Sunday, July 16, 2017


Captured Music

Breaking upon the shore, the bright waves leap
And play until the ebb-tide backward wells,
Leaving the lonely sand in silence, deep,
Save for the captured music of the shells.
Thus long ago, my children came to me,
And stayed until life bade them to depart,
Yet still upon the sands of memory
Their vanished laughter lingers in my heart.
                                   Ernestine Cobern Beyer

     This isn’t what our house looked like when we moved in, after buying it for $12,500 in 1944. It isn’t even exactly what it looked like when we moved out, twenty-two years later. There was a time when I was sure I’d still be living there today. But it’s funny; life has a way of changing expectations.
     Welcome to Tears and Laughter at 90, where I peer back into decades of journal entries and letters and share bits from my book (Take My Ex-Husband, Please--But Not Too Far), plus a comedy co-authored by my daughter Kathie (The Tempestuous Triangle), plus my mother Ernestine's captivating poems (20 published in Poetry with a Purpose, Good Apple, Inc., 1987, an activity book available on Amazon), and excerpts from the Log of the Happy Days.
     The house on Sandy Cove was razed in 2002. When I heard the news I felt as if an essential part of me was gone, too. Our home for over two decades was replaced by a million-dollar edifice that dwarfed its neighbors  . . . even McKenna’s Mansion. Embellished with spires and turrets and pediments, it loomed over the adjoining homes that blended unaffectedly into their beach grass and scrub pine surroundings. In 2007, the alien sold for close to five million dollars. Kathie’s reaction: “I don't care if it sold for ten million dollars. To me, it will always detract from the beauty and charm of the Sandy Cove I remember.”
      In the spring of 1944, my husband and I were looking for a house in Cohasset, Massachusetts. Our home in Waban was an attractive colonial we had purchased for $6500 two years earlier, after Ed got a sizable raise to $65 a week, but it lacked one thing he was determined to have: an ocean.
     The realtor was about to pass a long driveway lined with venerable elm trees, when she slowed down and said, "There's a nice old house back there, but it's rented for the summer. You might want to take a look at the outside.”  We followed the realtor, our toddlers, Kathie and baby brother Teddy, in tow. We saw a rambling three-story shingled house with gables and ells, a large screened porch, and a shed covered with vines.  (watercolor below by Mom's friend Ruth Yount). Beyond the front porch, beach grass edged a meandering path leading to Sandy Cove.  In the middle of the cove there were two outcroppings of rocks, one much larger than the other. The rocks, our guide told us, had been been called "Big‑Big" and "Little‑Big" for as long as anyone could remember.

                          A SHED COVERED WITH VINES                                        
     In the fall, after we moved in, four-year-old Kathie solved the mystery of the tides. “Look, Mummy, the rocks have gone out again!”   
     Our house was referred to as "the old Adams house" for most of the twenty-two years we lived in it. The key to a third floor bedroom was labeled "Uncle Charlie's room." Charlie, we deduced from local yore, was Charles Francis Adams, a descendant of John Quincy Adams and a frequent visitor to his relatives’ South Shore retreat. My mother, children’s poet Ernestine Cobern Beyer, lived with us in the summer and loved the view from Charlie's window as much as he must have. A trio she observed on the beach was the inspiration for "Sunbonnet Babies.”
                                  One wears a bonnet of organdy rose
                                  That hides her adorable bangs,
                                  And one wears a bonnet that shadows her nose,
                                  And one wears a bonnet that hangs.
                                  The first wears a pinafore (not very white!)
                                  The second, a dress that is tidy.
                                  But the belle of the beach is the third little mite
                                  With the slightly inadequate didy!
                                      (Ladies Home Journal, April 1949)
     Opposite Mom’s bedroom lived Vaughan, my childhood caretaker, confidante, and faithful champion since I was eight years old. I thought of her as my second mother and had long ago promised her “a place by the chimney corner.” Although she was recovering from a double mastectomy, Vaughan couldn’t be deterred from pitching in when my current helper had a day off or went on vacation.
     She and Ernestine were devoted friends, although sweet dispositions could sour just the tiniest bit when one or the other won at Canasta unfairly often. When the weather turned cold-hearted, the two migrated to Florida and went their separate ways, Vaughan to a job in Miami near her son, Mother to Orlando.
     The second floor had four bedrooms, a plus when our family expanded. The one to the left of the stairway was assigned to Vonnie (Stephanie Vaughan), who arrived two years after Teddy. Next came the bathroom, whose claw-footed bathtub we eventually replaced with a modern one, installed under a small, high window that overlooked the driveway. Many was the time I hopped into that tub to make sure the children had caught their bus or Kathie’s on-the-loose horse, Heidi, before she found her way onto the pristine lawn of our neighbor, Mr. McKenna.
     The bedroom across from Vonnie’s overlooked Sandy Cove and belonged to Kathie. The third bedroom also had a view of Sandy Cove and was outfitted with bunk beds for Teddy and Timmy, the fourth child in the family, blessing us in 1946, the year I turned twenty-five. When the brothers reached a destructive age, boy-proof linoleum was installed. In a matter of months, a chemistry experiment involving acid marred the flooring, which didn’t come with a warranty.

