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Monday, April 18, 2016

Fritzi's friends

My great-aunt Fritzi was beloved of many. My grandmother was a prickly, rather dissatisfied woman--I have inherited that temperament. Fritzi, beautiful and even-tempered, was everyone's favorite. 

At least once I got to stay with her after my family went home from the summer house she had in Stockbridge. She was worried that I would be bored without kids my age (perhaps 9 or 10). I told her that I liked old people. It was true.

I accompanied Fritzi on her daily rounds. We visited John and Meredith who had chickens. My aunt went there to buy eggs. They lived in a tiny red house. I was told that John built it himself. They also had a greenhouse and a work shed. Across the road was a duckpond.

I found the house fascinating. It was the smallest house I had ever been in. There was a sleeping loft. To access it, one climbed a few steps, walked on a piano top (which served as a step) and the rest of the steps continued from there. I mentioned this to my mother, wondering if it could be true. She didn't know.

We passed the house on every visit since it is on the road to the cottage. It looked uninhabited for many years. Then a few years ago I noticed a "for sale" sign. The windows of the house were boarded up. A year later the house was torn down. I will never know for sure about that piano step. 

One day, I will post some of the photos we took of the property in its decrepitude, not as it is in my memory. 

My aunt was a famous gardener and people came to admire her plants. One day she took me to see an acquaintance, an eccentric old woman who was a retired school teacher. Her house was decorated with geometric black, red, and gray rugs, which years later I realized were Native American rugs, probably valuable even then. The owner too had a famous garden. She had been to Japan, which seemed to me very exotic. She had created a Japanese garden in her backyard. She had had large and beautiful rocks brought from afar. One, I was told, cost $100. I was amazed at the sum. 

Eventually, my aunt found a young girl for me to play with. We didn't like each other very much. That girl is all grown up. Though I have never seen her again and can't remember her name, she too still visits Stockbridge every year. Her brothers bought her share of their family house, and she remains close to an aunt who also summers there. If we ever visit at the same time, I mean to ask her if she remembers our failed play date.

When we visited Stockbridge last summer, I told my husband Tom that it was the only place in the world where there were still people (very few by now) who knew my great-aunt.  She died in 1969. There are still people who smile when they meet my daughter, because they know that she is named for my grandmother Emma, who spent her summers there as well.

2 comments:

Janice Riggs said...

You write the loveliest stories (and you tell them SO well) - thank you so much for sharing!
hugs,
Janice

Frugal Scholar said...

@Janice--Thank you for your kind words. I have been unable to leave comments on your wonderful blog (some technical thing, I'm sure) but am still a constant reader.