Charlie and whitey, the Rooster
Jeannie Peck, 2012

Circa 1939 Charlie arrived home on a lovely late Summer Friday afternoon. There was a gentle breeze and it was not too hot. He decided it would be a perfect time for a pre-dinner nap in the hammock. It had been a long week and the kids would be arriving for the weekend early the next morning. The hammock was hung lower to the ground than most, providing easy access for the grandchildren and various pets (and a shorter fall, just in case). The supporting trees were maples, as I recall. The sunlight filtering through the leaves, together with the gentle swishing sound they made as the breeze blew, combined to create a lullaby most conducive to sleep. Charlie sat on the side of the hammock, and giving his familiar pet-related whistle, called out “C’mon Whitey. Nap time.” He settled back and waited for the usual prompt response from his pet rooster. After a bit he realized that the bird had not arrived, and was nowhere to be seen. He also remembered that Jenny would have selected a couple of chickens from the flock as the main course for a weekend meal. He sat up and called out to his wife, trying to conceal his anxiety. Leaning out of the kitchen window in response to his query, Jenny replied, with annoyance, “Mr. Demar, every time you lose track of that silly white rooster of yours, you accuse me of taking the axe to him. Don’t be such a ninny. I certainly know the difference between a hen and a rooster. And furthermore, who would want to eat that tough old bird anyway? You’d make a better stew than he would. He’s probably off chasing after some cute little Hen. Just like a man.” With a loud and overly-dramatic “Humpff,” She withdrew from the window. Charlie chuckled. He admired his wife’s toughness – and her pragmatism. Most especially when it came to dispensing with the chickens. He was grateful to her for handling that unpleasant chore. “She’s a true pioneer woman,” he thought, “and that sure comes in handy at times. Only trouble is, she can’t remember that not everybody understands her ways like the farm people she grew up with in Pennsylvania. He recalled the time when she decided that the grandchildren were old enough (at age six or seven or so) to learn that in order to have a nice chicken dinner, first a chicken had to be killed, plucked and gutted. She also used that particular teaching moment to illustrate the origin of the phrase “run around like a chicken without a head”. “Oh boy” he thought, “Jenny sure got in a heap of trouble with that one”. He laughed out loud remembering the ensuing ruckus when his daughter and daughter-in-law found out about the “lesson”. Jenny was for sure in the doghouse with the girls for weeks about that one. Remembering back to that incident, he pondered how strange it was that the mothers were far more upset than the children. His grandkids were more curious and intrigued than frightened. Although he did remember hearing quite a few “yucks” and “Ughs” from the young ones. “Surprising,” he mused, “how much of the unpleasantness of life children are able to absorb without becoming mean or discouraged. They seem to have the capacity to accept life as it comes. I suppose maybe that‘s how children – and the human race – have managed to survive all these years”. I don’t know whatever became of Whitey. I can’t really remember too much about him beyond that particular point in time. But I can attest to the fact that while he was with us he had a very happy life… as evidenced by a barnyard full of contented hens wandering about (not to mention an abundance of eggs and chicks). And… How many roosters ever got to nap in a hammock, next to a human friend, under dappled sunlight winking through the leaves of a maple tree? (As an aside to the family members for whom this little vignette is being recounted… If ever there was an explanation as to how a rooster came to respond to his name, or for that matter have a predilection for napping in a hammock, it has, sadly, been lost forever. That’s just the way it was – and no one ever thought it the least bit out of the ordinary.)

Jeannie Peck 2012
On Facing Death
Jeannie Peck, 2014

A very short story to ponder: Two little old ladies, both in their 80s. Both have been suddenly stricken with a terminal illness. Each has been given two months to live. One woman is blessed with a loving family: a thoughtful and caring husband; three children; five grandchildren; and a faithful companion - her dog. She will be facing death surrounded by those who love her. The second woman is childless, and has been predeceased by her husband, all of her family members, both of her closest long-time friends, and even her pets. She will be facing death alone. If you were to be asked which of these women you feel sorrier for, chances are your sympathy would be for the solitary woman. It’s just possible that you might be so wrong. The familied woman is too heavily invested in life to want to let go of it. She doesn’t want to miss the graduations, weddings, and babies yet to come. She’s worried that she won’t be around to help should trouble befall any of her family. She's distraught, and trying to bargain with God for even just one more year. On the other hand, the woman alone feels that she’s been lucky to have had a good long run. Those she has loved are gone. There’s nothing really inviting her into the future. Even chocolate cake doesn’t seem to taste as good as it once did — not even when it’s topped with a great big mound of vanilla fudge ripple ice cream. So when the Doctor tells her she’s got only two more months, she smiles, shrugs her shoulders and quips, “Well, let’s look on the bright side, Doc, just think of all the money i’ll be saving on pain medication.” And that’s the end of the story. So — what do you think … who’s the lucky one? Jeannie Peck Southbury, CT © 2014

