a love letter to a town

a love letter to a town

In 1993, my new husband and I relocated from the Jersey shore to Vermont after I was hired to teach third & fourth grade in Wilmington. We lived in a little cape beside Green Mountain National Forest for 7 years–the longest I’d ever lived in any one place. That property just went on the market, and although we left it seventeen years ago for a home we built for ourselves, the little house and it’s neighbors still hold a tender space in our hearts.

Tonight, I came across this letter that I wrote to the newspaper just after we left the Deerfield Valley for a mountaintop town, 12 miles east. It’s nice to be reminded of how welcomed we were once upon a time.

To the Editor

Although our family has simply relocated to neighboring Marlboro, I wanted to take this opportunity to publicly thank some of the day to day people who touched our lives in Wilmington:

to Fire Chief Brian Johnson, who was not only our first neighbor for a short while, but also responded with his crew to more than one call to our home over the years;

to retired Police Chief Tom Donnelly whose involvement in the community, especially in the schools, was beautiful;

to Deerfield Valley Elementary School (where I taught for a year), its staff, students and parents who served as my first community in the Valley;

to Harriet and Vivian at Pettee Memorial, who always made coming to the library a joyful experience for myself and my son Lloyd (we are forever grateful!);

to the checkers at Grand Union who never failed to marvel at my children (special mention to Joanne for the video tips);

to Michel (from Berkely and Veller) and Lynne Matthews who were much more than realtors to us when we arrived as strangers to this area;

to Mr. Gerdes, who I have never actually met or even seen from out behind the steering wheel of the school bus he drives–thank you so much for the daily waves, it’s hard to convey the significance they hold for me;

to Deborah and Wendy at the post office, simply for being there every day;

to the guys (and gals?) who do such a good job on the snowy roads;

to the Valley News for letting us know what was “happening” each week;

to the people who create and organize the annual events which help define and enrich the seasons of our lives;

to Len Chapman, aka “Uncle Lenny”, our landlord, and Diane Classon, and to their families (and to all our neighbors in Medburyville), who became our “family” in Vermont and provided a beautiful place for us to grow;

and lastly, to the many others who I have not mentioned- on behalf of myself, my husband Casey Deane, and our sons Lloyd and Aidan–thank you for being such an important part of our lives in the Valley.

Sincerely,
Kelly Salasin
Marlboro, VT
2000

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For Sale

For Sale

Our first home in Vermont.

The sweet little cape in the back of this photo–at the edge of the Green Mountain National Forest–with a brook & a tire swing & a treehouse in the backyard.

Chickens & horses & mice & bears.

Antiquing, weddings, cookouts, cocktails & neighborhood town meetings in the barn.

Landlords, like family.

Communal gardens & holidays & heartache.

The longest place I’d ever lived (1993-2000.)

Taught 3rd & 4th grade.
Left teaching.
Ran a few non-profits.
Worked at a pizza parlor & a video store.
Became a mother.
Lost my mother.

Babies conceived, miscarried, delivered & breastfed.

Lloyd turned one, two, three, four, five.

Aidan born upstairs.

Casey became a teacher.
Both of us turned 30.

Published my first piece of writing.

Found yoga.

Claimed home.

Listing: https://hermitagedvre.com/listing/4639628/38-new-england-power-company-road-wilmington-vt-05363/

The World Comes to Me

The World Comes to Me

vermont, world, UN Women

Twenty-three years ago, I took a big pay cut and moved to Vermont. Another year later, I surrendered that income to invest myself in motherhood–because unlike work and success and travel, motherhood hadn’t come easy to me.

As a stay at home mom, I couldn’t afford to go out for coffee. I’m not exaggerating. My husband was a new teacher, and we had to pay for insurance out of pocket, and the cost of living in Vermont was surprisingly higher than New Jersey. I had a college degree and 8 years in the classroom; prefaced by a handful of years managing a restaurant; but I felt compelled to give my all to motherhood just as I had to the endeavors that came before it.

More than a decade passed before I let some other interests back in. My sons no longer needed me in the hour to the hour, but I was terrified of awakening passion for something other than them. I played it safe, in part-time roles, and little by little my sense of a separate self began to re-emerge.

