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Remember?

By Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond

Nan_GhanaYou don’t remember when we first met. That’s how it is. The remembered don’t remember every encounter. But I will never forget.

You were a dream. The embodiment of my other life. An apparition from my other world.

You took me home to light-skinned(ed) jealousies, ashy skin scandals and nappy hair concerns. Nah-a-latas and bomb pops burning chemical color on my tongue. Trains tagged with graffiti, the lights blinking the cars black. Running home through the obstacle course of dudes in their cars and doorways, on the streets, looking to snatch up little girls.

I wanted to be your friend.

In that prison of pubescent cruelty and misunderstandings as old as the reasons our parents left Ghana, I knew we could be more than allies.

You weren’t from London. You hadn’t traveled outside. You were from around the way. Sort of. I represented Queens. You was raised out in Brooklyn.

‘Member how we used to listen to that kiddie Walkman?  You had one broken ear, and I had the other; sounds of home sending waves of longing and laughter they couldn’t understand.

Aaaction! (Cast your bottom out.) Punks jumping up to get beat down. Doro-tee and Dan! You and Nan.

To the people who called us ‘dears’: Shut the f–k up witchore stink ass breff.

Kwasia! Abua! Anyεn! I envied you for not understanding the acid rain of insults.

Nanaykweah, talk to your friend, oh. 

And I would.

And we settled into us. You wil’ing. Me preaching. You crying. Me comforting. Our roles, like molds, had been cast and they would become a fungus.

But back to our first meeting. The one you don’t remember.

I had heard about you. Heard you kicked that ass. And that she kicked yo’ ass. The winner varied with the teller. All I knew was them bitches was luck-key I had given my life to Christ. New creature. New Nan. ‘Cause Old Nan woulda taken one of them three-legged chairs in the chapel to their evil.

You were a bridge, I suppose, between Old and New. The Tri-borough. The Verazzano. The Kosciousko. One of ‘em. All of ‘em.

Years later, when our molds had covered us over, you asked me if all we had were memories. Was it true? Maybe.

Yes, our laughter had dried to inside jokes and dated references about girls we no longer were, but we were strong enough to make new memories. I know we were. We just needed a mold removal system. But I guess it was less threatening to remember. So we forgot what we meant to each other.

Sometimes, though, I still remember. And I know you do too.

Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond is the author of the novel Powder Necklace and founder of the blog People Who Write. Follow her on Twitter.

 

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Shirley Temples

TGreenwoodPic#3

by T. Greenwood

 

This is the dim place,

the dark place where

my friend T’s

parents sat sipping

serious dark drinks in

heavy sweaty glasses

and the waitress

kept bringing

us girls Shirley Temples.

It was the first time

I’d ever tasted grenadine.

 

All afternoon,

we sat in the booth

that looked out at parked trucks

and, across the way, an abandoned

strip mall. It was snowing.

The sky gray, like nighttime.

 

We were supposed to be

Christmas shopping.

But T’s parents

had wanted to stop

for a drink along the way.

So here we were,

at this steakhouse on Rte 5,

where kids were allowed inside

until after dinner when it turned

into a bar. They even had placemats

with a map of Vermont to color. Tiny

packages of waxy crayons to trace

the fragile lines of a Maple leaf maze.

 

We never made it to Zayre’s or Ames,

the places T’s parents said we were

going. I put my plastic purse filled

with the money I’d saved

in my Christmas Club

at the Lyndonville Savings bank

on the table next to my drink.

I remember T’s lips

were maraschino cherry stained.

 

Outside, the gray slowly turned

to black, and it kept snowing.

The snowflakes catching

in the streetlights

like a negative of dust

in a ray of sunshine.

 

Finally, they decided it was time

to go, and we got in the car, I thought

to head home. But T’s mother

wanted to stop at the liquor store

first. Laughter and cracked vinyl seats.

Neon lights and the heavy door moaned

open. In the parking lot,

T’s mother bent over, crumpled

like a brown paper lunch sack

and vomited on a snow bank.

