My Best Friend
(Susan Barber Drummond)

My first people friend that I recollect at a pre-school age was Rosemary Poole. She was my woods and peanut buddy. Rosemary was the youngest of 6 children, and her closest sibling was Soby, her brother who always played football with his buddies and occasionally used Rosemary in the game. I was rarely asked to participate because I was just tiny and little and petite. If I was not at Rosemary's house or between, then Rosemary was at my house, or between in the woods or road. At the Poole's there was an entire room devoted to bookshelves full of books at the top of their stairway, which was always fun. Rosemary received a lot of Madelyn books of the little Parisian orphan. I just happen to remember that one particular series. We too did a lot of exploration throughout the woods between our houses often stopping at my Aunt Eva and Uncle Charlies' house on North Road. There were a lot of peanut butter and jelly and occasionally marshmallow fluff sandwiches. Sometimes we camped outside. Sometimes we camped inside. Mother and Father always left the light on inside our always unlocked door. Mother was one to invite little friends over when they came down with Chicken Pox and such, just to pass it on to us and just get it over and done with. If Rosemary was not feeling well, it was always the blue bottle of Milk of Magnesium that she was given. I envied her a little even though she said it tasted perfectly awful. Once in a while, Rosemary would switch out her bedroom light, but she usually had the bedroom next to her parents that faced the South Road. I always remember the noise and vehicle lights keeping me awake half the night because where I lived a mile down North Road, there was never much traffic and our house was up on the hill away from the road. Rosemary's felt like it was right on the street. And, Rosemary always pulled her window shades down although the lights and noise still kept me awake. We had shades at my house but we never needed nor used them. Mrs. Poole faithfully played organ at the Congregational Church. She just a faithfully gave Mother a ride to the grocery store each or every other week, because Mother did not drive. The last person that tried to teach mother was Uncle Frank (Stone from Goshen), and he quit after mother took him and the car over a stone wall in reverse. I do remember the Poole's two Ford "woodies" vehicles. I remember the flood and hurricane in '55 where we all climbed in and drove towards Torrington down the main road. We had to stop because the water had climbed up and risen on the Torrington hill road. I remember the rain gushing down our back road up to the dump way in back that was on the right or south side of our house. Sonny (Hank), and I played in that water and mudpool for hours. It seemed that a few young friends joined us, although our household was full-up with just my family. And, then Rosemary was often there. Rosemary was my protector when Sonny was not around. Rosemary's house had an enormous attic and her play doll house was my favorite. At my house we always played dress-up, and mother always seemed to have plenty for us to use which even included strapless bras that we would stuff with tissue, toilet paper, and anything else we could find. At my house we would play in the basement when the weather was inclement. Down in the cellar we had an ancient stove and oven, and we made up pies, cookies, cakes and all sorts of things with mother's tide with which we added water. Great play stuff, and mother just used our cakes and cookies and pies in her washing machine. Father always wanted to buy mother a dryer but mother preferred the clothesline outside accessed on our kitchen porch. When I became old enough to stand on the porch railing and hang clothes, I did. However, when I became even bigger, and I never get much much bigger, I did not enjoy hanging out clothes in the winter. My hands froze entirely too quickly. Yet, it was fun bringing in the frost starched clothes all stiff and cardboard-like. Mother also liked hanging diapers, there always seemed to be a need for then, on the top of a couple of doorways to give the house a little needed moisture in the winter months. In the good weather and summer, mother was always famous for coming upstairs and going directly to the windows and opening them. It took me years to finally become accustomed to open windows at night without starting and catching a cold, but now I find myself doing the same thing when I get up with beautiful weather outside. Good to air thy house. Back to Rosemary. We met at the school bus stop on the corner by the church and Rosemary's house. Sometimes, when Rosemary's mother would practice at the church, Rosemary and I would somehow get up above where the choir sang, and look out the windows that had no glass. We were always going to church on Sunday's and activities during the week which were potlucks which we especially