My visit to Stockbridge last Saturday completed a circle that began twelve years ago, about a year into my Rachel Field odyssey. I launched my first Stockbridge trip in October of 2009. My Port City Life article about sharing Rachel’s summer house had come out during the summer, and I’d just begun to tackle the bigger job of writing a full-length biography. How naïve I was, and how lucky to be naïve! The yearlong biography project I imagined stretched into 13 years. Had I known, I would almost certainly never have taken on the task.
That October, I’d arranged to stay at the home of an old college friend in the area while I browsed the archival holdings in the library/museum in Stockbridge, Rachel Field’s childhood home. I remember being deeply moved by Rachel’s gravestone in the Stockbridge Cemetery, by my walk through her childhood home next to the library, where Rachel’s grandfather often fell asleep with “See-Saw” the dog in his lap. That night I talked to Roger and his family over dinner in their house in Lennox – his wife Lara, two young kids, his dad, and a dog named Brownie.
Last Saturday I arrived at Roger’s home again, this time with Jonathan as travel companion. Roger and Lara haven’t changed, but his dad has passed. They’re in a new house with a new dog, and the “kids” (as charming as ever) are now in their 20s. Circles of change and returning, growth and departures.
Rachel’s landmarks remain unchanged, but I am a different person now, holding the book that tells Rachel’s story in my hand. I had a chat with her in the cemetery, thanked her again for all that she has given me. I told her what was up with me and the book we created together. I also spoke to Rachel’s parents and sister, and her Great Aunt Henriette, all of them, now, part of my extended family.
Back in the Stockbridge Library, I got to share the stage with the original Hitty doll for my book talk about The Field House. Rachel’s Hitty, the very doll that sat on our Sutton Island mantelpiece in 1928 while Rachel and Dorothy Lathrop conjured her 100-year adventures, would become a Newbery-Medal-winning celebrity along with Rachel Field. On Saturday afternoon, Hitty was ceremoniously delivered into the light, out of the basement archives, to share my day in the sun.
This stop on my book tour moved me. It felt emblematic of completion, the closing of a long incomplete circle. Or maybe, arrival? Sometimes you have to go back in order to move forward. Maybe that’s what the writing of The Field House was all about from the beginning. If Rachel’s spirit is still around, I hope she experienced the release that this Stockbridge visit gave me. In a way, Rachel, too, was relegated to the gloom of archival storage. I hope she might now feel free to dance away, wherever her heart leads.
Yesterday Nellie left this glorious Adirondack lake with Fiona, our 20-month-old granddaughter, after a visit with Grammie and Papa. I confess there was a bit of an exhale, a relieved catching of breath after a week’s emotional saturation with that small, mighty presence.
This morning, though, I looked down the hall from my bedroom where Fiona’s pack-’n-play used to be, where the coos and burbles of her small, waking voice summoned me springing from bed in the mornings or after naptime (hers and mine), where I was dependably greeted by that charming smile of intimate familiarity.
The call of the child intoxicates. It must be biologically programmed. I long for her presence, that dear face, the dancing, drunken gait, the soft arms wrapped around my neck, the rapt face listening to Winnie the Pooh’s theme song, “again” and “again!” I want to hear her voice saying “Grammie” as she reaches up for a lift into my arms. I miss her clear commands, her confident expectation that she will be heard and the world will respond – “sit”“beach” “nake” “backpack” “watch” “more” “moose.” How thrilled we are to comply.
60, however, is not the ideal age for that degree of sustained attention. Papa and I are happy to be sedately ensconced now with fellow 60+ year-olds, reading, playing Whist, disappearing occasionally into our own minds.
But oh, that world of wonders! The discovery of raspberries on the bush, ducks flushed from the grass, boat rides, splash bubbles on the water, sand clouds created by underwater feet. Hefting the lithe weight of young bodies, we see the world anew through a child’s eyes, feel the Earth under our toes as we haven’t felt it in years. We hear the voice of burgeoning life in the call of the child, and run, spellbound, to bear witness.
Robin Clifford Wood is a writer and writing teacher. She lives in central Maine with her husband and dogs, loves to be outdoors, and enjoys ever-expanding horizons through her grown children and their multi-species families.