An envisioning . . . 1944 in Ossining, New York and three AM.

Oh to be here.

The house silent but for the occasional scrape as the branches from the tree by the living room window brush up against the house. Another mug of a tea and a wait.

Baby due back on the funny milk train by dawn. Date with one of the soldiers and a meet up under the clock in front of the Plaza.  Dinner somewhere, a show and the night danced away near Broadway. A little much but the boy off for Boston and a convoy setting out for England to fight in the war.

But fun. Might as well have some fun out of it. Entire counties with no one for girls to date and Manhattan at least with some. Boston swarming it must be but almost as good.

Different back then at least sort of. Men gone in that war too but not going on as long except for in the newspapers that Father read at breakfast every morning. Headlines that were bad but enough boys around anyway at least sort of.

But not before. No, high school and three or four beaux. Boys to play tennis with and boys to sit in the balcony at the movies with and make Mother mad.

But a special one. Gotten in one of those trenches just before the Germans gave up but not forgotten. No. Handsome and nice and would have been worth waiting until the entire galaxy turned to paper, not just the moon.

But a memory and that to keep. . . .Saturday in a canoe with mother’s old parasol and up and down the river. . . .if only . . . a few hours but forever in one’s heart . . . safe there it is . . . .too bad he couldn’t stay there and never get hurt . . .

Canoeing on the Bronx River, Bronx Park, New York.
Canoeing on the Bronx River, Bronx Park, New York. 1915. Vintage postcard. via Facebook.

An envisioning . . 2002 and an afternoon to while away.

Oh to be there.

Michigan and right on the lake. Motel room in a thunderstorm. Only a week’s vacation but that cousin struck by lightning and killed.  Better to stay inside and the umbrella likely to turn inside out just going to the dining room for lunch.

Balcony with a railing with round things made to look like the rings on a lifeguard’s tower but somehow looking more like white Lifesavers candy in the bottom of a Christmas stocking.

Movies to watch and books to read. Cards to play with one’s husband if he isn’t busy napping. But not the same to him. No, from out west and nothing mid-west for a memory.

But yes. Picked up at the end of camp and driven around to various places until school started. Two at a time and all the time in the world with both grandparents. Parents at home with the others but not having to go there until school starts. Someone else’s turn next year. Another turn the summer after that.

A different restaurant every day and television until it went off instead of being turned off and being made to go to bed. Endless change for the soda machine and fun all day.

But a postcard falling out of the pocket in the bottom of the overnight case. Something to keep and remember, it was.  . . not knowing it was the last time . . . some things it’s better not to know. . .

Moderne Court Motel. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Vintage postcard.
Moderne Court Motel. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Vintage postcard. via Facebook.

An envisioning . . . 1910 and Three Kings Day winding down in the house outside Havana . . .

Oh to be here.

Cuba for Christmas and a palm tree covered with glass bells and garlands of berries. The neighbors all with something else but all of them from somewhere else. Grandfather having fled Prussia when everything went crazy in 1848. From Berlin, not Madrid like half the neighborhood.

Midnight mass and enough presents to wrap around the house twice if not three times. Three cases worth from the cousins in London and one from the ones in Saint Petersburg.

No one small needing amusing. A tribe of children, not just two, and enough toys for each one to play with something different every day. Skinned knees from climbing the banyan trees while someone small enough to fit between the roots has a doll tea party under it with frangipani for sofa cushions and poinsettia for plates.

Bookshelf of romances to read through. One about a girl who ends up in Malta and another about someone in Johannesburg. Grandmother’s, they are. Must be a memory thing. Not a single one about anyone who stayed put.

Book put down and the armoire instead. A bit cold and a shawl. But something leaning up in the back with the brown paper they always use. Someone done up as cupid with the little wings. Grandfather’s uncle as a little one, it says on the back.

Funny . . . all those scandals . . .loose women, gambling and who knows what, but before that of course. . .last one on earth to be cupid but no one knew . . .

Prince Boris Nikolayevich Yusupov  as Cupid. ca. 1800.
Prince Boris Nikolayevich Yusupov as Cupid. ca. 1800. Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun, artist (1755-1842). In the public domain. via

An envisioning . . . 1939 and the house on Long Island.

Oh to be here.

Aunt Lily’s house and the Fourth of July weekend about to arrive. So many cookouts and picnics that no one can even envision a potato not coated in mayonnaise with celery stuck in it.

Cousin after cousin and summer friend. A new apartment each year, almost, but auntie’s house always the same.

The grownups sitting around talking about the stock market and war in Europe.

Not child things. No, children meant to have fun and turn brown in the sun and sit staring at the island off the beach until your eyes feel funny.

Screen door banging, and a path nearly worn in the linoleum back and forth to the refrigerator. Case after case of soda in the back porch and uncle saying he should just get his own coke machine. Funny, says that every summer but he never does. A teasing for otherwise he surely would.

A trip to the store for fireworks and then another at a different store. Father liking to set them off for hours and no one about to sell that many at one time. Buy twenty Catherine wheels and just as many skyrockets if he could.

Someone to row everyone around in the rowboat and another somebody to organize a game of hide and seek with every other boy or girl up and down the beach.

Everyone in their bathing suit and two days in the sand after before anyone has to go home on Sunday. Over then but a postcard from the store at the end of the beach where you can walk in barefoot and walk out with summer. . .the sun shining forever and a day till the end of time . . .who needs more . . .