More than anything, I longed to travel–to know myself in some foreign place again–but another decade passed before I left the country; unless you count crossing the border of Vermont into Canada; which admittedly was a huge thrill–all three times.

I was approaching 50 when I was offered another safe, part-time position, in a tiny rural office. I almost fell out of the interview chair, however, when I was asked if I had a valid passport. 5 months later, I was in Chile. The following year, Japan.

Surprisingly, it was my stay-at-home grandmothers who planted the seed of travel in me. As a girl, I sat at my great-grandmother Mildred’s knee, and watched as she brushed her hand across the cover of her huge atlas, turning page after page, as she pointed–to all the places she had traveled with her husband after his retirement as a Merchant Marine.

Her daughter, my grandmother Lila, dreamed of leaving home and working internationally. She confided this while helping me with my French, after I told her about the thrill of a school field trip to the United Nations.

“I wanted to be a translator,” she said.

Work. Motherhood. Travel.
Passion. Devotion. Choices.
Losses. Realizations.

I’m 52 now, and I’ve given up that traveling job for something else.

During my years at home, I discovered what a wise woman once said:

Our true passion brings us balance.

Even though I did it so well, and gave it my all–managing a restaurant and a classroom and a home and a non-profit, none of these were my passion.

I was the last to realize my own.

Others called me a writer first.

For the past few years, I’ve dedicated myself to the page. I can afford a cup of coffee now, even lattes, lots of them, but not much else. My husband is still a teacher and we still have one son at home. The other is abroad, living the life I once knew.

I’ve begun to miss the world.

Once a year it comes to me.

(The 60th Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations; click here)

Everything I Aspire Toward…

Everything I Aspire Toward…

When I first moved to Vermont in 1993, I saw this “poem” posted on the board at Klara Simpla–Wilmington’s health food store (aka. Southern Vermont’s well-being Mecca.)

I took my first yoga class at Klara Simpla, bought my first herbs, tinctures and supplements there; and found some books that spoke to my soul.

Of the many ways I was inspired at Klara Simpla, this poem planted a seed that has been watered and nurtured by my life in Vermont.  It’s as true of what I want today as it was when I first set foot into this state.

Beware Signs of Inner Peace

A tendency to think and act  spontaneously rather than on fears based on past experiences

An unmistakable ability to enjoy each moment

A loss of interest in judging other people

A loss of interest in judging self

A loss of interest in interpreting the actions of   others

A loss of interest in conflict

A loss of  ability to worry

Frequent, overwhelming episodes of appreciation

Contented feelings of connectedness with others  & nature

Frequent attacks of smiling

An increasing tendency to let things happen rather  than  make them happen

An increased susceptibility to love extended  by others  and  the uncontrollable urge to  extend it

(by Saskia Davis, RN)

Rolling Stone No More

Rolling Stone No More

While snuggling in bed beside my husband, I spring up with a realization.

“I think this is our 7th Christmas.”

“Not yet,” my husband says, counting on his fingers.  It’s easy for him to know from when to begin: 2004, and the 48 hour Christmas.

“You’re right,” he says, “It is 7.”

“You know how significant this is,” I say.

“Yes–And it’s the house ‘I’ built.”

7 years ago this December, Casey and I lived apart for the first time in 20 years. That November the boys and I moved to my sister’s in Florida so that he could devote every waking (and barely-waking) hour to finishing this house in time for Christmas (since he already missed Labor Day, Halloween and Thanksgiving.)

At midnight on December 22, he picked us up at the airport and we moved into our home–the first home that we have ever owned.

“This will be the house that I’ve lived in the longest,” I say, as I roll over to turn off the lamp at my bedside.

“And it’s the house ‘I’ built,” he says again, rolling to turn off his own lap.

We almost didn’t make it to 7 years. Back in 2008 when Casey was unemployed, he looked at some international teaching jobs–a prospect which was thrilling to me–but meant that I’d  have to start over from scratch on the 7 year thing.

“I haven’t made it yet,” I say, settling back down into Casey’s arms. “It’s not Christmas yet, and I could die or the house could burn down or something.”

