Thinking of Mother
Summers Then Summers
Stars and Stripes
More Manunka Chunk
Twinkle Twinkle Little Bat
My Brother Bob
More About Roselle
Preface to Barbara McGiffert Lockwoods Essays
In a seminar on "aging gracefully" at my mothers 50th reunion at Vassar College led by Binnie Straight, classmates spoke of writing family histories. This led to the formation of a writing group in Washington that met weekly. My mother was a faithful member of this group and many of her writings are the result of that activity. Other members of the group included Binnie, Bea Liebenburg, Janet Lanman and Ann Horvitz.
My mothers autobiographical writings begin in December 1993 with handwritten memoirs. In spring of 1995 she asked me to purchase a computer so that she could continue writing using a word processor. She was very proud of learning to use her computer for this purpose and from time to time she used it for other writing (although she was a tireless proponent of hand written letters, this became more and more tiring for her). Though most of these writings are memoirs, there were a few letters and non-biographical essays found stored on the computer. My mother was famous in our family for re-telling many stories that she loved but there is remarkably little repetition in these writings other than recurring themes in her life.
Most of the material from 1995 on was saved in the computer though some files were incomplete. These were completed by the addition of any text found in printed copies. The mark w in the text indicates a separation where additional printed text was found on a hard copy and added; the mark h in the text indicates a separation where hand written text was added to a hard copy. Finally, some writings were entered into the word processor, printed but not saved. These have been re-entered from hard copies.
Editing by me was limited to typographical errors; expanding abbreviations for clarity and uniformity; and adding an occasional word or two that seemed missing (these are enclosed in brackets [ ]). Where there was no date placed in the title by my mother I have added the month and year when the computer file was last saved in italics to the end of the text.
A selection of material has been prepared for the McGiffert web site. I hope to print the entire collection in the future for the enjoyment of the family and friends.
August 2000 January 2001
World's Fair 1933
Harking back to an earlier page, I'm recalling the summer of 1933, the year we moved to Easton, Pennsylvania. We'd never gone anywhere as a whole family, except for the summer move to Manunka Chunk. It was our last year there because in Easton we could swim all summer in the Delaware, at Eddyside, a public beach and dance pavilion within walking distance of our house. The sadness at having to say goodbye[ ]
[But going] to Manunka Chunk was overshadowed by the excitement of the prospect of going to the Chicago World's Fair, called " A Century of Progress." My father's sister, our beloved maiden aunt Sarah, lived and worked in Chicago for something called The Elizabeth McCormick Memorial Fund. She had something to do with dietitians and the public schools. She rented a room in a boarding house, although she was well enough off to give us relatively lavish Christmas gifts and to own a vacation home in Muskegan, Michigan. At her urging , my parents decided that all of us would go, although my father could not take the time to drive out with us, but would come later by overnight train from New York.
How mother had the nerve to do it still boggles my mind. she had only recently learned to driveour second car, an Auburn sedan. I mean it was the second car that we owned, not that we had two. My brother Jack, seventeen that year, had also just learned to drive. The carload consisted of mother, Jack, Bob, eleven years old, one Jack Guthrie, the eleven year old son of a college friend of mother's and I, age twelve. Brother Jim, age twenty, sister Sidney, nineteen, and a college friend of hers, with the unlikely moniker of Shrimp Des Moulins, were to drive in Shrimp's battered wooden Ford station wagon. Shrimp and Jim were enamored of each other. I suppose Sidney was to be the chaperone.
Since we went straight from Manunka Chunk, where Jack Guthrie had been visiting us for a few days, Bob and I had the usual cases of poison ivy, mine the worst I'd ever hadbig oozing blisters between fingers and toes, in the corners of eyes and mouth, as well as all the usual places. On the first day's drive mother and her crew made it without mishap to Greensburg, PA, quite a triumph, although we didn't realize it then. There wasn't much traffic on the roads then and all roads were two-lane as I recall. Still, we had two novice drivers.
We spent that night in a hotel. I'd never been in a hotel, but it was a wasted experience for me, for I was so wretched with poison ivy, in spite of almost non-stop dabbings of calamine lotion, that I just lay miserably on the bed, weak tears running into the blisters. Mother and the three boys went to the hotel dining room for dinner, but all I wanted was some ginger ale. When they came back upstairs mother recklessly suggested going to a movie, thinking that it might be diverting for me, and it was. I'd seen only about two movies ever, "Rin-Tin-Tin", my first, "King of Kings", and maybe another, so it was a thrill to go to a movie in a real city. It was at a nearby Paramount or Embassy or whatever: "Ruby Keeler in :Golddiggers of 1933." I think this was the movie that introduced "Alexanders Ragtime Band." In any case, I almost forgot to concentrate on my miserable itching for awhile.
.Back at the hotel mother tracked down the in-house doctor who did or gave something so that I slept the night through without scratching or whimpering. We spent two or three nights in Ashland, Ohio with one of mother's numerous cousins, Cousin John Meyers, whom I do not recall seeing before that visit, but later that summer, after Chicago, we visited at his summer home on Burt Lake in Michigan. The Meyers were wealthy and Bob and I were goggle-eyed at both residences. Even at the summer house there was a whole third story given over to housing the servants.
My poison ivy pustules were ever so slowly drying up as we set out for Chicago. Mother and Jack took turns at the wheel, and the only anxiety that I remember Mother expressing was whether she'd be able to maneuver The Loop as we entered the city. Jack Guthrie kept pestering Mother with urgent pleas to reach downtown Chicago in time to see Balbo flying in from Italy with his planes in formation. This apparently was a spectacular feat, but we didn't make it in time. Jack G. was grouchy and glum until he was delivered to whatever relative or family friend who was to take care of him from then on.
We somehow found the boarding house where Aunt Sarah had us billeted and where fortunately we didn't spend much time. Most days we hooked up with Jim and Sidney and sometimes Aunt Sarah either at their lodgings or at a prearranged spot at the fair. The best times were when Bob and I were on our own to roam the fair and meet Mother late in the day at some designated spot
The Midwaywhat a stretch of marvels for us unsophisticated kids: long lines of grown-ups outside of the building where Sally Rand danced her famous exotic fan dance; The Magic Mountain, a fairy tale-ish affair which you climbed on a twisting path to a little hut at the top. In this you sat down at a tunnel entrance, were shoved by an attendant and sent winding and whirling down in total dark, to shoot out feet first into a small crowd of clapping and cheering onlookers; cable cars named Amos and Andy strung above a man-made lagoon; side-shows of every [kind] some things that I hope would never be seen at carnivals and circuses today, but which held us in thrall at the time. One day when I was with Jim for awhile he took me on my first roller-coaster ride. I've never been so utterly and thrillingly terrified. My love of roller-coasters started there and I rode them whenever and wherever I could until I was cured on a ride at Revere Beach in Massachusetts when I was about eighteen.
I'm sure we must have been taken to the educational exhibits, but I don't remember any of them. Except when we were at the fair, it was my summer of discontent. Everything mother said or did irritated or embarrassed me, but I was surely no prize. I don't think I was ever again as grumpily dissatisfied with her as I was that summer. My father was no problem then or any time, except when I bordered on being rude to mother. Then he'd give me one of those looks that were guaranteed always to bring us back in line. It was a memorable summer and when it was over we had to start a whole new life in Easton. I never again had such a revolting case of poison ivy.
Barbara McG. Lockwood
All three sons were herewhy, I dont remember. One of them was rooting around in the attic and whooped at the top of the st[airs:] neverscore [sic] and award shields and medals. I was confidently sure that if camp had run two weeks longer Id have made sharpshooter. Archery was another story altogether. I was inept at it, frequently dropping the arrow on the ground while trying to fit it to the bowstring., never getting a bulls eye, or even near it. Even so, some years later I took up archery at Vassar, and indeed have already written about that misadventure.
