Like The Queen
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Saturday, June 12, 2010  

35 Years Ago Today

I have always loved stories so it was the greatest disappointment in my young life when I started school and found I couldn't read. This was before anybody diagnosed learning disabilities in an exploding baby boomer world where good little girls who paid attention and answered questions in class were promoted anyway because there wasn't room in one class of 49 children to add another. With hope and a prayer I was promoted for 2 years while my wise kind mother coached my reading through endless horrible afternoons of School in Summer. Then suddenly, at about 8, all the neurons made the necessary new pathways in my brain and I could read. I went from not reading at all to chapter books, bypassing the easy picture books completely. And the first book I read was Laura Ingalls Wilder's LITTLE HOUSE IN THE BIG WOODS.

I am sure if the first real book I had read was MELISSA GOES TO THE MOON I would have become a rocket scientist but instead I spent most of my childhood fantasy life wishing I, too, had been a little pioneer girl. I read those books. I wrote fan mail to the author, (who, alas, had died the year before) and I made up games about riding my covered wagon across prairies, taking my dolls and animals along with me. And I wished wished wished I'd been born in 1852 instead of 1952.

I met BD in college - he had had a country upbringing and the stories he told of his adventures and freedom, and the confidence he carries with him to this day, that he gained from knowing his environment was a safe place, only cemented my belief that In The Country Is Better ... for me, at least. After a few years of city living one of us confessed to the other that we wanted to run away and live in our own little house in the big woods.

And so we did.

With no jobs waiting for us and no rural skills (though he always spoke so confidently about things that I believed he knew ALL about doing EVERYTHING. ) we picked a spot in rural Virginia, along the river, near where his mother had grown up. We camped in the woods for 2 months in the WWII buddy tent my father in law landed on Normandy Beach with. With hand tools and a campfire we built a cabin and cooked our meals. We had such adventures to rival Laura Ingalls Wilder herself; though there were no hostile Indians there were two escaped bank robbers "last seen walking north along Highway 17" which was scary enough to thrill the most fantasy filled mind. It rained for 40 days and 40 nights. We lost about 50 lbs between us that summer, since frequently the rain put out the cooking fire before the food was cooked and we sat in our car then, smoking cigarettes and working crossword puzzles.

But slowly and surely BD built us a wee little round cabin and I learned how to bake bread in a dutch oven over a campfire. And by September we had a floor, walls and a roof AND an old wood burning cookstove he'd found in Bertha Hayes' old cow shed and brought home to me in triumph. Though I come from many many MANY generations of city dwellers, I've never once regretted the move to the country. One year later we had our darling son. Three years later I was hired by the library board to type catalog cards. 35 years later we are here in our cozy home on the banks of the river with dogs at our feet and lives that enrich us and, we hope, our community.

I would love to go back and live it again, but I hardly think there's a thing I would change. Here's a photo of us, half-way through finishing that little house - with cousin Peter in between us.

and a few more

posted by Bess | 9:51 AM