Honor Thy Mother & Father, part 2

Autobiography by Florence Goodman Enzmann 


Now I must tell you why we moved from Calais to Bath, Maine. The Kelly-Spear Shipyard Company was building a new four-masted Brig, and my father was to be Captain of her. So naturally, he wanted to be where she was shaping and watching as she progressed. He found a fairly large house on the corner of Oak and Lincoln Street, a house of nine rooms, though two were finished later, there being seven originally, plus the attic. I think there must have been close to three acres of land, and all sorts of fruit and a garden. We had seckel pears, two kinds of grape vines, russet, king Tompkins, Baldwin, astrakhan, and two crab apple trees, of which I do not know the names. We also had a beautiful cherry tree, very tall and very perfect in form. The branches were so even and regularly placed that it was just like climbing a ladder to go up. My twin, Beth, could go almost to the top, but I never managed to get as far, though I was much more of a tom-boy (and fatter) than she was. What beautiful cherries, and how we did stuff ourselves and eat up in that tree!

Miss Marsten, whose land in length what would be equal to a city block and adjoined ours, also had some dandy apples, and though we were not allowed to reach under the fence and take hers, there was an oral understanding that we could have, without any feelings of guilt, those which fell on our side of the fence. Of course, a long stick would encourage some of those apples, which were rather undecided just where to repose to move toward our side of the fence. I remember that she had a tree that produced beautiful yellow apples fairly early in the summer, what we called “pig nose” due to the shape of the end. They were delicious.

I am sure Frostina Marsten was a very tolerant woman and must have, on more than one occasion, shut not one but both eyes. The unfortunate part of it was that she had a mother who was always home, though Miss Marsten was a school teacher and consequently away much of the time. I do not remember ever trespassing or playing in her yard. We had so much play space, and so much to play with that we did not have the urge to go to other people’s yards as city children need to. However, we were great wanderers and used to rove over the fields and woods, quite free and unmolested. We had always a dog with us, Dandy, a crossbreed, who was as near human in understanding as any dog can be. He was big and clumsy and loyal and kind. When we were very small, too young to explore, we had another dog, Rover, I think it was called. Rover was also a good dog. Rover’s mother died at the time my mother died and also left a little puppy, so my Aunt would get up at night and feed both my brother and the puppy a bottle each. She was a wonderful woman. They both grew and prospered physically. I remember her telling that once when Bob was a little toddler, he wandered off and was missed; Rover trailed him far down the street and found him at the beginning of the second hill. How it happened that he slipped by everyone, I do not know, for he was certainly overcome with care – his grandmother, his aunt, his cousin Carrie, and his older sisters. What a spoiled child, and how he used to yell for whatever he wanted or didn’t want! Many a time, I have heard the remark, “poor little baby hasn’t any mother,” also, “he must not cry, for he will (or has) a rupture.” So he howled and yowled his way through life until he reached the age of discretion or maybe indiscretion. My aunt also used to say, “You will never have another brother.” This one was quite enough. My twin and I used to say to each other, when quite sure of being well out of hearing of anyone else, even our sisters, “We don’t want another brother.” However, we did love him, despot though he was, and he and I were very close. I had no fear nor respect, and many the time, we used to roll locked in a struggle out on the lawn. I could win until I was about fourteen, then I had to give up such actions and become a little more like a girl, though I doubt if I have ever changed a great deal. We were what would be called today “little devils,” brats, though we never harmed nor hurt anyone nor anyone’s property. It was only play and thinking up things to do. We really had a wonderful time. You may wonder why I do not include any of the others in this, but Margaret and Jane were too old and dignified, and Beth was really a dear little girl. I seems I had received all the energy meant for two.

In the summer, we enjoyed the swings and hammocks. Father had the sailors, or rather I suppose the sail-maker, make some hammocks during a trip and brought home two of them for us. Then he gave some to the neighbors, and they certainly were dandy, strong hammocks. They were made with the wooden ends all in, and they were not just straight bits of wood but curved so that the hammock hung better and gave more space to get into. I remember my aunt had a more elaborate hammock that she bought; it was very pretty in color but could never have withstood the onslaught of us and our playmates, of which there were always plenty. We also had a large lawn swing, the kind built with two seats facing each other on a wooden frame. We used to like that, or rather I did, during my more passive moments. I would take my dolly out there and swing, and sing to her. Then we had another swing on a trestle, also built aboard the ship. That was lots of fun, for you could go very high. Again, under one of the crab apple trees was suspended another swing; that was a lovely place to swing. But you could not soar as high, for the branches interfered. However, it was beautiful to be away up where the birds built their nests, and it was always reached with a little intake of breath. Coming down in the swing was not quite as pleasant. There was also an intake of breath, but it was sort of a gasp, with an unexpressed fear that “something might happen,” but of course, it never did, and then you got off, and the tingling all over you stopped, and it was your turn to push Beth, or Robbie, or Elena, Ethel, Mildred, or Marcia. It surely fulfilled the school song we had at the closing of school, “there is joy for us in every golden hour.”