loved. The potlucks were the only times I ever waitressed with such loving and unconditional townspeople. Of course, Aunt Eva taught preschool and kindergarten age Sunday school, and Aunt Eva was just always a treat. She taught me three things which were: God is love, and cleanliness is next to Godliness, and that beauty was on the inside. For some reason, probably beautiful siblings, I was concerned with the latter. How strange when I think about it now. I suppose I always felt compared to one or another sibling, and there just was something lacking in me. It was strange that 50 years later my older sister, Gloria, mentioned in my presence once that I was so beautiful as a child; it never ever occurred to me. Of course, there was Rosemary, Posie -- we all called her -- with her rosie complexion and cheeks, and the epitome of health. As a child I did get Chicken Pox and the Measles, but somehow I managed to be the only one in the family that came down with Whooping Cough; thought I would cough and vomit my literal guts up with that, but I made it through. In mother's house one would never think of anything else. She was a terrific nurse to all of us. Between that and her will, mother willed us to get better. And, she always wanted one of us Barber girls to become a nurse. I passed out and had bloody noses, Gloria passed out at the sight of blood, and Thea was a ballerina and star and never would cross that line. I grew thinking I was a princess; had to be one each and every Halloween. It was not until Pamela Skane that I became a Hobo with Uncle Charlie's shirt, pants and shoes that I never went back to being princess. And, when I was not a princess, outdoors I was no less than Annie Oakley herself, and the best shooter in town. Years later I actually began to shoot and was good. For whatever reason I felt there was an unusual reason why I was such a good shot. At the Harwinton Fair, the shooting gallery owner-man always went out back to bring me my special rifle to use. I guess he saw me coming, but I loved the moving target and later learned to skeet shoot at my neighbor and other Dad's Bill Lake. I did shoot his or Father's 12-gauge; they had someone beside me to catch the gun and someone in back of me to catch all 116 pounds of me. I required neither, but I could feel the muscles ache by the next day. Getting back to Rosemary, we always earned money doing errands and jobs along with always scouring the roadside for bottles to bring back to the grocery store for refund money which we all promptly spent on candy. Almost always. And, then their was 4-H, both sewing and cooking, and the Grange for which I would often play thy accordion at. For a very shy youngster, I managed to still do some things. Of course, Gloria paved the way before me, and there was Hank who was always inspiring, and of course Rosemary who I was always with. I do remember that we took Ballroom Dance lessons with fellow 7th or 8th graders. The night before the big dance, Mrs. Poole worked it out with my mother so that we both received our first panties with garters on them to hold up our new and first time stockings. They were pink. At the dance as in all our practice lessons, I was always scratching and clawing at my partner just because they were boys and I was tough. So I thought, on the inside, even though I was still small on the outside. I was just awful at one point. And, probably at several points. Of course, when I was in second grade, David McKenzie moved into town, and he somehow quickly became my beau, for years and years. He even planned that we go to the same college and get married after college graduation. He did move away, and we did visit each other both ways, and we parted in about 9th grade. Years later, my sisters were clearing out memorabilia from mother's attic, and I discovered that they threw out D. McKenzie love letters from Ridgefield, Connecticut, much to my chagrin. I have had a difficult time forgiving them for that deed, especially when I felt they could have called me first. That and my Christmas doll from Santa Claus alias mother. Now I know the latter was never thrown away; my niece has been collecting and investing and layawaying dolls for years. Hummm. Oh, Rosemary. There were a few summers when the Poole's took me to Cape Cod along with Mrs. Poole's dear mother. We were always running the waves at the beach and digging for shells and willy-nilly's on the beach. One time we were both in the water, not very deep, and within 2 seconds of each other we began to scream and run out of the saltwater as fast as we could. We were touched, heaven forbid, by little squids, and were scared. A passerby said for us to look up and down the beach at all the beached squids. They looked dead but we decided to start picking them up and throwing them back into the saltwater to save some aquatic lives. We also dug up quahogs which seemed gigantic to me. I grew up a real landlubber, and a trip to