Saturday, May 25, 2013


This beauty is Fanny Edna Applegate Howell.

She was born in Dayton, Ohio, on March 25, 1869, the second child of Selah and Nanny Applegate Howell. Her younger brother, William, was my grandfather.
Her father had left college (Antioch) to join the Union army; he drove an ambulance for the Sanitary Commssion during the Civil War and was in the thick of it during the Wilderness Campaign. After the war, he finished his Antioch degree (a history major), married Nanny Applegate (daughter of the manager of the Antioch farm) and started a family.
By 1880, the family had moved to Watertown; by 1900 they were in Roxbury, where Fanny’s father taught history at Boston Latin School.
Her father kept a small diary; on August 5, 1902, he wrote, “My darling daughter was married in Jamaica Plain at half past two in the afternoon to Prof. H.O. Hofman.” (Henrich Oscar Hofman was a professor of mining and assaying at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.)
She was a widow by 1924; she raised her two children as a single parent.

I remember Fanny Edna Applegate Howell Hofman, but I knew her as Fantine, a nickname given her by her father (who was a Victor Hugo devotee – think Les Miserables).

This snapshot was taken in 1952, when I was six years old. Fantine was older than rocks and dirt to me – and slightly scary due to her age – but always sweet. I remember that she smelled of lilacs and had a great smile and laugh.
Fantine died on August 5, 1958 in Boston, Massachusetts.

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Saturday, May 18, 2013


I interrupted my Domestic Drudgeries yesterday morning to search through a couple of old photograph albums and a box of loose pictures in an attempt to find something that I could legitimately use for this week’s Sepia Saturday prompt.
I found plenty of children – on tricycles, on scooters, on regular Schwinns (some of whom I did not know); a few kids in bathing suits; a crowd of them sitting at a picnic table with great hunks of watermelon...but no kids on fences or in parks, and certainly no kids upside down!

Well, I thought, there are some Saturdays when the Sepia Theme leaves me stranded – and this is one of ‘em.
No matter: I always enjoy looking at what others contribute (we Sepians are an amazing bunch, aren’t we?).

So I went back to my housework: finished cleaning up the kitchen and dining room from the previous night’s casual gathering of friends; bunched up the napkins and tossed them into the washing machine with some sheets.  When the Whirlpool cycled through its last spin, I filled the basket and went outside to hang the laundry; crossed the yard (white and purple violets all over!) to the line...

...and there it was, right before my eyes!

I didn’t catch it at first – I was too focused on children hanging every which way on a fence – but there was something that demanded my attention, and when I recognized the pattern of the clothespins on the laundry line, I just smiled.

Sometimes I get too closed in, too limited by my own perspective (am I the only Sepian who gets this way?), but then something like this happens and I’m filled with a sense of gratitude that I’m still capable of thinking outside that proverbial box. 

Serendipitous Sepia Saturday to you all!

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Sunday, May 12, 2013


My parents were both dog lovers; they were both raised in dog families: terriers on my father’s side (all of whom were named “Tech,” by my grandfather in honor of his MIT experience and, of course, to avoid confusion) and cocker spaniels on my mother’s. My mother’s family showed far more creativity with names: the ones I can recall were Booboo, Tinker, Dusky and Cricket.

My father used to tell us that the main reason he married my mother was to get her dog – a black and white spaniel named Ferdinand. (My brother and I believed him – seemed like a perfectly logical reason for getting married to us!)

I remember walking with my mother from our house on Fletcher Street in Portland, Maine all the way down to the Dudley-Weed Drugstore on Pine Street for the Sunday paper. That was the early 1950s; I was about seven years old.
          And then there was the day Ferdy had to make The Last Trip to the vet’s office. My father, tears in his eyes, lured him into the back seat of the Chevrolet wagon with Oreos; Dad couldn’t even look at an Oreo after that, let alone eat one.

But we weren’t dogless for long; neither of my parents could live without them!  They soon got the first of their many springer spaniels; they named him Dudley (after that same drugstore in Portland). From that time forward, we had at least one – and up to three – dogs at a time, although my father used to complain that with three, he felt like a hotel doorman; all three dogs were always on the wrong side.
Abner, Matilda, Rufus, Martha...those springers padded and wagged their ways through our lives (they alternated sexes and colors: male/female; liver-and-white, black-and white but, alas, never a tri-color).  As my parents became older, though, the number of dogs in their household dwindled – it was just too much for them to manage – and soon they were left with just Jim.
“I can’t stand it,” my mother complained. “There just aren’t enough of them with only Just-Jim.”

And so, for one Mother’s Day many years ago, my father presented her with Beau, who graced their front porch, their gardens and their lawns – wherever they happened to move him – with his sweet face and gentle demeanor.
When my mother died, Beau came to live with me; today, this Mother’s Day of 2013, Beau sits beneath one of my lilacs.
In remembrance.

Friday, May 3, 2013


I confess: I’m a reformed smoker.
“There’s nothing worse,” people say, “than a reformed smoker.”
I’m not so sure about that. I can think of a lot of things worse than a reformed smoker (a radical anything, for example) but it’s too soon for me to veer off point.
So, back to the beginning: I’m a reformed smoker. The Sepia Saturday photo intrigued me, for I’ve never in my life seen a vending machine that dispenses a lit cigarette – how did they do that, anyway?

I never smoked a Black Cat, but I sure do own one...

This is Howard – Howard Paine Gould, to be formal about it all. I always name my pets after my forebears; Howard is named after a great-uncle of mine, one who thoughtfully left me some money (I figure that anybody who leaves me money deserves the honor of having an animal named for him)! My great-uncle was a bachelor; this Howard is, too, although I suspect for entirely different reasons.
He’s a domestic longhair (maybe a bit of Coon) with absolutely enormous feet, impressive ear tufts and a magnificent ruff. He’s solid black – at night, when his eyes are shut, he’s nearly invisible.
He’s lived with me for nearly twelve years now, providing just enough interaction to provide companionship while maintaining (fiercely) his independence.
He has his own door (one of those nifty pet doors cut into my dining room wall – it opens out to the back porch) so comes and goes whenever he wishes; I secure that door only during blizzards – I don’t want him wandering around when the snowplows are active.
He used to bring wildlife back home through that door, but has calmed down a lot now that he’s older! He used to sort his prey: things that could fly went into the toilet bowl; things that crawled went into the bathtub (from where they could not escape, you see, thus providing hours of entertainment...). I tried everything to curb his enthusiasm: different harnesses and even a bell, but he learned to trap the bell underneath his chin to prevent the noise.

He has several daily chores: he rearranges all the bed pillows every day (I am not questioning motive here), keeps gray squirrels off the back porch, watches my neighbor’s rabbits, helps with the weeding in the flower gardens and warms the east end of the living room couch in the evenings.
And he’s there each and every morning, snoozing on his window seat, waiting for his breakfast.

So there’s my Black Cat, one that’s far better for me than the smoke-able  kind, don’t you think?

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