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March 1, 2017

The shortcuts we took

As we all know, the shortest distance between two points is a straight line.

During the aging process we sometimes take the “long way ‘round” to go places and do things. If you are with the love of your life, that might work out OK because to alter the age old expression just a little, you might find that “The longest way ‘round is the sweetest way home!”

I was reminded of the many shortcuts in my life, when a friend informed me about her various ways of getting “from here…to there.” She told me that when she walks from her home to the Woodstock Avenue McDonald’s for our coffee klatch her chosen route involves a shortcut through St. Joseph Cemetery. Because she knows many of the “occupants” she pays her respects as she passes through.

When you are a kid everyone’s yard is a shortcut if it gets you to your friends’ homes quicker. The occupants of only one house on Howard Avenue yelled at us over the years. We were told to keep off their property and we did. Of course, we thought they were the meanest people on the block! From their perspective, they were out enjoying their own yard when about a dozen kids ran through it. As I look back, we deserved to be admonished!

But what better way to get to the neighborhood grocery store for a popsicle or penny candy than through people’s yards? I remember visiting a friend on Spellman Terrace back in the 50s. We used to go to Young’s Grocery Store on Killington Avenue to get our treats. The shortest route was through yards on each of those streets. The kids actually wore paths on them from all the foot traffic. Fortunately, nobody ever yelled at us.

I had a cousin who lived on Engrem Avenue growing up. We came up with the bright idea of rafting down Moon Brook from Piedmont Parkway to the pollywog on Engrem to get from my house to hers. Our “raft” happened to be a wooden drawer from my parents’ kitchen and it sank as soon as the two of us got in it!

Over the years I often heard about people who walked along the railroad tracks to get from “Happy Valley” in the River Street area to downtown. That unsafe option was rectified a few years ago when a paved pathway was put in. Residents from that area can now access the Rutland Shopping Plaza safely on foot.

My husband, Peter, and I have taken our share of shortcuts over the years. Most of them have been his idea. One could have ended very differently than it did. We used to camp in the Northeast Kingdom and fished on just about every body of water up there. One time he opted to take a shortcut to Newark Pond from Barton. We were pulling a boat and trailer behind our car. As it turned out this particular road had become a logging road and there was no way we could turn around once we got on it. Fortunately, we did not meet another car (who else would be foolish enough to be on it?) and met with no obstructions as we made our way to the pond. As you might guess, we went back the long way! As they say, “Happy wife, happy life!”

While hiking with friends over the years we have sometimes opted for shortcuts in Pine Hill Park. They didn’t always turn out as planned but we have learned that as long as we stay within the perimeters of the park, we will not get lost…just misdirected! Since all of us are “seniors” we don’t want the embarrassment of being the “old people” who are objects of a police hunt broadcast over the scanner. We strictly follow the trail map these days.

One of my favorite shortcuts has come to an unfortunate end with the passing of my 94 year old cousin, Loyola. Our backyards abut and since the death of her husband in 2001 I took that shortcut about every day. She often told me that seeing my footprints in the snow made her feel less lonesome. After learning that, I never wanted to take the long way over.

Wherever you grew up or wherever you made a shortcut, the above remembrances may evoke similar memories for you. It’s simply human nature to take the shortest distance between two points. I hope your shortcuts turn out as planned.

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