T and I sat in the back

seat, staring at our hands.

 

We went somewhere else then,

to a house where people were finishing

dinner, relatives, I think, and I asked

to use the phone to call home.

When my mother answered,

her voice was swollen.

Where are you? my father demanded

on the other line. But I was only nine,

and I didn’t know the names

of any of the roads

that had taken us here.

Put T’s father on, he said.

 

At home, that night,

the porch light glowed strange

and waiting as we lurched

into the driveway. I said, Bye,

to T, tried not to slip

on the frozen steps as I moved

toward the open door

and my mother’s arms.

It’s okay, she said. You’re okay.

 

But my father stayed

on the porch, watching

as their car backed out

of the driveway and slid

down the ice-covered road.

Stood there long after

their headlights were gone.

- T. Greenwood is the author of eight novels, including the recently released Bodies of Water (September 2013). She grew up in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont, where most of her novels are set. She now lives in San Diego with her husband, Patrick, and their two daughters, where she teaches creative writing and takes pictures. For more info, visit her website and blog.

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Last Night of Make Believe

By Kelly DuMar

Burke Girls with Debbie

My cousin Debbie had cystic fibrosis and, as was typical of the 1960′s treatments, she slept most nights with an oxygen tent over her bed. My two sisters and I longed for sleepovers with her which were rarely allowed. Every moment we had with Debbie was full of imagination, magic and bliss. When Miranda opened her call for friendship stories, I wrote Last Night of Make Believe and recorded it as a video poem which you can watch here:

Kelly DuMar is a poet, playwright and author of a non-fiction book for parents, Before You Forget – The Wisdom of Writing Diaries for Your ChildrenShe facilitates creative writing workshops including When Pictures Speak – Writing Photo Inspired Poetry. You can follow her on Twitter and Tumblr or visit her website to learn more about her poetry, plays and workshops.

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We Just Were

By Anna Catherine Rutledge

ACRutledgeFSPicAccording to our parents, Lisa and I were terrible influences on each other. They were so convinced that at one point they thought it would be a good idea to separate us, which involved lots of hysterical crying. I guess eventually they realized keeping us apart was futile, since we went to school together and saw each other every day.

Maybe we were bad influences but looking back on it, we were high school girls. We didn’t really do drugs or sneak out of the house or steal things or go too far with boys. We usually had a job, tons of after school activities, watched Dirty Dancing and Pee Wee’s Big Adventure about 800 times and 21 Jump Street religiously every Sunday night. We did spend an inordinate amount of time on the phone (but which high school girl doesn’t? and what parents of high school girls aren’t annoyed by this?) and at her house (her parents preferred that she stay close to home, which was fine with me).

Our biggest issue was that we liked to ditch school. Not just class. The whole day of school. It started probably in 10th grade, when we realized we could just walk out the back door after our early morning dance class. We would sneak back to my house and get McDonalds and play board games. We soon learned we could take the bus to the subway, get to Manhattan and kick around for two hours before having to head home. We were hooked. To this day I’m not entirely sure how I explained all those absences to my parents. Maybe in my mind there were more of those skipped days than there actually were.

From Queens we had to take the 7 train to Times Square, which in the late 80′s was still a pretty surly place. I remember standing on a street corner and some guy coming over and asking if we were models. Lisa was tall and glamorous and always held some modeling dreams and it was all I could do to convince her to not walk off with this guy who promised to make her famous. We were daring explorers, hitting the streets of the East Village, Fulton fish market, Chinatown, Central Park. We never had much money or did anything of importance, just walked around, skirting around any cops we saw, convinced they would haul us directly to the paddy wagon. We just were. Young. Free. And while we lost touch years ago, I will always treasure those high school memories.

Anna Catherine Rutledge lives in Brooklyn with her husband, two boys and no pets. She is considering getting a fish. She runs Fit4 Mom Brooklyn, helping women develop the strength they need for motherhood, and blogs about random happenings. 