Beach and lake, South Valley Stream State Park, Long Island, New York. 1930-1945.
Beach and lake, South Valley Stream State Park, Long Island, New York. 1930-1945. Vintage postcard. In the public domain. Tichnor Brothers Collection. via and


An envisioning. . . 2016 and the family compound on Mount Desert Island.

Oh to be here.

Maine with summer coming in and a sunset to want to sink into the sea with. Water still so cold even the children run in and out.

Pastures with blueberries and deer that roam through the mist. Fisher cats that come up on the porch when no one’s looking and bears somewhere one doesn’t want to look.

Cousins in every house and living out of each other’s pockets. The only way to live, really. Husbands very nice but not the same.

Someone you sat in a playpen with to watch the world go by. Fought over the same turkey drumstick at the same children’s table every Thanksgiving in Grandmother’s apartment on Central Park West. February in the southwest and ponies to race into the sun.

Boarding school and then finished at ecoles in Switzerland. Young men in London and more in Rome and finally one that stuck. Two houses of one’s own in Connecticut but Maine being home.

Great grandmother’s big house up in Bar Harbor gone after the war. Five maids needed and no one wanting to be a maid anymore, at least not there. But the move south and three houses now instead of just the one. Nicer views, too. Old house looking out at a twin with a matching porch and these staring out at sea.

Lunch a bit late and the framed pictures on the mantelpiece taken down. On the wall with Cousin Patricia in those sailor outfits that everyone wore for best. A great aunt’s birthday, it had been.

Fun it was. . . running across the lawn while the grownups drank their cocktails . . . but oh no . . . .Patricia riding into the goldfish pond on her bicycle and the mothers running . . . .that part not fun for sure but a memory for later to last one’s whole life long.


Peregrine Andrew Cavendish, 12th Duke of Devonshire and Lady Emma Tennant (detail). 1951.
Peregrine Andrew Cavendish, 12th Duke of Devonshire and Lady Emma Tennant (detail). 1951. Photo credit: Norman Parkinson. © Norman Parkinson Archive. Fair use license. via

An envisioning. . . . railway into London and a bright summer day in 1915.

Oh to be there.

Up early and a big breakfast downstairs with Mama instead of upstairs in the nursery. A housemaid called up for war work and another one off to become a nurse. Not enough help to carry trays all the way up anymore.

Food like Sunday in Devon at the big hotel. Bacon, kippers and all that with a little bowl of oatmeal somewhere but easy to ignore.

Mother’s parasol fetched and out the door to wait for Papa to bring up the car. Off to the station and into London.

A treat. Home mostly. Papa needing the car and the army having taken all the horses to send off to France. Cabs yes, but not for a child. No, for a Christmas fete at the church perhaps but otherwise a pair of sturdy boots and one foot before another. That and girls all right until they stuff you in a corset. A cab then at least if there’s a beau around.

But everything fine. No rain for a treat and little brother bouncing on the seat. A new elephant house and maybe a giraffe. Lunch at the café inside and home when it begins to get dark.

But a stop at the shop at the gate and a postcard. The gate and all trees and sky.

Something to keep forever  . . .a treat day and a memory made to live forever and ever in your heart . . .

"London - the Zoo - Main Entrance." Vintage postcard.
“London – the Zoo – Main Entrance.” Vintage postcard. via

An envisioning . . . 1950 and the old castle outside Innsbruck.

Oh to be here.

February and a skiing holiday. Slopes in the morning with the children,  fires to sit before all afternoon and cocktail parties every night.

Family friends not seen since before the war and some for not longer than that. Everyone shuffled from one house and country to another. Indeed, countries remade. At least two cousins ending up citizens of places that never existed except in someone’s head.

Interesting but hard, too. A new line where east meets west and places, things and people forever gone. Three estates and a place on the Dalmatian coast but only the ones in Innsbruck and Vienna left, the one up on the Baltic near Wittenbeck where Grandmother and her brothers and sisters learned to swim and sail forever gone. House still there but half-wrecked someone wrote and said.

But the people the same even if the rest isn’t. Old stories to share and the occasional manservant left to wax the skis.

Silver cocktail shakers shaped like penguins from when everyone had a hip flask before the rest of the money began to go.

A little left but only a squeak and a smile. Debutante daughters but in gowns from the shop instead of the dressmaker and a shared dinner at the big hotel. The same townhouse and the same dining room but half the silver gone and not wanting anyone to know. Impossible. The money needed to pay taxes. Two houses needed. Impossible to hold one’s head up otherwise.

Standing up a bit wobbly, but the photograph over the mantelpiece with the wolf’s head going all the way up to the ceiling taken down. A young man. Funny. All girls in the family but no. A memory. Great uncle’s godson. A little older but went to dancing school with the others. Must have not had too many dancing schools that year or he’d have learned to waltz somewhere else.

But a martini and another and another. Fuzzy enough and anything could be true. . .lost in time and the war against the tsar . .might have come back and gotten married . . . who knows . . . .better if you don’t.

Crown Prince Wilhelm of Prussia, eldest son of Kaiser Wilhelm II.
Crown Prince Wilhelm of Prussia, eldest son of Kaiser Wilhelm II. via Facebook.