lessons and ballet lessons, riding my bike all over town sometimes with someone sitting on the seat or handlebars, roller skating, playing stick ball and jump rope in the street in front of our house, and getting ice cream from the Good Humor man when he came by.

My father drove a 1947 Dodge, and when he had two weeks of vacation, we headed to Vermont. By then, we discovered The Pines in St. Albans Bay where my father’s employer had a camp. He had some connection to St. Albans. My father rented a camp for the summer, and I spent the days on the lake, biking up to the Bay to the store for ice cream and watching ball games on Sunday mornings in the field next to the camps.

We had a beagle named Buttons. Buttons was still around when I met Gael. Gael didn’t like Beagles or Bassetts. I think Clark Wright’s parents might have owned one and it bit Gael once, so he said. He didn’t like horses either. One bit him once, so he said.

It was a good time to be young.

What a Way to Fight a Fire!

american la france 900 series pumper

I’ve been thinking about my early memories of the VAE. Gael and I weren’t married — just dating — when on occasion we would go to the VAE meetings at the Lincoln Inn in Essex Junction. I remember Pev Peake being there, because by then he was a good friend of Gael’s. Probably most of the others are gone now with the exception of Lloyd Davis. There was always a collection of old cars in the car park, a number of them being someone’s daily transportation.

Fast forward a few years to the summer of 1960. We hadn’t been married but a few weeks and living in St. Albans when a good friend, Mahlon Teachout, stopped by. The next thing I know, Gael and Mahlon had left to look at a fire truck in St. Albans somewhere. Little did I know then that that would be happening with regularity in the coming years. I guess I could have called myself an old car widow. Well, the two of them bought this fire truck, an American LaFrance fire truck, and proceeded to take it to Mahlon’s father’s shop in Colchester. They spent many hours there doing something or other, but within a matter of weeks, the fire truck became a speedster with just a seat, gas tank, and right-hand drive steering wheel, four wheels, etc.

It eventually came back to St. Albans, and we had a great time driving it around. Was it registered? Probably not, but I don’t remember. That was so many years ago when license plates got moved from one vehicle to another. I’m sitting here looking at a picture of it. Quite a thing. We took it to the Stowe Show in 1960 and that was my first memory of the Stowe Show. No trailering this beast. We drove it. What fun! Then, at one car meet at the fairgrounds in Essex that the VAE held there for a while, the track was open to folks to try out their old cars. Gael and Mahlon did just that and ended up tearing the track up, so they were asked to leave.

The next year we moved to Underhill, along with a 1934 Chevrolet Sedan (Edward), Gael’s Willys Knight, a 1927 Federal Truck, and the speedster. Eventually the speedster ended up in Barre, and then I don’t know what happened to it, but I have photos of it along with the registered number plaque and some great memories — memo- ries of the speedster and the early days of the VAE.

A Perfect Day

I don’t follow baseball anymore but have been curious about what people think of the new rules like timing for the pitcher, etc., been curious about what people think of the making the game shorter and, I guess, less boring. I heard one father say that he saves up to take his son to a game and doesn’t feel he’s getting his money’s worth with the shorter version.

I saw the other day that the Yankees had a PERFECT GAME! Which I guess with all the celebrating is a game that is few and far between. If you baseball fans know it was not the Yankees, please forgive me because I didn’t take the time fact check and you don’t have to write me a Tweet, Twitter, email or Facebook. You get the idea! I wondered if after the game the rest of their day was perfect.

It seems that when I go out, something always happens to ruin my perfect day. The other day I was having a great day when, backing out of a parking space, I came close to running over a motorcycle (that was bigger than my car) and, thankfully for me and him, my car has a backup bell which screeched at me. I try to be very careful, but the other guy has to be careful too. His space would still have been there even with a bit of patience.

Some things that have happened lately is a woman almost knocked me over getting to the register at Kinney Drug. It was so apparent that a man grabbed my arm to steady me. Of course, she could have had a bleeding husband in the car, because she did have Band-Aids!

I have a habit of talking to people when I am shopping (thus laying myself open to different reactions). A few seem to enjoy the interaction but certainly not all. I especially like to comment on the children, and that gets you some “dagger” looks, grabbing of the children to protect them from “that” woman. As if at 75 and after raising children of my own I am out looking for kids to snatch. I want you to know that I never put my hand out to touch a child (or a strange dog for probably the same reasons).

Several years ago, Gary and I were traveling to and from Montana, and we had stopped to look at some campers when Gary noticed an old, rusty car with a camper hitched to the back. Well, it started to roll toward some brand new autos and – behold! – no driver. Gary, being quite a bit younger at the time, ran over and jumped in the car to stop it. He was met with two elderly ladies batting and yelling at him to “get out, get out!” He managed to stop the car and get out without any damage to him or the vehicles. After meeting the driver of the car, I felt this could have been the best day in these ladies’ lives to have Gary steal them away, and after they calmed down, I think they felt this way too. Gary always said if he were going down for grand larceny, auto theft and kidnapping, it wouldn’t be in an old, rusty car and camper and not one but two elderly ladies that could pass as his grandmothers!

