Category Archives: FAITH & OTHER DIMENSIONS

The Road To Emmaus – 07/18/2013

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WHERE WE ARE WHEN WE STRAY
For Pastor Cheryl and Reverend Joe 

O The road to Emmaus is dusty and long.
We walk upon it to ponder what’s wrong.
It feels so very comfy to keep laying blame.
It keeps us conceding our own dead flame;
Thus no longer need to ponder His words of love.
We believe we’re no longer liable to heaven above.
So won’t let our ears, our eyes, and our hearts
Send us to God and the love he imparts.

Abruptly: snapping of fingers and words we now hear!
Our eyes open to see. And our tongues spurt out fear.
Quick! give him advice, tell him what to do.
Once again, our listening falls through.
Patient Lord! Patient Son!
Our road’s journey has just begun.
Our tongues stop drizzling
As our brains begin sizzling.
Our tears start to appear.
And, startled, we begin to hear:
“I’ve forgiven you, child
Your sins are quite mild.”

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Make A Joyful Noise … Crickets, Too. All sorts of visitors at our church.

In 2004, a group of friends came to a parting of the ways with the then ELCA bishop of Phoenix. A group of us, including the pastor, literally walked out of our neighborhood Lutheran church. Within days our new congregation started the Living Word Lutheran Church (L.C.M.C.).  For the first four months, we met in the recreation room of an apartment complex where one of our members lived. Eventually, one of our worshippers bought a fairly large home with a huge addition which she didn’t use for herself. “Why don’t you all meet here?” she asked. “It would be fun.”

Gratefully, we accepted. “I don’t have to drive to church anymore,” she joked.

Our congregation of two dozen or so consisted of approximately a dozen active members. All of us took turns assisting during our ten a.m. service. All of us, including the newly retired pastor from the other church, took turns
presenting sermons.

Because there was no organ, Pastor would transfer the hymn tunes to an electronic disk, and all of us sang lustily, if a bit off tune. Some things don’t change!

Several years later, our friend needed the space for her own use, so we found a new home in the carpeted all-purpose room at a local school. The pebbly carpeting was a combination of gray, brown, black, and white tweed designed to take hard wear. One of its drawbacks was camouflaging anything which dropped to the floor. Even dimes were difficult to find, and pennies were impossible.

Grinning broadly, the custodian told us, “When I vacuum after the service, I can keep any change I find as a tip.”

At any rate, I wouldn’t have been able to see whatever dropped, as my cataracts were rapidly dulling my once sharp vision. Shortly before Christmas, I did have the cataracts removed, and my eyesight  improved dramatically.
            During the Christmas Eve service, I happened to glance at the carpet behind the pastor and saw a dark tan, two- inch-long / one-inch-wide cricket come around the altar table, scoot in front of him, and head straight for my chair.

I quietly got up to catch the cricket in my bare hands, but it ran away from me, and scooted behind the altar
table.

            As I returned to my front row seat, I notice the deafening silence. Pastor was watching me. 

Before sitting down, I deadpanned, “It’s a cricket.”

            Someone from the back row called out, “Don’t kill it! It’s bad luck to kill crickets!”

            I said, “I’m trying to catch it so I can evict it.”

            Pastor was listening to our dialogue, but said not a word.

            My face bright red, I sat down.

            Pastor continued the service.

Within a minute, the cricket whisked out of its hiding place and headed straight for me. Someone else saw it and screamed in terror, “Don’t touch it!”

            Pastor stopped. He looked at me and imperceptibly nodded permission. I get up to catch it.

            It scooted back to its hiding place behind the altar.

Pastor continued the service. I sit down and rejoined the service. Out of the corner of my eye I watched the creature appear on the altar. It scurried to a big pot of poinsettias near the Bible stand and whisked up the pot and into the foliage.

            Nearly all of us, including Pastor, watched. At this point, several people were actually shedding tears brought about by suppressed laughter.  Some of them had their heads on someone’s shoulder to quench the
laughter. Most of the others had the silent giggles. But there was one family – you know the type – who didn’t have a sense of humor, and they were c-o-l-d.

