Grindstone Island News - July 31, 1996
It's midsummer, half-way between the beginning and the end. It's where we are. The days, still long, are now warm and sunny. The moon is nearly full. But still the stars are bright and Grindstone Islanders have gathered for "Old Homes Day." Everything is as it should be. The dance hall on Saturday night was full of kids and little ones early in the evening, teenagers later in the evening, dancing with the vigor and beauty only the young can display.
The children went on a treasure hunt in church on Sunday and found two treasures: a tinfoil-wrapped box of pennies, and "Everyone." Robert, Debby Smith's "little prince" from Burundi looked out over a congregation full of his new friends, and announced that they had to be the treasure hidden somewhere among these pews!
Down at Potter's Beach, on Sunday, a large group of islanders gathered. The tables were, as always, laden with ham, potato salad, beans, pasta, green salad, pies, cakes, good food! The Brown family, from the elders, June and Magel, down to the baby grandchildren, sat on their capacious blanket under their favorite tree where they always sit. Everything was as it should be.
But it was Aleatha Slate's last day on the island with Chad and Keeley. On Monday she will start the long drive home to Florida, and Brenda's and Buck's house will cry out with silence. And Mary Lou took sick after leading the children at the picnic in sack races, running races, and all kinds of relays. Even the baseball game in the big mown field, couldn't take people's minds off Mary Lou. Couldn't take my mind off Mary Lou.
Earlier in the afternoon, Milton Rusho had remarked in conversation that it seems that only the bad news is reported in the papers or on TV. The full stop at the picnic when Manly, Mary Lou Rusho's husband brought the van to the table where she sat, made me realize that reporters aren't "ambulance-chasers," or "Sensationalists." They have to report the sickness, accidents, or bad news of an otherwise "perfect" afternoon. It's in that happening to a friend, or acquaintance, or fellow traveller that all hearts concentrate their good will, their will that no one be hurt, that no one be ill. It's in that moment that our tenderness is underscored, that we see for just an instant, the whole truth the reporter means to report. We have to wait for news of Mary Lou.
But we can tell you that there was a wondrous group of young people at the Saturday dance, that Steve and Debbie Donaldson were the DJs, that the new generation is as lithe as the Brown girls were in the 1960s. The new youngsters can pretzel themselves under as low a limbo pole as Linda and Brenda could in earlier years. We can tell you that Aminta (in honor of having celebrated a 45th anniversary on July 21) was appointed to draw the winning number for the 50-50 prize; that Yuvon Marra who was, that very night, celebrating the first day of her 45th year of marriage to Phil, held the winning number. How those two did dance (long before Yvon's luck-of-the-draw). Their joy in dancing together is like a picture of their marriage. Nancy Carlisle won the hat. Jake Dorr won the first limbo competition, and six teenagers tied for the second. Bubby Bazinet asked everyone to gather at the hall to carry tables and benches to Potter's Beach Sunday morning at 9: 30 a.m., which they must have done, because the picnic grounds were all set up by the time folks arrived to celebrate Old Homes Day. And late in the evening Bubby called a square.
We can tell you, too, that Mary Margaret must have had a good night's sleep. Mother Carolyn said Stevie Dorr had stayed at the Bazinet house and missed the dance. So Mary could climb into bed after her big third birthday party, and she was all smiles at the Sunday picnic. Sis Matthews also had a good night's sleep because Nancy Carlisle took her home a little early from the dance, so she'd be ready for Old Homes Day.
People from all the points of the island came together for this midsummer ushering - in. The Bob Carnegies came from Cement Point. Jennifer and .Daniel Churchill came from Cement Point where their whole family is gathered for the rest of the summer, Ben, Emily, Alex, and Sara, with a friend from France, Flo Cerrazi. Sandra and Masinio Pabins-ticci are also at Canoe Point now with their children Neri and Nicholas. Jenifer volunteered her help with Sunday School when she saw how many children gathered in the carriage house with Kitty Paxton. By next weekend, the Churchill clan will be complete when Tish and Kevin Lewis and Kaleigh, and Bo Niebling and her four children will take up residence in their Carlton Island house.
