Another Time

school-deskIt was cold in the winters where I grew up, in upstate New York. Cold and snowy. There was a one room schoolhouse on the corner near my Uncle Glenn’s farm. That’s where my older sister and brother walked to school. I came later. I had an expanded two room school house. When I went to school, you knew what grade you were in by what row you sat in. There were three rows in the ‘little’ room, housing grades 1, 2 and 3. There were three more rows in the ‘big’ room; 4, 5, and 6. After you made it past the 6th row, you were shipped by bus to the village, which was not something to look forward to, because your dog could no longer go to school with you.

Every Friday the Bible lady came and told stories on a felt board. On Wednesdays we sat on top of our desks, rocked them back and forth like wooden horses, and sang songs. The rest of the time was reading, writing and arithmetic.

I was hopeless with numbers, so I’d line my body up perfectly behind Johnny Horton, hoping to become invisible. Other times, I’d stare out the long length of windows that covered the east wall looking at broad leafed maples, studying the heavy length of chains that held our wooden swings, and waiting for recess. It was difficult to sit in school with a vision of my aunt pulling a fresh lemon cake from the oven, and cats pawing warm milk into their mouths at milking time. There were trees to climb, tractors to steer, ponds to skate and horses to ride. What the heck did I want to be in school for?

My Uncle Glenn and my father, Doug, started the Elmira airport. Glenn managed it, while my dad offered bi-plane instruction. They began with a  quonset hut, an open field and a pioneers love of flying. My dad dressed in leathers, loved dipping down into tree tops and doing daredevil rolls in the sky. Glenn did the business part. He wore tweed suits, fine leather shoes and a broad brimmed hat. I can still smell the oils he used on his shoes and see them lined up in his closet like beautiful little soldiers waiting their turn. Cherry-bowled pipe smoke lingered in the air when he passed.model-t

I’d wait by an old apple tree near the school house for Glenn to come home. I wanted to ride the last mile on his car. As he turned the corner, I’d make a run for it, leaping and landing on the running board. He’d slow enough to reach out and grab me. We’d ride home that way, smiling, laughing and visiting through the window. Me, with rolled up jeans, bare feet and dirty face in the summer: fur lined boots, winter coat and same dirty face in the winter. Blonde braids trailing the wind.



I saw an old pair of boots today sitting next to the free box in the laundry room at the ashram. My heart leapt. Oh, what lovely boots!

They smelled of earth, wild strength, and animal. They were leather, worn and marred, a statement of a well-walked, well-traveled country life. I slipped my foot inside hoping they would fit, but they were too big. Just as well, I thought, I have a pair just like them at home. They are irreplaceable. I thought about my husband and slipped my foot in one more time. They don’t fit me, but maybe he would like them, maybe he would wear them. That way I could still see them, and have them beside me as we walked wooded trails. But no, too small for him as well. Besides, he is a city man with little use for country boots. And so I left them, like I was leaving a kindred spirit, like I was pulling away from an old friend I could not invite inside.

My daughter was in the art studio putting the finishing touches on my book design.

Kristen, did you see those wonderful boots by the free box?

She stopped what she was doing, lowered her head and shook it hopelessly from side to side.

I knew you’d like those ratty old smelly things, she said. I would have stuck those in the trash years ago.

Kristen does not have much country in her. She is the fashion conscious model on the cover of Elle Magazine. What she wears matters very much. She has trained her daughter to have her careful eye and gift for beauty. Isabella, however, has been known to slip a gear, propelling in my direction. I want to wear Carharts just like Ma, she says. Poor Kristen feels she has been cursed by an unjust God. You want to use Ma as your standard for fashion? Isabella! God help us all!

I left the boots in the laundry room by the free box. Maybe someone else will find them and be overjoyed. Or maybe Isabella snatched them up when no one was looking, and is wearing them around the house as we speak. Most certainly Kristen is questioning her lineage and pulling out her perfectly fashioned hair.