In the summer of my fourteenth year, my two maiden aunts decided their only niece needed a “cultural education.” Our small city had a symphony, but no ballet. Hence, in the eyes of my aunts, both educators, it was a cultural wasteland. For five weeks, we would be touring around New England, taking in all the cultural sights that could be soaked up in a short period of time.

I wasn’t keen about writing back then, but apparently, I kept a journal, and a rather descriptive one. Several years ago, while cleaning out a box of family photos and ephemera, I came across that journal. I imagine I was far less interested in the churches, museums, concerts and ballets I saw that summer, than in the restaurants, swimming pools and motels I enjoyed on this cultural awakening. However, it seems I did enjoy the majority of cultural sights. I lovingly described the stuffed lobster dinner I enjoyed at “Marigold,” a quaint eatery somewhere in Marblehead, where I had my first popover. Its rich and pillowy egginess has stayed with me all these years. While impressive to look at, they are quite simple to make, as I often do now. I also was impressed by our tour of The House of the Seven Gables, in Salem, the brilliantly white billowing sails of the tall ships in Mystic, Connecticut. And I fell in love with Motif #1 in Rockport, Massachusetts, with its collection of lobster pots and buoys contrasted against the faded red of the weathered building that jetted into the harbor. I wrote about the sea salt taste on my tongue and fish briny smells of the wharf, the intense blue sky and later, the unbridled fury of the ocean after a brief storm. I wrote about this small sea town, vowing to return someday.

I loved the Indian corn pudding at the Wiggins Tavern in the Hotel Northampton, and was spellbound watching and listening to the sixteen-year-old Van Cliburn at Tanglewood. I was equally mesmerized by Merce Cunningham, while at Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival. Sixty years later, these memories are still with me.

I wrote about our visit to Walden Pond, to Sturbridge Village, to Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts where the shot was fired ‘heard round the world. And I remember the Beef Wellington I ate at a country inn there. I was enchanted by Normal Rockwell’s paintings and equally enchanted by The Red Lion Inn, where my aunts and I lunched, enjoying lobster bisque and chicken potpie in the elegant, antique-filled dining room.

We visited small, white, pristine country churches every Sunday and one, the First Church in Bennington, Vermont, I would later revisit for a wedding, some 45 years later, when I was working in Bennington.

I don’t think we missed a single New England cultural or historical site. And apparently, that trip did have a profound impact on a fourteen-year-old girl. Because, as an adult, I returned to many of these historic sites. My first vacation as a single woman, fresh out of college, and alone, was to Rockport and fifteen years later, I introduced my husband to this quaint and charming seacoast town. My husband and I have attended many concerts in Tanglewood, spent a Thanksgiving at the Hotel Northampton and spent many an hour browsing the paintings of Normal Rockwell in West Stockbridge.

At fourteen, my writing wasn’t very profound, but it brought a flooding of memories. I wish I could go back and rewrite the story of that summer, but I’m not sure it could be any better.

One thought on “The Summer of 1961 by Linda Freedland

  1. The coastal imagery you provide is really great. I especially liked when you described the lobster and the lobster fishing equipment. I love the East Coast for all the great scenery and seafood, so you did a nice job creating that scene.

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