            Someone grabbed me and buried his head on my shoulder, and I could hear him sobbing with laughter. It’s Pastor. He said to us, “They teach you how to handle a lot in Lutheran seminary – crying babies, angry
worshippers, sneeze fits, and so on. I don’t recall ever hearing how to handle a worshipper in the front row getting up to catch a cricket. Liz, go get it!”

            I quickly strode to the altar, caught the cricket in my bare hand, marched to the door, and threw it out onto the flower bed.

            An explosion of laughter rocked the room. Even our “cold” family permitted itself a slight giggle. It took a minute for us all to control ourselves. Decorum was finally restored – none of us, however dared to make eye contact with each other.

            The service continued.

            Suddenly a hidden bee or wasp started buzzing somewhere in the room.

The service stopped. We all looked around. Nothing to be seen.

Then I realized it was my cell phone in my favorite dark green slacks’ rear pocket. I had the ringer
suppressed and the machine was vibrating against my chair back.

            Now, once again, my face became bright red. Between my face and my slacks, the colors were appropriate for the season. As Pastor, fighting back laughter, watched me, I pulled the culprit out of my pocket and turned it off.

            Most of us then put our heads down and held them in our hands. Our only sign of life was just taking deep breaths.

Pastor waited patiently, gave the universal sign for cell phone, and silently held out his hand for it. He then dropped it into his jacket pocket without saying a word.

Two of my friends started to laugh out loud and could not stop. Eventually, the entire congregation was screaming with laughter.

A few minutes later, it was once again quiet.

My face remained flaming red.

Patting his pocket, Pastor says, “Well, we are directed to make a joyful noise unto the Lord.”

Pandemonium erupted. He quickly said the final blessing, and we headed for the refreshments’ table.

During food and drink, Pastor returned my cell phone and made a toast with a diet soda. He intoned, “I must say, Liz, your red face and green slacks were most appropriate for the season. Merry Christmas to all.”

Once again, laughter swept through the room. We merrily traipsed out with lit candles to sing Christmas carols in the dark outside the building.

The cricket was nowhere to be seen.

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Celebration of Romans 14 ~ Human rights are in the Bible and in my heart.

Triumph is often the result of achingly hard physical and mental work and one is often too tired to celebrate as we see the next crisis come barreling down the road of life towards us. The true and heartfelt celebrations in the lifetimes of my immediate family and me were in the triumph category until I was almost thirty.

 My first personal celebration, at the age of nineteen, involved riding the killer roller coaster at the Coney Island Amusement Park a dozen times in a row, thereby overcoming my fear of the machine. I’ll never forget lying on the ground after my last ride, with an inner feeling of celebratory triumph. The paramedics eventually got me up and walking within the hour. I wanted to dance and jump. They wouldn’t let me.

As I write this, there is a smile on my face, as well as an inner voice shouting, “YAY!”

There were occasional personal celebrations such as learning to rock climb up sheer cliff faces, and also graduation from high school.  These events, as well as the roller coaster, are still with me.

Then I got married, which I considered the celebratory highlight of my life. As the children were born, their arrival superseded the marriage. As the years rolled on, the children and their triumphs became cause for grateful and true commemoration. In 1973, I graduated from college with a degree in education and realized a life-long dream to become a teacher.

Most classes were at night and on Saturdays. One summer, when the children were old enough to be left with a baby sitter, I earned ten credits by going day and night in six weeks!

Teachers were hard to find in New Jersey because working conditions were primitive, teachers were considered the enemy, and the pay was less than $4,500. annually. But I wanted so badly to teach! Ultimately, in November of 1972, I was hired before graduation and immediately began to teach at the Upper Greenwood Lake School inWest Milford, New Jersey.  This event now became Celebration Number One!

The official college graduation was January, 1973. I was so drained, and so totally done in from the long grind of mostly useless classes, that I did not attend.