One of the many problems with memory seems to be that I find myself repeating in this memoir, if it can be dignified by such a title, anecdotes, descriptions of people and places. Perhaps it would have been easier to keep track if Id stuck to some kind of chronology, or even kept categories together. Too late now, but since summers are once more on my mind, Ill stay with them for the nonce.
I loved Wawenock-Owaissa Camp in spite of archery, poison ivy, and a truly horrendous encounter with a hornets nest. In my years there I made friends, one of whom is a close friend to this day. Robert and Janet were married in her Oregon house with a backdrop of Lake Oswego and snow peaked Mount Hood.
When I was seventeen and Bob fifteen we and our parents spent a month on Lake George in a house next door to mothers cousin Helen, who for some years had lived year round in a house once occupied by her fathers valet and family. Helen and her sister Fanny were the only wealthy people on either side of my family. Their father, my great-uncle John Simpson had amassed his wealth in a pawn-brokerage in New York City and also in the Estey Piano and Organ Company [Vermont]. His family and my mothers family spent many summers in "cottages" on Green Island, site then as now of the huge Sagamore Hotel, although whats there now is not the original building. I mention it because The Sagamore figured rather importantly for Bob and me that summer. Where were our older siblings? I dont remember, but Ido remember mother speaking in later years of the summer when Bob stopped speaking. Looking back on the teenage years of the Lockwood boys I pronounce that fifteen is the very nadir of boyhood from the parents point of view and perhaps of the kids too.
Because Cousin Helen was well known everywhere in and around Bolton Landing. She knew the manager at the Sagamore and also the Director of Social Activities, so she and our parents plotted to get us involved. It might have been O.K. for two other kids, but I was intensely shy with people I didnt [know]people my age, I mean especially rich kidsand the Sagamore was crawling with them. I was quite content to lie in a hammock doing my summer reading for Chatham HallIdylls of the King , Emma,
Pickwick Papersswimming and practicing my dives. Bob didnt want anything except to be left alone. He grumbled from time to time, more or less in my direction, about the dreadfulness of parents and spoke to them monosyllabicly and then only as required by the barest civility. Daddy soon gave up trying to interest him in anything, and Cousin Helen, after a couple of initial efforts withdrew from The Suggestion Department. No giving up for mother, though. One day, I think in desperation, she asked Bob and me if wed like to take some dancing lessons from the Arthur Murray teacher at the Sagamore. Bob and I had both had dancing lessons when we were in junior high school, but for some reason this idea appealed to both of us, and off we went. Bob even smiled once or twice in the presence of our parents and fairly frequently thereafter with me. Hes the best dancing partner Ive ever had, and we really danced up a stormthat summer and after that whenever we were in the same place and had a place to do it. We were masters of rhumba and the difficult tango, but ah, you should have seen us do the WALTZ!
Barbara McG. Lockwood
Childrens Island it seems like another era, another country. The experience is so remote, even though remembered clearly. Im not sure that I even talked about it to Ted or the sons. I know it was never on any résumé as the activity of two summers before we got into the war after Pearl Harbor.
Off the coast of Marblehead, Massachusetts, faintly visible from the harbor lies a rock about a half mile long and perhaps a little wider. It is desolate no trees, no grass only some low wind-battered scrub growth. At one end was a hospital, so-called, where chronically ill children from the worst sections of Boston [were sent]. They were chosen on the recommendation of various social workers and physicians who thought that the fresh sea air, simple regular meals, and structured days would benefit most from a summer on the island. Most of the children came from chaotic households where they were not necessarily mistreated, but rather carelessly treated, so that some of them had slow to heal wounds from home accidents boiling water spilled on them, stove burns, bad cuts from knives left within their reach. Most of them, however, suffered from serious and intractable asthma, bronchitis and particularly osteomyelitis which had resulted in deep, open, running sores.
Im ahead of myself here, though, for I didnt know about any of these conditions when ? I first went there as a volunteer in the summer of 1940, at the end of freshman year at Vassar. Extremely cold feet set in long before arrival at Marblehead harbor after a whole day spent on several trains and either a bus or a taxi to the waterfront. It was a relief to hear "Are you Barbara McGiffert?" We were to get to know this man well, although never learning his last name. Carver, pronounced Caavuh, was our only link to the world off the island. There were three or four other girls standing with him, who all seemed to know each other and to have traveled together from wherever to Marblehead. I was lonesome, blue, scared, having no idea what Id gotten myself into for a whole month.
Carver loaded the motorboat with mail, some sorts of supplies not food and us. My clothes were wrong, my luggage was wrong, at least in my nervous opinion, although theyd been OK at college. Later I realized that many of my fellow volunteers were daughters of the cream of Boston society. Even I, so relatively untraveled and inexperienced recognized such names as Saltonstall, Crownenshield, Lowell.
Our first close-up view of the island was dispiriting. The hospital, at one end was nothing more than a series of low shed-like buildings, almost rickety-seeming. At the other end, perched on rock, was a more attractive lodge for housing us twenty-four volunteers, twelve for each twelve-hour shift.(We found out later from the director, one Miss Elsie Wulkop, that the schedule alternated twelve hours on duty with twelve hours off). The lodge featured a large tastefully decorated living room with stone fireplace and two wings of six double bedrooms each. The wings were so widely separated so that the shift going on duty wouldnt disturb the sleep of those who were off. Behind the living room was a dormitory styled bathroom multiple basins, toilet stalls and showers. BUT aye, theres the rub no fresh water in the whole place. Tooth brushing with salt water is not refreshing, but a salt water shower is the pits. Most of us, on our twelve hours off would assemble soap, towels and such and have Carver let us off at the Marblehead dock, from which a short walk took us to a pretty seaside restaurant. The proprietor allowed us to use the restroom off the dining room a real bathroom with a tub. The privilege cost us all of twenty-five cents each. All twelve of us didnt go on this adventure at the same time because we didnt feel that we should hang around in the restaurant dining room with our soap and towels while waiting our turn for the tub, so about five or six of us would squeeze into the bathroom and hiss hurry-ups to each other. Even so, we didnt always make our escape before the early lunchers arrived. The hostess never explained, probably enjoying the bewildered looks on the diners faces. I seem to recall that we sometimes had more than twelve hours off, for some of the volunteers knew people in or around Marblehead and could stay away overnight. My memory is a bit hazy on the matter of hours, but I clearly remember a Vassar 1908 classmate of my mother who invited me to stay overnight at her house in Marblehead. Next morning she took me to Salem to see The House of Seven Gables, The Custom House and Gallows Hill. One of my maternal ancestors, Elizabeth Goodwife or Goody How, was hanged as a witch there on July 19, 1692.
The first of my two summers at Childrens Island I was assigned to the ward with the youngest children, ranging in age from baby Charles who was less than two to a seven year old wild kid named Eddie. There were two of us volunteer nurses for each ward and we spent every minute of our on-duty days with the kids. Two or three registered nurses came around to administer meds and to change the dressings of the burn victims and the osteomyelitis draining sores. The R.N.s also did night duty and lived in the hospital, as did the intimidating Miss Wulkop who strolled around all day peering through the screens from covered walkways outside the wards. After lunch, a dreadful messy event, we were supposed to get the children to take naps. Ha ha. One day I had just unfastened Eddie,s heavy leg brace and bent down to pick his socks up from the floor when he seized the brace and whacked me over the head with it. It knocked me out, but he could have fractured my skull. Its a tale that I never told my parents or Miss Wulkop. My partner and one of the R.N.s brought me to and swore they wouldnt tell Miss W. I was afraid shed think it was my fault. Miss W. made us all very nervous.
