There are pieces of furniture and other household objects I own that conjure specific and cherished memories for me.
I have a large, light wood hutch, that I recently loaned to a good friend. That hutch was a big part of my years living with my parents. The hutch is about eight feet tall. It has shelves inside the top part and drawers in the bottom section. My mom covered the entire inside with pink geometric/striped wallpaper. I kept school supplies in the shelves and sweaters in the drawers.
The hutch is significant because it was located right behind my desk from around fourth grade on through college. (I lived at home during college). I spent a lot of time at my desk doing schoolwork. And I spent a lot of that time leaning back onto the back legs of my desk chair and resting the back of the chair against the hutch. I don’t know why, but it helped me think.
Wood hutch closed, ready for leaning
Mom’s wallpaper lining
My mother hated it because I was ‘dinging’ the beautiful wood of the hutch. There is, in fact, some small, barely visible marks on the hutch commemorating my bad habit. My mother would yell at me whenever she saw me ‘leaning’. So I would try to quickly sit up normally whenever I heard her coming. I don’t know why this silly ritual has stuck with me – maybe it’s just the sheer number of years I did it.
Another piece of furniture from my childhood room is very dear to me. It’s a big, soft, overstuffed armchair. I used to sprawl over it in elementary school when I was reading, which was a lot. I also sat in that chair all through high school and college, reading endless books for school.
When I married and got an apartment of my own, that chair came with me. It went into the baby’s room. I spent countless hours in that chair nursing my children and singing to them. I nursed two years with my first child and one year with my second. As the kids got older, that was the chair for reading bedtime stories and snuggling.
That chair has followed me from my own childhood through both of my kids’ childhoods. If I have grandchildren, I hope that chair will be part of their lives too.
Another sentimental object for me is an orange and brown soup tureen that my grandmother kept on her dining room table in her CT cottage. That tureen meant ‘grandma’ to me. After Grandma died, I had the tureen on my dining table in CT (I actually used my grandmother’s dining table from CT as well). It was there for many years.
Then I had my first child, David. He was born prematurely and weighed four pounds two ounces at birth. He was so tiny, we took lots of photos of him illustrating how small he was. We have one picture of him, in my comfy nursing chair, sitting in his Teddy Bear’s lap! We also have a photo of David IN the soup tureen. Since then, the tureen reminds me of my teeny tiny baby as well as my beloved grandmother.
One other piece of furniture has a vivid story attached to it. The guest room in my mom’s CT house had two twin beds with beautiful dark wood headboards and footboards. They were made in the 1930’s as part of a New Deal program (WPA?) to get people back to work.
When I was a kid and had a sleepover date, which was often, my friends and I would sleep in the beautiful yellow and white guest room. We used to climb up on the footboards and ‘dive’ onto the beds. One day, when I was about nine years old, I dove and heard a loud ‘crack!’. The slats under the mattress had broken. I was afraid to tell my mom so I slept in a contorted position for a while. I finally told her, she had the bed fixed and she switched it with the other bed.
A year later I had a sleepover date and was telling my friend about the diving and the broken bed, I decided to demonstrate the dive, figuring that nothing would happen if I only did it once. So I did. ‘Crack!’. Again. The other bed broke. Now I was really scared to tell my mom. But I eventually confessed and the other bed was fixed too. I never ‘dove’ again.
These beds are now in my guest room. I even decorated the room in the same color scheme and style as my mom’s old guest room. I added some modern touches to the early American country style décor. But it was the warm feel of the original room that I was going for. I achieved it and it is a reminder of a happy childhood place – and fun childhood memories.
There was also a Tiffany style lamp in the guest room with two mottled green and yellow glass shades. The lamp was actually made at a factory down the street from the original Tiffany factory. My friends and I were afraid of the dark so we left the lamp on at night. The only problem was that the two greenish shades looked to us like ‘cat’s eyes’ glaring at us in the dark. So we had to decide between being scared by the dark or by the ‘cat’s eyes’. We stuck with the ‘cat’s eyes’.
I still have that gorgeous lamp in my living room, with many other pieces from my mother’s house. The lamp doesn’t scare me anymore. It just brings back memories of childhood and the magnificent houses I grew up in.
It’s nice to be surrounded by things that conjure happy memories. Which is why I love my house so much.
This is a dam that’s hard to find. You can hear it from the road, but you can’t see it without going around the big brick building that was formerly — you guessed it — a mill. A cotton mill, I believe.
Funny to finally discover this dam after passing so near for more than a dozen years. You really can’t see it from the road, which is where we usually shoot from and I probably heard it, but didn’t pay attention. It’s an interesting dam, not like any of the other local dams.
