I Remember Mom: Hold Dear To Heart, Thy Courageous Faith

By Richard Mabey Jr.

Can an old board, a little stream, and the surroundings of forest trees and thistle growing wild, bring a kind, gentle, elderly woman back in time; from whence she was once a little girl with a vast and infinite imagination and an immense love of nature?

One of my mom’s older sisters, Mabel Kemmerer Bay, always held a great love and respect for nature. Aunt Mabel lived in a woodsy section of Montville. She was a very wise woman and had a great respect and appreciation for the Native American blood that flowed through her veins. My grandmother’s grandmother was a Native American.

Aunt Mabel was born in 1915, a time when the words world and war had yet to be combined. I remember Aunt Mabel as being a very kind, generous, and deeply religious woman. I remember, all so well, the big Holy Bible that rested upon the head of her dining room table.

It was during the Summer of 1997, that I found myself in a time of struggling to find my next chapter of life. I had just recently departed ways with a long-term employment in the Public Relations Department of an international telecommunications company. I was working temp jobs, while applying and interviewing at a number of advertising agencies.

It was out of the blue that Mom came up with the idea of packing a picnic lunch and asking me if I would drive her, my sister, and Aunt Mabel up to the area where the old Kemmerer Homestead once stood, on the 600 block of Boonton Avenue in Boonton. In a flash, I told Mom that I would be more than happy to go on a little summer’s picnic. So, my mom, my sister and I rode off to Aunt Mabel’s home for a picnic lunch.

If you’ve ever driven up the 600 block of Boonton Avenue, no doubt you remember the stone walls that flow along the sidewalks of the homes. It always was a mystery to me, as a child, as to where the people who built these long stone walls, obtained the rocks and boulders that are strategically placed in those long, long rock walls. It still is a mystery to me.

The 600 block of Boonton Avenue is a most enchanted and magical little area of Boonton. It leads up to the fork in the road, where Sheep Hill Road turns off to the right-hand side and Boonton Avenue travels onward. This little area is very woodsy, filled with tall and towering maples, elms, oaks, and pine. Thistle bushes grow wildly here. Homes are spread apart from one another, with significant space.

I remember parking my car along the 600 block and all of us beginning our day of exploration. We began by taking a few moments and reverently looking at the very place where the old Kemmerer Homestead once proudly stood. For now, a new, more modern home, hailed at the site. I remember it was Aunt Mabel who spoke words of comfort that the old stone wall, still was intact.

After a few minutes of Mom and Aunt Mabel reminiscing of their childhood years, growing up in the old Kemmerer Homestead, we all hiked to the fork in the road, where Boonton Avenue splits off for Sheep Hill Road. A woodsy area abounded. And, we all hiked through thistle and tall weeds, under the umbrella of the maple, oak and elm.

We came upon a little stream, and there across this babbling brook was an old wooden plank. My sister, Patti, was the first to cross the stream. As soon as Patti crossed the stream, Aunt Mabel began the balancing act of walking across the stream upon the wooden board. I am grateful to my sister for having the presence of mind to take a picture of all of us crossing the stream.

As Aunt Mabel walked along the wobbly board, she told us that she hadn’t crossed a stream on a wooden plank since she was a little girl. She smiled and laughed. It was all such a joyous moment in time.

For myself, crossing that little stream was very symbolic. A chapter in my life, of working in the Public Relations Department of a large corporation had just completed. I was now at a point in my life, where I needed to cross a stream in life, even if it meant carefully walking across a wobbly, old board.

The good Lord called Aunt Mabel home to Heaven’s Gate, two years later. On a cold, wintry day in December of 1999, the angels brought Aunt Mabel’s soul to Heaven.

I often think of the spiritual lesson that Aunt Mabel showed me in her courage and faith to cross the little stream on a wobbly board. I often reflect upon that simple day that we all stopped what we were doing to have a picnic lunch atop Boonton Avenue, at the junction of Sheep Hill Road. It was a very endearing, special, heart moving day, filled with an undercurrent of joy and reflection.

Hebrews 1:11 of the Holy Bible reads, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Sometimes we need to dig deep within to find the courage and faith to cross life’s streams, to begin new chapters in our lives. For faith is the light that extinguishes the darkness of fear.

Richard Mabey Jr. is a freelance writer. He can be reached at richardmabeyjr@hotmail.com. Please put on the subject line: I Remember Mom.

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