Every day when we went on duty we picked up a starched white coverall apron and a white headdress like a nuns veil, into which we were required to tuck every hair and securing it with bobby pins. This was to protect us from head lice. Once a week was delousing and bath day, using very little fresh water. It took a half day to do this for each ward. It was gross. What we did was pick nits with our fingernails on each hair where we saw the telltale little speck. Then shampoo the kids and clean our own fingernails very thoroughly. Im making the whole experience sound awful, but it wasnt. We learned a lot, made new friends, had many laughs. Two doctors came out from the mainland once a week volunteers also. We watched them treating the children and learned a few useful tricks from them. The absolutely worst day was parents visiting day when boatloads of parents came throughout the day. Many of the mothers cried the whole time, the fathers shifted uneasily from foot to foot and at departure time the air was rent with sobs and screams. Most of the children settled down
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Barbara McG. Lockwood
Even if Childrens Island hadnt closed for good after the summer of 1941, I doubt that I would have returned for a third summer, but I had to do something. Bob was at Fort Bragg, then at the Presidio of Monterey before going to the Pacific with the American Division of the army infantry, Jim, Sidney and Jack were all married and living elsewhere. Most of my Easton friends had scattered.
The war was hanging heavily over most of us that summer. A son of good family friends on our block had already been killed in Europe, and of course many others were either in training camps or gone to the theatres of the fighting. I read in the daily paper that volunteers were needed to deal with requests at the various ration boards that had been set up: meat, butter, coffee, sugar, leather goods, rubber goods and cigarettes were rationed.(My father and I experimented briefly with rolling our own with special cigarette papers and loose tobacco, quit because the conflagration after lighting threatened
our eyebrows. Besides, we got only about three puffs before a large burning coal dropped into the ashtrays that we had to hold against our chins and right under our noses. Mother just stood in the doorway and laughed. It would have made sense for us to quit smoking then, but of course we didnt We just scrounged around trying various new brands when we could find them.)
Anyway, I turned up at a downtown school to offer my services to one or another ration board and was told that , yes, they desperately needed help and right away. I was assigned to tires. After a few brief instructions I went home, having been told in what school corridor to start in at five the next morning. I almost quit before I started. At five-fifteen the basement door was unlocked and dozens of men, mostly large and beefy in my recollection, pushed and shoved their way in, all trying to be at the front of what was supposed to be a line. Much shouting and shaking of fists. Id been sitting at a rickety little desk piled with forms and was nearly knocked off my chair. Standing up didnt add an air of authority, for at that time my five feet, one inch frame carried only ninety-five pounds. The farmers who needed tires for their tractors and other machinery and the long-distance truckers who needed them for their eighteen wheelers might have been gentle and courteous men in other circumstances for all I knew, but I was just plain scared. They yelled at me, shook their fists in my face and threatened me with what I dont remember. Perhaps they thought I was paid for this job, and that they could somehow get me fired.
I stuck it out, though, for about two weeks before requesting a change of venue, as the lawyers say. I really didnt want to give in to my own timidity. False pride. The boss switched me to SUGAR. This was really hectic, but not as rough . The relatively orderly lines were made up mostly of commercial bakers, who pleaded rather than demanded.
Ordinary house wives like my mother pretty much did their own rationing. Once mother tried to make butter by putting whole milk into an early model Mixmaster and whipping it on the high setting. Wow! We got butter alright, but it was flying in tiny clumps all over the kitchen . "Look out," yelled mother before turning off the infernal machine. It was a never-to-be-forgotten scene. Obviously..
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Barbara McG. Lockwood
Nov. 28, 1995
"If I ever get as dotty as old Mrs. Taylor," mother used to say, " Please put me out to pasture." She did and of course we didnt. Anyway it was a meaningless phrase. Mother was in good health for most of her life. Shed been in a hospital only once before she was fifty, and that was to have Bob. The rest of us were born at home. At age fifty she had her tonsils out and was truly miserable. Some years after that she had a radical mastectomy, unnecessary, I think from what I found out later. She was uncharacteristically difficult and demanding while in the hospital. Inexperienced in the ways that I had learned in how to act in order to have hospital personnel eating out of your hand.
The real decline, physical, but chiefly mental, began when she had to have her gallbladder out. I went to Easton from the Cape, where we were living then, and spent a few days in her hospital room, noticing that she was a bit fuzzy, though not as dotty as old
Mrs. Taylor. Jim and Sidney were living in Easton, so after I had to return home, I kept abreast of developments by phone. Mother stayed in her apartment, alone for awhile, for she seemed to manage. However, one day Jim on a checkup visit found that shed torn all her paper money into tiny pieces, which he spent some time laboriously scotch-taping together. After that he took over all her business and financial affairs and with Sidneys help installed round the clock LPNs, as she became utterly unreliable, though cheerful and funny.
One day when Id gone to Easton again to visit, we were sitting in her living room, having an idle exchange of nonsense when mother said chattily, " Ive decided to change my will."
"Oh? Why is that, Mom?"
" Well, Im going to leave the Massachusetts Bay Colony and follow Roger Williams to Rhode Island-- so Im going to leave the sloop to Jim."
Im not sure that mother had ever been on or even seen a sloop except in pictures, but she read extensively. I began to notice with fascination that what shed read, heard about and experienced in her life was all mashed up in her brain as if it were all real and in the present.
Another day she asked me to go down to the railroad station to meet a shipment of sheep that shed ordered. I said Id be glad to do that, and what was she planning to do with them. Well, around the farmhouses in Ireland they used sheep to crop the lawns, so they never had to cut the grass themselves. Sidney and I had given up trying to make mother return to reality and since she seemed to be happy and contented in her never-never land we just went along with her. Jim, however, thought the wandering of her once acute mind was a disaster and became frustrated when he couldnt make her talk sense. She was failing some physically, too, though there didnt seem to be anything specific the matter.
Down to Easton again. Sidney and I were sitting by her bed one morning when she began to laugh. "Girls, did you ever think that my store teeth would make the front page of The New York Times?"
We allowed as how no, we had never thought that. Ordered to go to the living room and get the paper, Sidney brought back The Easton Daily Express, as we had long since canceled her Times.
"Look, there it is, right on the front page. THEY HAVE DUG UP MY STORE TEETH IN A JEWISH CEMETERY IN FRANCE!"
Mother died peacefully a few weeks later. None of her five children was there, as she had not seemed in extremis, but I like thinking of this story as the last words of hers that I heard. It was so typical of her.
Barbara McG. Lockwood
We five McGifferts had only five first cousinsmy three sons have thirteen; numerous second, first and second removed and courtesy cousins, all the blood ones related to my mother, all living within walking distance from us in Roselle. My fathers uncles and cousins lived in Duluth. We didnt see much of themsome not ever, I think, but we certainly heard stories about them. Aunt Gertrude, wife to Uncle John McGiffert, reportedly made buttons out of old inner tubes. She also published a book of universally unread poetry, which none-the-less was assigned a Library of Congress catalogue number. I seem to remember that she was a genealogical snob. On hearing from Mother that Ted and I had named our first-born Stephen McGiffert Lockwood, she testily announced that the name had "already been used up" by her son Stephen and that we should choose another name.
But back to my first cousins, all on my mothers side, as my fathers sister never married. The oldest and his young wife were killed in a freak accident, either before I was born or when I was too young to remember them. Driving on a stormy night, they crashed into an electric light pole. They were apparently unhurt in the crash, but both were instantly killed when they stepped out of the car onto the live wires that had come down. He was the only child of my mothers older brother Jack and his wife, who brought up the infant daughter orphaned by the accident. They lived in Englewood, New Jersey and we didnt see much of them, because his wife Florence was not exactly crazy about her husbands family. The feeling was mutual. Sad, because Mother and her other siblings were devoted to my Uncle Jack. Name note: my maternal grandfather was John Ireland Howe, his older son was John Ireland Howe. One of my three brothers was John Ireland Howe McGiffert; one of my other cousins was John Howe Gerstenberger.