It’s not very tall, perhaps 10 or 12 feet. Water doesn’t flow over the dam as much as it comes through holes in the dam, set at various heights in a long crescent.
Dam in Northbridge
Photo: Garry Armstrong
The waters spits out and onto a plateau of flat rocks. I’m not sure what this design was intended to accomplish, but there must have been some special purpose in the design.
The old mill used to be an antique cooperative until last year. They recently converted it to an adult activity center. The senior center in Uxbridge is tiny, so this is definite upgrade. The building has been beautifully restored and its location, adjacent to the river and Whitins Pond … well, it couldn’t be lovelier.
I always find myself defending school to kids. They complain it’s dull. That there’s nothing in it that “grabs” or fascinates them — and nothing they will find useful in life.
I find myself trying to explain that school wasn’t fascinating, but that many of the boring stuff you learn in it is indeed going to be useful. Like arithmetic, the ability to add and subtract mentally without a calculator or even a piece of paper and a pencil. The point of school wasn’t only to intrigue or titillate us but to make us ready to face the real world in which we all must live.
Some studies were dull, but you needed to know it because while there’s creativity, there is day-to-day life too and unless you are one of the entitled few, you will have to do your share of it.
I was the kid who had a book in my lap so when no one was looking, I would read. Although I love science today, in school, it wasn’t interesting. Maybe it was the teachers who were dull. In high school I had a double period of botany beginning at eight in the morning when I was already half asleep. The class went on for two hours. We had a teacher who knew her stuff, but talked in a monotone. She’d start to talk — and I’d black out. Gone.
I did not do well in that class. A pity because I was interested, but she was better than a sleeping pill. Twice as good, really. Nothing I ever took knocked me out as well as she did.
Social studies which would today be … what? Social science? History? Some weird version of both? It consisted of everything that wasn’t English, math, or science. What we called “the rest of the stuff.” I was a passionate, ardent, enthusiastic reader. I loved history and the world. But social studies? With those stupid work books where you would answer a question and then you had to color the pictures. Seriously? Color the pictures?
I flunked coloring.
English was dull, too. We had to read books that were of no interest to anyone. I suspected the teachers found them dull too, but it was in the curriculum and that’s what they were supposed to teach. They did. We yawned. I drew pictures of horses in my notebooks. Sometimes, when I got tired of horses — I never got the feet right — I moved into castles. I was better at castles.
If they let us write, I was good at that. But being good at it didn’t make it interesting. My summer vacation wasn’t the stuff to brighten my week.
The teachers droned on and on. Those of us who intended to go to college hung in there. It never — not once, not for a split second — crossed my mind that I should drop out and work at an entry-level jobs for the rest of my life because I was bored at school.
For me, going to college was exactly the same as going to heaven. I would go to college because I knew I could learn. I never doubted my ability to think. I was sure if I made it to college, the rest would follow. And so it did.
I learned a lot of things in college. Ultimately, the really interesting parts of my education were learned at work, when math, science, and statistics were relevant and meaningful.
When you are working, the things you learn are in a context. You discover science has a purpose. Numbers are not random shapes which you jiggle around until you get the answer or sit with empty eyes wondering what this is supposed to mean. I did stuff at work I had found impossible in a classroom.
It wasn’t my fault. It was their fault. They taught the material so poorly no one who didn’t have a special fervor for it figured it out. What a pity for everyone. Worst of all, they meant well. They genuinely did the best they knew how.
College had its share of drones and bores … but there were enough wonderful teachers — maybe a dozen — who were inspirational.
They were was enough. For each year of school, there was at least one or two teachers who made a difference in my life. Plus, I was in an environment where everyone wanted to learn. We needed to learn.
We chose it.
I have never properly explained the whole school thing to my kid or granddaughter. I told them “Oh, it’s not that bad.”
Except, it really can be that bad. Sometimes, it’s even worse and comes with boring teachers and brutal classmates. That is very bad. Whether they are teasing you because of your color or because you are smart and they aren’t … cruelty is cruelty and kids can be cruel.
The thing is, you don’t stay in school because it’s fun. Or because the quality of education is uplifting. You are there because you know that this is what you must do if you want to have a real life.
If you also get wonderful, inspiring, enlightening teachers, that’s better. But even if they are dull, you still need to be there.
School is the work of childhood. It’s the “why of the how” of growing up.
Making My Home A Haven is important to me. Sharing homemaking skills. Recipes and food. Bible Studies. This is a treasure chest of goodies. So take a seat. Have a glass of tea and enjoy. You will learn all about who I am and Our Neck Of The Woods.