Friday, November 29, 2013


Long ago I learned to knit, sitting attentively beside Cousin Marion at Pine Knoll, the old family homestead in the Hathorne section of Danvers. That house, and the four old ladies who lived there, connected me to the past. Stepping into that dark old house was like stepping into a museum. Objects from the past were everywhere. But I wasn't invited to explore the various rooms, nor allowed to touch the fragile old toys, unless given special permission and supervised by one of the great aunts or cousins. Most of my visits were spent in the "sitting room" on the main floor. There on the overstuffed chairs and sofa we sat and socialized, sometimes with sweet lemonade (summer) or ribbon candy (winter holidays) offered to us. Aunt May and Aunt Margaret (sisters of my grandfather William Nichols) and Cousins Annie and Marion (another pair of sisters) sometimes sat around a card table and played a card game I didn't understand; the cover for that card table had pockets into which some cards were tucked. I was more interested in the kittens on the floor, or looking at picture books, in my younger years. But one year, when I was older, Marion decided to teach me to knit. She provided the needles and yarn, and the pattern. Under her guidance, I started knitting a green sweater. I returned many, many times to that sitting room to sit with her and knit. That sweater was a l-o-n-g project. This week, while visiting my sister in New Mexico, I have resumed knitting, selecting a much shorter project. My next column, submitted to the Danvers Herald this week, is about my knitting experiences.

My cousin Dave Brewster recently digitized and shared some old family photos (Kodachrome images from his father's archive). My sister and I have had fun looking at them.  Here is one of a family gathering --in that Pine Knoll sitting room-- at Christmas time.

Cousin Marion is sitting in the arm chair on the left, just as I remember her.  I am sitting on the floor, lower left.  My sister Jean, dressed in red, is sitting in the lap of our cousin Nancy Nichols.  The young man in the foreground is our cousin C. Stuart Brewster.

In the next picture, the sofa in the sitting room is crowded with relatives. My grandmother Nana, left,  is beside great aunt May.  My mother, Janet Cutler Nichols, is leaning forward at right.
I'm delighted to see this photographic documentation of the old sitting room.  No one took pictures, I'm sure, while I was there knitting, or on routine days when the room was without company.  In my mind I can visualize some of it, but these old photos do help jog the memory.

Friday, November 22, 2013


Please have patience if you are waiting for me to post old photos of the stonewalls described in my October column about Stonewalls and mentioned in my Oct 10th blog entry. I did find some interesting photos from my childhood days, pulled them out of albums, and intended to scan them. That was over a month ago. They still sit there, awaiting a period of free time.

Other priorities intervened. In a journal entry Nov 8, 2013, I wrote,
"I have been rushing from one task to another all day, all week really, in a never-ending To-Do List treadmill, racing against deadlines."  Looking back, I think that statement applies to the past two months. I've been heavily involved with the Holyoke Public Library project, a $14.3 M building campaign to renovate our 1902 library building and expand it for services in the 21st Century.

Today, November 22, 2013, is the Grand Re-Opening and Official Ribbon-Cutting at the Holyoke Public Library.  Much patience  --and hard work-- has been involved over the past 8-10 years as this project has moved from initial dream to reality. I'm delighted with the result.  If you are ever in Holyoke, MA, come see this spectacular building, designed by Finegold Alexander + Associates of Boston. It combines old and new in dramatic ways.

A year ago I set a goal of decreasing the amount of time I devote to certain non-profit organizations and committees. I'm trying to reduce my outside commitments so that I'll have more time for reflecting, relaxing, and writing, especially the writing of family stories, as well as more time for visiting far-flung family. I knew that it might take a few years for all my terms-of-office to expire and my roles and responsibilities to diminish.  I'm trying to be patient during this transition. The Library project, for instance, has stretched on past a hoped-for opening in late summer.

Some time ago I bought an airline ticket to visit my sister Jean in NM and celebrate my niece's birthday (November 22).  Today I am enjoying hours of leisure in rural New Mexico, far away from my To Do lists at home.  It is easy to be patient here. I gaze out at fresh snow. Inside, I smile to see so many items from our shared childhood, reminders of Danvers. I'm looking forward to playing Scrabble with Jean later when she comes home from her studio. Life is good.