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Mission: Runaway

By Nicole C. Kear

NCKearFSPicWhen I was around 8 years old, I decided to run away from home. I had a plan:

Step 1: Arrange to sleep over my grandmother’s house in Bensonhurst,

Step 2: Tie the bedclothes together to make a rope to be tossed out the second story window.

Step 3: Shimmy down the sheet rope (I’d never so much as jumped off a high set of monkey bars but hell, how hard could it be?)

Step 4: Find my way to Mary’s house.

I’d never walked to Mary’s by myself – had never, in fact, walked anywhere alone, not even to the corner for milk – but it was only a few blocks away and I was not an idiot. After all, would an idiot mastermind such a sound runaway plan?

Mary would be waiting for me- I’d call her before I hatched my escape- and she’d let me in without her parents seeing, sneak me into her bedroom closet and there I would live, happily, if not ever after, at least for the foreseeable future. Mary would bring me leftovers from her family’s meals and I could use the bathroom when no one was looking. It was a grand plan. Rock solid. Mary agreed.

There was only one problem, and Mary informed me of it on the night of my escape, when I called her to tell her it was go-time.

“You can’t run away to my house.” She sounded genuinely apologetic. Regretful.

“What?” I gasped. “Why not?”

“I told my mom about our plan,” she went on.

“Oh no,“ I moaned, realizing that there was no slim possibility of rescuing the mission now. “Mary! What HAPPENED?”

Mary was talking quickly now: “She said you can sleep over any time you want, but you can’t come here to live forever because your parents would be upset.”

“I don’t want to SLEEP OVER!” I shrieked. “I WANT to run AWAY.”

Let me be clear:  I had absolutely no good reason to run away. Mine was not a broken home or an abusive one, or even an unhappy one. I was a cheerful, healthy, privileged kid with doting parents whose worst crime was being a tad overprotective, the kind that would be called helicopter parents today.

That my running away was wholly unjustifiable did not bother me whatsoever. I was a passionate child, prone to histrionics, with an unquenchable thirst for attention. I’d read a ton of books and wanted desperately to experience the kind of adventure I glimpsed in those pages.

Plus, it would be awesome to live with Mary, even secretly, in her closet.

Mary was my first best friend. I don’t remember what precisely brought us together- a shared passion for Strawberry Shortcake dolls or an aversion to hopscotch- or when our friendship first took root. I just remember being a kid and knowing that I had a best friend, the kind to which you award the second half of a heart-shaped pendant. She was a quiet girl with a tinny little voice and pale blonde hair that hung in a straight, thin sheet from her head. She was born and bred in Brooklyn, just like me, but she had an inarguably Mid-Western feel to her- not that I’d have described it that way at the time, since I wasn’t even vaguely aware that there was a world beyond New York. She was wholesome, and kind. Honest, rule-abiding. Moderate. She never got carried away, never raised her voice, never gasped for breath from laughing too hard. She was nothing like me, which is why our friendship worked. I was the tempest and she was the ever-fixed rock.

I don’t remember her parents in detail, but what I do recall is their home was a calm, quiet, organized place where reason reigned. Everything had a place and resided in it, physically and metaphorically. It was very appealing.

At sleepovers, her mother used to give us warm milk before bed.

This blew my mind. It was so . . . perfect.

Mary and I drank from matching cups at the immaculate kitchen table while her sweet mother asked quiet questions about our day at school and even at the time I remember thinking I felt like a character acting out a scene.

This is what a perfect family looks like having a perfect friend come over for a perfect sleepover.

My family was not tragically flawed or anything as dramatic as that, but they were not perfect. We yelled and interrupted and made messes. My mother used the phrase “Jesus Christ” frequently, and never in prayer. Our cups didn’t match and we never, ever drank warm milk before bed.

“Mary,” I sighed on the phone after I found out my mission had to be aborted. “WHY would you tell your mother that I was running away?”

“Well, I had to,” she squeaked.

