Photo by Muffy Aldrich
The Modern Guide to The Thing Before Preppy

Tuesday, May 4, 2021


Photos by Salt Water New England

MGC comment: 

As a child, I loved exploring my Vermont grandparents’ house, a lovely Greek Revival built in 1820. Under the eves, I found Civil War military buttons, antique marbles, old wooden fishing lures, Indian head pennies, patchwork squares for quilting, several paintings on glass, boxes of 19th century photographs, a fly reel and bamboo rod with the tip missing, a Civil War infirmary log (most patients were treated for “drunkness” or dysentery, the two being somewhat related ), an old stamp collection and a trunk belonging to my great-aunt Twiddie who, I was told, was jilted at the alter.

Inside the trunk, I discovered a silver coffee pot, a calico dress and a photograph of Twiddie playing tennis c. 1890 in which she wore a straw hat with a wide silk band. She looked quite athletic, her long, thin frame leaning forward to make a stroke. The photo disappeared decades ago, much to my regret, as Twiddie and I had a special relationship.

The entire front of the house had a covered porch supported by white columns and well above, a Palladian third floor window. There were several chairs for watching townspeople go by, and a dark green rocker on the north end of the porch. One summer when I was visiting, a raccoon would hop onto that chair and make it rock; I could hear the creaking sound under my window when everyone else was asleep. Raccoons must have a sense of humor.

Surrounding the house were mountainous white and purple lilacs bushes, hydrangeas, hollyhocks and a second porch with grape leaves growing up the sides and over the top to form a roof, a magical place to be in the rain. One wing had morning glories climbing on strings, and a row of tiger lilies summered at the base of the woodshed. Along the peak, lightening rods with yellow glass balls kept us safe from electrical storms, or so we hoped.

It was love of my grandparents, however, which made the house the center of my universe. To this day, I see their house in my dreams, pass through familiar rooms and talk to my grandparents as if they were alive.

- MGC 



  1. Lilacs,
    False blue,
    Color of lilac,
    Your great puffs of flowers
    Are everywhere in this my New England.
    Among your heart-shaped leaves
    Orange orioles hop like music-box birds and sing
    Their little weak soft songs;
    In the crooks of your branches
    The bright eyes of song sparrows sitting on spotted eggs
    Peer restlessly through the light and shadow
    Of all Springs.
    Lilacs in dooryards
    Holding quiet conversations with an early moon;
    Lilacs watching a deserted house
    Settling sideways into the grass of an old road;
    Lilacs, wind-beaten, staggering under a lopsided shock of bloom
    Above a cellar dug into a hill.
    You are everywhere.
    You were everywhere.
    You tapped the window when the preacher preached his sermon,
    And ran along the road beside the boy going to school.

  2. Wonderful memories. One of my favorite scents. I stop to smell them everyday they are in bloom.

  3. You have good memories. You are fortunate. Let us all strive to create loving memories.
    It’s all about memories

    1. Or perhaps for some of us it’s about just living today.

    2. Are not memories to the mind what blood is to the heart ?

  4. Such a lovely, elegant home. I love fanlight windows. My parents bought, for a song ,a Queen Anne Victorian, post WWII, with an abundance of French lilacs. With the property they inherited a gardener, who’s salary had been payed for years in advance as part of an estate settlement, a lovely, kind man who had a love of all things French especially wine. As children we would find all sorts of wine bottles among the lilacs. It was fun to see how many bottles we could find!!

  5. The scent of lilacs also takes me back to childhood. I remember anticipating their intoxicating scent each year, a brief but glorious time marking the transition as spring marched on towards summer.

  6. A wonderful story- thank you for sharing it. Our lilacs just started blooming. Another day and they will be fully opened, ready to decorate and scent the indoors with their heady scent. After my mom passed away, I was grieving terribly. My aunt and uncle had me stay with them in their guest room in which they placed a vase full of lilacs. Their scent wafted throughout the room. I am comforted still by the perfume of lilacs, as I am by memories of loved ones.

  7. Perfection! Thank you so very much!

  8. Thank you MGC. Lovely.

  9. your blog and the memories of Home ...
    the scent of lilacs and the simple freshness of the air...
    I pretend for a moment I'm not in a land-locked dry state now.
    thank you always!

  10. When they were both in different assisted living homes, my mother asked her best friend if she missed her house and Sally said "I walk through all the rooms every night before I go to sleep." My mom did the same. The lilacs my mother planted in our old yard always bloomed in time for my birthday.

  11. What wonderful childhood memories! Wish I had some like those. But I do have lilacs -- two -- one blue and one pink. Which reminds me that the pink one is being strangled by vines. I will go and free it as soon as the rain lets up. Both have lots and lots of flowers ready to bloom!

  12. You are more than fortunate to have such vivid and lovely memories of what we endearingly refer to in toasts as "absent friends". You will always treasure those, because they are closest to the marrow of life, and make life worth living.

  13. The sense of smell is the greatest catalyst to summon memories.

  14. I saw your lilacs and immediately took a deep breathe. Lovely memories.


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