Jeannie Peck 2014
Jean McGavin, 2010

I don’t remember my first day of school in Virginia. I attended a kindergarten in a church, Mt. Olivet. I don’t think there were kindergartens in public school where I grew up. I have generally happy memories of kindergarten, however, I do remember being quite traumatized on the days when I got to school and realized that I still had on my bloomer pajama bottoms under my skirt (girls at that time were not allowed to wear trousers). This happened at least a few times and I remember lingering in the bathroom rather than returning to the classroom lest someone realize my secret pajama shame. I remember enjoying poetry. We wrote out poems on construction paper and illustrated the poems. This I enjoyed and can still see the image of one of these poems about the wind, "Who has seen the wind, neither you nor I…" Illustrating that one was difficult. I remember an image with a lot of gray amorphous wind-shaped scribbling. The most remarkable thing about kindergarten was that my teacher told my mother I had a vivid imagination and that I should not be inhibited. This momentous piece of advice had the force of turning the ship of my life. My life at home was forever altered as, my mother told my siblings not to inhibit me. I have 6 siblings and to them she might just as well have hung a sign on my back saying “Kick Me”. I had a friend at kindergarten who had a pinafore much like that worn by Alice in Wonderland. I was in awe of this pinafore and wanted one. I simulated a pinafore by wearing 2 skirts. Because I was not to be inhibited, my mother did not intervene. My siblings however did their best to inhibit me on this and in every way possible. In another family wearing 2 skirts might have been considered cute but to a pack of kids in which one has been singled out as special this provided an opportunity to pounce. My creativity proved a big burden. I longed to be normal and fit in. When 6 children are told that one is 'special' the others are driven to mayhem. All 7 of us wanted to be special. My father worked hard and as an ob/gyn would leave home for hours at the drop of a hat leaving my Mom to be the only one to settle arguments, do laundry, cook, etc. and all with that Betty Crocker bar set in the 50's. There was no time for the more tender, nurturing moments of motherhood like kissing away tears, helping with homework, throwing a ball or playing games. She was overwhelmed with chores and even though she is probably the sweetest woman on this earth, just could not devote the time to each of us that we craved. On the other hand Mom being busy gave all of us children a lot of freedom for mayhem of many sorts. When the weather was good we were outside, mostly in the woods with the 20 or so other kids in the baby boom of our neighborhood. Each mom had a bell to ring to call the children back from where ever they might be and we all recognized our own bell (at this time, kids went out on their own without adults and we wandered everywhere, little kids and big kids with no fear of being kidnapped or molested). With so many kids and all of them wanting special attention, as kids do, and none of us realizing that we could be encouraging and warm-hearted, we were instead competitive and always ready to fight, pounce, torture and tease, albeit, in a wimpy suburban sort of way. For instance, my brothers delighted in putting my cat on the roof which made the cat howl, and me wail. They would hide my favorite stuffed animals. We called each other repugnant names. Sometimes we fought but with 4 brothers, the girls learned to fight with words and each of us learned to use those words to cut as quickly, deeply and swiftly as possible. Somehow we managed to then come together for family dinners, bridge games (we had enough in the family for 2 tables), and outings, although these were still peppered with many jabs of sharpened tongues. WHO HAS SEEN THE WIND ?
Who has seen the wind?
Neither I nor you:
But when the leaves hang trembling
The wind is passing thro'
Who has seen the wind?
Neither you nor I:
But when the trees bow down their heads
The wind is passing by. Jean McGavin
Bethlehem, CT
January 2010

Jean McGavin 2010
My Non-Job
Jeanie Henry, 1/27/12

In the Spring of 1942, I was finishing up my 3rd year of college. Pearl Harbor had taken place; the country was at war; most of the boys I knew were in uniform including my 2 brothers. Several of my friends had left college and had no plans to return.  I was an adequate student, but no scholar and my future dreams included hopes for a husband and children. Most women didn’t hold executive positions then and I had no need for a degree – in fact I felt guilty sitting at a college when so many people were involved in the war effort, so I phoned my mother to state my case. After thanking my parents for all their support etc., I explained that I wanted to quit – to leave college and get a job and do something useful. My mother never flinched – “Well” she said, “You come on home, but you shouldn’t have a job because you don’t need one. Others do, and it would be wrong for you to take one.” “However,” she added, “I have just been put in charge of recruiting Red Cross Nurses’ Aides for the Borough of Brooklyn – you can be my first recruit!” – So – I took the course, donned my uniform, and proudly earned my cap and went to work. I treated my volunteer job as a paid one and went to the hospital 5 full days a week. I tried to do the dirtiest work – like scrubbing bed-pans and my favorite floor to be sent to, was the neuro-surgical one. The head nurse there was a tyrant, but I held her in great esteem and she taught me much. It was a wonderful, life-changing experience which I relished. After I was married 2 years later, we moved to Connecticut and I continued doing hospital volunteer work when possible for the next 30 years. P.S. Subsequently, I learned about a new program in New Haven called “Hospice”, and I got involved with that. For my 80th birthday a friend gave a luncheon; each guest was asked to bring a card and a donation to “Jeanie’s favorite charity”. Hospice was delighted and so was I, - a fitting finale to a career for a girl with a non-job.

Jeanie Henry 1/27/12
Lisbeth Leonard, 11/28/12

Title: 1954 Author: Lisbeth Leonard Creation Date: 11/28/12 Location: Southbury, CT Tags: #1954 #walmsley #stolers #toys #miniaturecars #sundaypapers #punishment #honor #parents #children #sentences Content: One day on Walmsley when I had been out, I came in to hear an unusual scurrying in the new loft bedroom. When I went up to check, Doug and Dan age about 8 and 6 looked guilty and when I asked what was up, they sheepishly produced a collection of miniature cars. When I heard their explanation we parked the cars in a box and marched over to Stolers. Bill met me at the door and I explained what had happened. He immediately took over – scolded the boys about their honor and parents and required them to sort through the Sunday papers to make it up, and I left it up to them to honor their sentence. And so they did so well that when they had finished their sentences – they were hired for quite some time.

Lisbeth Leonard 11/28/12