Alas, my five first cousins and I had nothing like the closeness that my sons have with many of theirs. Theres only Katherine in their generation with whom most of us have [had] serious problems. The only female of my five is also the only one still alive. Betty was and is as queer as Dicks hat band. Although she, the only child of mothers brother Bill, lived three blocks from our house, Betty claims she remembers nothing of me as a child. I remember her wonderful, enviable doll house. I had a doll house which had been Sidneys, but it was a poor persons house compared to Bettys elegant doll palace. She had a Victrola recordfor a wind up Victrola, of coursewith a singer scratchily performing a song starting, "No matter how young a prune may be, its always full of wrinkles. We have wrinkles on our face; prunes have them every place."
Betty is 84, tow years older than Sidney would be, but for some reason she was in Sidneys class at the Vail-Deane School in Elizabeth and they went off to Vassar together. Betty lasted for awhile, but severe homesickness overcame her. Quite a few years later homesickness overwhelmed her on her honeymoon, so back she and her new spouse went to Roselle, there to take up residence with Bettys widowed mother, Uncle Bill having died when I was in college.
Overhearing Mother and her sister Marge, my favorite Roselle relative, agreeing that Bettys and her groom Bills marriage would probably be short-lived, I learned that not only had they moved in with Bettys mother but into the bedroom right next to hers, with a connecting door between. At least Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt had bigger rooms in a bigger house than my aunt Ethels, even though Sara was close by. According to Mothers account to Aunt Marge, Bill Todd one night felt an uncomfortable presence, yanked open the door into his mother-in-laws room and caught Aunt Ethel, whod been stationed at the keyhole, as she toppled into the room. True story? Who knows, but it wouldnt have been much out of character.
Bettys marriage lasted just through the birth of a daughter, who became and still is the center and focus of her life. After Judy married, many years ago, Betty took up residence with her and Victor, who have no children, and still lives with them, though in separate quarters attached to their house. Through the years Judy and Victor have moved several times and always a condition of their buying a house is that there must be a place for Betty.
In recent years, as my three older sibs have died, Betty has for the first time started communicating with Bob and me. This has been a mixed blessing for me. Since Bob lives in Montana hes not accessible to her. A few years ago, feeling conscience-smitten about her or sorry for her or whatever, I invited her to come up to the lake for a visit, thinking that if Judy could get her on a plane from Philadelphia to Boston, she could take a busright where she would pick up her luggage and I would pick her up in Plymouth. She must have phoned me fifteen times. Yes, she would. No, she was too scared. Yes, she would, but maybe she could drive if I would tell her how to do it. No, she wouldnt. She was too scared. Did I think she was awful? I was so reassuring about that that ever since she has carried on in tones of wonder about how nice I am. She actually came, driving, and once there spent quite a lot of time wondering how she was going to be able to do it all in reverse. Actually, Im not unsympathetic with this kind of worry, though I dont go so far, as she did, as to spread out the map upside down and read it that way. The visit was O.K., partly because she loved sitting on the dock and going out in the canoe.
Last year Betty asked whether she could come to D.C. to visit. I brought her to this [writing] group. Id foolishly thought she could stay in my house for an hour and a half, but she said she would be too frightened and could she just bring a magazine and sit in the car? Sure. "What shall I do if I have to go to the bathroom?" Well, Binnie knows how to make anyone instantly comfortable, so she kindly established Betty upstairs. It was a good break for me during almost about the most boring week that Ive ever put in. I couldnt interest her in anything, and she replied to each suggestion, "Whatever you say. I came to see you." That would have been fine if shed had any topics of conversation. Well, shes wild about animals and talked baby talk every time she saw one on the street. She even talked baby talk when we passed STATUES of horses. In desperation I took her to the cathedral, as shed been brought up in the Episcopal church. No interest. When we looked at the gorgeous west windowthe rose window, the sun was shining through it making beautiful patterns on the floor. "Its nice, but the window in St. Lukes Church in Roselle is just as pretty." In my further desperation, we drove out to Mt. Vernon on a sunny day. Very little reaction until we were on our way back to the car and she spotted not one but TWO horsies far off in a field. I think Im sounding quite mean. The visit meant a lot to her. On the day of her departureshed come on the trainshe was so panicky that I finally asked her if shed feel more comfortable if we waited at the station, even though it was more than three hours before train time, so thats what we did.
Its hard for me to imagine what it must be like to live more than eighty years of such a narrow life, narrow not only physically, but intellectually and emotionally. Yet she isnt mentally slow by any means, and from time to time showed a flash of whimsical humor.
Oh, dear, I just read over what Id written since we started in this writing group and saw that Id already described the accident in which Mothers oldest nephew and his wife were killed, sometime in the thirties. Sometimes I cant remember whether Ive actually written something, or just done it in my headand exercise that I often recommended to high school students. In any case, I shant continue talking about the other four cousins, for they dont figure importantly in most of my growing up years, and all have died. Dick and Bo Patterson were wuite a bit older than I and John and Leigh Gerstenberger quite a bit younger. I always hated sitting at the childrens card table at Christmas dinners with John, Leigh and my brother Bob. Too bad, for my sons and their cousins are really looking forward to the forthcoming McGiffert family reunion at Lake George in June. Me too. I am the matriarch of the gang, which now numbers thirty-two direct descendants of my parents plus eleven spouses. At the other reunions weve had a couple of former spouses.
My parents were dead set against divorce in general, like many of their generation and background, How it would grieve them to know that three of their five were divorced. Jack twice, and two of their granddaughters. Mother was still living when Jack was first divorceda messily dramatic one which created a scandal at The Millbrook School. I think Mother would be particularly heartbroken over Teds and my split. She adored and admired Ted, and he her. He didnt really get to know my father, though, who died suddenly six months after our marriage. They would both relish these reunions of their many descendants. Next month Im going to Phoenix for the wedding of their youngest grandchild, Bobs daughter Sarah. I think shes thirty-five, but have sort of lost track. The oldest of that generation is fifty-eight.
Ah me, and Im soon to be seventy-five. Edgar in King Lear says to his old father, "Ripeness is all." All what?
Barbara McG. Lockwood
Thinking of Mother
February 12, 1996
When I sent my bedroom desk out to be refinished, of course I had to empty the drawers and pigeon holes. Ive never used this desk for writing letters or checks or whatever, but from 1967 when we moved here from Woods Hole its been a catch-all for STUFF: canceled checks, back income tax returns, papers from my graduate school courses at American University, manila envelopes of letters from sonsback in the dim reaches of time when we all wrote letters and dozens of love letters from Ted, which Ive started to chuck any number of times, but couldnt quite. More about that in another writing.
Mother died the week before we moved here, so Sidney and Jim, because they were still living in Easton, had the task of going through her things. We had to return to Woods Hole immediately after the funeral to meet the packers , who do not change schedules for anything short of their warehouses being destroyed by dynamite. Some time later Sidney sent me an envelope of items from mothers scrap-book plus a few personal letters, copies of her final exams at Vassar in 1908 and notification of her election to Phi Beta Kappa. Way back in a dusty corner of one of the desk drawers was a yellowing piece of note paper and a note from my girlhood friend Faith (the friend I wrote about in the Childrens Island memoirs, whose mother was fearful that White Slavers would sneak up behind Faith and me in Grand Central Station and carry us off forever): "Dear Barbara, my sister called yesterday to tell me about your mothers death. Even though she hasnt been the Mrs. McGiff I loved, I cant tell you how sad I am that she is gone. Of all the mothers Ive ever known, she was uniquewho else would hop aboard a Piper Cub and go tooting off to visit her grandchildren? Your mother really had a knack for living that brought pleasure not only to her but to so many others as well. How lucky you are to have had her for your mother!"
Well, yes, as I have written and spoken about before. After I read this, I dumped out the envelope that Sidney had sent me back in 1967. I guess that Id read the contents when I got it , but perhaps not, because it seems new to me. Theres a handwritten note on blue stationery from Vassar College Department of Economics and Sociology telling Miss Howe that her pupils reflected great credit on her (I guess she was tutoring), that their papers showed that they had done much more than learn facts "I am very grateful to you for it all and am most cordially yours" etc.