I knew what she meant. It wasn’t that her mother had cornered her into admitting it. It was that telling her mother was the right thing to do and Mary always did the right thing. And though at that precise moment, I found her unfailing moral compass super annoying, it was really why I liked her. And also why I’d never have been able to become a part of her family, even if my rock-solid plan had worked. I could play at being perfect but it just didn’t come naturally.

“But you can still come over for a sleepover this weekend,” she offered, “and we can make friendship bracelets.”

“And your mom will make warm milk, right?”

“Of course!” she chirped.

“OK,” I conceded. “Sure.”

Then I told her I had to go. It was late and before I could go to bed, I had to untie the sheets that were hanging out the window.

Nicole is author of the memoir Now I See You, to be published by St. Martin’s Press in June. She regularly contributes essays and articles to ParentsAmerican BabyBabble and Salon, among others, and lives in Brooklyn with her husband, three children and a morbidly obese goldfish. You can find her at her website and blog.

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The Trouble With Angels

By Laurie Buchanan

LBuchananFSPicIt’s no secret that I was mischievous growing up. Similar to metal shavings that scamper to a magnet, I was attracted to people who shared a similar disposition. With this in mind, my parents thought attendance at Sunday school might serve to smooth some of my bumpier edges, hoping to find a diamond in the rough. Tired from trying to rope the wind, they put me on the Baptist church bus that drove through our neighborhood Sunday mornings, while they stayed home to enjoy a much-needed reprieve.

Wide like saucers, my unschooled eyes took in the House of the Lord: red velvet-lined plates filled with money were passed down each row; thimble-sized cups of grape juice followed by oyster crackers came next; and there was a dunk tank behind the man with the fancy bathrobe standing up front. Oh boy howdy, I’d hit the jackpot!

When the kids in my grade were dismissed from the sanctuary to attend the Sunday school portion, I met Sally. If a cartoon cloud had formed over our heads it would have said Zing—Kindred Spirits! Afterward, I had my mom call her mom; she had her mom call my mom. We learned that by a gnat’s whisker we were just barely out of each other’s elementary school district, but we were close enough to visit each other by bicycle if we promised to behave.

In 1966 we were nine years old. That’s the same year we saw The Trouble with Angels starring Haley Mills, and read Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh — perhaps not the best role models for two young girls just short of wanted posters!

Each armed with pencil, tablet, flashlight, and bicycle we became Harriet with designs on becoming international spies. After school we’d meet up and shift into sleuth mode to make our daily rounds, writing down everything we saw and heard. Harriet’s favorite sandwich — tomatoes on white bread with mayo — became our favorite sandwich. We emulated everything she did, right down to writing rotten things about other people.

At church we’d each put the single dollar bill our parents had given us into the offering plate while surreptitiously “making change” so we could buy a box of Junior Mints and Good & Plenty to share on our spy rounds during the week.

Our route included the church which never seemed to be locked. It turns out the “dunk tank” was a baptismal, and that the first Sunday of each month was a baptism service where people were “buried with Christ” (under the water) and cleansed from sin. Sally and I felt they’d get even cleaner if we added soap.

Wouldn’t you agree that Joy has a celestial ring to it? We added the liquid dish soap version to the tank on Friday after school. Mr. Ebersol, an elderly deacon, never saw the clear liquid early Sunday when he turned on the water. Suffice it to say I’m surprised we weren’t weren’t struck by lightning in our pew that morning as bubbles cascaded over the railing…

We “test drove” lies at school. On the day each student was to stand up by their desk and say something about themselves and their family, I announced with aplomb that my parents were the king and queen of Hawaii and that we were cannibals. You could hear a pin drop as this unrehearsed lie made its public debut. The teacher’s rubber-soled shoes quickly thump-thumped their way across the linoleum floor in my direction, but I didn’t flinch. Fisting the collar of my shirt she announced that my next stop was Mr. Fleck’s office.

Did I regret my behavior? Not a bit. After all, I got to meet the principal. Word on the playground was that he had a glass eye! Paying rapt attention as he semi-focused on me — one eye piercing my eager gaze while the other wandered, seeming to randomly scan the ceiling — it was well worth the price of admission.