I thought I had the perfect day last week. I was waiting for my order at the Mexican Restaurant in Derby when two ladies walked in and ordered. With what one was wearing, I was pretty sure she worked at Dunkin’ Donuts, so I asked her (and she did). Then I asked if they sell frozen lemonades anymore, and the answer was no, which I voiced my disappointment. That ended the conversation, and I got my order and started to leave when she stopped me and said if I would come in later, that she would be working and she would make me a frozen lemonade! Wow, I thought this was my lucky day!

When I went into Dunkin’, there were two big signs asking for help and saying they had to close early for that reason. Well, I got my lemonade and was feeling great about the day when the man behind me started yelling, “Can’t you all hurry up?”

Just remember, there are those out here trying for a “perfect day,” so, please, do your part to help, or at least get out of the way.

Going to the Dump

It was a Friday, and someone asked me what I had planned for Saturday. My answer was….going to the dump. Wasn’t that what everyone did Saturday morning? Not anymore, I guess. But being “old school,” that’s what was on my agenda to start the day. One of my earlier memories of living in Underhill was going to the dump. We did have a burning barrel, but you also needed to go to the dump, and this was before plastic bags were popular. The first Green Up Day had paper bags to use. I still have one in the cellar. Folks with enough land usually had their own dumps. There are a few on our property. One even has a few old car parts and a rusty car body. 

Going to the dump one morning shortly after we moved to Underhill, I met Ellie Cook, who was to become a good friend. She had a pickup truck with a dump body. Boy, was I envious! Our dump consisted of a bank where you threw your trash over the edge. People would go to the dump and shoot rats, popular sport back then. Every once in a while, there would be a fire and all the fire engines (trucks?) would head to the Dump Road to put the fire out. If you heard the fire whistle, if it wasn’t Tuesday at 7:00, chances are they were headed to the dump. 

I think our oldest daughter’s first word was “garbage,” and when Gael’s grandmother would come to visit when she was in her 80s and 90s, she always liked to ride along with us to the dump. In the late 80s, the selectboard was looking for someone to operate the bulldozer at the new dump location. By then, the dump had moved 

further up Dump Road and the garbage had to be buried. Knowing Gael could operate a bulldozer, he was asked if he could help until the town found someone permanent to do the job. He offered, and then every Saturday he would head to the dump with his truck. Like many of you, he collected stuff and brought things home that he could use. He eventually left the pickup truck home and started taking the Diamond T truck. 

A few months turned into a few years and the dump began being a gathering place for the locals. Arsen Potvin, or was it Marcel LeGrand, would bring a six-pack of beer and Ed Farmer would bring lunch. Wendell Metcalf was always there too. Gael would hang the American flag from a tree when he got there. And he started a 

garden where people who were getting rid of lawn ornaments and bits of outdoor things could place them. I think it was even fenced in. This is where a great deal of recycling happened. Recycling…….something people have been doing for generations! 

Eventually the town dumps had to close in the early 90s, I think. The rats scattered all over town and people moved on to the newer ways of getting rid of garbage. Many people have their trash picked up at their house for a fee or go to the recycling centers. In Underhill, there is a fellow who has a location on Route 15 in Jericho called At Your Disposal. He is open on Saturday mornings from 8 – 12. He has three dumpsters: one for recycling, one for trash, and one for metal. He has a place for food scraps too. He has lived in Underhill for a long time and knows everyone. Going there is almost a social event, like the old days. I get to visit him and anyone else that happens by, and if there is a bit of gossip to hear or pass along, that’s all good too. Gerry Adams is always there with a bag of cookies made by his wife Sue to give to Nate. 

So, to answer someone’s question What am I doing Saturday morning? You will find me at the dump, and I’ll check out what has been tossed into the metal dumpster. You never know what good stuff has been discarded by a neighbor. And WDEV even has a radio program Saturday morning called….”Music to Go to the Dump By.” 

Is Now the Time in Life for Regrets?

I don’t know if others about my age have moments when they think back and kind of scroll through their life and have some regrets about what they did or didn’t do, but I have. I think it was Robert Frost who wrote about coming to a fork in the road and “taking the less traveled” which got him where he was at that time. I know I took the “more traveled” as I have never been adventurous; actually, kind of a scaredy cat. As I look back, I know there have been times where I have thought I wish I had done this or that, but it is more in the realm of should have taken a pie to the new neighbor than any life-changing event.

I know I don’t regret not moving to New Jersey in the ‘60s for a housekeeping job, no matter how enticing they were making it sound. I had wanted a daughter, but when I was blessed with two (wonderful) boys, I don’t regret not trying again! I don’t regret not marrying the undertaker I had been dating, but thinking about that now, maybe it would have made more financial sense as I ease toward needing said service! No, I don’t think I have any REAL regrets. I can see what, I think, are things other people will or do regret.

