A picture from our Vermont days: One time at the feed store, where he was buying materials to build a pen for the baby chicks hed gotten my brother and me for Easterwith no idea what we were going to do with them when they got bigGeorge spotted a wildflower seed mix for sale. He came up with this idea of digging up our lawn and planting the whole thing with wildflower seed instead.
Back at our rented house, he gave my brother and me paper cups filled with seeds and instructed us to toss them in the ground wherever we wanted, to make the flowers grow in a more natural-looking pattern. He had abandoned the idea of rototilling up the lawn at this point. George preferred to let the seed find its own way into the soil, he said, filling in the patches where the grass was thin. I knew, even then, no seedlings would take root that way. Even as he was telling Val how wed set up a flower stand in summer, selling bouquets, I knew we wouldnt.
After his first round of the country-and-western phase, George had a fling with photography. He took up puppeteering. He had this idea he could make a living taking educational puppet shows to schools, teaching children about the importance of good nutrition.
They were ahead of their time, Val and George, as health food types, vegetarians.
Georges plan to make a killing selling vegetable juicers, and juicer franchises, came sometime after that. Then there was the yogurt culture he bought from a guy he met at a truck stop in Virginia, that we would use to set up a yogurt-making business, with pure Vermont honey (we were back up north by this point) for sweetener. After that failed (and despite the fact that neither of them touched seafood) came the clam shack in Maine. In between these projects there were inventions andthis never changedcountry songs.
The years we lived in New Hampshirewhere I was born in July of 1950represented the only time I can remember in which my father held down regular employment. I was eight when we moved, my brother, Ray, twelve. But for years after that, my mother reminisced about the house we lived in therea place way out on a dirt road that wed actually bought with a five-thousanddollar down payment given to my parents by my mothers uncle Ted, who had made some money from part ownership in a bubble-gum company, of all things.
Maybe it was the knowledge that a person could get rich from something like bubble gum (or if not rich, that he could end up with an extra five thousand dollars in his pocket, anyway) that inspired Georges own dreams of overnight fame and fortune. Though, quick as hed earned the bubble gum money, my mothers uncle had lost the majority of the cash, reinvesting the proceeds, as my mother told me, in a scheme for edible crayons or something like that.
Perhaps it was a similarity to this uncle of ours that first attracted Val to George. Though what kept them together was harder to figure. And whatever it was, it didnt keep them together much. The clearest picture I have of George is the sight of him with that briefcase of his, walking out the door headed to some greener pasture, or the twinkling lights of some city where someone had an amazing deal for him, or some grand harbor where, just over the horizon, our ship was coming in.
Excerpted from The Good Daughters by Joyce Maynard. Copyright © 2010 by Joyce Maynard. Excerpted by permission of William Morrow. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Blood at the Root
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