Collaborating with each other via telephone on our science fair projects, we decided to make paper mache volcanos — completely ignoring the teacher’s “parental supervision” suggestion. While Sally was diligently working on her side of town, I worked in the garage at my dad’s workbench. Using vinegar and baking soda the results were okay, but I wanted to win a ribbon — a blue ribbon. I’d done my homework and decided to try yeast combined with hydrogen peroxide for a larger explosion. Pleased, but not completely satisfied, I added the element of fire. Holy Cow! I yelled, jumping back in shock as the acrid smell of past-tense eyebrows wafted in the air.

Fast forward several decades…you’ll be happy (and possibly surprised) to know that Sally and I never “did time” in the big house. Friends to this day, we’re both in the business of being positive, uplifting, constructive, and healing; she as a psychologist, me as a transformational life coach.

Board Certified with the American Association of Drugless Practitioners, Laurie Buchanan is a holistic health practitioner and transformation life coach. With the philosophy of “Whatever you are not changing, you are choosing,” Laurie works with the whole person, helping them turn intention into action; bridging the gap between where they are, and where they want to be — body, mind, and spirit. You can find her on her blog, website, and Twitter.

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Fear and Reconciliation

By Kathy Drue

KDrueFSPic(takenbyher)We shivered in fear when we spoke to Others. We both wore shyness like our new winter coat, zipped close to keep us safe. On the second day of Kindergarten evil sixth grade boys pointed make-believe guns toward our quivering hearts and we sprinted desperately back home, our knee socks falling down, tears in our eyes.

We lay side-by-side on our sleeping mats during nap time, our eyes glued toward the ceiling, listening to the Others breathe. We couldn’t relax, could we? Someone might accidentally jab or prod, whisper a taunt.

We kept vigilant, best friends always, through first grade and the weeping principal who announced the death of our President Kennedy. We dashed home through the same field where last year make-believe guns threatened to annihilate us and, yes, we could truly almost imagine the blood, the loss, the heart-stopping fear of it.

In second grade we splashed in a delightful mud puddle in our new blue rubber boots and the teacher—oh the horror!—yelled at us. Yelled at us? We quiet little girls, we little girls with pigtails who couldn’t, wouldn’t, do anything wrong because our fear still pinned us like our Girl Scout badges?

In third grade we memorized poems and recited them aloud to the class and fought against each other to win, to learn the most poems, to Winkin’ Blinkin’ and Nod it to glory. We agreed to cease our memorizing at thirty poems each, to tie, to share, and yet you skipped home through the field lying through your new white teeth to recite next morning, “Abou Ben Adam may your tribe increase…”

In fifth grade you let me cheat off your math paper, sharing the answers to those dreaded impossible story problems and in sixth grade we convinced our neophyte teacher to let us go home for lunch. We ran free as wind through the field as the rest of the class remained jailed, chewing stale bologna sandwiches, learning how to negotiate junior high friendships.

Oh my best childhood friend, where did you go? One moment we sprinted free with our 1969 peace necklaces and the next moment you grew up. You let your shyness fall away like a too-small dress and wore bell-bottomed blue jeans and ironed your long straight hair.

You met your future husband in seventh grade and left me behind to bleed alone in confusion with wild curly locks and glasses, to trek among those with make-believe guns and story problems impossible to fathom. Five years passed before my own shyness loosened its clasp, before I opened to the Other.

Years, oh years later, more than 500 miles apart, we birthed babies into this poem of a world within four hours of each other. Last summer, our babes now 31 years old, we held hands as we lapped around the high school track, telling stories of pain and reconciliation. The sun shone on our faces. As if no time passed we shared our hearts effortlessly, and this time we weren’t afraid. Oh no, we weren’t afraid.