“Don’t say that kind of stuff,” Casey says, pushing me away.

The truth is that this is such an important milestone to me that I’m anxious about it. I felt this same fearful uncertainty before I left for England in my junior year, and then again before our first baby was born.

Sometimes the things we really want seem that impossible, especially when they’re so close to coming true.

I remember when Casey reached the 7 year mark with me. It was an important finish line for him–it meant he surpassed my first love. Though he’s now more than tripled that number, he still reminds me of his longevity–“Almost 4 times as long,” he says.

First love, first son, first house. They’re all so significant.

I don’t know what number home this is for me. I’d rather not count. As an Army brat who was born while her dad was still in college, I’ve had my share of moves and homes and schools

My own boys were born and raised in this same small town, attended the same small school, and grew up with the same kids that they played with at preschool. I was 14 when my parents finally settled down in one place.

That home had been the one that belonged to my grandparents, my beloved “6012.” But our time there was short. My parents divorced, and not only did we lose our family, but our home.

After that, I went to Europe three times, lived out West, moved back home, and then took off for these Green Mountains.

Our first place in Vermont was a tiny farm-house nestled beside a “babbling” brook, and seated at the foot of a mountain beside the National Forest. Both my boys were conceived there, and for seven years, it was our “home sweet home.”

When we left that rental, it was heartbreaking, but the time had come for us to set out on our own, and a few moves later, we were here–in the house that Casey built–with the help of his boys and all of our friends.

7 years ago this Christmas.

(Did I count right?)

Kelly Salasin, December 2011

Until I moved to Vermont…

Until I moved to Vermont…

Kelly Salasin

Until I moved to Vermont, I didn’t truly appreciate “summer.”

I didn’t understand the Equinox or the Solstice.

I didn’t know the meaning of “southern exposure.”

I took the sun for granted.

I’d never felt spring in my bones.

I resisted heat.

I didn’t get dirty.

I wore white.

I shaved.

Living here now, I steep in each season down to my core.

I EMBRACE summer like a lover.

I relish his kisses on my skin.

I delight in my feet upon the earth.

I sink my hands into the soft soil,

and slip my body into the welcoming waters.

To live in Vermont is to know your connection to all things.

With that gift,

comes

both pleasure

and grief.

To Be of the Earth

To be of the Earth is to know

the restlessness of being a seed

the darkness of being planted

the struggle toward the light

the pain of growth into the light

the joy of bursting and bearing fruit

the love of being food for someone

the scattering of your seeds

the decay of the seasons

the mystery of death

and the miracle of birth.

~John Soos

A Conversation with Mrs. Janet “Barber” Pool of Wilmington, Vermont

A Conversation with Mrs. Janet “Barber” Pool of Wilmington, Vermont

(This interview with Mrs. Pool took place in her home in Wilmington in 2001 just after 9/11 and was published in the Cracker Barrel Magazine that year.)

Janet Pool is eighty-eight years old and full of grace.  She’s a native of Wilmington and has spent pretty much her entire life here as have generations before her.    Born Janet Robinson Barber on July 6, 1913 (“the same month as President Gerald Ford”), Janet is a descendant of James Flagg who came to Wilmington in 1783, and of Issac Hubbard who arrived here in the spring of 1800.


In 1934, Janet wed William A. Pool , Jr. from Marlboro, Vermont.  Nicknamed “Mr. Somerset,” Mr. Pool was a  well-loved naturalist, deeply regarded for his work as a wildlife photographer.  Bill passed away in 1981 after conserving two-hundred acres of forest land around the Pool Family Farm in Marlboro, Vermont.


Both Mr. and Mrs. Pool served the town and county in many offices over a long period of time.  In 1993, Janet was the recipient of the American Legion Citizenship Award, citing her
extensive work throughout the community, including her involvement with senior groups, which she continues to this day.

Mrs. Pool is the familiar and welcoming face you see each week when you arrive at the Deerfield Valley Seniors meal site in Jacksonville.  It is no wonder that she is so well loved–renown as she is for her warm and gracious spirit.  Mrs. Pool astonishes those much younger with her amazing recollection of names and faces–as well as  life events and little details.  Janet leaves each person she encounters (whether an old friend or a new) feeling very, very cherished.