The Rushos were there from the south side of the island, Manly and Mary Lou with their daughter, Susan and their contingent of seven grandchildren. One of them, Amanda Hageman from Georgia won a prize in one of the sack races. Milton Rusho brought one of his grandchildren to the picnic, Elizabeth Mitchell from Chicago. She won another of the sack races.
I can't remember his name, but a real clown visited the picnic and distributed lolly pops to all the kids. Then Debby Donaldson's dance group entertained us as we sat at the lunch tables with at least four finely choreographed dances. Debby is the daughter of the dancing Marras who celebrated their anniversary on Saturday. And their joy in dance has been passed down to granddaughters, Jacie, Jamie and Stephanie. In turn, they pass it to their friends in Gananoque and in Clayton, and on Grindstone.
Mike LaLonde was memorable at the picnic for slurping up his pie in a pie-eating contest sponsored by Phil Marra. It was an amazing feat! Surely, his name will go down in island lore.
Buck Slate took a group on a short hayride, promising, says Sis Matthews, a long one toward autumn when it is cooler. "I love those hayrides," Sis said.
And stories kept being told at the tables as we ate: How Marjorie Rusho made raspberry jam this week from her wheelchair. (She can't quite manage to pick them.) How once when Annie Couch's house caught fire. Emmet Dodge walked from his house on the northside of the island to join Elmer Dano and Charlie Matthews who hurried on foot from the south side, and Harry Slate from upriver and, to gether, get the attic fire out. The rafters were burned pretty deeply. But the house was saved and strong enough, a few years ago, to hold up a new roof.
The way the islanders get together to take care of each other is another part of the whole truth of the life here. Here is another part of the whole truth. After church, people were loitering and telling stories to each other. Beth Binhammer remarked that children are poetic. Her nephew burped as he sat at the table, and, delighted, said, "There's thunder in my mouth!" Beth was in church with her parents, Ann and Bob. The Binhammer, clan, young son, John, and his family are also on Grindstone this week.
All the reunions, all the stories, all the poetry, all the dancing, games, all the joy is midsummer at the River. And next week there will be more celebration.
Saturday, August 3: "Barnyard Olympics" at 5: 00 p.m. at the church. Games, prizes, pizza, fun! And, Doc Schwartz pleads, if you can bring a game for the event, please do!
Sunday, August 4: Outdoor worship service with communion at Brooks', Aunt Jane's Bay. (If it rains, go to the church. Aug. 11 is the rain date for the Aunt Jane's Bay service.)
Three more notes:
To Sara Beer: Thank you very, very much for writing last week's news when I was away. It was a thorough account of the week's activity told simply and delicately. And it showed me how, as John says, I ramble on! It also gave an inkling of the pleasure a twelve-year-old takes in the life of Grindstone.
To Bubby Bazinet and Phil and Yuvon Marra: Thank you for your work with the Board of Dodge Memorial Hall. A system of checks and balances works. We need those who rail against the inequities, the inefficiencies, the otherwise-minded ways of our institutions. They keep our institutions more or less in line. But we have to have people who keep on faithfully and doggedly, leading us just plain members of the institutions, getting its imperfect work done. It is our halls, our churches, our governments, our greedy businesses, which hold our people together, which allow the exchanges that keep us a community of saints and sinners.
To all the workers, Erma Slate, Clara Carnegie, Brenda Slate, Ada Bazinet, and those many I've forgotten to mention: Thank you for all your work that let us Grindstone Islanders have a wonderful day. And thank you, August Frazier, for your fetching and carrying! Thank you Mary Lou and Manly Rusho for helping with the games and the driving.
Now to the news of Mary Lou Rusho. Marjorie Rush just received a call from Dr. Withington saying Mary Lou had had a disturbance in the rhythm of her heart which may never recur. It was probably the result of too much sun. He is keeping her in the Watertown hospital overnight, but she should be home tomorrow. Once again the fireboat and its crew came to the aid of an island resident They make living on this island seem much safer. We thank them too! So it is.