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Mayflowers bring happy memories — for some

I always enjoyed driving over Temple Mountain at this time of year and seeing the annual display of mayflowers there. They were a welcoming sight, especially after a hard winter, but mayflowers don’t always bring back pleasant memories for me and I will tell you why.

It was a beautiful day in May and we girls were practicing our somersaults and cartwheels out in front of my cousin Annie’s house — an activity young girls had time for in those days. Annie, a self-confident 11 year old, was the leader, while her friend Jody (10) and I (9) generally followed her instructions without much hesitation.

It was a quiet dead-end street, so when someone suddenly came walking around the corner and heading our way, we all took notice. When he reached Annie’s yard, he stopped to talk with us — or at least with Annie — because she was more social than Jody and I were. He was tall, probably in his late teens or early twenties. The only other thing I remember about him was that he wore jeans, and back then that wasn’t the style. Most jeans wearers were either farmers or factory workers.

The next thing I knew, he was exclaiming about some beautiful mayflowers he had discovered just beyond the vacant lot across the street. “Do you girls like mayflowers?” he asked. I doubted that any of us knew much about mayflowers, but suddenly I heard Annie telling him that we did. Next, we found ourselves lined up behind a complete stranger, heading across the street toward the vacant lot.

Annie, of course, was right behind him, while Jody and I brought up the rear. Speaking for myself, I was a country girl and much too shy to feel comfortable about this upcoming safari led by someone I didn’t know.

The lot, adjacent to an old boarded-up school building, was filled with dead brush and tree stumps. In order to reach the mayflowers we had to scramble over some huge chunks of granite, making the journey to the woods beyond even more difficult.

It was not easy going, but finally we reached a clearing and our leader shouted, “Here it is, this is it!” I looked around for the mayflowers, but the only thing I saw there was a pile of tree branches, stripped down to look like whips. Then with one hand he reached down and picked up one of those whips and next, he threw Annie down onto the ground. It was a frightening scene, but since I was the smallest and the last to arrive at the clearing, I did the only thing I felt I could do. I turned and ran faster than I’d ever run before or since — over the granite blocks and all — to alert my grandfather back at the house. As I ran, I heard whipping sounds, and Annie’s screams. The police were called and in what seemed like an eternity, Annie was brought home and the stranger was captured.

I still remember how frightening it was the next day when a cruiser came and took me to the police station to identify him in a lineup. I recognized him right away and so did Annie and Jody, and it didn’t take long for him to be put behind bars.

I never asked Annie what really happened in that clearing that awful day. I figured if she wanted me to know, she’d have told me, but she carried both physical and psychological scars for a long time. Whenever I’d visit and we were upstairs in her room, I noticed that she kept her drapes pulled shut as tight as they could be, both day and night, for a very long time. And she would talk in whispers, for fear “he” would hear her.

This story is shared not to spoil a perfectly good day in May for you, but because sadly, it reminds us that injustices both large and small don’t happen only in today’s world. Back in that Silent Generation — a time often referred to as the Good Old Days — there were predators and bullies too. Luckily, my cousin Annie went on to live a full and happy life, the assaulter did his time in jail, and Jody and I have been able to put this behind us. Except, that is, at this time of year when the mayflowers begin to bloom again on Temple Mountain.

Joann Snow Duncanson, a former Peterborough resident now living in Greenland, is the author of “Who Gets the Yellow Bananas?,” co-author of “Breakfast in the Bathtub” and author of her latest book, “Eight Crayons — Poems and Stories by an Almost Sane Woman.” Reach her at www.jsnowduncanson. com or email ourbooks@worldpath.net.

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