In the far distance and to the right of the farmhouse, the Adirondacks filled the horizon. To the left, Mount Abraham looked like the mountain every 5-year-old draws. “Mt. Abe” was so close, it seemed like I could reach out and touch it. I was at my grandparents’ farm in Lincoln, Vermont, where my mother was born and where we more than willingly went whenever we could. We lived in Keene, New Hampshire, a two-hour drive away. Always when we arrived my grandmother was making homemade doughnuts. The aroma filled the kitchen as she handed me a doughnut and a brown bag with sugar in it. I dropped the doughnut in and shook it; my mouth watered, since I knew the next thing was to eat this treat.

Mount Abraham as seen from the west, after the first snow of the year in 2010. Its summit is in the town of Lincoln, Vt. Dolly Anagnostis Curtis was with her grandfather, who lived in Lincoln, as he climbed “Mt. Abe” for the first time in his 70s. Firehill, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

There really are no bad memories of time with my grandparents. During “sugaring” we would always spend a long weekend with them. I loved the sap house and the aroma of the maple in the air; the hard-boiled eggs, cooked in the sap as it traveled through the evaporator, had a maple flavor. My grandfather even cooked potatoes wrapped in tinfoil in the sap – they were wonderful.

They had a pony named Black Beauty – what else would you name a pony in the ’50s? And there were sleigh rides in the winter. They lived on a dirt road, so even with plowing they were always snow-covered. During the summer my grandfather would bring “Beauty” into the house, where he and my grandmother would put on a full-fledged play, as she protested that there was a horse in her kitchen. It always ended in giving Beauty the drippings of the syrup they had made that was not good enough to sell.

In his 70s, my grandfather climbed Mt. Abe for the first time. I was with him and as we got to the tree line nearing the top, he was on his hands and knees, unwilling to stop until he reached the summit.

A huge tragedy occurred in all our lives on the evening Jimmy Carter was elected president. By that time my parents, in their early 50s, and brother had moved to Lincoln, as my father was not well. I received a call that my father had died. He was 55. The next day we gathered in Lincoln and my aunt called to say that my brother had died in an auto accident, driving back to be with his family. Within a few months, my mother also died, perhaps of a broken heart.

Without this community, the mountains, the memories, the love, I would never have recovered. I had lost the family I was born into. Somehow the beauty of that scenery, the memories I have, all helped me to live a life that I think has been kind and good. Each day I remember to live as an example of who they were.

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