Over the years, I earned over thirty Master’s level credits at various New Jersey and out of state colleges. When I matriculated at Georgian CourtCollege in Lakewood, all these credits enabled me to graduate in two years. Incidentally, I did attend my graduation from Georgian Court College in1993. In possession, now, of a Master’s Degree, My family and I  attended, and I joyfully wore a Master’s Level uniform: a cap, gown, and a light blue, velvet academic scarf. The Bachelor’s Degree moved to number two.Georgian Courtrevived my faith in higher education because every class I took was a new avenue to explore. The experience was a true celebration of my educational goals.

So the decades passed and various of the more ordinary kinds of family celebrations, including the arrival of grandchildren, were duly celebrated. And then, about fifteen years ago, the greatest celebration of all occurred.

There were no balloons, confetti, dancing, feasting, or other people involved. No one dressed formally. There was no music.

Who, then, attended this happening? Why four of us: Father, Son,Holy Spirit,Me.

Throughout my faith journey, I had a most difficult time by often hearing from supposedly “good” Christians who told me in no uncertain terms my family, who remained Jewish, as well as the various “heathens” throughout the Earth, were damned to eternal hell because they had not accepted the Trinity. These same people believe ALL sins are forgiven to Christians, and they are not refused entry to the Throne.

When I questioned these people about all the good souls who exist, I was laughed at, mocked, and often shunned.

Through the good offices of my pastor at the Lutheran Church I attended in Phoenix, I began to realize the sickening bias of those accusatory folk and find out what God’s love really implied. During one course, of the many I took, we were introduced to Romans 14. Some of my classmates were shocked into sanity and regret by that chapter. The rest of us celebrated with thanks to Him.

The chapter, written by the Apostle Paul, starts off with words that resound through eternity and spells out in no uncertain terms how every person on Earth will, as said by the direct words of the Father, bow to Him alone after death, and from thence judgment shall be passed by love.

So, my dear readers, Romans 14 is and always shall be my eternal celebration of my family and those on this Earth who have humanity and do good for others.

After all, who is God? Why, God is love.

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Martin Luther, Two Bishops, Love ~ Our bishop’s humor: defining love.

©Photos by Oma Liz 

The Lutheran Bishops, Martin Luther, Love
Photos by Oma Liz

Once upon a time, I was brought into a direct connection between Martin Luther, two bishops, and myself.

During the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s birth,St. Paul’s commemorated the occasion by holding a celebratory service. Although much of the order of worship was in English, hymns, scripture, and communion would be in German.

The then bishop of the LCA New Jersey Synod, whose name now is lost in the mists of time, was invited to give the sermon. “In English!” he laughed. “I was raised speaking German in Camden, but can no longer speak it. The vocabulary and its subtleties are lost.”

He didn’t know either any of the Germanic readers, but Pastor Mangiante assured him that “They all know their stuff. They laugh uproariously when reading to each other. There’s something about regional dialects that sets them off.”

Some of us, including, of course, Fred and myself, were asked to read scripture in German. Fred and I both read our readings aloud to each other as practice, and tittered about each other’s regional accents. “These accents might confuse some member of the congregation,” said Fred.

“I fully agree. This is going to be fun.” I answered him.

We both laughed again. This was truly going to be entertaining.

It was indeed highly entertaining until the Big Day arrived. Almost at the very moment we arrived in the sanctuary, we began to ponder the significance and importance of Luther’s accomplishments and gifts to the world. It was not to be an entertaining day. It was to be a day of prayer, and thankfulness, and mulling of the events that had changed the world. It was to be a day of recognizing courage and how this man gave service to others so that they would be free to worship the Trinity as spoken of in The Word. Martin Luther taught that we are to go directly to the Lord in His Son’s name, and that no intervention was needed because God loves us.

The service went well. It was uplifting to hear the timeline of Luther’s accomplishments. Our hearts were touched as the hymns were sung and the scriptures were read in German. I read the lesson from the New Testament without a hitch and stepped down.

