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Polished halos, butterfly farms and wooden puzzles
HARRISON – Christine Anderson, 59 years old, was born in Westbrook, but once she found Harrison, it quickly became home.
She recently took time to tell us about her life.
Q: When were you born and where were you brought up?
A: I was born on May 16, 1962 in Westbrook. I grew up in Westbrook and lived there until I went to college.
Q: Did you have many siblings?
A: Yes. I was the oldest of four. Susan lives in Windham, Michael lives in Gorham and Jeannie lives in Windham too.
Q: What did your parents do?
A: My mom was a stay-at-home mom and she never drove a car or worked. My dad worked at the SD Warren Paper Mill and he worked there all his life and retired from there. He worked on the machines and later became a color man and worked with the inks and dyes and eventually worked his way into management ... with only a high school diploma.
Q: What was it like growing up?
A: I lived virtually next door to the Catholic church school, rectory and convent. I could pretty much see all the buildings.
In the evenings the nuns would go for walks and stop in and play horseshoes ... they had their habits on, but not quite so many layers.
Every Saturday night Mom baked bread for the week and baked beans.
There were probably 50 children in my neighborhood and we were outside, all day every day. If there wasn't school, it was breakfast, sledding, dry mittens and lunch and back outside again. I was always busy; building forts or playing dolls outside. I would make plates out of leaves and served acorn caps for food.
I was always immersed in nature. It really helped develop my sense of being.
We got one new pair of shoes every year, but I never really felt poor – it was just tough raising four kids on one income.
My mom made all our clothes, dresses, skirts and pajamas and she knitted hats, scarfs and mittens.
My uncle Rudolph had a camp on Watchic Lake in Standish and we would go there every summer. I learned to swim and dive and again immersed myself in nature. I could spend hours laying down in the woods and just watch the trees and sky, then roll over and watch the ants or whatever was crawling around. I could look down at tiny little sprouts and just watch them ... almost like another level of consciousness. I was probably meditating and didn’t know it.
Q: Was there anything you wanted to be when you grew up?
A: I always wanted to be a teacher. I had a nun for first grade that I adored and she died that year and because of her I wanted to be a nun too. ... Then I found boys in high school.
Q: Where did you go to school?
A: Right at St Hyacinth's through eighth grade and then went to Westbrook High School and graduated in 1970.
Q: Did you get into mischief or play pranks?
A: It's boring at how such a good girl I was. I was the oldest and had to be responsible for little ones, especially outside. Even in the neighborhood, if a child got hurt, they had to come to me. My mom always laughed about having to polish my halo. I even got through high school without using drugs or alcohol.
Q: What have you had for jobs?
A: Other than babysitting, I worked as a waitress at a banquet hall and worked at the fish factory in Portland. A bunch of us got permits and I packed fish and got paid piece work. We would ride the buses to the factory and no one would want to ride the bus with us because we smelled so bad. My mom wouldn't even let me come in the house till I changed.
A: Yes. I went to the University of Maine at Farmington and got a BS degree in elementary and a minor in early childhood education.
Q: When and how did you meet your spouse?
A: The first day of school, freshman year of high school in Latin Class. Jeff was sort of a class clown and he was on crutches and used to tell so many jokes, the teacher would forget to give us a quiz. Then he just started calling and we would talk on the phone for hours. ... He would play me music in the background like Bob Dylan and the Lovin’ Spoonful and in November we went to the movies on the bus. We saw Space Odyssey 2001.
We dated for 11 years and really worked hard to save up money for a house to build.
Q: Where did he work?
A: He was a land surveyor and worked for a company out of Boston. He also sold cars for nine years and now he is a night manager at Tony's Foodland in Naples.
Q: What did you do?
A: We were living in Windham and I worked at Waynflete as an assistant in the kindergarten. At the time they had K-12 and I went to the headmaster and told them they should have a pre-school and I'd like to be the teacher. They asked me to come up with a space and a budget ... and I did. And after six years I quit to start a family. In the summers at Waynflete I worked for the rec department in Westbrook.
Q: When did you move to Harrison?
