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[These events are to the very best of my memories and understanding. If others remember them differently, I welcome their recollections.]

From the time that I was 3 or so, until around the time I was 11, I lived with my father. How that came to be is another story, told here, but the short of it is that my mother had custody of me as a toddler, and when I was about 3 years old, she abandoned me at my paternal grandparents – i.e., my father’s family. My father wanted me, quite badly, and so it was that I came to live with him.

At the time my father lived in a basement in Hell’s Kitchen – a seedy section of New York City that bordered Manhattan’s notorious 42nd Street, and the Port Authority, and was just a few blocks away from Times Square. That too is told in more detail here, but suffice it to explain that around the time that I was in second grade, we went to Putney, Vermont, so that my father could take a summer program at Windham College. He then decided that we should move to Putney.

Being a born and bred city girl (and not just any city, but the City), I hated the country.

For about a year.

And then, I could not imagine ever living in the City (or any city) again. Ever.

I was a confirmed country girl, and I have remained a New England girl at heart ever since.

And yet, during the summer of my 11th year, my father decided that he needed to move back to New York for his work. I was heartbroken. More than anything I wanted to stay in Putney, where I had a settled, stable life, at least of some sort. Nevermind that we had been living in a condemned house (another story, yes, for another time). I had friends, I felt at home – I didn’t want to leave.

My father had some friends too, including a lovely woman named Erica Brigham who, at the time, was the manager at the Putney Inn.

And so it was that my father headed back to New York that summer, ahead of me, in order to find us a home in New York, while I stayed at the Putney Inn. I was under Erica’s care, and I had my very own room at the Inn. The plan was that my father would send for me once he had a place for us, and Erica would place me on a bus which he would meet at the other end. I had the bus fare tucked away.

The Putney Inn, at that time, had one of those old-fashioned switchboards – you know the type, with the wires that plugged into the switchboard, and you could either patch calls from room to room, or to an outside line. Think Lily Tomlin’s character, Ernestine. Or the telephone operators and switchboards from Green Acres or Petticoat Junction.

Being rather precocious, I quickly learned how to man the switchboard. Well enough, in fact, that Erica let me run the switchboard when she had other things to do.

And so it was that I was the person sitting at the switchboard one dark and stormy night (yes, really). The inn was full – no rooms to be had – and in walked a family, needing a room for the night.

It was a mother and father, and a boy about my age, and a girl a few years younger. They had, they explained, come to Putney from New York City to find a house to rent, and were driving back to New York in the morning to put their affairs in order before they moved up to Putney. The man, I learned, was not the father, but the mother’s boyfriend.

Did they say they were driving back to New York in the morning?

A plan began to form in my precocious, 11-year-old mind.

They needed a room. I had a room.

They were driving to New York in the morning. I had bus fare burning a hole in my pocket.

How about if I let them stay in my room for the night, and in return, I hitched a ride to New York with them in the morning, allowing me to pocket the bus fare?

How about it indeed? They agreed.

On the way to New York the next day, another plan took shape.

“How about if I stay with you in Putney?”, I asked them in the car on the way to New York. “I’m sure that my father would be willing to pay for room and board.”

Shockingly, he was willing to pay for me to stay with them and, perhaps even more shocking – they agreed.

Perhaps it wasn’t all that shocking that my father agreed. I’m sure he saw that I was far better off living in the country with a family – even one that we’d known barely 24 hours – than with a single father with a drinking problem in the middle of New York City. But how the family agreed, well, I’ll never know, and I’m sure that they came to regret it (that too being another story, yes, yes, for another day).

And that is how I came to live with Peggy Leo, and her children, Erik and Melissa, along with Peggy’s boyfriend Richard. I lived with them for about a year, before moving on to another chapter of my life, in Arlington, Massachusetts.

Erik went on to become the founder of one of the first Internet service providers in Vermont, and one hell of a skier, while Melissa grew up to be a fantastic, award winning actress. I am so very proud of both of them, and grateful to have been a part of their family.

I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention that at some point during that era, I sojourned to the welcoming home of George and Laura Heller, with their children Mary, Geordie, and William. William is now a professor of political science, and I’m pretty darned proud of him, too.

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