My mother was not a regular kind of mom. This confused me a lot while I was growing up. Other mothers made cookies, kissed boo-boos. Hung out with the other mothers in summertime. Swapped recipes. Watched soap operas.

July 1963

My mother didn’t bake anything, much less cookies. She was a terrible cook because she hated it. She was an unenthusiastic housekeeper and the whole “huggy kissy” mothering thing eluded her. She didn’t watch soap operas, loved the Marx Brothers and MGM musicals. She never graduated high school She read voraciously and constantly. Especially about science and space. She was fascinated by quarks, black holes, and antimatter.

She never kissed a boo-boo; I don’t remember her kissing me at all. She wasn’t that kind of mom.


She had no interest in gossip, recipes, or cute stories about anyone’s kids. She wanted to talk about politics or the space program and which nations were so hopeless they needed a complete redo, from scorched earth up (she had a list). I think if she were still alive, she’d probably add the U.S. to her list.

She enjoyed talking to me about being young when FDR became president. How, when the National Recovery Act was passed, there was a spontaneous parade in New York that lasted 24 hours. Ticker tape and all. How the government had surplus crops during the worst years of the depression, and government agents took the extra food, dumped it in vacant lots and put poison on it so no one could eat it. Even though people were starving.

I thought she was just paranoid, but recent events have made me change that opinion.

She didn’t trust government, was sure they were spying on us. Positive J. Edgar Hoover was out to get us. He had a long list — and we were on it. She was in favor of equal rights for everyone, everywhere. Pro-abortion, birth control, gay marriage, putting wheat germ in everything (yuk) and natural medicine when no one seemed to have heard of it. She wanted all religion out of schools and government.

She was in favor of the death penalty. She felt there were people who should be taken out and shot. No long terms in prison (too expensive). No decades of appeals. One well-placed bullet in the brain and justice would be served.

That was my mom.

She gave me Knut Hamsen to read and a grand piano for my 14th birthday as well as appropriately anatomical books about sex. She figured I needed accurate information so I could make informed decisions.

She hummed most of the time, sang the rest of the time. She got the words wrong all the time. She read me poetry when I was small and treated me like an adult. She was a grimly determined atheist and would eagerly debunk any hint of religious belief should I be foolish enough to express them. But she made sure my brother had his Bar Mitzvah and never ate pork. Tradition.

She was the most cynical person I’ve known. I was always sure she was wrong, that people were better than that. I can’t even imagine what she would say about the way the world is turning out. I expect she would feel vindicated because on some level, this is exactly what she expected. She did not believe in the goodness of human beings or that god would step in to rescue us. With all my heart, I wanted her to be wrong.

So here I am. Nearly as old as my mother was when she left this earth. I think my mother would like this version of me. I think she always liked me, possibly more than I liked myself. It just took me a long time to “get” her.

I’m very glad she isn’t here to see how the world has changed.



Photos by Marilyn and Garry Armstrong

Number Two started life in Milton and has moved around some. It finally, when it no long was able to do its job as a fire truck, came to rest in a field in Uxbridge, across the road from the post office. It just sat there, by the road. Every now and then, I’d stop by and take pictures of it and feel a bit sadder as it got older, more rusted, and started on what could only be a long road to the crusher.

FROM 2012 THROUGH 2016

One day, it disappeared. I was glad I’d taken so many pictures.

old number 2 fire engine

Old Number Two in the snow

I knew it is an inanimate object. Just an old truck. Metal and glass and rubber. An engine that ceased running years ago. A fire truck whose time came and went. But these old vehicles worked hard and died in service. They are more than chunks of old metal. They are history. They’ve got soul.old number 2 fire engine truck

They are packed with memories. Fires, rescues. The history of all the places they worked.


I know I’m not the only one who feels this way because the countryside has many veteran trucks and other vehicles quietly rusting in fields, often keeping company with the growing corn and the grazing cows and sheep.

old number two fire engine wheel


We invest our things with personality. Maybe we can’t help it. We are alive and we share at least the sense of life with those things with which we share our world. Then, yesterday, I got this note in my “contact box.”

Hi Marilyn,

I hope this finds you well. I saw those fantastic photos you took of Old Number 2, the Fire truck. I just wanted to let you know that Old number 2 may be gone from where you took those photos, but it lives on. I saved it from the scrapper back in November, and it still resides in Uxbridge, in the north end. I figured you’d like to know, seeing how fondly you wrote about it. I’m glad to know someone else cares about the truck like I do. It makes my efforts in giving it a new life much more meaningful.

Before I found this contact box I had tried messaging you through Facebook, so if you’d like to get in touch with me you can through there, or through my email.

Thanks for all those great photos of the truck through the years. They give me a great reference to show me which parts it had but were stolen over time. It makes my job of bringing it back to its old glory much easier.

Thank you,


So we had to go take pictures! There will be, I hope, many more to come. I hope we will see Number Two back on the road again … soon!

Still alive!

From the right side …

Photo: Garry Armstrong – From the right

Photo: Garry Armstrong – From the back

Long nose of the engine

Within lies the engine

There are a lot more pictures and many more to be taken. I’ll keep you  up to date. Now, if we could just rescue the old Unitarian church across from the Commons!


The sun is shining and today is door shopping day!

It was pouring last night, but they promised a sunny day today and for once, they delivered. It’s bright and beautiful out there and in a few minutes, my son and I are hitting the road, hopefully to order a door for the house. I haven’t entirely worked out how I’ll pay for it, but since I absolutely need it, there’s no choice but to get a door.

Choices are:

Wood — No way! I don’t care how fancy it is or how much it costs. Wood rots fast in this climate and it would need replacing in just a couple of years.

Fiberglass — If affordable, they are strong, look for all practical purposes like wood and do not rot.  (Note: Not affordable! Not even close!)

Steel — Steel are now designed to look just like any other door, though they do not imitate wood to the degree that Fiberglass will. You can paint it, but you can’t stain it. Cheaper than Fiberglass. Much cheaper than wood. Very sturdy, but might rust or dent. Still, it’s significantly cheaper than Fiberglass and will probably be our best bet. The styles look just like any other door with sidelights. I am NOT sure how you put a doggy door in a steel door. That’s a bit worrisome.

This is it! Bought it. Delivery in a couple of weeks!

I like simple doors. A lot of them come with really fancy glass, but this is not a fancy house and all that etched glass and other designs would look (I think) out-of-place.

Now, I have to figure out what color I want. Would green clash? Some kind of blue with white trim?