Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Channeling Harriet

I made myself a tomato sandwich for dinner tonight.
It was delicious, as all tomato sandwiches are.

Light on the mayonnaise, heavy on the tomato and pepper, it is pure summer bliss. And each time I eat one, I am immediately transported back to the summer when I was eleven and I discovered Harriet the Spy for the very first time.


The adventures of Harriet, Janie and Sport consumed my every waking moment. I wanted an Ole Golly just for me. Someone clever and wise who would teach me and treat me like I was someone important.
I wanted to live in a place where I could walk to the grocer and the library and the school.
I read it over and over again. Not only did I read Harriet, I became Harriet.
Armed with a black composition book, I spied on everyone and everything. I wish that I still had it. What stories it would tell.
My brothers provided ample fodder for surveillance. At one year and five years younger than me, they were the perfect victims.
Their bedroom was right next to mine, separated by a door and very old, thin walls. They were at constant odds with each other- one could not stand the sound of the other's breathing and the other just wanted to pummel his younger brother into oblivion. Boys.
By the end of the summer, I thought I had enough ammunition to blackmail them into doing anything I wanted them to do. I never did though. What a wimp.
Across the field and two dirt lanes from our house, lived Captain and Mrs. Miller.
An aged couple, their house was hidden by a tall wooden fence that ran along the lane that led to the Mounce's house. It was always calling me to it.
With my book in hand and a very stubby pencil stuffed into my pocket, I would walk over to the lane, climb up a small stone wall and peer over the fence.
I had to stand on tip-toes to see over the top. Inside was the most beautiful garden. Mrs. Miller was from England and her garden was a traditional knot garden,
like those found in English country estates.
I studied every plant it contained, herbs and flowers the likes of which I had not seen before, all lavishly planted and beautifully kept.
I could picture her tiny frame, bent with age tending to the needs of each one.
I was always afraid that I would get caught, so I never stayed long. I would jump down after only a few minutes, walk home and fill my book with words and drawings of what I had seen.
I would walk down to the Brown's house and sit and visit with Mrs. Brown's mother, Gram Milner. A small, frail woman with wisps of pure white hair, she would tell me stories about her youth. While her body was failing, her mind was sharp and her recollection perfect.
As a treat for listening and sitting with her, I would be given a pink Canada mint
from a glass candy jar. Just one.
I cannot remember her stories. They are lost with my book.
For weeks on end, my black composition book was my best friend. Everywhere I went, it went with me, capturing the observations of a young girl and her vivid imagination.
Unlike Harriet, my book was never discovered. And if it had been, there was really nothing in there that would cause anyone any concern.
Unless you count one brother calling the other a "piss-head" unforgivable.
I am still a keen observer of people and things. In a good way, of course. I think it gives me better insight and understanding into who they are.
I just don't record my observations in my black composition book.
Or do I?


6 comments:

The Feathered Nest said...

Karin! I love reading you!! What a sweet recollection and wonderful writing. You make me smile...xxoo, Dawn (Thank you for your sweet words on the Victoria thing ~ who'd a thunk it?)

GardenGoose said...

what a fun post. I hope that you keep a composition book of sorts now. your writing is so fun to read.

mima said...

Oh my gosh!!!! We are kindred spirits!!! I didn't think any one in the world loved Harriet the Spy more than me!! That book was like my Bible in the 5th and 6th grade!!! Many hugs! Debi(mima)

Vintage to Victorian said...

Just read your comment on Tales of Pixie Wood - your family's taste buds can't be any worse than my husband's!!! When you're cooking the rice/broad bean thingy, make some for me. We can share it and the others can find something else in the fridge!!

Utah Grammie said...

To read what you are writing is like revisiting my childhood. What a pleasure! Thanks for sharin gyour insights, remembrences and photography. Keep up the great bolg!
Colleen

Brainiac's Daughter said...

There are few things in life better than a fresh tomato sandwich. We inherited that particular craving from Mom.