"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.
I started my blog when I was the sole youngster in a group of 80- and 90-year-olds who were writing down their life stories. It happened like this: In the fall of 2007, I left New York, where I was working as an editor for Conde Nast Traveler, and returned to my home town of Randolph, Vermont, to be closer to my mother, who was then 87. A year later, she and I started a memoir-writing group at the Randolph Senior Center. The initiative took flight, and has so far resulted not only in the publication of my own book, a memoir set in Tanzania, but in a dozen other books as well. My mother, Idora Tucker, died on July 15, 2012, leaving behind five published volumes recording important chapters of her life, as well as a thick notebook of unpublished writing. She and her contemporaries at the Senior Center have inspired countless others, including many of my generation, to write down their life stories. I hope you will be inspired by our blog to do the same.
To Order Our Books
To order our books, click on a cover. The link will take you to our e-store, and you can follow the steps from there. All titles are $10.95–$11.95, plus shipping.
Our House in Arusha, by Sara Tucker (Kindle edition, $2.99)
When an American traveler on her way to Kansas ends up in the Serengeti, her life gets a complete makeover. Within months, she is the wife of a French safari guide and the stepmother of an eleven-year-old. The year that follows is a test of courage and resilience as each member of the family struggles to make a place for himself in a tantalizing and dangerous world. Part love story, part adventure saga, Our House in Arusha explores the meaning of second chances.
An Ordinary Woman
Mothers are the core of our writing group. We would be nothing without them! All of the titles shown here were written by moms with their children in mind. Who knows—perhaps one will inspire your own mother to write a few words. Above: Ruth Godfrey is the one who keeps us laughing in the Tuesday memoir-writing group. Her book is that rare thing among modern memoirs—the story of a happy life.
The Hale Street Gang
Meet the Hale Street Gang, twelve senior citizens who gather every week in the village of Randolph, Vermont, to share their life stories. Most are in their eighties; the eldest is ninety-nine. Their clubhouse is the senior center, an elderly mansion in a fringy neighborhood south of the railroad tracks. Together, they weave a rich, lively, and intensely personal tale of twentieth-century America, its nexus a small town nestled in the Green Mountains.
The Hale Street Gang
In volume 2, we pay tribute to the many places in our past. Here you will find Downtown Randolph as it used to be (remember Merusi's Store? The Spot?) and Brookfield back when Jessie Fiske owned Green Trails—as well as Shanghai in the thirties, San Francisco in the forties, and New York City at the turn of the century (this one). The authors have all crossed paths at the Greater Randolph Senior Center, where we gather once a week to salute the flag, partake of Rose's meatloaf, and share our life stories. In A Sense of Place, we travel back through time to tell you where we've been.