      The master bedroom had an ocean-view study where I parked my desk, Royal typewriter, filing cabinet, and stacks of mending I was perennially unable to reduce. We didn’t tell the children they must knock before entering. Instead, my sagacious husband installed a bolt to guarantee our privacy. One night we forgot to use it. Ed, suffering from cold sores for two weeks, had been as grouchy as a bear and about as approachable.
     When his mouth cleared up, he was more like himself—a wolf. (rrruff!)  So we were cuddling, and I was catching up on the loving he owed me when we heard his visiting mother, Mimi, at the door.
     “Barbara, are you awake?”
     “No!” I said as convincingly as I could. In the same breath Ed snapped, “We’re asleep, go away!”
     “I brought up your bag, Barbara,” Mimi said, turning the knob. “I thought you might like—“
     “Leave it there, leave it there!” Ed said frantically.
     “I don’t need it right now, Mimi,” I said. “Leave it on the shelf outside and I’ll get it tomorrow.”
     “Oh. Well, all right. I hope I didn’t wake you up. I just thought you might want—“
     “Go away!” her son sobbed. Poor Mimi! Poor Ed!
     In the 40s and 50s, lacking a crystal ball, Ed and I were as unaware as any other young couple of the hazards that would ambush us in the future.     


  1. Hi Barbara -

    I was going to send you an email, and figured I'd comment here instead. =)

    Is 'The Tempestuous Triangle' a book Kathie wrote? If it is, I'm going to B&N and getting myself a copy!

  2. P.S:

    I'm so excited that I finally figured out how to post here!

  3. I'm excited too, Rhapsody! The Tempestuous Triange was co-authored by Kathie and me in 2010. We have had several readings with four experienced actors, the last one for The Red Hat Ladies at the South Shore Country Club. Their burst of laughter shortly before the play's conclusion told us that this was where we should end it.

    You'll find the revised comedy in my blog under the label "The Odd Triangle."

    1. I just noticed all these years later (2-1-2016) that I misspelled Triangle in the first line. A belated oops is in order.

  4. ah, 1945 in front of the fireplace in the living room. i remember it well.

  5. Nice post. I learn something totally new and challenging
    on websites I stumbleupon on a daily basis. It will always be helpful to read through content from other authors and practice a little something from other websites.
    Review my weblog ; property management company

  6. I checked your weblog's "About Us" and learned that you stumbled all the way from California. Welcome, and thank you for your approval. Good luck on all your enterprises, current and future.

  7. How I miss exploring Little Big and Big Big, digging for clams, riding with Kathie and Vonnie on Heidi along the beach, and finding Halloween costumes in the attic. I enjoyed many a summer and Christmases with you Dear Other Mother. Can we find a way to go back in time? Hugga hugga

  8. Dear Other Daughter (my niece from Maine, Linda,
    If you ever meet up with a genie who grants your wish, please bring me with you! Hugga hugga, Other Mother