One of my fondest memories as I was growing up in Connecticut was the thrill I felt exploring my Uncle's "Old Mill." The "Old Mill," located in a small town in Northeastern Connecticut, was a thriving antique & junk store with many hidden `treasures' just waiting for a little girl to discover. It was huge and even had a lively stream running beneath it, which once powered the mill machinery used in the silk manufacturing industry.
My cousin Judy and I would chatter ceaselessly throughout the ride to the Mill. Clutched in our hands was a paper bag containing peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and if we were lucky those yummy chocolate cupcakes with the little white squiggle on top. On a nice warm day we were allowed to ride in the back of the old gray pickup, waving at people in the passing cars and trucks, which added to the fun.
On this particular visit, as we approached the Mill, we could hear `Rusty' my Uncle's very large guard dog, barking his greeting. Rusty was big, with rust colored fur and more bark than bite. Bark and lick would be more like it. Hugs and pets for Rusty were always the first order of business followed by giving him his treat, a large beef bone. As we scampered off we could hear my Uncle's usual lecture on the do's and don'ts and what ifs, (if you don't do as he says.) Giggles abruptly turn to shushing each other as we approach the stream hunting for a glimpse of Porky the bullfrog.
The day was cloudy but very warm and soon we headed into the mill where it was cooler. Today we would play one of our favorite games, `dress-up' and serve tea to hand picked guests. Guests usually included two old porcelain dolls, a teddy bear with one arm, an iron frog and `chief' a wooden Indian. Tea would be served using one of many tea pots, usually the ones with cracks, and with so many dining room sets to choose from the game was never boring. There were so many old clothes, shoes and lots and lots of estate jewelry to dress-up in each trying to out do the other for the most glamorous outfit. I was the youngest, so I never got first pick of the clothes. I can remember wanting to wear the feather boa so bad that I ached, but had to settle for the fox stole with the fox head attached. I liked trying on the hats and jewelry the best. Uncle would have the privilege of choosing the `most beautiful'. He didn't consider it a privilege however, because one of us would end up pouting and he would have to smooth things over. He usually gave us some task to do and like all children minor fusses turn around very quickly and it was off to a new adventure. Uncle told us to find the mysterious black cat that lived in the Mill. He called it the `ghost cat' which lived there 100 years ago. We found this very exciting and let our imaginations run wild as we searched for the ghost cat. Of course, scaring one another was part of the fun, running and making squealing noises pretending to see the ghost cat in dark corners and under furniture. Tiring of the search we would run to tell Uncle of our sightings. He chuckled and motioned us to go off and play until it was time to leave.
The day would end with Uncle usually buying us an ice cream to eat on the way home. That was our incentive to behave. Once home, we could relive the day's adventure with our family and friends extending the fun a few more days.
Every visit to the Mill was a new adventure and a new game to play and sometimes Uncle would tell us stories about the people who owned the furniture and articles found in the Mill. It was an experience I will carry with me all of my life. My own children did not have the chance to explore and let their imaginations run amuck while `living the adventure' found in the "Old Mill". Regretfully, "The Old Mill" was sold before they were old enough to play there.
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