the beach was so foreign to me. Growing up we would take an entourage of vehicles and relatives to Missquamicut Beach in Rhode Island. To me it was like a pilgrimage. We packed lunches and snacks and all sorts of plastic tubes. We had so much fun in the waves and it was particularly fun when the adults would be out there with us because we would go further out, and they would keep us afloat. I always sunburned on top of another sunburned as did my father. I am sure I was just as red as my Dad, but I marveled at how he came away from the beach looking like a cooked and very red lobster. I would not feel the heat of the sunburn until we arrived home, tired of course. Mother always fixed me up with vinegar swaths; it was the only thing that helped me. Father and probably the rest of our family needed the vinegar fix also -- we were all just white, pale, blonde and blue-eyed. Not much chance for tanning, which Rosemary did beautifully. Rosemary did not always come on our Rhode Island vehicle-train shuttles but came as often as we could get her to; same for me and their Cape Cod. However, we did return home each evening, with someone -- never me -- forgetting and leaving a pair or one sneaker on the back bumper or top of the car. We would always see the last one fall into the road; somehow, never the first. Only a couple of times did we turn and go back to retrieve. Just not very often. We kids would try for the station wagon back where we would lay down and put our feet up on the back window. On the way to Rhode Island, I would try to as far forward as I could because I was prone, or rather destined, to car-sickness. But, the day was worth it. I am not sure which was worse -- the car-sickness or the sunburn, but I was not about to stay behind. And, I still am the only one in the family that get sick from occasional cars and always airplanes and almost always boats. Of course, there were always the Rosemary excursions or sibling excursions down the Lead Mine Brook, and family and sibling excursions to Red Hole. We worked and saved all year for the Harwinton Fair; for me it was the shooting gallery with moving targets rather than prizes and the round fried pizzas with sauce and Parmesian cheese. I was busy with 4-H, mother tried me but I failed at ballet -- that was Gloria and Thea (I just could not get my body to do what everyone else's could and would do) and accordion lessons from Blanche Plaskett whom I dearly loved. I still remember her beautifully curled hair, her sparkly eyes behind her thick spectacles and the pencil that she constantly kept between her teeth (I always required a little extra help, and I could never figure out fingering on the sheet music to my fingers). Grandfather gave Blanche an accordion because she could play anything on a piano so that we Barber's could get our accordion lesson in which was difficult because mother did not drive. I used to bring my accordion to school and ride the bus home and get off with Roger with my accordion. Then, after work, Father would always pick me up. He did make me carry my accordion back down the stairs; he said he was paying for the lessons and I get to practice and carry. Meanwhile, Rosemary played and practiced the piano, and taught me chop-sticks and such. Mrs. Poole played beautifully, and I loved to hear her practice which she did faithfully each day. I often felt guilty about Mrs. Poole versus Mrs. Cheney. When Mrs. C played, I would stop in my tracks because she was so awesome. Meanwhile, I was all but loyal to Mrs. Poole, and never made mention of the fact. Years and years later, my sister Gloria, who was friends with Lydia Cheney, told me that Mrs. C was an accomplished player. Of course, then there was Mrs. Peckham whose husband told me that she played the concert series all over the world and be built her stone castle with balcony replete so that she would come to Harwinton as his bride. Well, Mrs. Peckham gave Sonny and I our first voice lessons. Sonny came along with me towards the end; it was not his forte, but I wonder if mother just had him come so that I would. I recall at about 4 and 5 that I used to sing along with the radio the different operas that I just somehow knew and loved. No one could understand how I could sing in another language, but I had this pure voice and many years later was told that I have perfect pitch. So, it seems the combination worked for me, and Mrs. Peckham was my great lady of the balcony. And, I loved Mr. Peckham as well. He would rake and save all the fall leaves and feed them to his horses. Rosemary and I were always at his barn. He had really progressive ideas about nutrition and mother earth. He was probably the first person that I ever hears speaking about taking care of our earth, and the people on it. Rosemary and I were always doing some type of art at both of our houses. I never did get into toll painting, but I treasured the trays that Mrs. Poole shared with misquamicut, RI