Member Blogs > ten pound island book companyNot Again

  • Sun, 28 Jul 2013 02:59:24    Permalink

    On this weekend for three years running I have blogged about the very pleasant Book Fair at the Castle. This event  is produced by Bernice Bornstein 

    and is held at the Dewey Castle in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. The setting is idyllic. The hours are merciful. My colleagues are excellent company. The crowds are small but cheerful. They buy a little, I buy a little. Then I drive home.
    I am not going to blog about it this year. Im tired of repeating myself. Instead, Id like to try out a draft of the beginning of a chapter called Paper City. It is part of my walk-in-progress, Strange Man Walking, tracing John Ledyards 1773 journey down the Connecticut River. In this episode, which took place during the two days preceding this year's Book Fair at the Castle, the character known as I gets ambushed by his past.
    Paper City
    Kay remembers the actual physical country around Kobrin, how it looked on cart rides with her father, who was a sort of circuit court judge in Czarist Russia, and she remembers a long journey to a place called Lubow. They left Lubow in a boat for this country Chicopee, Mass., where the father had relatives. Kay was born in the old country in 1912. Irene, her sister, was born immediately upon their arrival here, in 1917.Kays father died in America and her mother, Rose, married a house painter named Kosinetz who wasnt much good. He had a brain tumor or he drank too much, or he was just another immigrant whod had to take his life apart and try to put it back together in a place where nothing was the way it had been. Kay remembers stories of him trying to set the house on fire late at night with his family still inside. Then he died. Fell or jumped from a window. There is a picture of the funeral of this husband. He has a princes noble profile, laid out in the casket with his family solemnly attending. Rose looks strong and handsome, good for more husbands. She has Kay and Irene, her own children, to care for, and Kosinetz the house painter has left her two boys, Andy and Mike. Andy was good. Mike was wild.But Rose never remarried. She kept the house on Westfield Road outside the city of Holyoke because it had good land to farm. She raised cows and chickens and pigs, and she had a garden. She converted the front of the house to a neighborhood store that provided their income. She made her own pickles in big crocks in the cellar. Kay has a way of saying her husbands name, FrANK, so that it comes out with a hook on it. Frank has a way of enjoying being snagged by the hook. He is a powerful six footer of an Irishman who is nearly saintly in his immaculate containment of that power. Hes as pure at heart as a mortal man can be, and he has an ulcer to show for it. He may have valued his mother more than the Blessed Virgin, but only a little more. If you wanted to find fault with him you could say he ducked too many issues in his life, avoided too many complicated situations. But he waited hand and foot on his paralyzed mother until the day of her death.They used to live in a house on the eastern bank of the Connecticut River with their three children and grandma Rose, and, for a time, Irene and my sister and me. They rented the downstairs apartment to the family of a lady with big hair named Flo. It was crowded, but that was how people lived. When the kids were teenagers the bathroom was always in use.Now Frank is retired from his job at the phone company, and the kids are grown up and gone. He and Kay have moved to a little house on the edge of a cemetery, a bargain on account of its location. When the weather is good Frank drives his golf balls onto the unused part of the cemetery, then walks out and drives them back onto his lawn, a nine iron shot. Kay was upset when they first moved there. She has dreams that foretell future events and she believes in spirits. But Frank was able to set her at ease. His mojo got the better of those graveyard haints.I am on Christmas leave from the Navy, visiting Irene my mother. Shes dying of stomach cancer and has moved in with Kay and Frank, who are caring for her. Kay tells me her memories of the old days, then Frank and I go for a walk in the graveyard. Its winter, dusk, and everything is white and gray, and snow-bent evergreens make the cemetery avenues like tunnels.Frank says, You know, considering all the things that could happen, all the ways it could come out, its a miracle that children are born perfectly almost every time.I have an image of things as the seeds of themselves turning down there under the winter ground.
    This was all a very long time ago. There are no more farms like Grandmas on Westfield Road. Kobrin is still there in Belarus, but Lubow seems never to have existed except in Kays memory. Rose died in the 1950s; Irene in the 1970s, Kay and Frank in the 1990s. Theyre all buried in a family plot at St. Rose of Lima cemetery on Route 202 in South Hadley, along with the infant Francis, son of Kay and Frank, who was not born perfectly, and who died at birth.
    Its all coming back to me I mean ALL of it - because I am in their country now, and it has nearly absorbed me. Just the smallest shard of me out front, walking through the present. Ive never felt more like Ledyard.

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