I still remember the house I grew up in - The house my mother and father built - including the grounds around it and the woods behind it in Massachusetts. My father built that house with his own two hands and with the help of my mother. Sometimes I feel like I had been there just yesterday. It contains many wonderful memories and will continue to be only be memories for the remainder of my life, because the house and the property around the house has now been sold and is no longer in the family. There are pictures of the house to the right. In my youth our street was a dead-end street and there were only five other houses (It's still a dead end street in 2009 - but there are lots more houses). They were: my grandmother’s home across the street, three old houses at the top of the street and one house at the end of the street. The property on which our house stood was equal to five normal house lots. Our house was set on the lot to the east of center.
One day in the early summer when I was about 8 years old, I planned on visiting the woods behind the property that my father owned, as I did on many occasions. I wore a dress; I know a dress may not have been the best attire for exploring the woods, but I really liked wearing dresses! I headed down the stairs from my upstairs bedroom to the main part of the house. I informed my mother that I was going to explore the woods. I knew she’d call me when it was time for lunch, and I knew I would be able to hear her because she had a voice that carried quite far.
I left our home and headed West across the grassy areas of the property. At the northwestern end of the of the property there were three very large pine trees in a group. I headed for these pine trees. I felt these were my pine trees. When I reached the pine trees I looked at them with wonder. I sat many times under these pine trees in the blanket of pine needles reading some book or other. But they were not my final destination on this day. I continued on past them into the woods.
At the entrance to "my" woods, there were two huge pine trees that I had to walk between. I looked up at them also. I loved these woods. It was a beautiful wooded area that stretched on the north to Pleasant Valley Street and on the west to the fields that are now Highway 495. I followed a well-worn path through the woods into the shadowed, moist, scented interior. I looked around me and saw many ferns growing there. As I walked across the pine needle strewn land I looked for Lily of the Valley plants. I did see many violets growing there. Many times I bent over to smell their fragrances and touch their purple blossoms. I loved the growing things in that woods and I loved the quietness of the woods. I felt safe, happy, calm and at peace there and I liked being alone on days like this.
At times I would even come into the woods with a book to read, but this time I only wanted to either walk or sit and look at the growing things. I sat for a bit near the path, playing with the dewy ferns. I smelled them. They smelled like something from another world with their fresh, planty smell. I touched them. They were soft and cool and slightly fuzzy.
I got up and continued my walk along the pathway. I looked up at the tall trees. Some of them were pine trees like my pine trees at the edge of my property only larger. Some of them were maple trees and a few were white birch trees. I could hear and smell the early summer breeze blowing through the uppermost branches of the trees and I could see the leaves swaying in the breeze. Then I reached the little stream that ran from North to South. I picked up a stick and poked at some of the stones that stood in the little stream. I stuck a hand in the stream and felt the coldness of the water running over my hand. I cupped my hands and put them in and tasted the cool refreshing water. It was so cold and fresh and clean; thinking back now I still feel all its wonderful qualities. I continued to enjoy listening to the sound of the water bubbling over the stones. Such a wonderful clear sound.
I stepped across the stream and walked toward the meadow on the other side. While I was walking, I spotted something off to my right. Could it be? I walked off the trail and there it was. It was a Lady’s Slipper flower. I hadn’t seen one for some time and I was pleasantly surprised. I sat down in front of it and looked at it feeling happy and curious. I touched the green part of the plant and then I gently touched the flower itself. Even at this young age I knew that this was an endangered plant and that I shouldn’t pick its flower. Little did I know at the time, but that was the last living Lady’s Slipper I was to ever see for a long, long time to come. I still remember it longingly now. There are pictures of Lady's slippers to the right.
Some time during my ninth year of life they (the almighty they) built some Highways, Route 495 and Route 213, through the edge of my woods and much of the meadows beyond. Then, not too long after that they build an apartment complex in the woods behind my house. Now the entire area is built up. There are now nearly 20 houses on "my" street there in Massachusetts and the woods are almost entirely gone - they did leave some of the trees, fortunately.
I wrote the above story in 2002.
Addendum added in 2004: I visited my niece's home in New Hampshire just before my mother died and guess what? I saw Lady's slippers flowers in the woods near her home! They were beautiful. I saw many, but I still did not pick any. They are still an endangered flower. If you see one please only enjoy looking at it or take its picture, but please do not pick it.
All photos by me, my parents, or other family members, I think.
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