The comfort of a ‘puff’

Byrna Porter Weir, Special to The County
6 years ago

As kids, my brother Leonard and I each had a puff on the bed. Mine came to naught, almost, when I spent too much time out weeding the corn and got my back badly burned.

Ina made a paste of baking soda and water and spread it over my back to ease any pain. The next day there were blisters three inches long with fluid inside.

No one attempted to break them, but overnight they broke naturally and evidence showed all over the puff. It was relatively expensive and no new replacement appeared—only the old one from being washed. I guess I deserved to suffer the loss for not coming in out of the hot sun.

Years went by before I realized the word was pouf, from the French, and I rushed to tell Ina, who was surprised, but recalled her French at RCI, Ricker Classical Institute, where she graduated in 1917 at 17. Remnants of her education were poems in Latin, French and German. She recited Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star in Latin (Mica, Mica, Parva Stella) and the Lorelei in German. I learned one and one-half verses in each.

German was not taught at HHS, so I took four years of Latin and three of French. Then I studied French and German at Ricker College before transferring to the University of Maine.

Dana A. Miller of Monticello was also a student in the German class, which was taught by Harold Inman. Dana was a fluent speaker of the language from being stationed in Germany while in the service, but he lacked experience in reading it. He said that a German girlfriend there could not or would not learn English, all the better for forcing him to use German. Since he could speak it and I could read and write, we studied together. An expression he used, “Hell’s bells and buckets of blood,” picked up when stationed in Texas, stuck with me.

He had a fiancee in Bristol, England, whom he had met there at a dance. They both said it was love at first sight. They were married within a year and she came to Maine. He continued college at the University of Connecticut in Storrs and later became a town manager in New Jersey; I visited them in both places. They later visited me and my husband here before they moved to Las Cruces, New Mexico. Although I never went there, friends of mine in Rochester happened to move to that town, and did at some point meet Dana. He retired and they moved to Colorado to live until their kids got them to move to Florida to be near them.

But, as they say, I digress. I do believe that I still miss that puff, without the stains. I took it with me when I married and my cat Tom and Pekingese Tootsie slept on it–when they weren’t sliding off the slippery satin onto the floor. That was in Houlton in the School Street apartment.

Byrna Porter Weir was born and grew up in Houlton, where her parents, Ina and Porter, were portrait photographers. She now lives in Rochester, N.Y.