Saturday, December 1, 2012

Turning the Page

Breakfast in Fontainebleau.
In November 2012, I packed my bags, left Randolph, and flew to France. I'll be here, in Fontainebleau, until May 2013. This hiatus seems like a fitting time to bring the Hale Street Gang blog to a close. It gives me pangs to do so, but there is such a thing as hanging on to a good thing too long. Even as good a thing as the Hale Street Gang and Me. My new blog is called Sadie and Company. I hope you will visit me there. Thank you, dear readers, for your support of the Hale Street Gang. The gang, by the way, will be featured in my next book, which I'll work on during my winter in France.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Tribute to John Jackson

A scene from Twelfth Night, 1972.
Family and friends celebrated the life of John Jackson this past weekend at Chandler, the beautiful old music hall that John helped revitalize after he moved to Randolph in the late sixties. There were tributes on Saturday from Herald editor Dick Drysdale, scenic artist Paul Bouchey, stage director (and editor of the Montpelier Bridge) Nat Frothingham, Wendell Tripp (a childhood friend about whom John had many stories), VTC colleague Nap Pietryka, fellow philanthropist Karl Miller, Chandler board president Janet Watton, Hale Streeter Nancy Rice, Yours Truly, and many more. The hall was filled with music—songs from Brigadoon, old union songs, and cello solos (John's love of music encompassed all genres). The photograph here is of John and me in the 1972 production of Twelfth Night, directed by Nat Frothingham. John played the sea captain and I played Viola (I was eighteen).  Several of the folks who gathered on Saturday had traveled long distances to pay their final respects. John was remembered for his kindness and decency, his intellect, his passion, his big heart, and his great capacity for enjoyment. He left quite a legacy. The book that he wrote in the Tuesday group will come out next spring; look for an announcement here.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Saying Good-bye

D'Ann Fago and "Bootlegger's Daughter" at SPA.
On Monday, three days from now, I'll leave Vermont and head to NYC, then to France. I've been saying good-bye to old friends this week. Yesterday I paid a visit to Ellie Streeter and D'Ann Fago; today I'll have a trio of girlfriends here for lunch and a little band of high-school classmates in for evening pizza. Ellie is a contemporary of my mother's; we've shared a fence line for over 50 years. Two days before my mother died, Ellie came over unexpectedly for a little visit. "Did you have a premonition?" I asked her yesterday. She thought for a moment. "No," she said. "But I told myself I shouldn't put it off any longer." Maybe "intuition" is the better word. We sat on her couch and held hands; I shed a few tears. "I love you dearly," she said. "It's okay to cry." D'Ann is a member of the Hale Street Gang's Tuesday group. It is hard saying "so long" to my friends, especially the old-timers. "You won't be here for my birthday," said D'Ann yesterday. She said it twice, in fact. "Just stab me in the heart!" I yelped. We discussed the ramifications of Skype—both she and Ellie knew the term and had ideas about what it meant. In the end, I promised to send them postcards. 

SPA director Sue Higby (center) reviews coverage of D'Ann's show.

PS The pictures here were taken at Studio Place Arts in Barre last summer; I drove D'Ann there to see the show a couple of weeks after it opened. Her work, which spans 70 years, has been touring New England since 2010, when a retrospective opened at the Governor's Reception Hall in Montpelier. For the record, a pile of credit for the tour should go to our friend Jack Rowell, who is a fan of D'Ann's work (and of D'Ann herself) and knows the gallery folks in this part of the world.

Friday, October 26, 2012

The Storytelling Species: A Workshop with Barbara Ganley

Storytelling with Barbara Ganley. Photo: Community Expressions
Yesterday I met my guru. She is Barbara Ganley, a former Middlebury prof who chucked academia to do her work in the real world (I can so relate). Now she helps people, ordinary people, tell their stories. The workshop I attended was in Norwich, Vermont, at the congregational church, and it was sponsored by the Vermont Community Foundation. The VCF, if you remember, gave the Hale Street Gang a grant two years ago, to help bring the stories of Randolph's seniors out into the world. As a grant recipient, I got to attend the Norwich workshop for free. Emilie Daniel, the Randolph Senior Center director, went with me. One of the many "takeaways" from the 4-hour workshop was the idea that we humans are a storytelling species, that we are hard-wired to tell stories, and that our story-telling habit has enabled us to survive. I knew that, on some level, but it helped to hear someone with credentials say it. Barbara's organization, Community Expressions, helps communities and organizations get their message across in order to survive and thrive. There were 15 workshop participants from various organizations, and the room sizzled with passion. It reminded me why I love Vermont and why I live here. So in case you're wondering whether I'll be back in the spring, the answer is yes. There are rumors all over town that Patrick and I are leaving for good—not true! We have closed our little gallery, Korongo, on Merchants Row, and are heading to France for the winter, but Randolph is still home. No way can I give up the relationships I've established and strengthened over the past five years, some of which go all the way back to earliest childhood. So many stories left to tell, so little better believe I'll be back.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Countdown to Departure

