By Richard Mabey Jr.
Our story so far:
It is Tuesday, the seventeenth of June of 1969. My second day of summer vacation. I am 15 years old and have just completed my sophomore year at Boonton High School. It is my second day of painting the interior of Saint Andrew’s Episcopal Church’s infamous Thorpe Hall. During my lunch break, I hand wrote an essay of what scouting means to me. I plan on presenting it to Mr. Marino, Editor of the Lincoln Park Herald, to see if he sees it is worthy of publication in his newspaper. At about three o’clock I clean up and walk to Moe’s Sweet Shop to buy a couple of comic books. At the sweet shop, Tony Savorti, the town bully, mocks and ridicules me in front of Mary, whom I have a big crush on. I leave Moe’s Sweet Shop and begin my walk home. I walk along the old Morris Canal to the foundation of my great grandfather’s icehouse. I break down and cry. Suddenly, the legendary old great buck deer approaches me, comes close to my face and looks me straight in the eye. I then begin walking the forest path up to the bottom of Mabey Lane. Our story continues.
The wooded trail, from the foundation of the old Mabey Icehouse to the bottom of Mabey Lane, was about a quarter mile in length. I walked the path, thinking of the great task that still stood before me, of painting the entire length and breadth of the inside of Thorpe Hall at Saint Andrew’s Episcopal Church for my Eagle Scout project. But not only would I have to paint the entire Thorpe Hall, but also the six or seven Sunday School classes that were downstairs from Thorpe Hall. I was now halfway through painting Thorpe Hall and I was weary and tired from it all.
I reached the point where the wooded trail met the bottom of Mabey Lane. There in front of me stood the majestic home that my grandfather, Watson Mabey, had built when he was a young man. Family legend had it that Grandpa started building his home when he was 20 years old. He had just married my grandmother, Bertha Mabey, and the two of them lived with Grandpa’s parents who lived in the big farmhouse that stood at the corner of Route 202 and Mabey Lane. The very home that I grew up in.
As I looked at Grandma and Grandpa’s old home, I wondered if Grandpa had reached points in time, where the weariness and exhaustion weighed him down. For it was the very feeling that I was feeling at that moment in time. The solace, the eerie loneliness of spending day after day all alone in Thorpe Hall, carefully painting the molding and window frames, was all taking a toll on me.
Now at 15, it was only a year ago that I was playing baseball in the big, open field that stood between my grandparents’ old home and the old Mabey Homestead. And now, in the late afternoon, as I looked over to the big field, it brought a certain sorrow to my heart.
One year ago, the big field would have been filled with the sounds and splendor of my friends and I playing baseball. We would play ball all day long, only taking a break to run to our respective homes to eat lunch. It would be right about now, 4:30 in the afternoon, that we would be wrapping up our last baseball game of the day.
To be an Eagle Scout, was an honor that I so deeply yearned to achieve. Yet, now in the midst of the reality of the loneliness, the hard work and the sacrifice, I had doubts for the first time ever. Was it really worth it all? I still had four or five days hard work to complete the painting of Thorpe Hall. Then there was the hallway area outside of the hall, the staircase, the long hallway downstairs that provided a pathway to the six or seven Sunday School classrooms. Deep inside the marrow of bones, I wondered, was it really worth it all?
I took one long, last look at the magnificent home that Grandpa had built, when he was only five years older than I was in the Summer of 1969. I felt the spirit of Grandpa loom through my heart. And in the deepest chambers of my heart, I heard my Grandpa gently whisper, “yes, Dicky Jim, you can do this. Don’t give up. You can do this.”
It all deeply touched me and I began to cry. I was truly at a cross road. I could give up and surrender, or I could dig deep within myself and find the inspiration and encouragement to continue the hard work, required to become an Eagle Scout. In that moment in time, I could feel the shadow of Grandpa. I could feel his presence. I could hear him gently whisper to me, “you’ve been blessed by the great deer, the wild buck of the old canal. You’re a Mabey. You can do this.”
I wiped my tears from my cheeks and collected my thoughts. I began the trek up Mabey Lane to the old Mabey Homestead, my home, my refuge.
To be continued.
Richard Mabey Jr. is a freelance writer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please place the wording “My Life Weekly” in the subject line.