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Nat and Jilly at Pine Heights. Smells much better outside.

Grafton Cheese nearby

Brattleboro isn't your typical Vermont white church spire town

View from stools at Yalta.

I suppose not everything can be happy and fun, but taking a page out of my mom's book of optimism, I will always try. While visiting her at the nursing home is no party, Brattleboro invariably does us a solid.

I’ll admit to timing visits to the opening of Yalla at 11:30, when the falafel is hot, the lines are short and Gene and Zohar are still laughing. That there’s a Star Trek theme, including a life sized mannequin that looks like Elvis in a Star Trek uniform, enhances, as does the graffiti’d back hallway and bathroom. But it’s the food that we come for, that and the examination of consistently odd footwear, which has included snow boots in summer, flip flops with socks, sneaker sandal combinations, an unmatching pair, earth shoes, white above the knee patent leather platform boots paired with a flannel shirt on a woodsy looking man. And you can’t discount the seats at the window, or the bench outside in summer, where we watch the logging trucks go by and guess what state each car is from based on the model and people inside (our record is good).

We might hazard a wander through Sam’s, an encyclopedic outdoor store that makes me want to take up winter hiking so I can rationalize buying an ice pick. But we’ll always go to the Coop, where everyone is out of central casting, to buy two 802 vanilla dipped in chocolate popsicles, pick up two napkins, two paper cups and two spoons for my mom and her roommate Sandy, who also has short-term memory loss.

When we arrive, neither of them recognize us, but they both know the popsicles and despite providing all the accouterments, they never need them, slurping down monster ice creams with a quiet focus and nary a spill. After, my mother will fold a napkin and put it between her lips, as though she has lipstick on. After a while, she will at least know that I’m someone in her life who loves her, and though she may not have a name or relationship, she prattles on about things I don’t understand, and will almost always say “Aren’t we lucky, the way things have turned out?” as I take in her Victorian china jug juxtaposed with the fake flowers and mylar balloon on the particle board dresser.

I had understood that her roommate was craving a beer and her family thought it alright if she had one. So the next time I came, I swapped out a popsicle for a Fosters tall boy, pouring it for her into a coffee cup. She looked at us as though we were idiots and said “Where’s the salt?” Nat got her salt. In the same manner “Where are the chips?” We had none. After I had helped my mom with her popsicle wrapper, I looked over at Sandy and she had finished the cup of beer, poured and was drinking another, and had started getting out of bed, not fully dressed and pretty wobbly, talking like a drunk person. At the same time, my mom said “I feel sick, I think I’m going to throw up”. We dumped the beer, told the nurses there was a crisis in Room 305 and hightailed it out of there. Not my best work.

After talking crazy talk, smelling bad smells (masks aren’t only for COVID at the nursing home, and Nat has innovated Burt’s Bees smeared on the nostrils) and too much driving, hiking is the bomb, despite my usual weariness at the start, tight and approached with some small sense of duty. What is at first fairly flat and easily traversable, becomes rocky with slippery oak leaves or at certain times of year, a full stream. Eventually a rhythm sets in, the last few of the 5 zigs and 5 zags are the steepest but the easiest because movement ihas become smooth, quick, sweatier, heavy breathing, my mind gloriously empty. The view from the top is pretty but usually uncompelling. Mocha Joe’s for a cup of tea and it’s back on the road home, often with beautiful light.

A conversation about the people, or should I say individuals, of Brattleboro will have to wait for another time.


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