Ok, maybe we weren’t the bravest kids, but we were pretty amazing. When we were young and all going to the same school, which only occurred one year, 1968, we thought my mother was being held in our attic by some bad guy, and we came to her rescue. Or thought we were.
My mother worked as a seamstress/tailor for a while when we were small. She sewed at home in the bedroom she shared with my father, on a little Singer sewing machine. She made clothes for us and herself as well and really had a passion for sewing. She carried that passion throughout life. When she got older she did a cable craft show demonstrating how to make teddy bears and sold stuffed animals and quilts at crafts fairs, and even the sheep shearing festival in Andover.
Heroes with a rustic background
Our house was very…. “rustic” (some would say a shack), with lots of dirt and dust coming up through the floorboards (we had no foundation, and if you dropped a quarter between the wooden slats it would hit dirt just a foot or so beneath). The air indoors was also a bit sooty from the kerosene heater we had in our living room. To avoid getting any of the clothes she was working on dirty, she kept all the beautiful dresses and suits zipped up in garment bags in my parents’ bedroom closet. This room also functioned as the dressing room for her clients, and the sewing room. Except in winter when it would get extremely cold in there. During those times, she’d sew on the kitchen table.
Auditory Hallucinations – Not Fun!
But that work took up a lot of her time, and at one point, with the stress of her clients, and having to make extra money so she and my father could make ends meet, she had a breakdown of sorts. She was hearing loud buzzing like planes flying overhead and couldn’t handle us making any sound at all. I remember her getting down on the floor, behind our couch, and telling my father he’d need to call a doctor.
Four kids playing in just two rooms in the house, (other than the bedrooms in the attic and her sewing room/bedroom off the kitchen) and the stress of one lady suddenly needing her suit by Saturday, and another wanting the darts in her dress redone just so, and repairs coming in from the dry cleaners regularly, it was just a lot for her (it would be for anyone). So, she sent back everything she was working on. I’m sure the apologies and the having to admit she just couldn’t do it was even tougher.. She regretfully took a break for a while. But bills pile up and the break couldn’t last for long.
Cosmetics Rule the World
So, she took a job with Fashion Two Twenty, selling makeup. According to Boutsy.com, they were founded the day John Glenn was launched into orbit around the earth! Talk about another brave soul. And my mother was brave, too. She was a shy girl growing up, and soft-spoken. She didn’t get the chance to go to college and study psychiatry, which was her hope. Instead, because my grandmother wanted her to continue working for the family printing business, she met with clients in Boston and handled sales as well as running a Black Pearl printer back at the shop, printing business cards, menus, and calling cards. The good thing is, she learned sales, and how to manage accounts. It came in handy running her own business. She was brave to get out there and sell makeup though, something she really didn’t wear.
When she sold makeup, she’d practice on us (yes, even my brothers if they’d sit still long enough) and then in the evening she’d go to makeup lady meetings or deliver makeup to people, or go to random people’s houses or church halls to do makeup demonstrations. She did quite well with makeup sales and won a beautiful crystal punch bowl and a dozen tiny punch glasses, a crystal and gold necklace, earring and bracelet set (which I still have), and she got to carry around a beautiful blush-beige makeup case. It looked like the ones we saw women in the movies carry, with a padded leather handle and inside it had little compartments for all the different products. It was like the Avon lady but a bit more modern, and a bit less southern than Mary Kay.
Where could she have gone?
My mother didn’t have a lot of friends. She and my father rarely went out together. I think I remember a babysitter being at the house once or twice. My friend Donna’s older sister, Marcia was one of them. They lived just down the street, and Marcia was probably 3 years older than me. But that’s how babysitting ran. A kid that was old enough to make us listen, and young enough not to charge more than a couple dollars an hour.
My mother would visit occasionally with a few of our neighbors. Usually that included Mrs. Silvia, who lived a few houses down from us and had lived there well before the new houses were built in our front property. My grandfather sold off chunks of the apple orchard for houses in the early 60s. We hung out with the nine Silvia kids regularly and even had chickenpox or measles parties with them, so we could all be sick together. But both women had a gang of kids to worry about, so visiting wasn’t a regular thing.
She also visited Irene across the street, who lived with her brother. They worked at Abbott’s shoe factory in town until it was closed down to make room for a little strip mall. But the shoe store stayed. They both belonged to the Pocahontas Club, and had club friends they hung out with. My mother told us that was a group of local native americans who hung out together and shared a lineage. Not sure if that’s true, but I always assumed the club was in Lynnfield, not far from us. There was a Pocahontas Spring there, and the Pocahontas Tavern for a short while after I was born, but it was torn down to make way for a subdivision in the 70s. Anyway, Irene and her brother Georgie had known my father and my grandfather for decades, and we saw them off and on in my childhood. Irene babysat us occasionally after school.
