A Child Is Born

In fourth or fifth grade, we were assigned to write our autobiography. I thought I should start from the beginning so I asked my mother about my birth. My mom, Evelyn Daly Heaton, told me, “You were due on Thanksgiving but you were a week late. You were born in the hallway at Chenango Memorial Hospital. I explained to a nurse that I was ready to give birth. The nurse told me that no doctor was available and I’d have to wait. I told her, ‘ I’ve had five children before this and this baby is ready to be born.’”

She gave birth to me in the hallway.

My mom then added. “ You were always like that. You’d take your sweet time thinking about things until you made up your mind to take action. And then you do everything right away.”

Crab Launch Patricia Heaton

It was a beautiful Friday evening in late July at Chenango Lake. My neighbors, Beth and Peter, were celebrating their 25th anniversary. All kinds of people started rolling in and gathering on my brother Jerry’s patio.

My friend, Deb, had just bought a box of soft shelled crab. I suggested she put it in the refrigerator. As more and more guests arrived with beer, the crab got moved out of the fridge to the sink. Any time I went through the kitchen to use the bathroom, I could hear the crabs scratching at the cardboard container. Frankly, it sounded pathetic.

Night fell and we were having a grand time. Ron and Betty were in fine form and everyone was having fun. It became clear to most of us that the crab would probably never get cooked. We’d talk about it a little and then forget about it.

Around midnight, with an certain amount of theatrical aplomb, Ron exited the cabin with a cardboard box on his shoulder. I could see Betty Ann checking him out, asking, “Palmer, what are you up to?


We quickly grabbed as as many flashlights as we could find and followed Ron down to the lake. At the water’s edge, Ron gave a little talk about setting the crabs free. He reached into the box and pulled out a large canister of iodized salt, which he explained, would help the creatures “acclimate to their new environment.”

Some people scratched their heads. Some people shook their heads. And some people marveled.

What an amazing and fantastic anniversary Beth and Peter had.

Communion Patricia Heaton

My sister, Mary, and our cousin, Sharon

The year was 1965. Up until that point, I had been baptized and sent to Catholic school but this November I was due to receive two sacraments, Confession and Holy Communion. I was not yet seven years old and I took my religious instruction pretty seriously.

By the day of my first confession, I had memorized the introduction with the “Bless me, Father, for I have sinned,” but I wasn’t really sure what to say after that. Which horrible sin should I admit to? I’d gotten sent to my room often enough. I must’ve done something wrong. As instructed, I examined my conscience. Oh yes, I recalled. I’d been fighting with my sister. From that point on, “fighting with my sister” became my standard confession when I couldn’t think of anything else to report. That day, in the darkened confessional, everything went smoothly and for my penance I was to say three Hail Mary’s. How’d that priest know my sister’s name was Mary?

The next day, with my soul cleared and dressed all in white, I received the next sacrament, Holy Communion. I knew the drill. The priest says, “The body and blood of Christ” and I stick out my tongue. All went well. I waited to swallow the host until I was back kneeling in my pew. I was actually a little disappointed that I didn’t feel anything special. Oh well, maybe next time.

I was, however, excited that afterward, Mom and Dad gave me a new corduroy jacket AND we were traveling to Connecticut to visit our cousins, John and Louise, in New Milford. The ride was uneventful but as we pulled up their long driveway, I have to say, I was impressed. They had a house and a barn and a bull in the field. There were kids to play with and there were chickens running around. I was in my glory. My favorite part of the afternoon involved sliding down the ramp of the chicken coop, one after another, over and over again. It never once occurred to me that I was wearing a new special jacket.

Evening rolled around. We’d been well fed and the adults were clearly enjoying themselves. They’d gathered around the big long table for a game called Pokeno. It was similar to bingo but instead of chips, they were playing with pennies. The lucky winner each round won all the pennies.
I joyfully moved from lap to lap, loving the excitement. Despite my young age, I knew that John and Louise had something really special going on at their farm in Connecticut. It dawned on me, at some point, that THIS was communion; the family all together having such a wonderful time, enjoying each other’s company. I felt the Holy Spirit in my heart.

The American College Dictionary describes communion as:
1) the act of sharing or holding in common; participation. 2) the state of things so held
3) association, fellowship
4) interchange of thoughts or interests

I felt it all; the warmth, the happiness, the security of being part of a big, happy family. I had received the sacrament after all!

The next day, on our way back home, my newly found state of grace began to fade. My parents were not thrilled about the condition of my jacket. I accepted their admonishment, but for me, the new yet well-worn coat was a symbol of the contentment, joy, and camaraderie I’d experienced. I knew then, I would forever fondly remember my first communion.

Who Stole the Mink Stole?          Patricia Heaton

As far as parenting goes, my mom was very creative. She knew how to keep kids happy. I remember playing on the porch, in the garage, in my room, on the stairs, and even in the basement. I didn’t realize at the time that this “location planning” gave Mom a little freedom, peace, and privacy. Another management strategy of hers was to let us have friends over so we’d entertain ourselves. My sister, Mary, had close neighborhood friends and so did I. Despite the difference in ages, we all got along really well and had fun. One of our favorite games to play together was Fashion Show.

There were a couple of boxes in the garage filled with clothing and assorted accessories. Two or three people would sit on the porch. They were the judges. The rest of us were the models. Some of the categories were house wear, beach wear, and evening wear. We, models, would eagerly pore over our choices, put our outfits on, and then parade up and down the driveway. Meanwhile the judges would determine who was most stylish, most creative, or most glamorous. For a brief time there was a mink stole which everyone wanted to wear.

My mother would serve us snacks, like half a popsicle, to be eaten over a plastic bowl. Sometimes we’d have Fritos and Kool-Aid. Our house was a center for kids, not every day but often enough. My friend, Maureen, still vividly remembers my mother teaching her how to draw a house. Maureen quickly realized she loved drawing and still does to this day. Isn’t amazing how a thoughtful act of kindness can be so influential in a child’s development?

My mom nurtured creativity in others. She knew that a few boxes of housecoats and barrettes and gloves would keep us amused for hours. One day while we were playing Fashion Show, we noticed that the mink stole was missing. We looked all over the garage. “Where is it?” It had disappeared. Everyone liked that stole so we were all suspicious, wondering who took it.

That evening the neighborhood boys and girls were gathering in Conron’s backyard. We were standing around trying to figure out which game to play when Duffer, Conron’s miniature collie, started choking. Everyone was staring at Duffer, who was gagging and vomiting. Then we looked down and realized what had happened. A chorus of voices, in unison, rang out, “Duffer ate the mink stole!” Incredible! We were indignant but also a little in awe. Wow! Duffer stole the stole and ate the evidence.