Kathy Drue lives in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and blogs from her “Little House in the Big Woods.” She works two part-time jobs to help buy health insurance and organic produce and loves to travel from San Diego to NYC to Florida to visit family members whenever possible.  She misses her best friend from childhood, but hopefully will visit her again next summer. The photograph used in this piece was taken by her.

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Man-Stalking

By Anonymous

Friends don’t let friends man-stalk. They do it for you.

Jo and I have been best friends since our junior year in high school. Now in our 20s, we’re still there for each other. Amazingly, a lot of the elements of our friendship are the same… now just with a grownup twist. And this includes man-stalking. I’m not talking about Obsessed, Lifetime movie-level stalking. You ladies know what I mean… the ex you’re curious about, or the guy you’re talking to but aren’t sure if he’s talking to anyone else. What do you do? You recruit your bestie to man stalk. Jo and I always had each other’s backs when a man-stalk was in order. Like when my junior year boyfriend started being distant and wasn’t returning my calls (this was before we had cell phones)… who donned a hoodie and picked me up to do an after school drive-by to see if the jerk was out or actually home ignoring me? My Jo did. And yup, his car was in the driveway—so the calls were indeed going unanswered. Things ended a week later. However, without Jo’s man stalk, how long would that sham of a relationship have gone on for?

Post-college, we became a bit more sophisticated. I like to call it the reverse man-stalk… make them come to you. Jo was talking to this guy, and things were lukewarm. We suspected he may have been seeing someone else, so we needed to act fast. So, I did what any friend would do… I went on Google, found a photo of a (believably) hot guy, and made a fake Facebook profile. Monday mornings “he” would post on her wall about what a great time they had over the weekend, and later in the week “he” would write about looking forward to seeing her. Believe me, there is nothing like a fictitious social network profile to put fire under a man’s ass. Or so we thought. In the end, Jo’s lukewarm relationship petered out as well. Ok, but that’s beside the point. The point? No one should have to succumb to her guilty desire to man-stalk alone. You just feel crazy. What’s not crazy? Having your friend suggest and carry it out for you.

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Her Name Was Ruth

By Jennifer Clement

Jennifer Clement age 7Her name was Ruth. We lived on Palmas Street in Mexico City. She was six years older than I and she loved me with such passion it was as if I were her doll, her little sister, or her very own baby girl. She liked to cover me with very wet kisses and pinch me softly, rock me, and tickle me. I did not understand my power then, but I knew she would have done anything for me.

Ruth was a very large and strong girl and she would pick me up and carry me under her arm all around the neighborhood of San Angel. Today, when I walk through the cobblestone streets, I know every cracked sidewalk or broken flagstone from that view of looking down to the ground from under her arm.

As I grew older, she always carried me as if weight and height was no obstacle to feeling. We used to go to an abandoned lot next to her house and look for tiny obsidian black garter snakes with tongues as thin and long as an eyelash. We also liked to collect snails and line them up on the wall or ground and try to make patterns with them before they began to inch away.

She called me Mi Guerita. I belonged to her.

During the rainy season, the thunderstorms were spectacular and would last for an hour or two. The sky would turn black and strong rains would flow down our street. Often the cobblestones would be covered with small, delicate hailstones. We would pick them up and place them in our mouths like sweets. Her house, which had been her grandfather Diego Rivera’s house, had so many metal windowpanes and metal staircases, the sound of the rain on metal was so loud we could never hear each other speak. Enormous Judas’ puppets made of papier-mâché framed one window that was so large it made us feels as if we were inside the storm.

Looking back, I wonder if our friendship was also a way to get out of our houses. We both had stories we never told each other. On the street we would listen to the language of the indians who came from the provinces to sell archeological pieces dug out of their cornfields. Sometimes we would talk to the postman (who came twice a day in those years) or the flower vendor and tortilla lady who always gave us a hot tortilla from her basket. We especially liked to talk to Apolinar, the gardener who worked at all the houses in the neighborhood. He told us that he had been a bullfighter. Once he rolled up his trousers and showed us the round, horn-shaped wounds in his legs.

