I never felt that uncomfortable in the company of this group but I longed for someone to find me again that would appreciate me like Grace did when she hugged and kissed me that Christmas in 1942. It was she who gave me the name Byers Hess. I was so proud to meet her friends and I especially liked the parties we had in the summers in her log playhouse in the backyard. It never seemed to bother anyone that I was a Plain (Mennonite) boy with long hair, a simple black coat with no lapel, a brown shirt worn without a necktie, and matching black belt-less pants. At that time I had a flat-topped black felt hat but I lost the hat some time and don’t know where. My hair has become straggly and I walk with a limp because my right leg is loose at the hip.
You may wonder where I have been all these years. Well for many years I lived in the attic of that white stucco house at 412 East Baltimore Street in Greencastle, Pennsylvania. It was a weird feeling to see my friend grow up and go away to college and rarely come up to the attic. The parents came up from time to time to take the winter clothes downstairs in the fall and back in the spring, to get the jelly jars during grape and peach season, to hang the big flag out on the 4th of July, and to hang the big Santa face in the attic window at Christmas. The mother started to clean out the attic in the 1960’s and I was so afraid she was going to give me away but she never did. Instead they took me to New Jersey where my old friend lived with her little girl named Susan. Susan had a lot of beautiful friends but she made room for me and included me in her play. But then the family moved to England and I ended up back in the attic in Greencastle. I sensed something was terribly wrong when the mother never came up to the attic anymore.
Then Grace arrived and brought Susan to the attic to find toys. I’m glad they did not find me because they were so sad. It wasn’t until they moved to Rockville, Maryland, that I and the others joined them. Susan had her own room and played with me and many newcomers. However, she was much more athletic than her mother and preferred to do gymnastics or roller skate.
Years passed and I ended up in the basement. Mice scurried around us and nibbled on my hair. Suddenly I heard Grace moving boxes all around and I felt myself being squeezed together with this group for my first airplane ride. That is how I ended up in California in Susan’s house with her little girl Maya who looked with distain at our group; so Susan put the whole lot of us in their garage. What a predicament to be stuck in total darkness in this stuffy red box so close to all these females with seemingly no way out.
Luckily Grace found me in 2005. She and Isabelle, another granddaughter, took us to Grace’s new house and they actually played with us. We were all so happy. Isabelle’s happy face reminds me of how her grandmother looked when I first joined her when she was around the same age. Grace even told me she is going to take us on a car ride to meet her special friends in her writing group. They really liked us and what Grace wrote about us. She had to explain about the Plain people on the farm where her brother Charlie’s friend, the real Byers Hess, lived. on the road to Chambersburg, Pennsylvania.
Then in 2011 Grace disappeared for months and months. With Susan’s help she sold her home and moved to Sunrise Assisted Living in Walnut Creek, California. She had to get rid of so many things so she donated the lot of us along with her mother’s dolls and one belonging to her Great Aunt Alice to the Allison-Antrim Museum back in Greencastle, Pennsylvania. Susan and Grace packed us carefully with some stuff they called bubble wrap in a great big box for the trip in a big United Parcel Service truck.
Maybe some of Grace’s friends or their grandkids will drop in to see us when and if we are displayed in the museum there like Great Aunt Elsie Bert’s wedding dress was.
Grace Bert Cannon
(Grace’s family of dolls is displayed in the children’s bedroom of the Museum House, just waiting for your visit. See you soon.)
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