Then the bishop stepped forward. He was smiling and even chuckling a bit as he stepped to the pulpit. He looked at me and said, “You’re from Vienna, aren’t you?” A bit discomfited, I nodded assent. “Have you been in this country a long time, Liz?”

I could feel my face turning bright red. What in heaven’s name was going on? What was this man doing? “Yes,” I stammered.

“How long, Liz?”

My face was now getting hot. “Since 1938.”

“Ah, yes, and the music of Alt Wien – that means Old Vienna,” he told the congregation, “still flows from your tongue.” Some scattered chuckles and laughs were heard. Somehow the words “Liz” and “musical tongue” seemed incongruous to my friends.

I mouthed a “thank you” and quietly asked God to control this man.

He chuckled as he faced the congregation. Then he proceeded to briefly explain Germanic dialects and the implications to them.

““You know, I grew up in a German speaking family in Camden. We were regular church goers, and on one occasion, some time in the 1930’s, the guest pastor was the then bishop of Camden. He was a formidable looking man in his formal vestments and as I watched him floating, as it seemed to me, up the pulpit steps, he frightened this then seven year old.

“The sermon began and his German was not the gentle language I was used to hearing and speaking at home. It was dynamic, guttural, loud. When he wanted to make an important point, he would slap his hand next to the Bible. Bang! Crash! Often he would point at us with his index finger and jab the air. Many of we children were startled each time, and inched closer to our mothers.”

The bishop proceeded to imitate the sounds and actions of that long ago voice. He sounded like the best of the comedians imitating and exploiting the language.”

 We in the congregation were mesmerized. Where was this story going?

“I inched closer and closer to my mother, becoming more and more frightened. Finally, I could stand it no longer. ‘Mutti, mutti! Was sagt er? Was sagt er?” (Mama, what is he saying?) I appealed to her. I was shaking and in tears. My dear mother turned to me, smiled sweetly, and patted my head. ‘Do not be frightened. He is saying that God is love, my dear.’ “

The explosion of laughter from the congregation delayed the service for a good five minutes. Laughter and applause swept through the audience.

Finally, the bishop controlled his own amusement and was able to begin his sermon. Without thinking of the consequences of his next act, he opened his notes and he began, “Martin Luther had a clear message to the world: God is love.”

Near chaos erupted.

It was truly a joyous celebration of Martin Luther’s birthday.

The twists of that day were almost unbelievable.

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My Name is Fred ~ thus my Holocaust bitterness abruptly ends.

©Photos by Oma Liz  

 MY NAME IS FRED

            Most ordinary Americans can readily identify the distinctive national geographic region of born and bred Americans by that person’s dialect, accent, and application of idiomatic phrases. This facility of being able to pinpoint specific location and dialects is common to major language groups throughout the world. Unfortunately, many of those who are able to pinpoint the dialects often paint the speakers with the broad brush of individual and cultural prejudice; ascribing supposedly inborn characteristics as an integral part of a region’s inhabitants.

          German, like English, is a major language group divided into two major divisions: Hochdeutsch or Plattdeutsch. Its dozens of dialects are spoken by more than 100,000,000 people throughout the world. To the untrained ear of non-Germans, the dialectical sounds, which range from musical to guttural, are amusing, to say the least . Comedians exploit this perception and utter insultingly satiric, coarse guttural sounds when satirizing German oral language. As a result, many people believe all Germanic speakers sound like uneducated boors. It just isn’t so.

          Modern High German, spoken in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, is officially referred to as Written German. It is used in administration, higher education, literature, and the mass media throughout world German speech areas.  This happenstance of a universal German written language means people like myself, though unable to communicate in regional dialects are able to read German from places around the globe.

            Which brings me directly to my personal connections to Martin Luther , the 1930’s Lutheran Bishop of Camden (NJ), the Lutheran Bishop of the LCA NJ Synod in 1983  … and Fred.

          “Hello and welcome. My name is Fred.”

          My husband and I had moved our family to the Mount Holly, NJ  area to work and live in the NJ Audubon Society’sRancocasNatureCenter, located north of the church, directly across the creek.