It is my honor and a great pleasure to offer you a glimpse of this special lady in her own “voice.”

Kelly Salasin

Family  Ties

My parents were Merton and Minnie Barber.  I remember somebody had a couple chickens that were called by those names!

My father was the son of HF Barber (Hardy Barber),  who owned HF Barber and Son, a store that was where the town office is now.  There’s pictures in there of my grandfather in the store.

(In the 1980 Wilmington Old Home Week book,  Janet wrote this about it,  “Many have memories of this store as a genial meeting place for card players or those who just wanted to sit around the stove and reminisce.”)

My father, Merton Barber, later sold the business and acquired a general insurance agency where I was employed until 1955 after which I purchased the company from him.  Though I have since sold the agency, it still bears the family name, BARBER and JARVIS.

My grandparents and my great-grandparents pictures are in Memorial Hall.  A while back, I  found my grandfather’s civil war papers and his discharge order.    My grandfather’s mother was a Flagg; and that’s why I’m so patriotic!

War and Patriotism

I have a picture here of (my husband) Bill (William Pool Jr.) when he was in uniform.  He was in the thick of it.  He was in the Battle of the Bulge.

Here’s a photo of VJ Day, 1945, August 14th in Wilmington.  That’s the day of the surrender, of Japan.  We built a fire right there in the town square and had a little parade; I played the accordion, and we all had a good time.

I don’t like the idea (of another war), no.   But I feel we got to do something.  In fact the other day at the Seniors, Tuesday group, I wrote a little prayer.  Peg Morgan had us join hands and repeat the Lord’s Prayer like we do, and of course we always repeat the pledge of allegiance first; then I read my prayer:

Dear Lord, Listen to this tiny prayer from a tiny group. Let it mingle with the thousands of prayers being issued today throughout the country.  America has been in mourning for a week over a senseless, horrible act… Bless those who have lost loved ones, also the leaders of our nation, the rescuers, and many others… Above all, God Bless America, the Land of the Brave and the Free.  Amen’

Sisters and Children

This is Beaver Street that I live on;  Beaver Brook is just over there.  I’ve been here since ‘47.   I was married then, I must have been thirty-four.  That was right after the war.  We moved here after Bill was discharged from the service.  My father originally owned the house and when he passed away in ‘65 he left it to me.

The house up on Lisle Hill where I was born belongs to my sister, Muriel Barber Manning .  She was born thirteen months after me.  My mother always dressed us just alike. Muriel lives up in Hinesburg, Vermont.  She went up there to teach and found a husband.   She wasn’t married ’til she was over 50.
Neither of us have any children,  but I always loved children.   I always had some around.    My husband, you see, had four sisters, and one brother; the brother didn’t have any children, but the girls had plenty, so some of them were with us lot of the time.

In fact, (my niece) Bertha (Pool) spent most of her highschool days living with us while going to the highschool here.   Her sisters stayed with us some of the time too as their family lived in Marlboro.
I went to that school (Wilmington Middle High School) all twelve years–and my father was one of its earliest graduates.
Yes, as I say, I’ve always had kids around; the people across the street, their children call me ‘Nana’.  Here’s a photo of me with the neighbors and here’s one taken a couple of years ago with the ‘Halloween kids’  I always like to dress up with them.

Romance and Floods

I met my husband, William Pool, at the (Deerfield Valley Farmers Day) Fair in ‘33.   A funny thing is, another fellow invited me to go the fair that day, but he called and said he couldn’t go.   So I went alone,  and that’s when Bill spotted me.

He’d come from Marlboro to go to the fair.  He used to walk seven miles to take me to the movies;  that’s when they had them in Memorial Hall.  His father would wait up for him to get home.  It was something!
I remember the fair of 1938;  that was the time of the flood.  Bill had a huge collection of deer antlers on the table there (on exhibit) and they floated around, but he found most of them.   That was quite the fair!

Hunting and Wedding Plans

I was married at home, just a quiet wedding, up at Lisle Hill.  I don’t remember much of a party after, but I remember we left on a honeymoon… went as far as Greenfield!

