Tag Archives: cottage

The Book List

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Today is my day off…kind of.

I have to clean, blanch, package and freeze a dozen quarts of green beans.

I have to bake a few dozen cookies.

There are phone calls and Emails to respond to.

This afternoon I will go make beds and clean floors at the farmhouse.

This evening I have a dinner engagement with family and friends.

May as well start the day quiet and slow, I think.

Over morning coffee and trips to the door to let the dogs out and in, I typed up my list of 62 Life-Altering Books. If you’re interested, you can find it under the “Books” tab.

“Life-altering” seems like a pretty strong term for some of the titles, but it is true in every case.  Often it was a matter of a particular book falling into my hands at just the right time. Perhaps  my my eyes were opened, my thoughts were altered or my ideas clarified. Maybe I learned something entirely new.  Sometimes it was the beginning of a long, on-going relationship with books in general, or with a particular author or field of study. The cookbooks I mention here are only a sampling of the ones I own and enjoy. The same for gardening and lifestyle books. I have gone on to read every single book by Mark Twain, Alice Walker, Louise Erdrich, Maxine Hong Kingston and Barbara Kingsolver, so the entries that made the list are only my favorite or most memorable.

I can already think of several books that should have made the list but didn’t.

Ah, well.

Putting it together brought back lots of memories.

Memories often lead to stories, don’t they? Here is one:

When I was a young mother living out in the country in a tiny cottage near a lake, my husband brought home The Exorcist. It was a brand new title, on several best-seller lists and getting a lot of press coverage. “Don’t read it…” I warned him, “too scary!” He laughed. Not having been raised in the Catholic faith, as I had been, it didn’t seem as real, as possible or as terrifying to him. He read it. “I will never read it,” I assured him.

When I married my husband Terry, he was in a band. It was pretty common back in the seventies for a few guys to get together and form a group, especially if one or more members could play an instrument. Terry and his cousin, Steve, both played guitar and sang. That was plenty reason enough to start up a band. It consisted of Terry, Steve and whoever else was around and interested. They got together once or twice a week to practice and to drink.

They never got any actual “gigs” so the “band” element kind of faded to the background. By the time my first daughter was born and we’d moved to the lake cottage, it was basically just a routine of Terry taking his guitar and going out drinking with the guys. Terry would leave right after supper – or sometimes even directly from work – and not get home until the bars closed. Shit-faced drunk.

Leaving me at home alone with an infant, no telephone, no car and no adult companionship. At least once a week.

It always resulted in a big argument which usually lasted over several days. It always ended with him swearing that he was finished with the band, done with going out with the guys, and that he’d quit drinking.

That lasted until the weekend.

The next argument was accelerated by the fact that he’d not only gone out drinking, but had broken his promise to me.

It amazes me to look back and know that this pattern of behaviors – on both of our parts – went on for years.

Anyway, one night after dinner, when we were young parents living in the country, Terry started telling me that Steve had a friend who played drums, and they wanted to just get together and see what they could do, music-wise, and he wouldn’t be late and he didn’t even think there would be beer there…and I said, “Sure, right, I’ve heard it all before,” and then the threat, “I swear, if you go, I’m going to read The Exorcist!”

“Don’t you dare…you can’t handle it!”

“Try me!”

He left.

I put the baby to bed, and read The Exorcist, cover to cover.

When Terry came home, sometime after 2AM, I was laying under the covers with my eyes wide open, with every single light in the house on, absolutely terrified.

Which he thought was completely hilarious, and which took the starch out of our usual battle.

He didn’t let it go, though. He continued teasing me, knowing how the story haunted me.

I plotted my revenge.

One particularly scary part had been the appearance of stigmata, as a sign from the devil.

One day, when Terry was relaxing after his shower in a pair of bib overhauls (it was the seventies, after all), I looked, alarmed, at his chest where there were a series of grommets and buttonholes on the front placket.

“What??”

“That wasn’t there before,” I said, pointing to one of the buttonholes.

“Oh, it was, too.” he said, “how else would it get there?”

“I don’t know…but remember that story…?”

He got a nervous look, but we let it go.

The next week, after laundry day, there was a new eyelet on the front placket.

I stared at it until he noticed, then just shook my head and walked away.

Two weeks later, there was a new buttonhole (that I stitched by hand, one night when he was out “with the band”)on the front.

When he put the bibs on, my eyes got wide. “Terry, that is new, I know it! What the hell?!”

When he looked, his eyes took on a look of terror. What followed is what his daughters and I have come to call a “Terry fit” with cursing and pounding walls and raging. He tore off the bib overhauls. I think he was prepared to burn them, until he caught the look on my face.

“Gotcha!”

He never teased me about The Exorcist again!

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This old shoe is one of a pair that – tied together by their old, worn laces – hang from the knob on my studio door.

By today’s standards, they are pretty simple – though badly worn out – sneakers.

When they were new, back in the summer of 1972, they were glorious!

White canvas with red and blue vinyl accents, thick white laces, rounded toes. When plain white tennis shoes were the norm, these seemed very special to me.

I had recently become a mother, which changed my life and altered my perceptions more than anything else, ever! It filled my head with ideas. It spurred me to become the best person I could possibly be. My little family had moved to a cottage on Lake Pleasant. My husband and I had big plans for remodeling and modernizing it, for using it as our home base as we raised our family and traveled the world, one adventure after another. I had taken over a corner of the front porch as an area to make art.

I saw myself as a young wife, good mother, creative person, all-good-things-await optimist…with a little hippie, flower-child funkiness thrown in for good measure.

These shoes underlined that image.

I wore them with jeans and shorts and sundresses. I wore them as an irreverent touch with dress slacks. I wore them as I walked with my little daughter as she took her first steps…and for many steps afterward. I wore them as I took my first baby-steps into thinking of myself as an artist.

I wore them until the rubber soles lost their tread and cracked, until the canvas was in shreds, until my perfect little life with all of its “happy ever after” had proven itself to be an average life, with normal struggles.

I’ve lost or tossed away many of the plans and dreams I had as that young optimist.

I never could bring myself to throw away the shoes.