          Thus, back in the early 80’s, Fred and I met on my first visit to what would become my new church.  I recognized the thick German accent as a form of Plattdeutsch, an entirely different dialect from the musical tones of my birthplace in Vienna, Austria, nodded my head, said “Liz Anderson, thank you.” then escaped into the sanctuary to sit down. In those days I was prejudiced about regional speakers and their so-call “inborn characteristics”.

          It was not a propitious beginning.

          For nearly a year after that, our mutual stress escalated due to individuality, a diversity of outlooks and personal prejudices. The stress was further heightened by inexplicable actions on both our parts. 

          Then the relationship spiraled downward when I found out that not only did Fred work as an engineer for Exxon, then considered the conservationists’ worst enemy. But —  shock of shocks — he also served as an enthusiastically active soldier in the German army during WWII, eventually to become an Allied prisoner of war. In addition, his view of the environmental community and its aggressive stance on protecting this Earth, was, to put it mildly, dim. We agreed to disagree by not discussing the matter.

          He also believed quite firmly that his logical thinking was the best tool we could use when solving the problems that faced us in the church community. On the other hand, I considered that my passion about any given subject close to my heart was a much better pathway to a solution.

          Fred had no idea that I had been born in Vienna.

          So he and I became became mutually suspicious co-workers at St. Paul’s while sitting on the church council together and committees together.,

          Working together in concert as a team eventually led us to become appreciative and reciprocally respectful friends. Within a year the differences evaporated as our shared a love of God and church community, enabled us to make numerous discoveries about each other’s abilities in matter of talents and faith.  It was not an easy road, and we needed a great deal of help from our Higher Power; not that we thought we needed help, mind you.

          An extremely patient God sheltered us in His cupped hands. Long before we, ourselves, admitted that we were both uniquely stubborn individuals, God, as we sheepishly determined at a later time, took over. The Lord has a way of unexpectedly refusing to do what we tell Him to do.  All too often He tosses unpredictable twists of life at us.

          My firm personal opinion and explanation is that the “Ho! Ho! Ho!” we hear from on high “ain’t the Jolly Green Giant.”

          The first breakthrough came one Sunday morning when Pastor Mangiante was on vacation and Fred spoke the guest sermon. I grumbled to myself and wondered, “What could someone ‘like that’ possibly talk about; being a prisoner of war and ‘all that’?

          Well, he talked about “being a prisoner of war and all that!” Plattdeutsch accent and all.

          As he led us through the troubled path of his younger days when he “knew everything except faith and  joined the Nazi party”; eventually becoming an anti-aircraft gunner, the tears came welling up in his eyes.

          The congregation was stunned.

          Eventually he was captured and sent to POW camp in Canada. “I had attitude. I hated everyone.” he said.

          After a few months, much to his surprise, he and one of guards at the camp, a Canadian soldier with a wooden leg, became fast friends. It was a friendship that would last until death.

          After hours, they would sit and talk. At that point, both were professed Christians. Fred was fascinated by his friend’s attitude of forgiveness and the man’s lack of hatred. At that time, it was a concept he not yet learned.

          Fred was blessed: it was to take me twenty more years before I was finally able to reach that turning point and gladly accept forgiving others as directed by God and His Son.

           During their talks, Fred’s attitude began to thaw. One night, he asked his now good friend when and how the leg had been lost. The Canadian had been a tail gunner on a Flying Fortress that was flying a bombing mission over Stuttgart one evening. His plane was shot down by anti aircraft fire and the now badly wounded Canadian was captured. Within two months his injuries were such that he was part of a wounded prisoner exchange. The leg could not be saved and was amputated.

          Then he told Fred the date.

         Fred looked fully at all of us who were sitting in the sanctuary, enthralled and at the edge of our seats, awaiting the outcome of this tale. After an agonizing moment, he began to shake a bit and the tears rolled down this stricken face. “I looked at my friend and my hatred evaporated.” Then, overcome with the emotion of that past event, he cried out at us ,  ‘My God!’ I screamed at him. ‘I was on the guns that night! My God! I was shooting at those planes!’”