Mother was a thrower-outer, so not many letters or other memorabilia escaped the waste basket. Unlike Amanda in The Glass Menagerie, she did not, as far as I know, confide in any of her five children that there had ever been a serious man in her life other than our father. Now there is no one alive who could tell me. Im sure Bob couldnt, although Ill ask him.
Im thinking now of one of the best times mother and I ever had together. For just two of us to be doing anything together was a fairly rare event, and I cant remember the reason for this occasion or whether I was on vacation from college or what, but mother had gotten two tickets to a Bea Lillie one-woman show at one of the Broadway theaters. We went on the train to Hoboken and took the ferry over, planning to go to lunch at mothers favorite place, The Russian Tea Room, see the show, and spend the night at mothers cousins (Vassar 1902).
I cant remember what went before or after the scene which I do remember in some detail. The curtain opened on a set of an elegant boudoir, furnished in the style of one of the LouisI cant keep straight which was XIV and which was XV when it comes to furniture. Anyway, it had dainty spindly chairs in white and gold, much royal blue velvet and white damask. Enter the beautiful Bea L., the patrician Lady Peale, in helmet and armor, astride a huge, spavined, swaybacked draught horse and singing The Ride of the Valkyriesnote-perfect as its possible to be with that prolonged shriek. The audience was convulsed, but mother and I laughed so hard that we were nearly on the floor, gasping helplessly. For years we cracked up all over again whenever we mentioned it, and as a matter of fact it still makes me laugh yea, verily, even as I type.
Barbara McG. Lockwood
May 13, 1997
After writing about how much we hated having our parents, especially mother, go away, leaving us to the unwelcome ministrations of Miss "Oh forevermore" Atkins, I found my thoughts turning frequently to Mother and to me as mother. Mothers Day was looming. Jayne was on the verge of producing Grandchild #8 and I was thinking of the kind of mother she isand for that matter, my other two daughters-in-law. Three completely different maternal styles, methods, attitudes or whatever youd call it.
Earlier in these memoirs Ive written about childhoodmine, that is, and Mothers indifference to housework, cooking, sewing, etc., although she did it. We had a laundress named Tilla Walkoff in Roselle and one named, incredibly, Mrs. Scheetz in Easton, but no other servants. Probably somebody came in to clean, but I dont remember that. Both my parents were unusually even-tempered. They never raised their voices and when any of us did we were subjetced to "Children, children, birds in their little nests agree," spoken forcefully but not loudly. Once when Jack overheard them disagreeing about something, he told us he was afraid they were going to get a divorce.
I dont recall ever being punished, nor any of the rest of us, either. If any one of us had been punished, it would have been Jack, as he had a fierce temper, a tendency to lie, even [when], as my mother once said, it would have been clearly to his advantage to tell the truth. Stern reprimands, expressions of disappointment, or even just looks, were powerful. When Mother said, "Now, see here, sister " to me I knew that she was sorely displeased.
Mother was the parent with the colorful personality and an incisive mind. Indeed, she was elected to Phi Beta Kappa at Vassar and was always a voracious reader and a lively writer. Her everyday speech was rich with folk expressions: "She was as homely as a mud fence"; "Dont teach your grandmother to suck eggs." When she changed a subject abruptly she said, "Leaping from crag to crag." I still say that occasionally and then have to explain.
If a guest or guests were at our large dinner table and one of us had a bit of food or a milk mustache on the face we knew what we were to do if Mother said, "Theres a gazelle in the garden." She wove into her everyday speech quotations from the Episcopal Churchs Book of Common Prayer. (Although shed been brought up in that denomination, she became Prebyterian when she married our father). It wasnt until I became an Episcopalian many years later that I realized that Mother hadnt originated part of the statement, "Now I want you to read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest what Im about to say." Literary lines were part of her cautionary remarks to us: "The road to Hell is paved with good intentions." Enough said.
Our father enjoyed a good laugh, but it was Mother whose wit and humor were original. My college classmate Sidney Meeker Keith, a frequent visitor to our house in Easton, still recalls whenever we get together how much fun it was to be at our dinner table. One of Mothers greatest gifts was that she as able to make fun of herself. Actually, I think thats a gift that everyone should haveand I dont mean self-deprecation. Those relatively halcyon days later became clouded by the severe problems that beset some of us, all of us really, in one degree or another. Ive already written about some of them.
The as the hyped-up prelude to Mothers Day approached I began to think about my three daughters-in-law as mothers. On the day before Mothers Day Jayne produced a son, Eli. I find seeing my sons as fathers especially satisfying and dont have to bite my tongue often, recalling my mother-in-law who never bit her tongue about anything ([who] on hearing the name we chose for our first-born said, "Stephen! What kind of a name is that?"). My feelings about her have softened through the years as I recall how harshly Ted treated her. As difficult, outrageous and overpowering as she was, I still tried to persuade Ted to speak to her a little more kindly, or at the very least civilly, but then hed get irritated at me for not understanding what it was like to be her son.
So back to Mothers Day. Of course, Ted didnt observe it in any way. He also never remembered her birthday. As our sons were growing up he persuaded them that Mothers Day was nothing but crass commercialism (more true every year, isnt it?), ad that every day should be mothers day. Unh-hunh. We mothers know what to think of that pious idea. We do want to be especially remembered and thought of on that day, dont we? And I am.
Barbara McG. Lockwood
"Music(k) is the thing of the world that I love most," wrote Pepys in his famous diary. When I was leafing through Bartletts Familiar Quotations the other day I became briefly immersed in Pepyss comments on just about everything going on in his public and private life.
Well, I think that music is the thing of the world that I love most, too. Its a nourishment that is truly essential to my well-beingindeed, it really amounts to an addiction. Listening to it is what Im talking about, since I no longer make it, with either piano or voice.
Mother and Daddy were not musical in any way, although my father had a true ear and a mellifluous bass voice with which he rendered Princeton songs and some others"A pipe and a glass for me" and "Mammy are there any angels black like me?" come to mind. That one always made me cry, but just the same I always begged my father to sing it to me as he rocked me when I was sick. Mother had a tin ear. She was the possessor of the only true monotone Ive ever known. The few things she rendered on the piano were as excruciating as her so-called singing. Every Sunday evening shed take to the piano and embark on two dreadful hymns: "Homeward, homeward oer the rolling ocean" and "Like as a father." These she raced through with no regard for tempo, meter or dynamics. All loud. Worse, even, she kept her foot down on the sustaining pedal throughout, not even lifting it between hymn 1 and hymn 2. She ran the two together without pause as if they were all one piece. Our father and the five of us sat in the living room, we five kids rolling our eyes. Daddy brooked no criticism of Mother about anything and I never heard him utter any.
When we were older we kidded Mother about these Sunday evenings and about quite a few other idiosyncrasies. She was a humorous woman with (I know this now) a sturdy sense of her own self-worth, She kidded herself quite a bit.
So we were not exposed to "good music" at home. I dont think that my father ever went to a concert in his life. Mother went once a year to New York City to The Metropolitan Opera for the annual Vassar benefit. That was because of her love for and ferocious devotion to Vassar. She knew nothing of opera and I think was monumentally bored by it. When I was at Vassar I went down to New York a couple of times to go to it with her and her numerous friends and relatives. It was a social event that mother really enjoyed, but I was the only one who enjoyed the music, even though opera was then and still is not my favorite form of it.
Back to childhood now in my music reminiscence: We were all exposed tonay, made to take piano lessons. As Ive said before in these memoirs, there was little extra money. What there was went for private schooling for the five of us, and these lessons. The piano teacher was Miss Helen Bishop, who lived with her parents and brother Hargraver several blocks from our house in Roselle. Like most unmarried women then (the twenties) Miss Bishop had few opportunities: nurse; school-teacher; piano teacher. w A Grace Holmes, our family doctor in Roselle after "Uncle Mortie" died, was an exception.