I was watching the Final Four last night and the commentors were sitting at a table “commentating” when a young man came up behind them with a totally inappropriate sign for all the TV world to see. I

About 20 years ago, my son, Joshua, was just out of college and working as an assistant golf professional at a very prestigious club just outside of Boston. This job was special and unique especially for the sports minded as the owner of the Patriots football team was a member and that meant that many of the team would play golf and Josh would get to meet them. One day a man came in and asked i Drew Bledsoe (quarterback for the Patriots) was there because he wanted to get his autograph. Joshua said that “no, he wasn’t there, but the backup quarterback was,” and the man said, “Forget it. Wouldn’t want to waste my time,” and left. Do you think that today he is regretting his decision to not “waste his time”? Of course you have figured it out. He passed up getting the one and only TOM BRADY’s autograph. Guess this proves that some “regrets” can be bigger than others. Hope you don’t have any.

Ever wondered how a beauty shop gets its name? 

Have you ever wondered how a beauty shop gets its name? Well, riding shotgun in our truck as my husband, Don, drove us around Tucson this winter, the signs over the doors just sort of jumped out at me, there were so many, practically on every corner. Names like Inspirations Salon, Exotic Hair Salon, All Natural Beauty Parlor, Shear Glamour Salon. I’m not making these names up, I promise. “All Natural”? What, do they cut hair with “green” scissors? “Exotic”? Will I find male strippers in the shampoo room? 

This one was one of my favorites: Maple Leaf Hair Salon, in Arizona, no less. I so wanted to yell “Stop the truck!” and get out and go in the salon just to ask the origin of the name. Is this a transplant beautician from Vermont? because I don’t think you’ll find a maple leaf anywhere here in Tucson. I’m not sure Tucsonans even know what maples trees are let alone what comes from them because Don and I seem to have stumbled on an endless supply of – horrors! — Aunt Jemima at the Sunday morning pancake breakfasts at our RV resort. 

Well, as usual, I digressed from the topic at hand. So how about a salon called A Cut Above? Above what? Above 6th Street? What are they trying to imply, that they’re better than everyone else? Then there was Daisy Diamonds Hair Salon. That’s cute and intriguing, but it’s a mouthful. [Phone ringing] “Daisy Diamonds Hair Salon. How may I help you?” Maybe the joint is owned by someone named Daisy and she likes diamonds. Don saw this one: Better Beauty Parlor. Better than what? Better than All Natural Beauty Parlor? 

And of course there were the salons that wanted their name front and center: Remilah’s All Beauty Salon. Bassett’s Fine Hair. This one made me think of Bassett’s Fine Furniture; wonder if they’re related. 

I thought this one was cute: The Beauty Bar. Maybe I could get a cut & color and order a frozen margarita all at the same time . 

Lastly, my personal favorite: Blush & Bloom. It just sounds lovely. With all the grey in my hair starting to peek through, I wonder if they have an opening for an appointment. 

And this one intrigued me enough to write it down: Nueva Imagen Salon. Not knowing Spanish, I just had to get Google to translate it for me. It means New Image Salon. How about Rogue Salon? Merriam-Webster defines the noun “rogue” as a dishonest or worthless person, and the verb means to weed out inferior, diseased, or nontypical individuals. I don’t think I’d’ve chosen that name for my beauty shop. 

Tap Time

I was talking to a nice (cute) young man who is doing a little logging here on the property. He was saying that he had to go to Richmond to clear a lot of blowdowns in someone’s sugarbush. I think of March as sugaring season, but some people have already made syrup, so I guess it’s all weather related. It got me thinking about when we moved here in the sixties. The farmer who lived here had a sugar-house out back, and you can still find his buckets in the woods when out walking. The old sugarhouse has collapsed, and I’m not sure if I could find it today. 

A neighbor down the road has a growing maple  business and keeps increasing the number of taps by thousands every year. He taps the trees on my hill across the road and recently tapped a neighbor’s 400 acres. I got a ride through the sugar woods in the fall with his sister, and she showed me where she found the remnants of an old sugarhouse and arch deep in the woods. According to the Beers Atlas of 1859, there were a few houses on that piece of land that are no longer there. 

Everyone remembers when the sap buckets would appear on trees along the road and on people’s lawns. Does anyone use buckets anymore? It’s turned into a high-tech business. Sign of the times. 

When we moved here, there was a retired priest that lived a mile down the road, Father Spear. He grew up in Enosburg on a farm, and when he bought 100 acres on the English Settlement Road, he tapped a few trees near the house. We were given a pony back then that we couldn’t keep in a fenced-in area, so she wandered around the neighborhood. Fortunately, there were only a few houses on the road then, so it wasn’t much of a problem, and Father Spear always enjoyed seeing Ginger show up at his house. 

Except when he had buckets on his trees. Ginger knew when he hung up the buckets and would wander down the road to his house and drink the sap out of any bucket that didn’t have a lid on it, then  meander back home, walking in the middle of the road. Always when the mailman was trying to get to our house. Ginger wouldn’t budge and just kept walking in the middle of the road. I found it humorous, but Wendell, the mailman, didn’t. 

We had a similar experience here when the kids hung a few buckets around the house. Our goats would drink the sap out of the kids’ buckets. The kids gave up. I wish the sugarmakers well in the  upcoming season and hope Mother Nature cooperates. I look forward to the neighbors having their Open House in March.