Winter 1998

 
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My Mom's Pond

by

Robert J. Gregory

In 1953, when I was 15 and my brother Jim was 12, my parents bought the 100-acre farm where my mother had grown up. During the second World War mother's three brothers had gone off to fight and my grandparents, unable to manage the farm wihtout them, had sold the family place. Regaining her family farm was an important event in my mother's plan of accomplishments for our family.

The farmhouse had been built around the time of the Civil War. When we moved to the place, there was the framework of a new barn to replace the barn that had burnt down years before. My dad and I worked on the barn in 1954 and finished it in 1955. I will always remember the square dance held on the clean barn floor with neighbors, relatives and friends who came to celebrate the completion of the barn, what seemed to me, at seventeen, to have been a major life's project.

In 1956 I graduated from high school and went off to college. My mother was very pleased that I was continuing in school. She had always insisted that Jim and I must get an education. She and Dad had dropped out of school during the depression; we boys had to make up for that.

In addition to her goals of reclaiming the family farm and seeing her boys gain an academic education, my mother had a desire for herself, a pond. It was a dream worth almost any price to her. To make her farm pond become a reality, my mother saved her egg money, her milk money, her pin money, and freely accepted anything she was offered.

Her pond was built with help from the State Conservation Department and a bulldozer in 1957. It was only a hundred yards from the house and Mother spent much of her time there tending the banks as they became covered with grass and clover, adding flowers and shrubs, then trees, and welcoming new inhabitants such as newts and salamanders, tadpoles and frogs, turtles, muskrats, ducks and even 27 Canada geese one year who spent a day or two visiting.

She stocked the pond with 25 bass and 25 bluegills and fed them and protected them for more than a year from boys eager to fish. Mother's seat on the dock Dad built was like a throne where she could survey all the life of her pond.

She planted spruce and pine trees on the north to shelter her pond from cold winds, and she planted larch and locust trees on the south side of the pond for shade and hideaways for birds.

In summertime after hot work haying, we cooled off in the pond. In spring and fall, we often fished, and in the winter, we skated on the pond. Whenever friends and relative came to our place, they all seemed drawn to the pond and its different moods: a mirror face on calm days, a dancing surface on breezy days.

There were exciting times such as when my first-born daughter at about age 4 was playing gaily on the dock, then lost her balance, slipped, and fell into the pond. But I heard her shout and rescued her. There was the time when the lawn mower Mother was using to trim the banks caught on fire and yellow and orange flames shot up from the engine.

"What shall I do? Push it in the water?"

"RUN!" I shouted back, and it was well that she did because the gas tank blew harmlessly into the air a few seconds later.

Most of the time we spent at the pond was without drama. Deer gamboled on the banks, a blue heron visited to go fishing, and mallards would stop for a day or two. There were kingfisher visits, new muskrat holes, and stray turtles to notice and talk about with our family. I recall the last walk my mom took, when cancer had advanced so far that she could not navigate well. We sat there next to her pond, she and I enjoying the goldenrod, the wild asters, her favorite ash tree and remembering all the times we had run out from the house to see some new visitor to the pond.

It is now nearly 30 years since my mom died. I have a 6-month-old grandson on my knee and I'm telling him about his great-grandmother and the sparkle in her eyes whenever she tallked about her dream that became the beautiful pond and surroundings we are both watching.

1997, Robert J. Gregory
 
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