The Bishops lived several blocks from us and I always dreaded the walk to my weekly piano lesson because I was inordinately terrified of dogs, which in those days were rarely penned up or leashed. I was only seven when I started this weekly routine. Very small and thin, I felt at the mercy of dogs and the occasional stone-throwing boy. It was almost a relief to get to Miss Bishop. I really dont know whether or not she was a good teacher. About all I can recall about her was her chin. She must have been quite younganyway, not old, but she had a fine web of wrinkles on her chinnowhere else. Her face had a sort of pursed look, as if shed just eaten a lemon. I dont remember much about the lessons, but I do remember the spring recitals in the Bishops front parlor and that my knees shook. Years later I had the same dreaded knee-shaking when I played in piano recitals at Chatham Hall and Vassar. And to this day I recall plaing Griegs "Elfin Dance" in Miss Bishops parlor. When her father died I prayed that I wouldnt have to resume lessons for awhilenot because I minded the lessons, for I loved the music I made even then, but because I was so unfamiliar with anyone I knew dying (Uncle Morties death came later) that I didnt know what I was supposed to say. Mother said, "Just give her a sweet kiss and tell her youre sorry about her father." Give Miss Bishop a kiss, sweet or otherwise? Where? On her belt? Pull her head down and kiss that wrinkled chin? For once I didnt mind risking dog attacks if only to put off the dreaded confrontation. Of course, I didnt kiss Miss Bishop and of course I said nothing at all after murmuring, "Hello."
It wasnt until I got to Chatham Hall, still taking piano lessons several teachers later, that I discovered the joy of music other than what Jack and I did at home on the piano. The joy of listening, that is. On Sunday afternoons, a bunch of us, mostly piano students, sat or lay around the floor in one of the parlors, listening to the Sunday broadcast of the New York Philharmonic at Carnegie Hall. The music issued, of course, from a big, elaborately housed Philco radio. Compared to most of the other girls in the room I was a musical ignoramus. I just kept quiet and let the whole new world open up to me. Now I cant imagine my world without it.
Barbara McG. Lockwood
Summers Then, Summers Now (1997)
As the time for my departure for Squam draws near, my anxieties have lessened only slightly. Ive lined up a number of visitors who will help me out with various practical matters, but there will still be days when Ill be alone there, and the mere thought of the frequent necessary trips to the town dump, daily trips to the village for mail, newspaper, and food is daunting (in spite of what I said previously about being able to manage). There is no bank short of Plymouth, 13 miles away. No drugstore, either, now that Mr. Alvord has retired from his little pharmacy in Center Harbor. Dr. Hope is in Moultonboro, about 12 miles away, and not in the direction of Plymouth. Ive never had to think about these trips with anything but pleasure because all the drives feature favorite views of mountains and lake.
Now, however, Im thinking of the number of oxygen canisters that Ill have to have, and oh, HELP! The oxygen has to come from Laconia, 25 miles away. Maybe Im making mountains out of molehills, but Ive always been able to manage by myself. Isnt this true of all of us to some degree, at the age we are still somewhat incredulous to be? That sentence doesnt pass the English teacher in me, and this sentence makes me think of the essay from 16 year old Emily. She sent it to me last week, with a loving note saying that it meant so much to her to write it that the grade (A) pleased her, but wasnt all that important. Its a 13 page memoir, entitled SQUAM LAKE: CHILDHOOD MEMORIES and the UNCERTAIN FUTURE. It is rich in detail and very moving, especially to me, as the focus throughout is on "my Nana" varied by "my grandmother" and the importance of hers and my times alone there together during what the children have always called "a Nana Special", that is, an overnight and the better part of two days when the visiting child chooses the meals, the activities, the books, the games. From her toddlerhood up to now, Emilys "special" has featured wild flower walks, learning how to skip stones and finding suitable ones for it, and playing "Pooh Sticks" from the little bridge across the streamthat is, when theres been enough water in the stream.
Cutting across my worried thoughts about how Ill manage this summer, Manunka
Chunk summer memories resurface and once again I think with amazement about how my mother managed on the bluff above the Delaware with five children, Bob only a baby at the time we first went. No electricity, no hot water; drinking water which had to be boiled; no refrigerator, of course; a two-burner kerosene stove and something called a "fireless cooker"; no telephone; no car until the last couple of years that we were there. Yet she would spend hours every afternoon at the end of the mid-river island where there was shallow water, watching us swim or swimming with us. Usually the older siblings would take us across by rowboat or canoe, leave us and go off to swim in the deeper parts or swing off a stump hanging on to a long rope and dropping like rocks into the middle of the river. Sometimes Jack would take the canoe and paddle up-river to a stretch called "Foul Rift", an approximation of white water on wilder rivers. There he would shoot the rapids, so to speak. Obviously, we had a great deal of physical freedom. Im sure that I was more of a nervous Nellie with my own three boys, though at that, not nearly so cautious as some of my friends. I think my parents deepest fear during those years was of Polio, then called "infantile paralysis". As Ive mentioned before we had multiple ear infections and there were no antibiotics. The eardrum had to be lanced. How did we get to the doctor before we had a car. Our doctor in Roselle, Grace Holmes, an early pioneer, had a summer bungalow on the island where she spent quite a bit of time with her own five children, all older than the McGiffert tribe. I dont remember any father Holmes and Im quite sure Dr. Grace never lanced an ear of mine, but maybe some kind soul on the island took us by car which he would have kept on the mainland to Belvedere to a doctor. I would think that Id remember that, because I surely remember how I dreaded the eardrum lancing.
When Bob and I were old enough to row across to the island by ourselves, our favorite place to visit was the Armstrongs, in spite of the fact that their Airedale terrified us. This dog, like Tigger , had a way of greeting you that left your ears full of sand. However, it never bit us and we braved it for the privilege of seeing Mrs. Watermans father, known to all as "Pompa", take out his full sets of choppers and let us examine them. He also on occasion gave us each a nickelriches, in our view. Of course, we never knew when he would do this. If he didnt the trip over was worthwhile anyway because of the teeth, and the way he always greeted us in a high-pitched, slightly quavery voice, "Hello, little Bobbry and Bobbry." To this day Bob and I sometimes address each other, by mail or voice with "Hello, little Bobbry." In many ways it was such a simple life, for us kids anyway, and the pleasures were simpler than even my own childrens comparatively simple summers on Squaw Cove, and indeed my grandchildrens. Its gratifying to me that Emilys most poignant memories, at the great age of sixteen, are of playing card games in front of the fire and skipping stones with me from the shore.
Barbara McG. Lockwood
Stars and Stripes
[This is a] tale of a nearly catastrophic Fourth of July event in the little town of Roselle,NJ., where we lived until I was twelve. In a little park in the town the fireworks for the evening display had been set out on trestle tables lent by The First Presbyterian Church. In the morning of the Fourth, something or somebody set them off and they zoomed horizontally through the surrounding streets. No one was killed, no one even injured, but my minds eye recreates it from time to time. And sometimesoh, shame in you, Barbara, laughter seizes me as I picture those Roman Candles shooting wildly down the streets of Roselle.
Twenty-seven years ago, when Ted, Robert and I were in then beautiful Dubrovnik, we watched a spectacular fireworks over the harbor, from our comfortable seats on the terrace of our hotel. Weve watched from a large park in Hartford, from various lovely vantage points on Squam Lake, from the elite Lake George Club, and oh, wow! from The Mall in D.C. I get a huge, childlike kick out of all of it, but really, nothing can compare to Fourth of July at Manunka Chunk.?
