The ‘Nest Keepers’

Warning: a sentimental story 

mother-1951 Growing up, our household had a dishwasher in the kitchen.  It was the ‘mother’ brand and came with two strong hands for scrubbing and two strong legs for moving from table to counter to sink. The original model came with a towel for drying but later ones added a special feature, ‘children’, which, amazingly, dried dishes on command.

We were fortunate in our neighborhood of blue-collar workers to have a handyman available 24-7 to build, fix, remodel and paint. It was the ‘father’ brand and came with a lifetime satisfaction guarantee.   I learned a few things about fixing stuff from that man by watching him work and being a good person by listening to his unsolicited advice.

My older sister and I were the youngest of seven siblings and by the time we came along, the first five were leaving the nest, giving our folks a bit more leisure time for us. We were spoiled and loved every minute of it.

dad-1957  She and I were driven places by our own ‘chauffeur’, an older, kindly and dedicated gentleman from the ‘daddy’ livery service. He lived with us and knew our likes and dislikes like the back-of-his-hand, which he only used to steer the car.

And did we ever go places, generally not far from home, but so special that I still see them clearly in my mind these many years later.

We’ll never forget the delicious ‘dawgs’ at ‘Hot Dog Annies’ somewhere in the country. On hot summer nights, we were treated to the  area’s best ice cream variety from ‘Pinecroft Dairy’. Mother Nature showed off her splendor during our slow drives by the pristine ‘Wachusett reservoir’ or at local ponds where our ‘chauffeur’ taught us to fish and appreciate the evening sound of a whippoorwill.

I would be remiss not to mention the support we received from the financiers of the ‘Mom & Pop’ bank for our higher education needs.  In return, the only interest we paid was our interest in them as they expected nothing from us but our best efforts. We tried.

Yes, we were lucky, some would say blessed to have those special amenities while growing up and learning to take our place at Life’s table. The ‘dishwasher’, the ‘handyman’, the ‘chauffeur’ and the ‘bankers’ have long since gone, but their lessons endure and influence who we are today. I’m sure we have passed on some of their wisdom and values to our own children.  How simply happy they would be knowing that this is their legacy.  Maybe they do.



To my beautiful sister, June, and our precious parents, bless their souls.

The Streets of Our Neighborhood…


(photo by Kathy Davis)

They generally were hilly, up and down in every direction, making our play more challenging in summer and more fun in winter. They hurt us when we tripped, leaving red stains where we fell. They were uneven and balls took crazy bounces. We marked them with chalk, then hop-scotched on them. We jumped on them, over ropes while singing crazy verses. These were ‘the streets of our neighborhoods’.

They were yesterday’s outdoor ‘home screens’ where we played, running with our legs, peddling our bikes, throwing balls and playing other games with friends, both boys and girls. They led us to parks, schools and downtown. We were always moving on ‘the streets of our neighborhoods’.

From early morning to dusk, we were the ‘gangs’ who gathered there for games, games that we created ourselves with balls, sticks, piles of leaves or mountains of snow. They provided us our own place to roam and explore until the calls to come home were heard, on ‘the streets of our neighborhoods’.

We were the noisemakers, youngsters covering our eyes against a tree, counting to a hundred, then warning, ‘here I come, ready or not’, seeking the hiders and chasing them like a hound after a fox.  With youthful exuberance and constant yelling, we ran each other down in games of tag, catching the fastest one last through sheer exhaustion. Wild games, played on ‘the streets of our neighborhoods’.

Today, as an adult, I wonder, where is all that unbridled energy?  Where are the boys and girls with knuckles and knees scraped and bruised from running and pushing and falling and doing it over and over, day after day? Where is the happy sound of kids physically exerting themselves in their made up play? Where is the noise that used to make older people open their windows and yell, “go play in front of your own house”? I’m older now and have earned my turn to yell…to be an old curmudgeon, but the streets are empty.

‘The streets of our neighborhoods’ were places where kids met without adult supervision. We planned, organized and executed the days and weeks activities on our own. It was informal and efficient.  The streets were a safe place to be. We settled disagreements without intervention. Our minds, and most importantly, our bodies were actively involved in our play and we flourished, playing outside everyday. We fell fast asleep at bedtime and awoke energized to do it again.

Some of my best memories are street play with friends from the neighborhood. We had winners and losers, but the play itself was paramount. Nothing stopped us. Only growing up could do that…on ‘the streets of our neighborhoods’.


To Joey, Lincoln, Tommy, Buzza, Jackie and a slew of other kids who played, then grew up, on ‘the streets of our neighborhood’.

Today, I Touched My Father’s Hand

1951 Dad at Ptown

My father lived an active life of 76 years. There are days when I think of him deeply and feel as though I’ve ‘touched’ him.

His life can be seen in a collection of pictures in a box: a young, single man sporting a shotgun; a stern looking father standing behind his children; a rugged outdoorsman proudly displaying a day’s catch; an adored husband; an aging, pensive man, appearing to be planning his next project or adventure. I shuffle through these pictures and for a moment, ‘touch my father’s hand’.

I’m surrounded by reminders of my father, keeping alive my memory of him and the times we shared. At my workbench, I hold the tools he left behind and sense the touch of his strong, calloused hand, a hand toughened on the instruments of his trade and his handyman skills: a hammer and hand crafted wooden box, still full of his selection of nails; old hand saws in need of sharpening; chisels and broad knives; a duster that outlived its usefulness as a pure bristle paintbrush.

In a storage room, a wallpaper board he gave me warps with age. Always the teacher, I’m sure he was hoping that I was watching and learning some of his decorating skills.  I was. I move my hand slowly across its paste stained surface and ‘touch my father’s hand’.

Under my desk lies his rifle that we sighted at the range each year in preparation for hunting season. I never saw him shoot a deer. Unlucky, a poor shot, or just a man who enjoyed the woods without the gaming, Now, I feel the cold steel of the tarnished barrel, the etched wood of the worn stock, and the smooth, shiny finish of the trigger, and I ‘touch my father’s hand’.

A once classic set of golf clubs stands alone in the corner. We woke early on Saturdays to meet my brothers for a morning of serious, but fun, golf. Good shots were applauded, poor shots were cursed, and loose change went to the winners. Once again, the time together presented him with great teaching moments about golf, life and friendship. Today, I pull a club from the worn golf bag that has stiffened with age, grip it and give it a waggle. Almost seems like Saturday morning.

An array of fishing rods lay against the cellar wall. Old reels, pitted by ocean salt, collect dust and spider webs while looking down at me from an overhead shelf. Homemade lures hang by their treble hooks on a nail. I brush away the webs and give one of the reels a crank or two. For a fleeting moment, I see him casting in the foamy, white surf along a sandy Massachusetts beach or rocky Rhode Island shore, places where we fished, side by side. I feel the stiff wire leader run between my fingers, as I close my eyes to a carefree time, a ‘once upon a time’.

l have many wonderful memories of my father. I have things of his that depict him and his life. Yet, I don’t have him, anymore. It’s the natural progression of life, isn’t it?  But today, when I reached out and held those things that once were his, I ‘touched my father’s hand’…..and it was wonderful, again.

Mother & Dad


Dedicated to my father,

November 13, 1905 – November 5, 1981