Fly Away Home
A memoir about the ups and downs in life and the back and forth travels of a multicultural family.

SuMMEr IN LAWrENCEVILLE

This is a preview to the chapter SuMMEr IN LAWrENCEVILLE from the book Fly Away Home by Maggie Myklebust.
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As for my mother’s side of the family, her parents, grandparents and great grandparents were all born in America. Whenever I asked what nationality my mother’s family was, I was given the answer, ‘a little bit of everything’. Her parents were Catharine and Edward Hibbs and they had seven children, the oldest being my mother. My grandfather was an electrician who worked theater lighting on Broadway in New York City and died when I was young. My grandmother, or Gramie as I called her, stayed home with her children; after her husband died she went to work in the kitchens of various restaurants.

When my mother was five, she spent the summer at her maternal grandmother’s house in Lawrenceville, New Jersey, which was a small town outside the state capital of Trenton. At the end of the summer, when it was time for her to go home and start school, she didn’t want to go, she wanted to stay and so she did. I always thought this was strange and asked her about it many times. She said it was no big deal, she wanted to live with her grandmother and her mother said it was all right. Case closed. She lived and went to school in Lawrenceville until she was twelve and then moved back home. Lawrenceville is a quaint little historic town, which dates back to colonial times and is famous because in 1776, during the Revolutionary war, George Washington’s troops marched through the village after the battle at Trenton.

My sister Mary Lou and I would always spend a few weeks of our summer vacation in Lawrenceville. My great grandmother’s name was Margaret, she had two daughters, the oldest Elizabeth, who wasn’t married and lived at home well into her fifties, the other was my grandmother Catharine. My mother called her grandmother Gaumie, which was pronounced Gwaamie and her aunt Noney, which rhymes with money. She adored these two women and named me Margaret Elizabeth after them. Gaumie and Noney were like two perfect bookends, complementing and supporting one another.

Gaumie, a very skilled seamstress, had always worked out of her home. Customers were continually coming and going, dropping off bits and pieces that needed to be taken in or let out. I was fascinated watching her cut out patterns and turn yards of simple cloth into dresses, which in every way equaled the rivals sold in stores. She also took care of all the cooking and cleaning around the house. Over the years Gaumie never seemed to change, she always looked exactly the same. She wore the same homemade house dresses and gray sweater. Threads of black ran through her long silver hair, which was always twisted into a tight little bun at the back of her head. Loose pale skin hung from her neck and arms and behind thick silver rimmed glasses her eyes were soft and kind. Her smile was constant and her patience never ending.

Noney, on the other hand, was an exceedingly stylish woman, she had an enormous jewelry collection and a closet packed with dresses and matching shoes in every color. She was small and handsome and had inherited her mother’s kind eyes. She kept her short, dark hair in a tight permanent, wore only pink lipstick and always smelled of sweet perfume. At 20 years old, after finishing secretarial school, she found a job at Princeton University and never looked back. She was constantly coming home with juicy tidbits regarding the students or faculty at Princeton. Her best story was the time she was introduced to the great scientist, Albert Einstein, who had spent a number of years working at Princeton.

Her job was her life, my mother was the daughter she had never had and my sister and I were like granddaughters. She did have a male friend, his name was Frank, and as far as I know she only saw him on Saturday nights. I loved watching her get ready for her Saturday night dinner date. I would keep a careful eye on the way she fixed her hair and applied her makeup. She valued my opinion on which dress she should wear and we’d agonize over what jewelry would best complement her ensemble. My sister, being the tomboy she was, never participated in this ritual. Instead, she and Gaumie would sit at the kitchen table and play a game of Old Maid or Go Fish.
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"Fly Away Home is an intriguing title to an amazing journey bringing into question, where is home? Is it where..."

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