Barbara McG. Lockwood
Oh, how we looked forward to Daylight Saving Time! By "we" I mean Bob and I and our pals on the block plus a few from surrounding streets. I have no recollection of how Jim, Sidney, and Jack spent that magic time after dinner when we were allowed to play outside until dark. I cant recall that Bob and I had any homework, even though school was still going on. We kids spilled out of our houses as if on signal and started in on some of the games we had played in the daytime after school. Whoever yelled the loudest got to choose the game and it was by no means always the same one. We always played on the grass or sidewalk in front of our house. My inner eye clearly sees the lineup for Giant Steps and Red Light. "You may take one giant step" the leader called out, depending on which people or person was in with the leader at the time.
Fickle, fickle children. The dreaded command was "you may take one baby step" possibly more so that there would be a sort of race. Baby step was rather like the first position in ballet.
Red Light was more exciting, played on the same stretch of grasssame lineup, but with a different leader. I was a star as leader because I could count to ten and say "red light" or "green light" faster than the speed of sound.
Kick the Cannow theres a game to remember forever. It was really a slightly more sophisticated version of "Hide and Seek." It was so much more exciting, I think because of the excitement and tension generated by kicking the can. Boys and girls played all of these, but girls had our own: hopscotch; A tisket-a-tasket (mostly at birthday parties); double-dutch rope jumping. How did we ever become skillful enough to dart into those opposite turning ropes and start chanting "Cinderella, dressed in yella, went downtown to meet her fella. How many kisses did she give him? One, tow, three, etc" as dast as the rope-turners wanted to go.
Ive lost whatever focus I first had in mind here. Why am I writing what seems to be turning into a list? There are many more, but Im boring myself, but just think of the party games, for which parents did not have to hire a party planner to produce a professional clown or an Indian in Chiefs head-dress to teach jaded kids something beyond Pinning the Tail on the Donkey and Going to Jerusalem.
A few nights ago a vivid dream took me back into what was clearly the house and yard in Roselle. When we moved to Easton I was twelve, and entering Junior High. My new friends and I thought ourselves far too old for these childish games. Ah, the thrill of kissing games at partiesSpin the Bottle and Post Office. Goodbye to The Age of Innocence.
Barbara McG. Lockwood
More Mununka Chunk
Nov. 10, 97
There are only two people left who can remember our summers at Manunka Chunk Bob and Libby. Actually, Betty must have come there, but she probably stayed for about half an hour before getting homesick and departing. Betty dropped out of Vassar before freshman year was overhome to Daddy (Uncle Bill, mothers brother). Again on her honeymoonbut I digress.
Ive had Manunka Chunk in my mind lately, for some reason. Mental pictures of details. some of which Ive written about before. Stronger are the occasional whiffs of something in the air that are so evocative that Im right back there, on the bluff or in the cornfield walking to Stackhouses farm for fresh eggs. I guess I must have gone with Jim and Jack, for I wouldnt have been able to carry the cans of milkunpasteurized, of course, straight from the cow, warm and foamy. Eventually we had milk delivered in those glass bottles with the cream on top, under the pleated paper caps. Every now and then mother opined that it would be cheaper to have our own cow. All of us except her were avid milk drinkers.
Bob remembers everything about Manunka Chunk in even greater detail than I do. I called him the other day to ask him about cars, for I connect our first car to one of our summers. We didnt own a car until I was about ten, I think, so Sidney, Jim and Jack would all have been in our teens. I asked Bob whether he remembered a Model T Ford parked on the so-called grass next to the bungalow. Yesa Model T truck. We were allowed to sit in the drivers seat, taking turns at being driver and passenger. The passenger was the one to shout "Gudoogit". We were forbidden to use the real horn.
Whose was it? Not any of the island neighbors. I cant remember where they kept their cars. Bob does, though and told me that it belonged to a college friend of Jims, one Bill Lewis, otherwise known as Kayo for what he did to an opponent on the third blow struck in an amateur boxing match.
As Ive mentioned before, in the pre-first car days, the food arrangements were fairly complicated, not that Bob and I paid much attention to them, except on the days when Howie Helb, a baker from Belvedere, came rattling down the lane in an old truck and we would race out behind our mother to beg her to buy sticky bunscalled that then, as nowI think. I do recall that our father, coming by train and then hiking from the station, brought a large roast and a few chickens and always a large jar of sourballs. He came only on weekends, of course.
And then, and thenwild excitement for everyone. Our father bought a cara Gardner, with one front seat and a rumble seat for two. Of course, the whole family couldnt fit in it, but Daddy taught the three older ones to drive. At some point mother learned, but where? Even Bob isnt sure, nor do we know where and when our father learned. Bob recalled that he was riding in the rumble seat, going to Belvedere, when Dad pointed out the window for a left turn (this was years before the invention of the steering column direction signal) and a car behind usunusual in itselfran into us, more accurately, bumped into us. No damage, but the other driver and daddy got out, daddy mentioning calmly that he had signaled well before making the turn. "Oh," said the other driver, "I thought you were pointing to the scenery." In these times of safety features in cars, I think of how Bob and I loved bouncing around in the rumble seat.
Our landlady for the Manunka Chunk summers was one Mrs. Jones, known to all as Curly. Someone taught her the rudiments of driving and one day she offered to take Jack for a spin. Wed been cautioned not to ride with Curly, but Jack climbed in anyway, and then didnt dare tell mother that he had. Shreiking with laughter out of earshot of mother, he told us that Curly had successfully negotiated the turn into our lane from the main road, but forgot how to straighten up, driving on right into the rows of ripening corn.
Getting a car started in those days before the "self starter" was invented required skill and practice. The driver had to get in front of the car and hand crank it until the motor kicked over. Then he had to leap into the front seat and pull out the choke just enough to keep the motor running but not enough to flood it. It was a routine almost identical to that of starting our motor boat at Squam, except there at least we can stay in the seat once the motor kicks in.
Barbara McG. Lockwood
Twinkle, Twinkle Little Bat
"Twinkle, twinkle, little bat
How I wonder what youre at.
Up above the world you fly,
Like a teatray in the sky,"
sings the March Hare in Alices Adventures in Wonderland.
Its been maddingly going round and round in my head since Robert last week before returning home to Oregon, me with a[n] imitation of a bat which swooped around his bedroom at the Lake George family reunion in 96.
One thing leads to another in stream-of -consciousness to Famous Family Bat Chases.
McGiffert family, that is. Our house in Easton, rented, as were all the houses we were brought up infour in allhad outside walls of Pennsylvania fieldstone, and at least a foot between them and the inside finished walls. Mrs. McKeen, our charming landlady had warned us that we would hear squirrels , mice, chipmunks et al. scampering around inside the walls once cold weather set in. Hoped they wouldnt bother us. If we thumped on the wall the creatures would quiet down for a short spell [typed text stops here]
Barbara McG. Lockwood
My Brother Bob
On Thanksgiving Day this year Bob turned seventy-five. Jim, Sidney and Jack have been dead for many years and Bob and I cherish each other in increasingly poignant ways. Hes been coming east at this time of year for several years now, dividing his time between Lyns and here. When he left here yesterday (Pearl Harbor Day,1997) we both had tears in our eyes. He says hell come back in a few months, and though he didnt say so straight out, Ill know that if he makes that trip it will be because of his worry over my health.
He and I are the only ones now to remember our childhood, although our only living first cousin Betty remembers the rest of the McGifferts. Shes 86 and I dont remember her childhood either. She had a victrola record which she used to play for Sidneyat her house three blocks away because she always got homesick anywhere away from it; had to drop out of Vassar almost the minute she got there; had to cancel her honeymoon after a couple of days. I DO remember the beginning of the song because Sidney and Jim sang it all over the house: "No matter how young a prune may be, its always full of wrinkles. We have wrinkles on our face, prunes have them every place." w Even if Betty remembered Bob and me as children, she wouldnt know what we squabbled over or what games we played when we were still living in Roselle. I know we fought over the Sunday funnies (not called "comics" then). Bob still brings up how unfair it was when he was told to let me have them first. He had spent his weekly five cents allowance on the funny page and had gone downstreet to get it. Of course were laughing about it, but with hindsightvery HINDSIGHT. I can agree that it was a great injustice wrought upon him by our parents. I think of the narrators voice, undoubtedly Dickens own, when he says in Great Expectations that of all the woes that are visited upon a child by the adults, or even older children, injustice is particularly hard to bear.