That was December 1st, 1934, and that makes me think of something that one fellow thinks is funny.   Bill was a great hunter you know, and in those days deer hunting was the last two weeks in November,  so he had to wait to December 1st to get married!

Girlfriends and School Days

I don’t have too much company anymore,  but one of my school friends was here last week,  and stayed a couple days, and we talked.  Her name is Meredith Wood.   She was born here.   She comes up every year to get maple syrup up at Carl Boyd’s.  She’s eighty-eight too.  She’s pretty spry!
Meredith and I graduated highschool together.  We had white dresses, white stockings, white shoes;  no caps and gowns then!  We graduated down at Memorial Hall, and I remember they would present us with a  bouquet of flowers after.
I was Salutatorian… that doesn’t mean much for eleven graduates!  (There’s just three of us left now.)  I had to speak and greet the people.   I remember the last part of (my speech):   I said, ‘Go forth, attain, attain!’ I’ve got a copy of it somewhere.
We used to have what they called public speaking (in school).   I started out when I was in the first grade.  I spoke a piece;  It was at Christmas time:

You know what the Christmas mousey did
before he went to his trundle bed?
‘Dear Mr.  Santa if you please,
put in my stocking some Christmas cheese.’

The Cracker Barrel and Old Times

Oh yes, I’ve been a fan  ever since it started.   I like it, it’s a homey paper.  It tells about people as they are, you know.   And there are so many things that I recognize in there.

I’ve been mentioned (in The Cracker Barrel) before, (but this is the first article just about me).  Nice of you to think of it.

Not much has stayed the same here (in the valley), not much.  Of course the buildings, the old buildings, they’ve tried to keep the outside as they were, but they’re different inside.   This house hasn’t changed though;  it was built in 1895.

There aren’t many folks left that I can talk old times with.  Evelyn Keefe, remember her?   She and I used to visit a lot.  Now there’s Dot Turner.   She lives on Dix Road, I think they call it.   Her house is the oldest house in town.

Women and Careers

I wonder if there are other things that I ought to tell you… I’m trying to think.  It was funny you know when my mother came to town;  she came to teach, and they told her there weren’t any eligible men left, but she found one!    My mother was a Robinson: Minnie Swazee Robinson.  My middle name is Robinson.   She was the oldest of six girls.

She taught up here at the school in 1909.  She quit teaching when she was married.  My mother was a very talented person, a good sewer, seamstress; also an artist, she could paint things.  Neither my sister or I took after her in that respect;  we were more career people I guess.

Muriel was a school teacher and I was in the (insurance) office; did that most of the time.  My mother stayed home; and she’d make our dresses and this and that.  I used to like her  Red Flannel Hash.  Do you know that?  It’s after a boiled dinner.

Aging and Some Advice…

Well, I’d like to be back, maybe not quite so young, but maybe in my twenties and thirties; that’s some of the prime of life, I think.

My maternal grandmother lived to be 95.  (And I plan) to go right along the way I am.  Course you have to look to the future.  Right now I’m pretty well set.  Bertha (my niece) nextdoor, runs errands for me, and Sam Hall, upstairs, does the outside work.  So it works out pretty good.  I do my own housework myself; I tell the doctor, ‘That’s my exercise!’

My advice on aging?  It’s all attitude! If you feel, ‘Oh , I can’t go today, I can’t do this,’  it’s good to push yourself a little and have a good time.   As a eighty-nine year old told me the other day,  ‘We got to keep going!’

I agree.  You got to be positive about things. I imagine I’ve always (felt this way).  That song, Young at Heart, is a good one to go by.

Fairytales can come true
it can happen to you
if you’re young at heart
For it’s hard, you will find,
to be narrow of mind,
if you’re young at heart…
And life gets more exciting
with each passing day,
And love is either in your heart
or on it’s way…
Don’t you know  that it’s worth,
every treasure on earth,
to be young at heart…
And if you should survive
to a hundred and five
Look at all you’ll derive
out of being alive!
And here is the best part
You’ll have a head start
If you are among the very young at hear
t!

(written by Carolyn Leigh and Johnnie Richards.)