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Me and the Mysterious Lady of 1928

When Pascal and I want to feel like “kids on Christmas Day” all it takes is a little spending money and a few hours of shopping in antiques stores, flea markets, garage sales or thrift shops. We’ve discovered some of our greatest treasures while poking around small towns here in the States or quaint villages in France.  Two years ago, Pascal and I spent a morning treasure hunting at a community-wide garage sale in the mountains around Lake George.  We navigated our way to Bolton’s Landing on a cold and foggy October morning to start our adventure.  Three hours later, Pascal had discovered all sorts of wonderful things including an old milk jug with a rosy, rusty patina, aged flower pots with patina far more beautiful then their brand-new counterparts, and an outdoor lantern—all for less than $12.00. 

And me? I didn’t find a single thing until our very last stop.  Feeling defeated by my fruitless morning, I poked around halfheartedly in a pile of old books. I pulled out a small, hardcover burgundy book with gold lettering almost worn off of the front. It read “Daily Reminder 1928”. I opened to the middle, and discovered the old-fashioned, scrawling handwriting of a woman. I was holding the journal of a housewife who lived in those very mountains in1928. I read the first entry and instantly fell in love with this woman, who had faithfully recorded an entry on all 365 days. The asking price for the journal?  Just one dollar.  

I was so intrigued that in the following weeks, I read the journal cover to cover two times and then did a complete analysis on her journal.  This mysterious woman (who never names herself) was a newlywed, living in a new house. Her husband, Will, worked at the local paper mill. Another man named Bert (a boarder, a brother, a cousin?) also lived in their house. She cooked, sewed, cleaned, did laundry, and kept an enormous vegetable, fruit, and flower garden. In the summer, she ran a fruit and vegetable stand.

Her mother died on January 2nd, and she records it in the same way she records the daily weather, the chores that she completed, and the cooking that she had done. She only refers to feelings or emotions once in the entire journal. On March 11, she writes, “It was a long, lonesome day.”

But, how she loved to bake!  She bought her sugar in one hundred pound sacks, and in one year, she made 89 pies, 65 cakes, 64 batches of bread, 30 batches of doughnuts, 27 batches of cookies, and 4 apple crisps. She simply “did her baking” eleven times, and made cream puffs just once. Later in the year, both Will and Bert had their teeth removed. This made me laugh, and I wondered if they saw the connection at the time.

Little did I know that two years later, I would be measuring my days much the same way my journaling friend of years' past recorded her own.  79 years later, Pascal and I find ourselves living in a new house counting the number of batches of brownies and fudge and bon bon dough we make, logging the number of bon bons we dip, cooking, cleaning and running our own “Bon Bon Stand” at local festivals, expos and national trade shows.  Much like the days of 1928, our days revolve around work, work and more work, much of it manual labor.  No sitting around eating bon bons all day for me, even if I am the Bon Bon Queen!

But even in her daily life of baking, cleaning, mending and such that mysterious lady from 1928 reminds me with her old, dull pencil that even the most industrious must still seek out little pockets of pleasure:

Saturday, September 15, 1928: Partly cloudy & still quite cool so had to have a little fire in the range in the morning. Have been very busy baking & selling vegetables. Did not get through until 3 p.m. Picked a nice boquet (sic) of roses. They are beauties.

Thursday, September 27, 1928: Rained this morning & then again in afternoon. I went downtown & it rained before I got home. Got me a new hat while downtown. Made pie, cleaned my kitchen floor & canned 6 pt cans tomato pulp this morning.

Saturday, November 3, 1928: Rain most of the day. Very gloomy day, but the rain was much needed. Will took down porch screens & put them away & worked in the other part in the afternoon fixing windows. Read my Better Homes & Garden today. My first issue.

She also won the booby prize at a party, proudly recorded the weight of a 41.5 pound pumpkin she had grown, enjoyed a car trip to view the fall foliage, and picked her last roses on October 26th while it was snowing.

Today, I took a moment to walk away from the work and step into our sunny backyard where the pink buds on our cherry tree are starting to blossom.  That fifteen seconds of pleasure was just enough to inspire me to continue on.  What little bite of pleasure will you savor today?
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