But Bob and I played, too, especially on rainy days when we were allowed to take all the straight backed chairs in the house and whatever old sheets and blankets mother supplied and create many-roomed houses in the living room. Once we built it we really didnt want to play in it much. It was more fun to take it apart and build one of a different design. I think it said that the little kids next door to me on Upshur St. have such elaborate play structures and toys given to them that their imagination isnt much called forth. And of course we played endlessly together and with neighborhood kids, building snow forts and lining up ferocious snowball fights.
When we moved to Easton Bob and I made a crazy entertainment for our spare timeor rather, he made it up and I played along. We sat on opposite sides of the living room, but slantwise to each other. We started out determined to use the time doing our reading and arithmetic work. Bob would get bored with it and say "Barbara" in a low voice. His wide open mouth next was my cue to pluck a jellybean or gumdrop from the bowl near me and shoot it catty-cornered across the room into his open mouth. I became extremely good with my aim and he was likewise at mouth-catching. After awhile came the argument about which required the superior skill.
Bob went into the army in WWII; he was sent to officers training school and then to the Presidio of Monterey, which had become an army language school. As a member of what much later became the Notorious Americal Division he saw heavy action on several Pacific islands, and I missed him acutely, as wed become close sibs and friends by then. Like most men of our generation he was brought up to keep deep feelings under wraps, but in the past 17 years, during which Jim, Sidney, and Jack died, and in fairly short order and younger than we are now, weve been moral support to each other through numerous crises as well as happy events. In the last few years hes been able to say, "I love you, Barbara," as he ends our frequent telephone calls. Last year when I was so ill in Oregon he called me at the hospital and later at Roberts every other day. Now since I came down after Christmas with 8-month old Elis cold he has worriedly called at least three times a week, even when I had to respond in a whisper. It was a great relief to him, as it was to quite a few others that no complications ensued this time. It was a great relief to me, too.
Barbara McG. Lockwood
December 1997January 1998
More About Roselle, More About Childs Play
For a house as modest as 124 West 6th Ave., the yards, especially the back yard was relatively spacious, and my special space in it was a grand apple tree which bore both blossoms and fruit. Spring and Fall, carrying a book in something that I cant remember, I would climb to one of several natural seats near the trunk, blissful in the blooms or among the not yet fallen apples. From the ground came the sharp scent of mushy, decaying apples, slippery as ice under foot if you didnt watch out as I started my climbing adventure, for that is what it always seemed to me to be. I liked it best when no one else was in the yard, and I alone in my private kingdom, away from the always busy house. Then I could read, dream or pretend that I was a fairy princess. If someone else was in the yard it was usually Bob and his friends or Jack and his . Then I was a spy, pretending that they were engaged in some wicked, nefarious business or plot. What they did to me if I was discovered couldnt have been horrendous because I dont remember what it was.
The sense [of smell] is the strongest, even more so than sight in invoking something out of the past. But how to explain it? The smell of rotting or rotten apples still flashes me back to that leafy perch. One clear blue fall day at Vassar Cathy Marshall and I rode our bikes out to the Cider Mill, wherever it was, in the countryside. Sniffahback to my tree in an instant. Diane Ackermans book A Natural History of the Senses is a treasure.
Ive written before of the various outdoor games that my girlfriends and I tirelessly on sunny afternoons and some that we played with boys, but I think I was the only girl who played marbles with the neighborhood boys and Bob. I still recall the soft feel of the little chamois drawstring bag (the drawstrings were thin leather laces) which held our precious supply. With due modesty I can say that I was an ace at marbles. Its traditionally a boys gameboys in ancient Rome played it. Maybe a girls smaller, thinner fingers gave me the advantage. Naturally, they werent thrilled to have me in the circle, but Id won some of their prettiest marbles and the could always hope to win them back. Of course they often did or there would have been no more games. My shooter was a gorgeous "aggie" white and pale green swirls. I wonder what happened to it.
Some more about the Roselle backyard. Our great-aunt Esther, mothers maiden aunt, known as Auntie to us kids and all our friends, boarded in a house on the next street in back of ours. Her window overlooked our yard, and when she wasnt at our house, which was most of the time, she sat at it, watching whatever activity was going on, and often telephoning mother from the hall telephone to report. "Eloise, Barbaras high up in that tree again. Im so afraid that shes going to tumble." Mother was patient and calm. In the corner of the yard there was an old shed. Phone call from Auntie, in a state of shock, according to mothers years later account: "Eloise, Jack and some boys are behind the shed SMOKING." Again some years later, reminiscing about Auntie, mother said her response was, "Well Aunt, I hope it makes him sick." Jack was about twelve, I guess.
A full sized pool table took up most of the fronnt hall of 124 W. 6th Ave., but there was still room behind it for the upright piano. We all took piano lessons, but I dont remember all of us playing, though we must have had a practice schedule. I recall Jack and me playing, but perhaps thats because we were the ones who kept on with it well into adulthood. There was usually some group shooting pool, with me playing piano in back of them. I must have been developing great powers of concentration.
When none of that was going on Sidney and Jim and some of their friends were on the landing at the turn of the stairs feeding records to the "His Masters Voice" Victrola: The little old Ford rambled right along; Auntie Skinners chicken dinner; Romana; I love Louisa .We youngsters thought that one was deliciously dirty because of the line "Ach, when I choose em I love a great big boozom."
Barbara McG. Lockwood
Feb. 8, 99
Every now and then I feel driven to attack my hanging files with a wastebasket beside me. Theres a great sense of accomplishment to chucking things, then hoping later that I wont regret it and want something back. Im just like mother in this. We five children joked about it most of the time. But why have I kept all this stuff packed into my files until theyre bulging so that I can hardly cram in one more piece of paper? Many old notices from AARP, receipts from long ago car tune-ups, copies of mothers final exams at Vassar in 1905 and 1908in English Literature and Sociology. Big emphasis in literature on the Transcendentalists, especially Emerson, and in sociology on child labor and "labor of married women." Well, anyway, I threw away some of this and went on to the Picture file and here are Bob and I, maybe five and six years old.
We were gently reared. I cant remember hearing either parent raise a voice, let alone raise a hand. We were never spanked, but a certain tone of voice when we were reprimanded was chilling. Im talking just about Bob and me. Jim, Sidney and Jack were enough older that we werent privy to any scolding for them. We wouldnt dream of talking back to either parent, but onceONCEI did and have remembered it in detail ever since. This memorable event took place in Roselle, so I must have been under eleven. Mother and daddy had guests for dinner and we had been fed first in the kitchen. Mother did all the cooking and all other work involved. I was allowed to read in the living room, which opened directly into the dining room. As usual I was totally absorbed in my book, a new Christmas one in The Five Little Peppers series, when mother called out "Barbara, please come and clear the table." Oh, the injustice of it! It was the only time that I can remember the I hadnt eaten at the same table as my parents and all the rest of us. I answered with the unthinkable: "Oh, go sit on a tack!" Momentary shocked silence. Then mother, in an ominously low voice: "Sister, go straight upstairs. Ill speak to you later." Whenever she called me "Sister" I knew that the infraction was serious.
Although I rarely misbehaved, mostly because I never felt I wanted to, I did argue, or more precisely begged about some things, mostly having to do with what I was made to wear. Looking at my legs and feet in this photo brought this pleading right back into my mental voice, "NOBODY else has to wear long underwear under stockings and these high shoes. Please, please dont make me." "Well, youre not nobody else and I only want you to be comfortable in the cold and not CATCH cold." I usually tried again, but if the pleading tone turned into a whine, I got "Sister" again in short order.