One of the big hammocks had a platform built under it, slats of hardwood fairly near together, in order that we could enjoy it off the ground and not get wet or muddy when the ground was. It was a fairly large platform, and Beth and I, and some of our friends, used to play with our dolls there. It was quiet and shady and seemed an enchanting place at the time. It was in this hammock we used to lie, and the parrot and the monkey, Loretta and Monk, would be above us in the apple trees when down would come an apple, sometimes on a head, but most often not. Polly would give a horrid raucous ha ha ha ha! and Monk would scoot off to a new location. He was a long, ring-tailed monkey. Father brought him home to us, as he also did the parrot. Loretta was a peach of a parrot; her one distinctive ability was the fact that she could swear beautifully in Spanish. We were not permitted to repeat what she said, nor were we ever told what it meant. That parrot was a source of great amusement. I remember a neighbor, the mother of some of our friends, after hearing Polly say something, remarked, “it isn’t possible!” But she soon realized it was quite possible. I remember one day, soon after we had received Loretta, the grocery man (order-boy) came in for his daily order as was his custom. He came into the kitchen and heard an order spoken very loudly, “Shut that door.” Which he did and looked to see who was so rude, for my aunt was not inclined to rudeness toward anyone. He did not see anyone but again heard, “Shut that door!” So he advanced to the corner where Loretta had her cage and saw the bird and, as many people are inclined to do, put his finger through the bars. Well, he was fortunate that he had any finger left to pull out, for that bird gave him an awful nip. They have a very sharp under-bill. My aunt had arrived by then, and she cared for the finger. From then on, he let the bird alone as far as offering his finger as a bitten sacrifice was concerned, but he did enjoy hearing her talk. Everyone enjoyed Loretta.

It seems as though my aunt must have been very busy with a baby, five other children, and her mother, who was not able to move about a great deal but did help nevertheless by taking care of the baby and also knitting all the winter mittens and stockings for the entire crowd. She certainly was a busy woman. I also remember she used to crochet lace for our undergarments; we of the feminine gender.

Back to the parrot and monkey. On fine days in summer, we would often take them out and let them loose in the trees, and at night they would come down and be taken into the house. The monkey never seemed to go away, and the parrot would not because it could not; one wing was clipped! However, Monk would come down like a good little monkey, but Loretta! We would have to hunt and call, hunt and call for her, with her giving off this horrible laugh until finally, she would humple her way down to the part of the tree where we could reach her by holding out a short stick, upon which she would get and be taken into the house. I always had an idea that d—– parrot did not care particularly for me, for often, when my aunt had it out of the cage, she would be sitting on a table and I would also be there doing my school work (this was in Calais where I stayed with her one school year), and Polly would be climbing up and down her arm, and sitting upon her shoulder, muttering, cooing, and laughing, also picking at the bows of her eyeglasses and hunting in the lobe of her ear, then she would come down onto the table, make a dive for me, cackle and laugh, and I really was afraid of her. She would also make a dive at my paper; however, I was never bitten through no fault of hers.

I really should follow a better sequence in this saga, but will write it as it comes to me, in other words, as though Beth and I were talking together. Nennie brought us up with a great deal of love for our father and also with love for our dead mother. I always felt as though she did much better than any stepmother would have done, for she talked with us about our mother and told us stories about her, what she knew, and often said, “your mother would like that” or “you are just like your mother.” It may have been true at that moment, but I doubt if I was much like her, for she was gentle. However, that gave me a great deal of pleasure, and I kept it with me for many years. To think that I could be anything like my mother, little did anyone know the pride and joy it gave a heart-hungry child. I used to see other children’s mothers hug them or give them a kiss, and wish that sometime someone would kiss me, but my aunt was not given to be over demonstrative and figured in her Scotch way that too much show of affection was not good for us. I remember Sundays when we would all five of us be dressed in our Sunday best and all go out of the door together, being really finely dressed in clothes she had made with much handwork for trimmings, etc., on them, surely showed a love which was not verbally expressed, but manually and laboriously. It is amazing how she could find time to do hand embroidery and make lace to trim our clothes; five girls and one little boy. In that time, a little boy had much ruffling and embroidery on his clothes, and in fact, also wore petticoats until four or five, and if possible, their mother would keep them in skirts until school age, though there was often resentment. As we went out of the side door, we would all ask at the same time, “Nennie, how do I look?” and the answer would inevitably be, “If you act as well as you look, you will be all right.” We all enjoyed our “Sunday clothes” and felt so very important in them, for our so-called Sunday clothes meant from skin out, including shoes, but I do not remember that it included stockings. We were allowed to keep these clothes on after Sunday school, and I do think that it sort of helped us to mind our manners.

Read Part 3