My mother also hung out with my friend Susan’s mom. The Smiths lived just up the street a half-mile or so; Susan, David, Robin, Karen and Krista. We’d go to their house to pick blueberries, they’d come to ours to play in the woods, and go fishing. But my mother didn’t often spend time during the week with any of them. She’d either be out working (and leave a key under the mat for us, or tell us to go to Irene’s house for a while) or she’d be home. So the afternoon that we got off the school bus and walked up our driveway to the house only to find an open back door, and my mother not right there in the kitchen was a shock.
Looking for my mother
We wandered through the barns on the property. Maybe she was cleaning, organizing or putting more things out in those huge old dusty barns. We called to her in the house, but we didn’t want to go upstairs because for some reason, we thought maybe she’d been kidnapped, and someone had her tied up in one of the attic bedrooms. I know, I know, but that’s where kids’ minds went in the 60s.
I remember playing cops and robbers in our front yard, and Irene’s niece Linda would come over to play for a while. She was a few years older, and she had discovered this amazing phrase, “Cheezit, the cops!”
For some reason, the girls always played the bad guys and the boys would play the cops. So Linda, my sister and I would lie hidden in a plot of blueberry bushes, or behind a boulder and eventually, the boys would discover us and “Cheezit the cops!” would ring out and we’d run to the front steps to tag them and be safe. A creative way to play hide and seek with a twist for sure. Wow where did that random memory come from?
But what happened to our mother?
On that random school day, this was no game. Our mother was gone, there was no note, and she’d left the backdoor wide open to the yard. What could have happened? We needed to figure out how to save her.
My father had brought back some ceremonial swords from WWII. Another instance of bravery. Whether he’d grabbed them from a bombed-out museum in Germany somewhere, or looted them from a house, or took them off a dead soldier, we didn’t know. But they were hung decoratively over our couch in the living room, over a big dutch double window that opened out onto our porch. That was our answer, we’d grab the swords, the biggest dictionary we’d ever seen (which sat on our bookcase in the living room), and a big couch cushion. We were going to storm the attic.
A silent attack
We whispered as we crossed the living room and tiptoed towards the stairs. At the bottom, we threw one of my father’s work shoes against the door at the top to pop it off the magnet that held it shut. We ran screaming up the stairs, brandishing unsheathed swords, the giant dictionary, and the other shoe. “Let our mother go!!!” But we arrived to empty bedrooms.
Suddenly, downstairs we heard her voice as she came into the house. “What’s all the noise?”
Fear turns quickly to laughter, thankfully!
We laughed in relief as we came down the stairs to explain what had happened. She laughed, too, and promised us that she was fine. She’d just been down the street visiting, and she guaranteed us that next time, she would leave us a note, and make sure to close the back door. I think after that, at least until I was in high school, she was always home when our bus dropped us off at the end of the driveway.
Be brave – Eat ice cream!
But speaking of bravery, I decided to be brave and try another ice cream today. We loved the one I did a few weeks ago with Golden Milk. This one takes advantage of lemon thyme. Because at this time of year, when we remember the brave men who founded our country, and when we recognize the little braveries we each display when it’s least expected, we should be able to celebrate with ice cream! But why not be brave and try a new flavor?
Lemon Thyme Ice Cream
- 1 cup fat-free milk
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream, chilled
- 1 tsp lemon flavoring
- 2 TB lemon zest
- 1 TB lemon thyme leaves
- In a medium sized saucepan over medium heat, mix sugar, milk, lemon thyme and lemon zest together, and stir occasionally until bubbles start forming around the edge of the pan.
- While milk mixture is heating, beat the egg in a small bowl
- When milk has started to bubble, remove from the heat and pour 1/2 cup of hot mixture into beaten egg, whisking constantly to prevent the egg from curdling or cooking.
- Once combined, stir the egg mixture back into the milk mixture in the warm pan. Increase heat to medium, and continue to cook and stir until mixture has thickened slightly. Usually 2 – 3 minutes.
- Remove from heat and transfer to a metal bowl, and allow to cool slightly, then place in refrigerator to cool completely, at least 2 hours.
- Once completely cooled, whisk in whipping cream, and lemon flavoring.
- Pour into your ice cream maker and follow instructions. Once done, transfer to a freezer container and allow to finish setting/chilling.
For some reason this recipe chilled really fast in my ice cream maker. If you want to add anything else, you should wait until the machine has finished it’s work. I would suggest chocolate chips, small blueberries, or even crushed, toasted hazelnuts. We’re planning on having ours with blueberry shortcake tomorrow! I can’t wait.