The Day the War Ended, Seal Skin Coats, and Homemade Applesauce

Well, Grandma is still off having her baby!!!  Our very first guest blog comes from one of my all time most favoritst people in the world, our very very own Marshall Brewer, a  beautiful California boy who lives here in Brattleboro.  Welcome Marshall, and thank you for your post!!!

Ruth Brownell Lewis was born the grandchild of Quakers from New Hampshire and New York.  Deeply spiritual, she investigated Islam following the events of 9-11-2001.  Intrigued, she spent the next few years learning about Judaism, Buddhism, and Hinduism.  When asked what she had found, she said, “We’re all seeking the same thing, we just use different names for it.  If my beliefs aren’t that much different from so many others, how can I still call myself Christian?” Her first grandchild, Marshall Brewer, married a Quaker from Vermont and now lives between New Hampshire and New York.  An inheritor of Ruth’s curiosity, he travels widely and helps others learn about themselves.  He has two master’s degrees from Brattleboro’s SIT Graduate Institute.

For Christmas in 1996, my grandmother, Ruth Brownell Lewis, gave John and me a copy of her recently completed autobiography.  She was 88 that year.  Filled with stories of growing up in northwest Iowa out on the farm in Clay County and later, in the town of Spencer, she writes vividly about clothes, the weather, and family fun.

Often on a Saturday, Aunt Susie and Uncle Fred with the Green girls, Beatrice, Madelene, Florence, and Alberta would come to town.  My four cousins would stop at our house while the parents were shopping.

I remember having no end of fun, loving every minute.  A ritual was for some of the girls to hide when it was time to leave, hoping the buggy would accidentally leave without missing one or two girls.  This never happened!

One time, Uncle Fred came back early to get all of us, saying the War was about over.  Some soldiers were expected to arrive on the incoming train.  There was to be a parade with the town band and everything!  Everyone would be at the depot to meet them!  We breathed excitement!  The air was full of happy shouts and calls.  I knew I must wear the new cape Mama had made for me from navy blue astrakan.

It was that same day while standing on tip-toe to see the marching soldiers that I first saw a car.  Two proper maiden ladies drove past in a small but high, boxy-looking car.  It looked like a glass box.  In a front corner of the little glass box was a crystal bud vase with a single flower.  Someone mentioned the ladies were both wearing seal-skin coats.  They looked so elegant I was sure they must live on North Main Street.  It was November 1918 and I was 10 years old.

Today, 92 years and 2 months later, I am working on my own car.  Did you know when Saabs blow fuse #20 that the fuel door locks?  Yesterday, with a wind chill at -15 degrees, John tried to change the fuse, but it didn’t unlock the fuel door.  Now, in bright sunlight at a windless +14 degrees, it’s my turn.  While I’m curious about it, I’m not exactly eager to get out there.

This morning, to take the chill out of the kitchen, I made applesauce from Macouns and Cortlands.  It wasn’t enough, so I made a batch of oatmeal cookies with dried cherries.  Now the sun’s blasting strongly through the big windows and it’s quite comfortable indoors.  After I get the car figured out, I have intentions of pruning the climbing hydrangea.  Of course, I’ve had this intention for months.

I’m confident as he went into office a year ago that the president had intentions of ending the war.  Foreign news is reporting encouraging European actions to that end, but there doesn’t seem to be the same public discourse in the US.  Should the commander-in-chief end the war during his term of office, there will be much to celebrate.  Ever hopeful, I wonder where I can get some navy blue astrakan.

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