          “We two men fell into each other’s arms, sobbing uncontrollably.

          “Finally, after many minutes, but still holding each other, we looked into each other’s eyes and began brokenly reciting The Lord’s Prayer together.

          “After that, still tearful, and still holding tightly to on another, we spontaneously said in unison, “We could have killed each other. We could have killed each other.”

          “We talked with each other and not at each other and made our peace. It was the turning point of my life. Praise Him!

          “When we eventually bid each good night in the early hours of the morning, we again spoke spontaneously in unison, “Philippians 4:7.(And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.)

          We in the congregation sat in stunned silence. I don’t much remember the rest of the service.

           As we filed out at the end, it was still and silent. Somberly, tearful  people shook Fred’s hand, or hugged him, or patted his shoulder. Then they left in silence.

          Then it was my turn. Tears running down my cheeks and body shaking, I faced Fred and shook his hand.

          “I was born in Vienna, Austria, Fred, “ I whispered brokenly. “Jewish and a Holocaust Survivor.”

          Fred’s jaw dropped.

        “We could have killed each other, Fred.”

         Fred’s body froze and he gaped at me, tears running down his face, as the enormity of the situation washed over both of us.

          And so the two of us stood in the narthex, crying healing tears and holding on to each other, repeating over and over, “We could have killed each other.”

          God is the master of using unexpected twists to guide us in our lives. I used to wish He wasn’t so dramatic, but I finally learned to trust him and then accept the fact that He was dealing with an exceptionally stubborn and rebellious person like myself, I could only say: Praise God!

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Annie – The Other Dimension ~ I meet a real ghost. The police agree.

©Photo by Oma Liz 

During WWII, my parents and I lived on a chicken farm, in Richland, NJ. It was not a good experience for my parents, and, in 1947, we moved back to New York City.

In beautiful downtown Richland, Main Avenue intersects Route 40, also known as Harding Highway, which still stretches east-west from the Delaware River to Atlantic City.

Back in those days, In addition to the K-3 school, the main business district contained a post office, gas station, regional feed /hardware/plumbing store, a bar, five-and-dime, several other small businesses, and a huge clothing sweatshop where many women in the area, including my mother, worked ten hour days.

For several hundred feet north of the main intersection, Main Avenue was only paved to the driveway of the three room elementary school. After that point, it turned abruptly to dirt to a dead-end at the railroad station. Going south from the intersection, the paving continued a quarter of a mile to a sawmill and its railroad loading platform. And there, too, the paving stopped.

Main Avenue was a badly rutted clay/sand road, stretching from town for about five miles until it connected with paved Tuckahoe Road, which is still in use today.  After rainstorms, knee deep ruts quickly made the road impassable for cars and trucks. These ruts hardened quickly the next few days. Within a week, the Cumberland County road department would send graders within several days to smooth it out until the next rainstorm. Getting to school or anywhere was an intricate process during these times.Richlandwas so small it had none of the amenities of larger towns, including law enforcement. The NJ State Police regularly patrolled and enforced.

During the late summer of 1944, a drought, lasting almost three months, destroyed gardens, field crops, and the once lush Pine Barrens in southern New Jersey.

We lived on Main Avenue, about a mile south of town, as part of a small sub-community of a dozen chicken and vegetable farms. Our telephone was a party line with eleven subscribers. I still remember the number – 196 R5.

To our dismay, our favorite berry places near once overflowing streams were dry. One morning, after chores, Dickie, my young friend from the house next door, and I decided we would take our berry buckets north along the ruts to a remote, uninhabited log cabin deep in the woods. When we told our families where we were going, they reminded us of our curfew. It was a three-quarter-mile walk up the rutted, dusty, unpaved road. Dickie’s grandmother said, “I will bake pies if you are successful. Don’t fall in any ruts and spill the berries.” Then we headed to the cabin with optimism.