The last time I saw Ruth was at a party years ago. When she saw me from across the garden, she sat right up and moved toward me in her awkward, long strides. I could still feel her strong desire to lift me up and kiss me. We sat together and drank tequila and she told me she was dying.

I will always belong to her.

Ruth Maria de los Angeles Alvarado Rivera (1954-2007)

Jennifer Clement’s new novel Prayers for the Stolen, which was awarded the NEA Fellowship for Literature, is published this month by Hogarth and has already been bought in 22 countries. Clement has also published the novels A True Story Based On Lies and The Poison That Fascinates. Her memoir Widow Basquiat, about the painter Jean-Michel Basquiat, is considered one of the most important works on this artist. Jennifer Clement has also published several books of poetry and is the Director, along with her sister Barbara Sibley, of the San Miguel Poetry Week. You can find her at her website.

 

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My Cousin, My Friend

By Shirley Hershey Showalter

SShowalterFSPic(she'sbabyonright)My cousin Mary Ann, nine months my senior, was also my best friend. She and I together were the two oldest cousins of what would later become a sea of twenty but was already a little pond of about ten.

Mary Ann and I had a great time exploring my new bedroom in the southwest corner of the old Home Place farmhouse, after my parents bought the place from my grandparents.

I had a room to myself, as did my younger brother Henry, and so did our parents. Sisters Sue and Doris had twin beds in the fourth bedroom. Sister Linda had not yet been born. Mary Ann and I could explore space together unhindered by younger children, which is exactly what teenage girls want.

We investigated the familiar, yet strangely new, house. Our eyes were opened because now, instead of being at Grandpa’s house, we were at “my” house, and what a house it was! The walls of colonial-era houses, especially stone houses like ours, bore the weight of the whole structure. This meant that every windowsill was two feet thick—a great place to curl up with a book and an amplifier of summer breezes.

Mary Ann and I took the tour of the house that our family would give often, pointing out the framed original sheepskin deed on the wall – and the signatures of William Penn’s three sons.

Outside, the four stately trees stood like sentries, two oaks in the back and two sycamores in the front. Not only did they provide a canopy of shade, the oaks also rained down acorns in the fall, when the sycamores also gave up their bark.

Mary Ann loved to go for walks along country roads, so she suggested the two of us explore the territory surrounding the farm that was now my home. Even though Mary Ann knew the Home Place almost as well as I did, my rediscovery of it with her led to a shivery sense of adventure. I now had a second pair of eyes, a new sensibility, to magnify the thrill of mutual reinvention of familiar places.

We walked out the Dutch doors and past the sycamore trees, going by the horse heads made of lead and painted silver to match the fence, the very same horse heads used as hitching posts when the Home Place was Jacob Hoober’s Tavern in the 1700s.

Both of us knew that Count Nikolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf had preached in that tavern in 1742. Both of us had heard stories about him. The Hershey family was proud of the fact that this house predated the Revolutionary War and was the site of a religious conversion that led to the establishment of the town of Lititz as a Moravian community. As Mary Ann and I headed across the porch to the road, we paused to read again the historical bronze plaque on the front of the house.

We started on Newport Road and then meandered up Snyder Hill Road, named for our Snyder ancestors, talking about our usual girl subjects: which boys were cute and what was happening in school.

We were on our way home when my father came roaring up the road in the car, slammed on the brakes, and shouted to us to get inside. Stunned and confused, heads bowed, we crawled in.

“I never want you to go out on these roads again without getting permission,” he yelled. “You’re lucky no one else tried to pick you up before I did.” I was sorry Mary Ann had to witness his anger; I was sure that her own mild-mannered father would never talk the way mine just did.

I never knew why Daddy was so furious—I had yet to learn the ways of the world—but at least I had a cousin who could share my fear and indignation. I had a friend for life.

Shirley Hershey Showalter, author of Blush: A Mennonite Girl Meets a Glittering World, grew up on a Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, dairy farm and went on to become a professor and then college president and foundation executive. Find her at her website, her Facebook page, and on Twitter.

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