Saturday, July 20, 2013


Horses in the pasture at camp ~ looks the same 50 years later.

Nine days till 60!  Looking back at ages 6-12:

The basics:  Stark realities:  My mother and baby brother were killed in a car accident when I was seven and my surviving brother was four; the two of us were badly injured.   Two and one-half years later we acquired our first step-mother, who brought two of her children from Florida and left two there with their father. (When I speak of my brothers, I mean the stepbrother who was my age, my biological brother 2.5 years younger, and the stepbrother 2.5 years younger than my own brother.) 

One word:  Bewildered.
Best memories:  Gwynn Valley Camp in NC, where I spent the summers I turned ten and eleven.  (All of my children would eventually become campers there, and two of them staffers.)  It was a long 500 miles from home and in those days, camp sessions were four and eight weeks long.  It separated me from my stepmother, gave me back some childhood and some sense of accomplishment, and saved my life in many ways.  Other best memories:  The trips my grandmother and I made to Williamsburg and out west: Salt Lake, Yellowstone, the Tetons.  The beginnings of my passion for travel.  And the monarch butterflies my grandmother "raised" on her back porch.
Biggest fears:  Other than the deep end of the pool, a fear which I conquered when I finally learned to swim at camp, I don't recall being afraid of much.  (My brothers and I really did spend long hours in fields and creeks hunting down innocent snakes, some of which we killed and some of which we saved for awhile in jars before letting them go.  And we spent a lot of time high in trees and riding our bikes a considerable distance from home.)  As I look back on those years, I realize that I was a little survivor.  It's a trait that would serve me well fifty years later.  I've never lost the sense that the universe is as treacherous and chaotic a place as it is mystifyingly lovely,  and that survival skills are good ones to keep handy.  I learned most of mine when I was seven and eight and nine.
Best book:  TKM, which I read for the first time under the covers with a flashlight in fifth grade.  Although our ages differed, the three of us older kids were remarkably like Scout, Jem, and Dill, and my father remarkably like Atticus.  
Music:  The Beatles, the beginning of the major soundtrack of  my life.
Quote:  Mary Oliver's entire "Love Sorrow" poem from her book Red Bird. This has become one of my favorites in the past few years, but I see now that it serves as a narrative for my childhood.

Love sorrow. She is yours now, and you must
take care of what has been
given. Brush her hair, help her
into her little coat, hold her hand,
especially when crossing a street. For, think,

what if you should lose her? Then you would be
sorrow yourself; her drawn face, her sleeplessness
would be yours. Take care, touch
her forehead that she feel herself not so

utterly alone. And smile, that she does not
altogether forget the world before the lesson.
Have patience in abundance. And do not
ever lie or ever leave her even for a moment

by herself, which is to say, possibly, again,
abandoned. She is strange, mute, difficult,
sometimes unmanageable but, remember, she is a child.
And amazing things can happen. And you may see,

as the two of you go
walking together in the morning light, how
little by little she relaxes; she looks about her;
she begins to grow.



  1. As I read this post, I felt deep sorrow for the loss of your mother at such a young age. Then I felt sorrow that you went to camp so far from home and for such a long period of time; however, I sense that these were good summers for you. Life is so complex and so difficult at times. I wept for the sadness that you must have felt but the times with your brothers outside riding bikes and exploring resonated with me as I did the same with other children during my growing up years. The trips with your grandmother remind me of the impact that I can make on the lives of my grandchildren.

    If I were to say one thing (and obviously, I don't limit myself to one thing), I respect you for the way in which you have been the mother that you did not have for most of your life. How blessed are your children!

  2. Your life has truly been such a powerful mix of both bitter and sweet. You epitomize that old saying "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger", although the circumstances that you've had to face were not by choice. Your losses have been staggering.

  3. So much sorrow for such a little person...thankful for the camp and your grandmother and your adventurous brothers, all of whom showed you another side to life. You are a survivor, in so many ways.