It took a village to deliver my baby sister
Born a Proper Bostonian, merely because that's where my mother was at the time, I lingered in The Hub to absorb culture and decency for 10 years, and then brought my parents to Maine. There we could live in rude and uncouth fashion without attracting attention, a move brought about because my father, a railway postal clerk, was assigned to a new job that began at Portland rather than Boston.Skip to next paragraph
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It wasn't the principle of the thing; it was the money. My father always said he'd rather be rich in Maine than poor in Boston. My father found a place he could buy in the small town of Freeport and we arrived in the last week of May, 1918. We were five: my sister and brother, who were both younger than I, and our father and mother, who were not. The sixth was Baby Sister Kathryn, who was, as we Mainers put it, "in the oven," and would appear in August.
That was a good year all around, including the end of the war in Europe. Our parents were both farm youngsters and were glad to be back with room for a garden, fruits and berries, a cow and a pig, some bees, and most of all a relaxed place to bring up four youngsters. Freeport, and the place my father was fortunate to find, suited. The town had two villages, Freeport and South Freeport, two miles apart. South Freeport was the harbor where, in seafaring days, ships were lofted and launched by the baker's dozens.
Otherwise Freeport was neighborhoods: Hillside, Porters Landing, Pigtoe, Staples Point, Wolf's Neck, Flying Point, Wardtown, and so on. Street lamps stopped a few poles from the "Corner," the business center. The road through Freeport was designated US 1 and ran from Maine to Florida, but in 1918 it was unpaved, and as automobiles were few, nobody had ever followed it from end to end. An electric trolley line gave hourly service each way and connected with longer lines.
The times were leisurely, and people didn't mind if we trespassed to pick wild berries, fish a brook, find a bunny for a Sunday dinner. Over our lot line to the west an old-growth stand of pine and spruce was to be my Sherwood Forest, and I roamed there with Robin Hood. We robbed rich people to give to the poor for five good miles before we came to a road. It was always twilight under the trees and I'd start home for supper and find the sun was still high.
Let me say that in 1918 Mr. L.L. Bean had started his mail-order business, but it was not big enough yet to have changed the town. He was still a partner with his brother Guy in the gents' clothing store at the Corner, L.L. & G.C. Bean. In the basement they had a shooting gallery that did business as the Freeport Rifle Club.
So we moved from Massachusetts and got settled somewhat in the new house, and Dad took off for his week-long run on the mail train, and Mom and we children would see him next week. When he came home my mother was wound up and chattered away, "Oh, Frank! You have no idea! I haven't been alone except night times! They come by two and three, and when somebody goes, somebody else comes. Every woman in town has called. It's not like the city! Everybody's a friend! They come and make my breakfast and leave when supper's ready. Everybody brings something. I've got jelly and pickles enough for years. They won't let me lift a finger! They're making me a log-cabin quilt for the baby's crib. Look at all the flowers on the sideboard!"
So my mother was welcomed to Freeport, and the summer ran along and her days were accomplished. On the morning of Aug. 24 I was wakened about daylight by a commotion.
The house was full of Freeport women, running about in one another's way. Mrs. Curtis, the next-door lady, seemed in charge and was everywhere at once. When she saw I was awake, she came to whisper that everything was all right and she'd have breakfast ready in a little while. "Try to go back to sleep."
Then the commotion woke my sister, and she came to jump on my bed and bawl like a train whistle. Mrs. Curtis called, "Close your trap! We got enough to do 'thout harkin' to your clack!" Then my father came into my room and Mrs. Curtis told him, "Git out from under foot! Go to the barn! I'll get breakfast on the table and call you!"
My sister quieted, and I guess we dozed. Our brother, Frank, had slept through all this in his crib and didn't know yet that he was being replaced as family baby. Mrs. Curtis got us to the kitchen, and we ate breakfast before she let us go back upstairs to see our new sister.
Our father came in from out back of the barn, and he had a stem of goldenrod in his hand, newly opened and wet with August morning dew. It was the first goldenrod blossom of the year. Dad led us up to see Mom and the baby, and he kissed Mom on the forehead and put the stem of goldenrod in her hand. She said,"Oh, Frank! A bouquet! You shouldn't have! Isn't our daughter beautiful?"
I looked at my baby sister for the first time and she looked pretty good to me. She still does. She may amount to something yet.