A: We moved to Harrison and bought a farmhouse in 1984 and started renovating it. It took two years before we moved in. There was horse-hair plaster, old tubs and stuff ... but with an old farmhouse, it's still always an on-going project.
Q: What do you do now?
A: I teach nursery school in my home during the school year and follow the district’s calendar. I have two, three and four-year-olds and its call the Farmhouse Nursery School. I have been state-licensed for 24 years.
I worked for Paula Holt at the Harrison Rec as an assistant director. The best part of working there was watching my nursery school students grow up and then hire them for the rec department during the summer.
When I don’t have the kids, I work at Elm’s Puzzles on Hogs Hill Lane. I even have a signature piece that goes in every puzzle I make. They are all wooden and I cut them out with a jigsaw; sort of like a sewing machine. And there have been famous politicians, Olympians and actors who have bought or rented puzzles.
My brother and sister and I are so close and always have been ... . My brother has a camp that he bought and it is seven camps away from where I was as a child. It’s like I am back there again.
A: Saben is my 30-year-old son, he is a manager at a skateboard store at the Maine Mall and he lives in my childhood home. And my Zakia is 26 and she lives in Boston and she teaches in a private school at Harvard Square. Big hearts, intelligent, passionate and creative and they make me very proud.
Q: Anyone said you look like someone famous?
Q: Did you do much traveling?
A: We have been to the Caribbean four times, but somehow we just don’t seem to go far now. We've been to Canada and Florida, but mostly for business trips. I'm pretty content living my life at home. St. Martin is unique as it has two sides; one has rest and nature and the other is casinos and clubs.
Q: Which place was the most fascinating and why?
A: Whenever we went to St. Martin, we went to a butterfly farm. It's this huge netting and they are just everywhere and would even land on us. There is always new-age music like flutes going on for them.
Q: Did anyone influence you to the point of changing your direction in life?
A: That nun in the first grade, she was a wonderful person and teacher. Also the Latin teacher I had in high school. I never thought I could afford to go to college, but that teacher told me to go to the guidance office and look at the scholarships.
Q: Do you collect anything or have a hobby?
A: Walking in the woods, canoeing and reading books about childhood development and Medea physics...the meaning of life. I also love baking and my cookies are famous. Whenever I go somewhere, I’m always asked to bring them.
I knit constantly and started when I was 10 and I never stopped. My favorite thing to knit is socks. I make them for Christmas presents, and when I have too many, I knit socks for an orphanage in Russia. I found a book that shows all the places you can knit and donate to.
Because I love working with sheep wool so much I do that with my children too ... . We dye it and card the wool and they spin. And they build little looms with wood and they weave with it.
Q: What is the last book you read?
A: The Last Child in the Woods, by Richard Louv. It’s about saving our children from nature deficit disorder. It is a way to teach adults about how our humanity is raising our children to be inside and how children need to be outside ... rolling in the grass or playing marbles. They are finding if you take a hyperactive child outside, they will relax.
Q: What is the one thing you could not give up?
A: Other than family, most everything is material stuff, but it would have to be something like chocolate. I have to have a little piece of chocolate every day because a day without chocolate is like a day without sunshine.
Q: Do you have a hidden talent or a talent you wished you had?
A: My daughter was a dancer with Debi Irons and I would just love to be able to dance. I figure I'm too old, but Debi just had two hips replaced, so I really don’t have an excuse.
Q: What would you like people to know about you?
A: So many people know me, but the one thing is that I love what I do. I am going to teach nursery school until I'm in a nursing home.
Q: Last day on earth; what would you do and who with?
A: My whole family to Plum Bay in St. Martin on the French side and swim in the aqua-blue waters. And I'd let them take someone special with them. If I hit the megabucks I would take them.
Q: What scares you the most?
A: I can’t be afraid. It’s my job to pick up snakes and bugs, and not have the children be afraid. But if we pick them up, we always put them back. They learn to never keep a frog or snake from its home.
Q: If anyone could walk in right now, who would you most want to see?
A: I would really like to go for a walk with Henry David Thoreau and go for a canoe ride in Walden Pond. Maybe talk, maybe not talk. I’d leave that up to him.
From what I’ve read, he had that same feeling of ecstasy as I did being outside.