When we got to the place, it was ten o’clock in the morning, according to my treasured wrist watch. We were thrilled to find dozens of blackberry bushes surrounding the cabin. Each bush held innumerable blackberries weighting down dozens of thorny stems. The fruits were juicy and large. We gorged ourselves, drank some water from our canteens, and then began to fill our buckets.

As we picked, skillfully avoiding the thorns, a slim, young woman came onto the screened porch and stood with her hand on the water pump. We stopped in amazement as we had never seen signs of life in and around the cabin. Her long brown hair was waist long, and was topped by a floppy, peaked, wide brim hat. Her high boots were laced. She wore a leather vest with fringing. I was reminded of the women explorers I had seen in the National Geographic. There, on the screened porch, she said nothing at first, and just looked at us. We stared back, saying nothing.

Finally, after a minute or so of us staring at each other, she asked, “Aren’t you thirsty after all those blackberries?”

We chorused, “Yes, but the pump is dry. We’ve tried before, so we just bring canteens.”

She opened the screen door and came over to us, leaving footprints in the sand. “Girl, you go to the stream behind the house and fill up your bucket half up.” There was indeed a trickle of water running in the stream bed.

Then, to our amazement, she showed us how to prime a pump with stream water. As the water came pouring out, we drank to our hearts’ content, then ran rivulets on the porch and delightedly left patterns of foot prints in the deep sand. The woman laughed and joined us. The three of us went running around the cabin, to the stream, down the winding driveway, and onto Main Avenue.

Later, we all sat on the porch steps and shared the blackberries we had picked earlier. Dickie and I had been amazed to see her, but figured she was one of the secretive local hermits, because of the way she dressed. Of course, there were introductions all around. Giggling, she said her name was Annie, and she owned the house. I told her, “I’ve never seen you, and we figured with all the dust on everything, no one lived here.” Annie smiled and quietly said, “I don’t like housework.”

Today, more than sixty-five years later, I still see Annie sitting there on the porch with us, laughing and chatting. She learned all about us and where we lived. We even told her about our favorite swimming hole, and about some of the other hermits we would visit.

“We have to finish picking the blackberries,” gasped Dickie as the afternoon wore on. “My grandma is going to make pie.”

“And if we don’t get home for curfew, we’re going to get whipped, “I added hastily.

Dickie looked uncomfortable. Both my mom and his grandmother wielded wooden spoons with devastating accuracy and resultant pain.

“Well, then, let me help you fill up your buckets,” Annie laughed.

We spent the next several hours filling our buckets, laughing, giggling, and sharing tales amongst the three of us about birds, other animals, and plants we had observed. Finally, the buckets were full, and we said goodbye. “We’ll be back,” we promised.

Annie had been poking around near the porch. She looked at us and said, “I may not be here. I only visit sometimes. But you are welcome to come any time you want.”

Then we thanked her, gravely shook hands, and left. As we rounded the bend of her driveway, we turned and gestured. She cheerily waved her hat in the air.

Home we trudged, discussing the day’s events. Looking towards home, we saw Dickie’s grandmother and my mom coming toward us, and quite near.

“Uh-oh!” I groaned. “How late are we?”

Dickie looked panic stricken and we checked my wrist watch. “Well, we’re not really late, here, but we would be if we were going all the way home.” He was only nine, a year younger than myself. I knew we weren’t in trouble because they were not carrying the wooden spoons, and I tried to reassure him.

 “We found berries! Lots of berries! We have four buckets full! We would have been late at home, but since you’re here, we’re not!” we chorused.

The two women laughed at our audacity. “Welllllllll. All right. You won’t be punished. We had been worried because you’re usually home by now.”

Mom looked with interest at our buckets, which were quite large. “How in heaven’s name did you manage to fill those by yourselves? The stains around your lips and teeth tell me you ate more than you picked.” Mrs. B agreed.

