An envisioning . . . 1930, Orrs Island, Maine and summer coming in.

Oh to be here.

July beginning and the tourists turning up looking for lobsters. The sun the same but the rest not. Well, a village here, too, but by the sea, not a forest.

Someone who fishes instead of someone who logs and no one even knowing what a smoke jumper is. Funny, trees all over Maine but not the catching fire every summer and burning up kind.

Brothers in law that work up in Bar Harbor for the rich people in the summer instead of growing wheat near Deer Park. Nieces that are maids and children’s nurses at the big summer hotels, the ones where they come up from New York and Boston to stay until the leaves on the trees start to change.

But all right. Life changing in an instant. Fellow out in Spokane just out of the service and visiting someone. Waiting for the bus and ended up on a date with the same fellow after sitting on the same bench. City Hall, a baby, and New England with a New England husband.

All right but yet . . . no mountains or fields of wheat . . .lobsters that jump out of the sea and fish that swim towards shore . . .but mountains in one’s mind . . . all that really matters . . .

"View of entrance to beautiful Manito Park, Spokane, Washington State.
“View of entrance to beautiful Manito Park, Spokane, Washington State. Vintage postcard. via

This is not my story. It is the story, rather, of my friend Georgia C. Growing up in rural Washington State in the 1930’s she met her husband who was out there in the army, followed him east and never lived near her childhood home again except for numerous visits.


An envisioning . . . 1936 and New York’s Finger Lakes in spring.

Oh to be here.

College dorm in late spring and finals soon to begin. But a sunny day and those there are never too many of. No, better a Saturday spent with the girls down the hall having a picnic with frozen fingers from retrieving the beer on its string under the water. Only the gym teacher who likes to hike around the edge to get mad and him off to some conference for the weekend.

Hot dogs roasted on sticks in the fireplace at the edge of campus, and a few pickles swiped from the dining hall. Ground still muddy in places but what boots are for. But dry patches to spread out blankets and all the books back on the desks.

Wildflowers to wander around and look for but no hoop rolling required. Not like those more famous women’s’ colleges where you have to put flowers in your hair and do things that would make anyone’s boyfriend cringe if he could see.

Life later and men and children to tend but all right for now. . . just oneself to look after. . .friends for the day and friends forever all one’s life long. . .

Students at Georgia State Women's College (Valdosta State University) having a picnic in 1938.
Students at Georgia State Women’s College (Valdosta State University) having a picnic. 1938 yearbook picture. Image © Valdosta State University Archives and Special Collections. Fair use license. via



An envisioning . . . 1960 and the house on Skye on a summer’s afternoon.

Oh to be here.

A good visit with Grandmama and the children having fun. Easier. Townhouse in London and Christmas but everyone stuck inside most of the time. Not like the island in July with something new to explore every day and islets to row out to for picnics.

A treat. The job ended and the next one yet to start. Hard what with the interviews and all but more time at least for a while. No jobs in Skye at least not for that sort of thing and a hacking outfit worn each day instead of a suit and pearls and a nervous attack each time the interviewer opens his mouth. No little white gloves, either. Part of life in London but hands free here. Funny. Everyone else liking them but so itchy they always are. But something ladies need at least in the big places.

Time to breathe free and rest. Well, almost free. Grandmama needing help going through things in the back maid’s room to make room for a nanny for the smallest grandchildren. Box after box of who knows what, only one maid for decades and the other room allowed to fill up.

Three hours until tea and time to begin. Some fizzy pop and a deep breath as dust rises into the air from the portfolios stacked in a heap.

But something fun. Two boys and a picture from way back.

Grandmother’s uncle it must be or a cousin. . . hard to know . . . not living all that long in the end. One taken at Rooiwai fighting the Boers and another drowned getting drunk and falling off a bridge near Victoria Falls. . . .far away yes but home now . . .all that counts.

Photograph of Tsarevich Nicholas and his brother Grand Duke George.
Photograph of Tsarevich Nicholas and his brother Grand Duke George. 1889. Albumen print. Sergey Levitsky, photographer. Image © Royal Collection Trust. Fair use license. via

An envisioning . . . .1931 and the train to Denver for a summer’s visit.

Oh to be here. Train from Elmira to Chicago and then another for home. Nurse in tow but a husband that has to work. Better, in a way, Mother not being that fond of him and he not liking hiking out at the house in Buffalo Creek. Good at making money and all that but not an outdoor kind of fellow though one who always looks swell in a Brooks Brothers shirt.

But all right. Both boys in the bottom bunk and nurse in the top. Old enough they are. Not like the last time. Only one but that one but still nursing and having to be all together.

No, grown-up time this way and a break in the club car and visit with the other ladies. All from out West not East, they are. Funny. So many going out there to the consumption places you’d think there’d be one or two. Must be running their own trains. Not like those trips to go grandparent visiting on Lake Erie when school got out. No, people hacking up and down the car and mother with endless masks and fretting.

A day out of Chicago and another one or two but worth it. Fresh air to breathe that gets cold at night and no lakes for people to try to make someone swim in. No, too many lakes now and no mountains.

