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May 089

It’s rhubarb season, and that means PIE! I broke out my old family cookbook and baked up a yummy, sweet-tart rhubarb custard pie last night. So good. I had a little help, too.

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Rhubarb has the most beautiful color. I think that’s one reason I can’t resist it as soon as it pops up in the market. That, and the unusual tart, springy taste. It defies any description, really.

After the kids went to bed, I sat down on the couch with a slice of the pie and this book:

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This is it, my favorite-novel-from-childhood-that-I-can’t-believe-but-am-kind-of-glad-isn’t-a-movie-yet (see this post). I probably didn’t need to read it; it could have just sat there on my lap and had the same effect by osmosis. I’ve read this book so many times! I had to replace my old disintegrating paperback with a hardcover years ago, although I do sort of miss the romance novel-y cover of the old one.

I first read The Witch of Blackbird Pond at age nine in Miss McNamee’s fourth grade class. I don’t remember if we were studying Colonial New England at the time; possibly, but I was fascinated by Puritans and witch trials and local history as a kid, so I would have read it anyway. I was, pun intended, bewitched.

Elizabeth George Speare won the Newbury Award for The Witch of Blackbird Pond in 1959 via a rare unanimous vote. It’s that wonderful a book – rich and superbly researched. As an adult, I can consider the craft of the novel, how perfectly it’s composed, but as a child I just plain loved it.

What, exactly, was so bewitching to me? Kit, especially Kit, smart and disastrously impulsive and loyal. Stepping into Connecticut of 1687, with its meadows and church meetings and itchy linsey-woolsey dresses – and its witch trials and political tension and perverse Puritan austerity. The very real and human characters: irritating and charming Nat Eaton, gentle and resilient Hannah Tupper, patient Mercy, intimidating Uncle Matthew. The world of Blackbird Pond felt real to me. I could go there. I still can.

A few years back, not long after I moved into this home, I discovered that Speare grew up not far from here. I’d already driven by her childhood home a few times without knowing it – but of course, I had to go back and take a good look at the house. Hopefully no one was home to be concernced about the car that kept circling the block! It’s just a house, really, but it seems important. Like I picked the right place to live. I wonder if the current owners know who lived there once upon a time?

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