Neighbor’s voices drift vaguely on the cool breeze, punctuated by the sound of car doors clapping shut. Greetings and exclamations join laughter and music, as the smoke from a small fire wafts above the greenness of Gould Hill, smudging the fading sky of a long summer day in Vermont. The party has begun, although no one but Silvia has had the forethought to invite a bear.
With her solitary nature, and ferocious temperament, Silvia’s realistic bear costume seems symbolic, a totem of her spirit. How she had come to own the costume is anyone’s guess, but she had been using it with great creativity in her endless battle to keep the actual bears away from her beehives. Less serious pursuits were on Silvia’s mind on the day of the party, as her stolid figure transformed into bear with uncharacteristic mischief.
Silvia was not exactly on friendly terms with the neighbors throwing the party, as she had for years refused to move a long-abandoned and dilapidated bus out of their line of sight, blighting the beauty of their view. Nevertheless, Silvia, accompanied by another neighbor and his young son dressed as clowns, lumbered through the woods, an incongruent trio of barely suppressed laughter.
Barreling out of the woods with two clowns by her side, Silvia made her heart-thumping appearance to shrieks of panic, but soon, good natured invitations gave way and bear and clowns joined the party. With bear head set aside, Silvia abandoned her general reserve and danced the night away, at what has proven to be a most memorable party for the neighborhood.
Recently, a brown bear has taken up residence at my house. He stands in the same spot where brides and grooms once stood to be married when my house served as the parsonage. The bear greets me each morning as I come down the stairs and watches over me as I read in front of the fire. He is a family heirloom, of sorts, with a story of his own, but in my house his story includes Silvia and the night she was the belle of the party dressed as a bear. And sometimes, just sometimes, as I pass by the bear, I see Silvia’s mirthful smile, as she dances around the light of the fire.
*Image of clowns, ca. 1980, Ken Libertoff and son with friend. From the Silvia Narma papers.
**Story as told to me in part by Ken Libertoff and Delia Robinson.