The weekly newspaper, The Herald of Randolph, is housed in an old building in “downtown” Randolph, Vermont. It smells of ink and newsprint and old metal type. Like my father’s weekly in Rochester, NY, The Labor News, when I was young. My father was the editor of the AFL-CIO newspaper, until Mario Cuomo bestowed upon him the title of Deputy Commissioner of Labor for New York State. When I walk into the Herald I fall back 55 years, just for a second, but then get on with the business of self promotion and I’m a writer or an artist or an innkeeper or costuming the local children’s summer musical, curating a local art show, and looking for free advertising, which the Herald is always so generous to provide. I stopped in on Friday with the press release and glossy flyer for I Wasn’t Strong Like This When I Started Out, Stories of Becoming a Nurse, the Creative Non Fiction anthology that comes out next week. I have a piece in the collection. It’s a big deal. As many of you know from my constant complaining, life in Vermont has not been easy for me, Vermont has not been what I expected it to be when I dragged my family here in 2001. But then again, is anything? The point is, big deals are very big deals to me, here in my self-involved, angst-driven little essayist’s head.
In the window at the Herald office was a display with the book A Mim’s-Eye View: from the heart of Vermont. “Mim” Herwig, an essayist, also writes a small blurb in the Herald every week about what’s going on at the tiny crossroads of Randolph Center. Randolph Center, on the old Boston-Montreal stagecoach road is also the home of Vermont Technical College, but Mim usually leaves those goings-on up to them to discuss. Mim is all about ‘who came to call’ and who might be ill, what might be blooming, what might have been served at tea. You might as well be reading from seventy five years ago. And indeed, Mim started writing about her life in her teens. She is now 89. The snapshot of her taken in 1948 on the steps of the Herald could be today. The steps have not changed. On Friday, I skittered up those same steps, flyer in hand. I had always meant to read Mim’s book, just because her little updates in the newspaper have always given me some odd comfort. Like, there’s just plain niceness out there, so I picked it up, opened to her rich and detailed descriptions, had to dab my eyes right there in front of the receptionist. On some level I was deeply moved by my ability to resonate with this degree of non-snarkeyness. My favorite essay so far is “Memories of Randolph Center in 1950.” I trust the Fair Use Act covers me in quoting: “The town was bristling with old people-my age now-….Yet it was not a retirement community, but rather a village of people who were growing old where they had lived all their adult lives.” She describes in this essay a sunny morning baking cookies with a rolling pin she had received 50 years prior from her father-in-law, tagged with a note to “handle with care.” She recalls a neighbor, the local blacksmith, “who made a rolling pin for each local girl when she got married. Lewis and his wife Eva, had no children, but held the offspring of the whole community in warm regard.”
A catch in my throat as I read this. Is this what I had expected from Vermont? The last paragraphs: “Across from the store lived Will and Anna Bolin. He had been the town paper hanger and painter, whose name was painted up inside the church belfry. She would appear in time of sickness to lend a hand washing dishes or some other helpful deed. Beside her lived Lettie Pike, a retired teacher whose hands created beautiful dried arrangements and tended a lovely garden. They were not on speaking terms.”
AH, much better. I bought two copies.
A Mim’s-Eye View: from the heart of Vermont, The Public Press, can be ordered by contacting http://www.ourherald.com . I would highly recommend it.