I’ve missed this. I wrote a letter to Megan for her birthday to accompany her birthday present. It made me remember how much I love to tell stories. How much I miss blogging. It made me realize what a ridiculous and impossible thing it is to try to replace blogging with Facebook or another social media. So, as my first step back into this world….I give you her letter.
When I was very little, my Grandma would take me driving in her huge 1972 Maroon LTD to visit her friends. I loved that car because I could lay completely lengthwise in the window behind the back seat without my feet or my head touching the sides of the car. It was a fantastic view of the sky swooping by as we lumbered our way down the highway. My very favorite friend of hers was Hazel Maden, who lived in Melrose. She lived in tiny pink and white house on the main street. Her house was absolutely stuffed with fine china tea sets and cat figurines. And real cats. She loved cats. We had that in common, her and I.
The thing that I remember most from those visits is how much she treated me like her friend and not like a little kid along for the ride with her Grandma. She served me tea and let me put my own sugar in it. That was a big deal, as you can imagine. She also talked to me like a human, not like a baby. She asked me real questions, and answered my questions normally. No baby voice, no talking down to me. I loved her immediately.
I ended up going to kindergarten in Melrose. Oddly enough, they didn’t care where the kids went during lunch, even little kindergarteners. I took it upon myself to walk the 6 blocks to Hazel’s house for lunch at least twice a week. She never seemed put out that I had just invited myself. She would make me a tuna fish sandwich and a glass of milk and we would talk about things. Cats, mostly. I was so sad at the end of that year because I would be going to school in Glen the next year (Glen did not have a kindergarten). I cried on the last day of school because I could no longer have lunch with Hazel.
The best thing in the world happened two years later. It had been decided that at 92 years old, Hazel should not be living by herself. She had no family, so my Grandma offered her a place to stay. In retrospect, maybe Hazel didn’t think it was the best thing in the world, but she seemed pretty happy to have a friend to live with. I spent most of my time at my Grandma’s house when I wasn’t in school, so Hazel had me as a constant companion. I watched her do her intricate needlework for hours. I shared with her all the stories about Gray One, my barn cat.
My favorite times with her were in the summer. She was very thin and often cold. My Grandpa had a small Mazda pickup that was often parked right outside. She liked to go sit inside the truck in the middle of the day. It was HOT. I would see her sitting in the passenger side of the roasting pickup and I would jump in the driver’s seat. I would ask her where she wanted me to drive her and she would always say “Monte Carlo”. At first I didn’t know where Monte Carlo was, but she explained it a bit and I took over from there. I would give her a play by play of our drive to Monte Carlo, including the scenery on our drive along the bottom of the Atlantic ocean.
She lived with my Grandma for 5 years. When she turned 97 she had to go into the rest home in Dillon. I was going to junior high at the time. I was so sorry that she had to go, BUT the rest home was directly across the street from my school. The twice a week lunches commenced. I would ditch my friends for this 97 year old woman and shared institutional lunches. My friends did not know what to think of that. It was hard seeing her go downhill, but she still had spunk. She once asked me to bomb any and all macaroni and cheese factories because she was so tired of eating it.
She died at 99 years old. I was very sad. It was then that I understood more of her amazing life. She was a niece of Lewis Carroll (whose real name was Charles Dodgson. Hazel’s maiden name was Hazel Dodgson.) She left me some wonderful things in her will – a cedar chest that her father built in the 1890’s by hand, her wedding ring, many other pieces of jewelry and a signed first edition of Alice in Wonderland, signed “Charles Dodgson”. Anyway, this gift is from that little trove of treasures. I think that it is fitting that my childhood best friend and my best friend from my adult life should share something. Being with you gives me the same wonderful feeling that being with her always did.
I love you. Have a wonderful year.