"Jan 4, 1921: I did not go to school today for I was sick."
Antique ankle weights.
Eighteen days from now I'll leave Vermont for New York, thence to France. (Pardon the archaic language; I've been living in the nineteenth century for the past week.) Meanwhile, I'm saying my good-byes. Last week it was the Tuesday group at the Senior Center, which will meet without me through the winter. The group has acquired some new members, including Bob Soule, who used to tune John Jackson's piano; they would have enjoyed hearing each other's stories. Yesterday I spent the afternoon with Cynthia Jackson and we had a fine time comparing family memorabilia—she definitely has me beat in the antique serving-spoon department. I didn't even know such things as tomato servers existed until she pulled one from a drawer yesterday. Fascinating. Then there was an odd-shaped thing that we guessed was made for serving asparagus, and an elegant trident that the Jacksons refer to as "the toad stabber." We talked about John and Idora a little (they died less than two months apart), but mostly we joked around and had fun. It was a warm, sunny day and we sat on the porch until we got too hot (!) and had to go inside. That's when Cynthia pulled out a box of old letters. I'm talking old-old—we even found her grandmother Lily Hazwell's handwritten guide to the flag signals young Lily and her next-door neighbor devised in the late 1800s. The red, black, and white flags hung in the windows of their respective houses, in various combinations, transmitting such messages as "Can you come for tea this afternoon?" and "We've got extra butter if you want it." The photographs here are relics from my own family's past. The little diary, above, was kept by my aunt at age eleven. It tells a sad story. The first entry, on October 18, 1920, reads "This is a beautiful day. My birthday is today. I got 2 books from Mama, a dairy, and a bottle of perfume from Marion a tabet (sic) from Ransom and a hair ribbon from Grandma and twenty five cents from Aunt Manda and a dollar from Auntie and a banner note book from Grandpa." On Christmas Eve, Madeline listed her presents, which included two handkerchiefs and a bottle of "perfumery." On January 4 and 5, she noted that she didn't go to school because she was sick. The next two weeks' entries record a visit from her sister Marion, who was attending school in Waitsfield, a visit from the doctor, and her father's purchase of a milk separator. The last entry was made on January 19, 1921. It records her grandfather's trip to Waitsfield, where he "saw Marion." Fourteen days later, on February 2, 1921, eleven-year-old Madeline died of rheumatic fever. My grandmother kept the diary, which was given to my aunt Marion, then to my mother. The ankle weights are of a newer vintage—mid-twentieth century, made by Elmer's of Lubbock, Texas. How they found their way into my mother's attic I have no idea. I am drowning in memorabilia! Maybe it's time to open an Etsy account.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

France and the Attic

South-facing window, overlooking Highland. Spool bed in foreground.
Today is my last day at the Randolph Senior Center until next spring. Soon, I'll be leaving for France, to spend the winter in Fontainbleau, in the lovely apartment of my mother-in-law, who is now in a nursing home. In preparation for leaving, I've been straightening up my mother's house, where I've lived for the past five years (and where she lived for 67 years, until her death in July). Last week, I ventured into the attic. Wow. Lots of dusty old boxes filled with treasure (and some junk). Among the finds: photographs of my father's family dating back to the 19th century, a letter that my mother wrote at age eight (saved by her aunt), a 100-year-old button collection, lace made by Grandma Tucker, and 1960s costume jewelry (remember mood rings?). The rescued boxes are piled in the front hall, awaiting their photo shoot. Note: Grandma Tucker (née Lamb) wrote names on the backs of every one of the hundreds of ancestral portraits, bless her. More pictures on my Facebook page (click here).
College text books: Anthropology, philosophy, art history.

Soccer shoe, mateless mittens, cap gun, 1970s best seller.
Button collection started by Grandma Tucker a century ago.

Contents of the Dingo boot box.

19th-century graphic novels!
Wartime letters from my father to his mother.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Kitchen Sink: Pictures of My Mother's House

From the album "House," a documentary for my brothers and sisters.
Soap dish and miniature plastic flower arrangement. 
Glass bottles and leaf.

Clock and owl.


Mid-morning, September 14, 2012.