But still. Happy and a memory. . . enough money to come every other year and a sister to love . . .all that counts. . .

Club car on the Union Pacific train Columbine which served Denver and Chicago via Omaha. Launched in the 1920's it survived until 1950.
Club car on the Union Pacific train Columbine which served Denver and Chicago via Omaha. Launched in the 1920’s it survived until 1950. Vintage postcard. via

This is not my story. It is, rather, the story of my grandmother Genevieve P. New York born she was raised in Denver but married a fellow New Yorker and so would take her boys on the train west to visit her family every few years.

An envisioning . . . 2015 and the cottage in Sippewissett.

Oh to be here.

Summer come around again in all its glories. A different house rented but almost the same as the other. Row of cottages up a dirt lane from the road and the one at the other end.

But the same porches and Edwardian everything. Like one of those great camps up near Canada that they talked about in the old days at the estate on Long Island. All wood other than the glass in the windows with no stone or at least not where one could see. The same wood wrapping around just about everything outside but made out of driftwood, not tree branches that had grown around rocks.

But camping in. Parlor with a kitchen behind, stairs so steep they could break your neck and two bedrooms up at the top. A tiny dining room with enough room for a doll family to sit and eat but that not mattering. No, together. Impossibly hard, grandchildren that lived around the edge of all seven seas and every airport in creation seemingly visited while making their way to Cape Cod.

But all right. Two weeks with everyone and the rest of the summer to research for the new book. Big advance from the people in New York but getting going a bit complicated. Crate after crate of papers about grandfather before he got old and famous and a need to spread the contents out over every inch of floor space.

But the smallest opened. Half the bed it takes up but a start. Old letters with drawings of childhood homes and pictures of long-dead pets whose names no one knows. But a photograph down near the bottom. All dressed up like a ring boy in a wedding next to enough flowers to fill a florist’s shop.

Hair the wrong color. . .great uncle it must be. . .Easter maybe or perhaps dancing school . . . unlucky with the ladies and divorce after divorce but no way to know then . . . happy in the moment. . . all one has.

Prince Albrecht of Bavaria.
Prince Albrecht of Bavaria. Photograph ca. 1913. F. Grainer, Munich photographer. via

Envisioning itself is wrapped around the photograph. The location with the row of Edwardian cottages is based on a summer house my friend Lynne L. lived in one summer many years ago.

An envisioning . . . 1970 and an afternoon with the sun blazing away in Houston.

Oh to be here.

Texas and sun as hot as it ever gets but a cooling spot on the back porch swing.

Air conditioning inside beckoning but not yet. Bad ankles and bad who knows what. Easier to let one’s mind drift somewhere more fun in the heat. Drowsiness making, it is, and a perfect place to spin memories into dreams.

Maid bringing out a glass of sweet tea and a cookie. Turn around the back yard like the doctor says. Better just to sit no matter what they say but half the family on the other side of the windows and likely to say something later. Three walks past the flower beds they want, but the other two easy to stretch the truth about.  No one else up at dawn and the dog not going to tell.

But not understanding. No, more fun to think about before. Miles to run and dances at the big hotels on Saturday night. Dancing school before that with boys that stomp on one’s feet but something shining back there behind a wall of frocks with silk sashes with fringe that kissed one’s heels.

Summer at auntie’s in Galveston, it was, the year before the hurricane washed it away. But no one knowing it then .  . . .no a little girl, her doll and a new hat for her birthday . . .a cake and ice cream future shining and a wish for the extra candle . . . . not gotten of course what with the beach gone but still . . . not knowing it then and that being all that counts . . .

Princess Ingrid of Sweden as a child. ca. 1913.
Princess Ingrid of Sweden as a child. ca. 1913. Photograph in the public domain due to age. via

An envisioning . . .1970 and the house in Fargo with dusk closing in.

Oh to be here.

A North Dakota summer and it staying light forever. Dark eventually but plenty of time after supper for all the grandbabies to play outside until the streetlights go on. A treat for them it is, so bundled up most of the time.

So far north and what they are used to. Funny. Strange looks with every story about the house on Dauphin Island.

Alabama and far more golden sunshine it was. Outside all day year round and no winter coat. Indeed, barely knowing what wool was, what with living in a place so warm even sheets were too hot to sleep under by Easter.

But a tall, dark and handsome man wildcatting in the bayou and life changing. Following work instead of the sun and ending up by Canada. Impossible. Home still by a warm and shining sea but a family used to snow and ice and not about to move. Something about needing snow boots to feel normal.

But pictures in the bottom of the jewelry box to look through when it gets to be too much and memories coming back. The baby brother that died in Okinawa in that last charge up some hill or other and Mother. Morning at the beach and a picnic on the running board with sand in the deviled eggs and a mason jar of sweet tea.

Something to cling to . . .maybe next summer . . .maybe the one after . . .but under the rings and a safe place to live forever  . . .

Lunch on the running boards. Texas, 1929.
Lunch on the running boards. Texas, 1929. via Facebook.