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Elizabeth Longfellow, Creative Non-fiction, Deerfield

Excerpt from the book length memoir "Backward Heart"

This is the way I remember those times in 1967 when I was very young, very pregnant, barely married, leaving home. So many of the boys back then were disappearing into the swamps of Vietnam, but Bill had been posted to Colorado to spend the war locked in a mountain, predicting orbits of satellites. September sixth was his day to report for duty in Colorado Springs, but first he was taking me to Wyoming to meet his family.

And so, like fugitives from one particular fate, we'd fled west from Durham, New Hampshire, in the '64 blue Plymouth Valiant and hurtled across the northern prairie with everything that mattered: Cal the cat, Fox the Corgi, my eight month belly, a battered atlas, the clothes we owned, seventy-four dollars and thirty-siz cents. It had cost more than I'd expected to get out of New England.

At the university, Bill had been exotic. His Wyoming plates in black and white had a bucking bronco, the only ones in town. My brother knew him from some impossible mathematics class, and I remember hooking him up with my college friends. He dated one of them for quite a while, maybe a whole year. So we'd all known each other for a long time, took turns bringing him home to Nashua for the holidays. Back then, he seemed quick and jokey like he'd been places and seen stuff. He said he knew jazz, so a bunch of us went to see Dave Brubeck play Take Five somewhere on campus. If he hadn't known my entire family by then, I might have pretended I wasn't the kind of girl who'd looked forward to watching Lawrence Welk with Mom and Dad on Saturday nights, wedged between the brothers on a saggy couch, tossing the popcorn to the fat beagle. But I didn't pretend. I made a joke of it. I could always make him laugh.

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Last updated: August 22, 2007

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