By Nancy Wilde Sartz Roe

Juxtaposed visceral and vibrant, pleasure and pain flood my early childhood where life in a small New England village fills my landscape. And, oh—during the 1950s—what a glorious time and place it was. But the darkness lurked.

Here I find the idyllic and the fearsome. I discover dazzling beauty of nature’s bounty, but I endure bursts of wounding chaos. Bliss abounds—the fresh, new, tender, and bright—but so does illness. Nascent gifts emerge—heralding promise—though fear gusts rend me ragged like a cloth in the wind. The wide-open discovery—of all the wild and the wonder and the vast and the tiny—welcomes me. But lonely heartbreak lies in wait.

My family moves to Laconia, New Hampshire in early October of 1954. Spreading out south of the White Mountains and encompassed by lakes and water ways, its motto remains today “City on the Lakes.” Here we settle, my family and I, into this wonderland of vast clear pebbled waters and, oh, so much more.

In Laconia, a world of fresh beauty and delight envelops small me. For I dwell amid woods, brooks, flowering lush fields, and distant towering mountains. Here my family and I enjoy summertime swims in cold clear lakes as we gather for picnics in the park. Main Street downtown hosts the Winnipesaukee River’s clear gurgling waters, chattering brightly as they rush below our feet under an arced stone bridge.

My young summertime world overflows excitement, glee, and awe. Brilliant stars explode and rain down in the black night sky as the 4th of July fireworks enrapture us all. The annual summer carnival comes to the heart of our small downtown, bursting thrills and delights. The Ferris wheel sweeps me breathless into the heavens lifting high above the lights and fanfare. Merry go ‘round ponies transport me into royal lands as we race up and down on the carousel. I sample billowing soft pink fluffs of melting cotton candy sweetness. And as the sun drenched summer days swift away with the turning of the seasons, the New England autumn advances with blazing glory.

In the fall, I pulse alive with vivid leaf colors. Dazzling sunlit magenta, crimson, canary, pinks, and golds light up the sky with tree fires. Later, these fall trees lift their gifts to the wind. I romp free with family and friends as we join in to gather the scattered brilliance into towering pillow mounds for jumping in and plunging into. In New Hampshire under crisp clear night skies, I find that place for deep longing and wishing upon a star. Here my dreamy harvest moons glow promise. Here I find my beloved home—the best of homes—but all is not well in paradise.