The popular saying is that it takes a village to raise a child. This is the village that raised my sister and me and left its imprint on everything we are today.
My little town is a mix of reality and nostalgia. It is inhabited by our family members, the people who lived on the farm and in the surrounding community, and who lived their lives in particular ways.
Walk down the street with me, and I’ll introduce you. As we walk, keep your eyes open to the beauty here, the details of architecture, and the lovely flowers and trees. As well as being a pretty town, this is a tour de force of stitching ability!
We come to my sister first—the flower stall is hers.
It’s good we start with her, since she is the person who stitched this lovely scene. She made it many years ago and when I look at it now, I’m amazed at the detail! The time and energy that went into this boggles my mind. She worked in crewel embroidery and customized this kit to reflect our family and the work we do.
My sister has never sold flowers but I think she’s always had a fantasy about doing so, having a small friendly business in a small friendly town. Her adult life went a very different direction—she has worked for years, on Wall Street and beyond, in the financial field. A small town girl, she learned to negotiate, and succeed in, one of the biggest cities in the world. And she raised one great daughter—talk about the important work of loving hands at home!
Behind her, at Wright’s Craftsman, we meet my maternal grandfather.
I’ve said before that he was a serial craftsman. He would choose a hobby and put all his considerable energy into mastering it, and then he would move on. He was a photographer and developed his own photos. He was a rock hound and collected rocks and gems. He built houses with his own two hands, raised tropical fish, painted in oils. And he made exquisite furniture.
Beyond the craftsman’s shop is Banker’s Orchards.
The Bankers are my paternal grandmother’s family and their apple orchard was in the family for years. The Bankers were farmers and the family had deep Dutch roots. The Bankers have now mostly moved away, some very far away as missionaries and college professors, but the orchard still bears their name and the descendants are all still farm kids at heart.
Next along the street is Evelyn’s.
Evelyn is our mother and, although she appears to have a shop front, that’s really a schoolroom. She taught generations of North Country kids to read and write, laying a foundation in first grade that provided them the chance to succeed. I regularly meet people who hear my name and tell me they had my mother as a first-grade teacher. Evelyn inherited the serial craftsman gene from her father and has always been a maker, too.
Evelyn’s schoolroom is right next door to Bowen’s.
Lydia Bowen was my mother’s mother and you can’t tell it from the storefront but Lydia would be busy inside, always busy, with her books. She was a meticulous bookkeeper for her young family during the Great Depression, making note of every penny earned and every penny spent. Later she turned that energy to genealogy and traced her family back to the Puritans. The inside of her shop would smell of old paper and books.
Next along the street of my little town is my father’s place–he really was the town supervisor for a few years.
He was also a dairy farmer, drove a school bus and then became the head bus driver and, ultimately, the business manager of our school system. He only lived to be 43 but he packed a lot into his years. My sister and I wouldn’t drink milk in restaurants for years because it didn’t come from Dad’s cows and didn’t taste right.
My small art gallery is the last shop on the street.
Although she stitched this piece when I was in grad school, getting a Ph.D. to teach in a field far removed from art, my sister knew that having a creative outlet and making were of central importance in my life. If you were to peek inside my gallery, you’d see an eclectic mix! You’d see drawings and some pretty amateurish paintings. You’d see handwrought jewelry, handmade chocolates, quilts, embroidery, weaving . . . and who knows what will be added next?
The stroll through town is a short one, although we could add a few more names now. The town itself remains sort of old-fashioned, quite small, attractive enough but not fashionable, much like the family. It’s a quiet place, filled with hard-working people who valued education and family and who made things, created things, and shared those values with each other.
What sort of village raised you? Was the “town” primarily your close family or was the broader community instrumental? Can you see the influences of that town in the person you are today?