When I was a youngster I subscribed to a magazine called Polly Pigtails. It was geared toward girls my age, although not the girl I happened to be at the time. Polly didn’t live in a house on Route 15 in the Northeast Kingdom. Polly lived in that most glamorous of homes, to me anyway, a New York City apartment building, with an elevator. And a doorman. Oh, how I wanted to live in a building that had a doorman.
Polly edited a magazine that offered articles on topics such as cooking and sewing. She had “chums.” At Christmas time Polly and her chums would walk around the city and put money in Salvation Army buckets in order to help the poor. They admired the seasonal decorations that twinkled in the store windows and drank hot chocolate (not cocoa) while reading in the magazine about such famous women as Amelia Earhart.
Where I lived there were no chums, only four rowdy boys belonging to the family down the road. They had no interest in cooking and sewing and barely tolerated me playing Indians or Germans with them in the woods around our house.
When my family went down to Connecticut for our yearly visit to my grandparents in the city, I wanted so much to be a city dweller. I would wake up the first morning we were there and hear the gush and swoosh of the buses coupled with the unmistakable aroma of diesel fuel. It was a city smell and I loved it for many reasons including that it meant I was a mere bus ride from a number of huge department stores where you could try on clothes that you might not even buy. And you could go to the movies in the afternoon.
I remember once when my grandfather came north one spring, he took a deep blissful breath of the smell of fields around us covered in manure and exclaimed what a wonderful aroma it was. I thought he was out of his mind.
During our visit I would spend every single day roller skating up and down the sidewalks in front of the house. There were no sidewalks on Route 15. In the evening I soaked off the scars and bruises of my attempts at flying up and down the cement walks with the other, more experienced skaters.
I remember asking my mother if I could go to camp like my friends from the city did. She explained I didn’t need camp, that those kids just wished they could live where I did and do the things I did. Like rounding up the cows for milking, sitting on the back of a big, very old horse who patiently plodded along the pastures, or sliding down the hay mow, or having so many dogs and cats we couldn’t keep track of them all.
Polly Pigtails was first published in 1946 and cost 10 cents an issue and is very much a collectible these days. Should have hung on to them, they’re probably worth a fortune.