We excitedly told them about Annie. The two women looked at each other and then started questioning us. Their reaction was confusing. They looked peculiar and even frightened. They held us tightly by the wrists and made us tell what had happened. And then, standing by the side of the road, we had to retell our adventure again. Finally, they glanced at each other, said something in Polish to each other, and, made us drop the buckets by the side of the road. We were then hustled the half mile to home, neither woman letting go of her child’s wrist.

All of us entered our house, which was closer to the cabin area. Mom ran to the telephone and spoke immediately to the operator. The next thing we knew, the State Police arrived with lights and sirens flashing on their patrol cars.

Mom and Mrs. B. talked to the officers in low, urgent tones on the front porch, while Dickie and I stood inside the house and tried to listen what was being said. They were very agitated. Finally, two very stern officers called us out and made us tell our story again. No explanations were offered by the adults.

After half an hour of questioning, the police car and my mom’s station wagon transported us to the cabin. The officers looked at the three sets of footprints in the driveway. With their hands on their revolvers, the officers cautiously approached the cabin. Soon, they called us all over.

“Come here. Is this how you left the place?”

We were terrified. What was going on? Both Dickie and I began to sob. With their hands clutched tightly around our wrists, Mom and Mrs. B dragged us to the cabin. “Oh my God! My God! Look at Annie’s footprints!” One of them screamed. Then they began to cry.

The officers were as agitated as the two women. Once again we had to tell our story.

One officer said to us, “I’ve had enough. We will investigate further, but you are going home!”

We soberly and silently drove past the buckets of blackberries and our home.

Then, both women explained why the adults were so agitated. Both Mrs. B. and the officers had known Annie from years ago. My mother had just heard about her a few weeks ago from Mrs. B.

Annie used to live with her mom and dad and was born in the cabin late in the 1880’s. After the war, the three of them died of the flu. Today was her birthday.

I don’t remember much of what else happened on this fateful day. By nightfall, as word spread through the area, some other local people began to visit the cabin and looked at the footprints. We were not permitted to talk to any of them.

We were told by our families and the officers, “Don’t ever, ever, ever! Never tell anyone what happened today! Do you understand?” We were too terrified to do anything but sob. “We promise! We promise!” we repeated over and over again.

None of our neighbors ever questioned us about the incident.

Ten years later, back in New York City, I found an article in my mother’s desk written by the local newspaper about Annie and the strange events, but our names were never mentioned.

Very early the next morning, Dickie knocked at my door. “I have something to tell you, but you can’t tell anyone.”

“OK. I promise.”

He took me to the huge oak tree whose branches hung over part of our lawn and also over the street in front of my house. It had a platform nailed to a “Y” branch which we used as a tree house. Lateral boards were nailed to the back side and were used as a ladder.

There were the four buckets of blackberries, placed carefully around the trunk.

Quietly, because it was early in the morning, we dumped the berries in the field across the street and returned the buckets to our respective barns.

Dickie and I often snuck to the cabin to see if we could find Annie.

“I’m always hoping we will find her again.” I would say.

“Me, too.” agreed Dickie.

It was not to be.Main Avenuewas paved in the early 50’s, and the incident was forgotten.

U.S. Route 40 is an east–west United States highway. As with most routes whose numbers end in a zero, U.S. 40 once traversed the entire United States. It is one of the original 1920s U.S. Highways, and its first termini were San Francisco, California, and Atlantic City, New Jersey. The western end has been truncated several times, and the route now ends at Interstate 80 just outside of Park City, Utah, near Salt Lake City.

In August, 2012, I attended a Pinelands Conference and met a well-known college professor and Pinelands Researcher. We hit it off together, and eventually I found out he lived in Richland as a boy. Further discussion revealed he, his mom, and our family lived a half mile away from each other on Main Avenue.

We reminisced about the Richland area, then began comparing memories about the eccentrics we both knew – which was a fascinating conversation.

Finally I told him about Annie. “Oh yes,” he chuckled. “She’s still around. They tore her cabin down about ten years ago, and she now bothers the neighbors across the street from it, with mischief; including upsetting outdoor furniture and other items; as well as knocking on their doors. She also runs the pump on her old property.”

Double take!! Both of us!

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