I loved this lady even though, at my young age, I could not have really known how to love another.

Mrs. Dunton, who was perhaps my grandmother’s age, appeared much older to me in the summer of 1963. I was in sixth grade. Summers then were full of good times and little care for concerns beyond my neighborhood at the corner of McKinley and Center streets in Bangor. We lived outdoors and our TV had only two channels. That year, it had occurred to my friends and I that a pop-up neighborhood dance could be fun.

Mrs. Dunton lived in a neat old colonial on a nearby side street. Often, she would sit out front rocking gently on her porch swing, sipping iced tea. I liked to walk by her house. When we could chat, I liked it better. Sometimes I would come up on her and she did not notice me. I would notice that she might have a far-off look in her eyes which suggested to me she was thinking of a time long ago. Sometimes I felt sad for her; she seemed lonely, or at least lost in a dream that I could never reach.

One afternoon, I had the good fortune to come across Mrs. Dunton on her porch. She invited me up for a glass of root beer. Our visit was, as always, sweet yet desultory. We chatted amiably and she told me stories of her past. There had been a special boy, a “keeper” she called him, when she was younger. Her memories were fleeting, but one she clung to. She reminisced about a dance they attended together. Easy jazz filled the hall and the “keeper” was dapper in his tweed suit and oxfords. She rocked away and smiled.

It was then that I broached the request. Would Mrs. Dunton welcome my friends and me to set up her backyard for our own dance the next day? She wouldn’t have to do anything. Her smile widened and she said yes.

We acted quickly. A string of Chinese lanterns was stretched back and forth over her lawn. The record player was plugged into her garage outlet. We divvied up our shares of chips and Kool Aid. (Money was tight in those days.) A time of 4 p.m. was agreed upon for the start of the fun. Then, we hurried home to clean up and dress smart.

I made a point to arrive first. I didn’t see Mrs. Dunton on her front porch and hoped she might be resting inside. I headed to her backyard.

Even a young boy can have moments that cause him to stop, take in the picture and tear up. There was Mrs. Dunton, dressed in her finery with a string of pearls around her neck. A table with a crocheted cloth held plates of cookies and cups for punch. She had that far-off look again. She turned, glanced at me, rocked away and smiled.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.