My grandfather would have been harvesting asparagus just about now. He maintained that special garden plot on the esker beside the New York, New Haven and Hartford railroad tracks; the esker being the high place on the old farm.
That high place was our special place where our childlike imaginations were freed to roam, flower and bloom. We often played western cowboys there while dreaming ourselves across an imagined western landscape and galloping on imaginary horses as kids do at play. The large cluster of stones upon the esker was always the ranch; the pretend horse coral shared the same space and we’d tie our horses and sit on those same stones to stare out across the corn and potato field toward South Main Street and the old Dodgeville fire barn and talk the dear conversations of childhood…without a hint of societal intervention.
The little vernal pool below the esker is the singular place where I alone one day discovered the mystery of fairy shrimp and never understanding till I was an adult, the complexity of those tiny delicate creatures and what they represent in the larger scheme of Creation.
Our grandmother picked wild wetland blueberries out back in the heat of summer and in the cooler house, rolled and culled the berries on an old clean terry towel placed flat upon the kitchen table as she coaxed the good berries into a large glazed bowl sitting upon her lap. Those same berries were placed gingerly into wooden veneer berry boxes, carefully covered with wax paper and secured with an elastic for our grandfather to sell door-to-door between the Farm and the center of Attleboro – he had developed during the years a following of select and appreciative customers, not only for the berries, but for all the other good local farm produce he grew in season – a differing variation of the farmer market concept today.
Below the pine lined bridge ramp, our sunken shady green lawn with the Concord grape arbor and fringe covered glider swing beside the ancient black cherry tree hosted our many large family summer picnics usually concluded with a batch of our aunt’s fresh homemade strawberry ice cream. We all took turns gliding on the swing with our grandparents.
The old farm house was where our new babies met our grandmother as she cooed and sang French songs of endearment, a standard family right of passage. And while our holiday dinners were sumptuously good beyond description, the house burst with good smells and varied good company.
Our grandparents obtained the old place sometime before World War Two – the property was abandoned and they homesteaded the ninety acre farm on a short budget and nursed it to wellness. We, as children, experienced the better part of the deal.
Others own the place today and its being repurposed. The familiar contoured landscape and special places as kids are no more, but for memories. Our beloved landscape, bulldozed; my tiny vernal was isolated and sterile looking as I quietly visited yesterday for a precious few moments to say good bye.
As kids, we did hard turns with our sleds on the frozen vernal pond surface having glided down the esker slope between trees. No more.
I’m told the old house interior was gutted and made new. Mercifully, I never saw that part as the vintage house interior also had its unique and personally favorite contours. The dwelling now sits alone and isolated appearing as some kind of benign business office and having once served as our collective family “command center” and never to be forgotten, our fresh warm cozy beds at night.
I grieved deeply through the night for our cherished and shared family loss.