Back in the early ’90s, a whole gang of us from the area car pooled to Sheepscot Valley Children’s House in Wiscasset. There were at least eight kiddos from four or five different families. We’d meet at what is now the Back River Road parking lot of Clifford Playground. Everybody had a day for driving and anytime there was a complication, somebody would cover. It was quite a free-for-all when everybody landed with said cargo — car seats, lunches, backup clothing for those unforeseen moments, and lots of chatter from children and parents.
When our group arrived at the Children’s House there was even more chaos with children being dropped off from all over — Arrowsic, Dresden, Newcastle, Richmond, Wiscasset and us. It was quite a show with little reluctance, and I dare say, much enthusiasm. Unlike any school experience I had ever known.
Part of the reason, I believe, that we all managed so well, had to do with our greeting from Miss Ethel. No matter what came out of cars (and trucks), everyone was met with a big welcome from Ethel Stansfield. Even parents, or perhaps, especially parents, were happy to be seen by Ethel. We could count on a pleasant smile and a encouraging hug, if needed. Ethel was greeter zen, and she still is.
Sheepscot Valley Children’s House opened its doors in 1983 — Ethel signed on in 1984. When we enrolled our children, she and Treg Lorence shared a class and organized the children (as much as children are organized in a Montessori setting). It was an approach to learning we had never experienced. We often stayed and rolled up on the floor while children (ours and others) went about their activities as if we did not exist.
I particularly enjoyed “story hour,” which was not an hour but a fleeting moment of total transformation for the children and me. The world stopped as pages and images filled us all with stories and sounds.
During a recent visit to SVCH, we were able to relive a brief moment of joy as Ethel, circled by her flock, read “I Spy Panda,” asking us, “Who am I?”
There was little doubt. I was a child again. Thank you Miss Ethel.