Saturday, May 31, 2014

It Takes a Village

Sculpture in Children's Garden, Wegerzyn.

Recently I was walking through the children's garden at Wegerzyn Gardens and Park in Dayton. The gardens are whimsical, fun, full of smells and sounds and not just for kids. I came across this sculpture in a far corner and it reminded me of my childhood and myself. Me running barefoot through fields, climbing trees, exploring gardens and communing with nature. I was always outside no matter the weather, a rainstorm was an opportunity to stomp in rain puddles and dance with an umbrella like Gene Kelly in Singing in the Rain.

It also reminded me of the many women who surrounded me in my life and especially my earlier years. Women who inspired me, taught me, introduced me to art and beauty and nature, gardening, and learning. Women who taught me how to cook, sew, research, look for a bargain, re-purpose and
enjoy and appreciate the simple things in life.

When I was around 5 years old we were transferred to Springfield, Mass. with my fathers job. We moved into a large apartment complex and we lived in a court. A great many of our neighbors were widowed,  elderly women who fortunately loved the neighborhood children and embraced us. They were from all different cultures and backgrounds. There was a little lady, Helen Hoit, who would have a group of us in after school for cookies and taught us all how to play cards, Kings in the corner and rummy. Another very tall lady Mrs. Ahern who lived next door who also loved to have us in and read to us. Mrs. Cohen on the other side would come home from synagogue on Saturday's and call everyone in to eat from vast platters of food she had prepared. I still have not been able to create or find tuna salad like she used to make, it was out of this world. She would bake us huge cookies full of M & M's. A few doors down were two ladies, Ruth and Jean, they had a lovely apartment with antiques and lovely tapestries and embroideries. They had been friends for many years and both had been educators, Dr. Evans had been the dean of Springfield College. I'll never forget one Christmas she gifted us with a set of records that inspired children through sounds and imagination. They were great fun. For the next few years all of these women were part of my daily life. I see now that it was a two way street. We kept them young and involved and they taught and shared with us. I considered them all to be my Grandmothers and I loved them dearly.    

Dogwood Tree.
My Mother's best friend was Carolyn Aldrich. They had known each other since they were
ten years old and in school. Carolyn was deaf and had a tough time in school. Mom was her helper and confidant all their lives. She was every bit a New Englander, frugal, loved tradition and family.
She was an amazing gardener and cars would stop to walk her gardens and ask questions. Birds were another passion and she always cared for them. Sometimes we would drive an hour north to where she lived in Hatfield, Mass. and she would have fried corn meal mush with real maple syrup and lots of crispy bacon ready for breakfast. Then we would all set out and spend the day going to tag sales. I still have the sewing box I found on one such excursion all those years ago. She shared with me her nose for a bargain, re-purposing, antiquing, and gardening. She also introduced me to
genealogy. Carolyn had been researching her family for many years. For Christmas one year she gave me all the sheets and information I would need to start my own, which I have done now for over 25 years and I have loved every minute. We had a lot of adventures over the years. She never had children of her own but she was always there for me and my brothers. 

Another woman who left a lasting impression upon me was named Peggy Lipsio. She lived in a small farmhouse across the road from my Grandparents in Northfield Farms, Mass. I'll never forget the first time I walked into her glassed in porch. I was mesmerized by the colors and shapes of glass bottles that lined every windowsill. If they were clear she would fill them with colored water. It was a rainbow room and I fell in love. Of course soon after I started collecting little colored bottles wherever we went. So today I have my own window shelves full of colored light and rainbows. She too was a gardener and her husband Joe made whirligigs, fanciful creations that spun and twirled in the wind on the white picket fences that surrounded her gardens. Peggy and I had an adventure together that left me with a lot of pain and her with a lot of guilt but it wasn't her fault. She had put me on the back of her bike and we went for a ride along the country roads, I was just around 5 years old. She told me to put my foot back and I did...right into the spokes of the bike. Broke my leg in 3 places! We have a number of pictures from that time of me in my walking cast and blue gingham bathing suit. It was a long summer. But, I only have good memories of her and our times together and the beauty that she introduced me to.

 Each of these women added to my childhood, along with my Mom and my Grandmother, my Godmother Masha who I wrote about on an earlier post. And so many more at different stages of my life. I think of all of them as a blossom upon the tree of my life. Like the picture of the dogwood tree above each blossom is unique and beautiful. All bloomed and blossomed in the Springtime of my life. All are gone now but their beauty and legacy lives on within me. I am appreciative and thankful for the time and love that they shared with me. They all helped to tend and nurture me as a child, and helped me to become a caring and loving adult. Thank you all.