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Charlotte’s Story

“I always knew my Mom deserved a legacy – something as beautiful and special as she was. It is my hope that the atmosphere at Charlotte’s Trove exemplifies the warmth and comfort that so many people often felt from being around my Mother. To further understand how special this is to me and to get a closer glimpse of my Mom’s life, read the following story.” -Charlene Dodson, Owner

Charlotte’s Story – Written by Emily Reid

 

That’s it! My eyes snap open as my brain recalls (finally) the forgotten chore from the previous day. I sit up and hastily grab my phone off the nightstand. If I don’t get this down in writing soon, the chore will once again be lost to the whirlwind of my brain. As my phone lights up, my husband, Dean, groans and rolls over. I take this as my cue to go to sleep or get out. Sleep deprivation and I have gotten to know each other extremely well over these past few months, and unfortunately Dean and my new friend have also become acquaintances.

Okay, I’ll suffer alone tonight. I think as I whip the covers off and venture out into the hallway. I walk over to the door and look out the window. The streetlight illuminates the front porch of the building next door, along with all the construction miscellaneous residing on it. My mind conjures up the images of the dusty floors, half torn out walls, and junk that is waiting to be dealt with just inside those walls. What in the world did you get yourself into Charlene? It’s a thought that has often accompanied me on these sleepless nights. And just like that, I feel a headache coming on. I abruptly turn and make way for the couch. However, a picture catches my eye and, like always, I stop to admire it. A beautiful woman stares back at me with sparkling, ocean-blue eyes. Her red lips are set into a warm smile that perfectly compliments her porcelain skin. And with her hair impeccably curled into a 1940s style, she was every bit the glamorous movie star a country girl could afford to be. Upon looking at this woman, every worry and strife I have about the project next door disappears. My mom deserves a legacy. And even if it takes every last bit of sanity I have, I am going to give her one.

A smile spreads across my face as it occurs to me that my headache is gone. I replace her picture to the shelf with a renewed, and much needed, content.

“Thanks Mom.” I whisper before heading upstairs. I have every intention of spending the rest of the night in my office sifting through papers and drafting emails. However, when I turn on my computer a file pops up filled with (what else) pictures of my mother. I begin to scroll through them, and with every flick of my finger, my drive to do work, or anything else for that matter, dwindles at an alarming rate.

“Alright Mom. You win.” I say with a shake of my head. I can almost see her smirk, nod, and cross her arms in victory. I grin as a small chuckle escapes my lips. Charlotte Barnhart was not a woman you said no to.

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The first picture I open is one of her four sisters adorned in pretty little dresses. The bows in their hair were just the icing on the cake. That’s a whole lot of spunk in one picture. I muse as I recall the stories I’ve absorbed through the years.

My mother grew up with her sisters and two brothers, along with their parents, on a farm in Danville, Pennsylvania for most of her childhood. And believe me, the Bogart farm was an interesting place to be. I think back to my last visit with my aunts and of how the same tired stories always seem to be told. Stories about using the outhouse, accidently cutting the beak off of a chicken, or fighting about a “borrowed” dress are forever being recited. And yet somehow, by the end of every visit, tears are running down my cheeks and my stomach is in spasms due to the endless laughter. I doubt the stories will ever lose their charm.

I click to the next picture and am instantly reminded that my mother was not present for some of those beloved stories. It is a picture of her standing in front of a stoic woman, whom I presume to be her Aunt Anna. Aunt Anna was unable to have children, and, for many speculated reasons, my grandparents gifted my mother to Anna and her husband, Pinky. From ages five to fifteen, she lived with them in Lightstreet, Pennsylvania. My mother never spoke much of this time period, but when she did I often felt she had mixed feelings about it. Aunt Anna and Uncle Pinky were much wealthier than her parents, so my mother was able to experience a lot that most kids during the depression, her siblings included, were robbed of. For that, I know she was grateful. On the other hand, my mom missed out on a lot living away from her family. In fact, I’m almost certain she would have traded those extravagant experiences for outhouses and chickens, just to share in more of her siblings’ early memories. However, I never once heard her complain. That’s one trait of hers I’ve always marveled at. No matter what situation she was in, she was determined, and consistently successful, at making it work.

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“Ah, that’s more like it.” I laugh as I take in the next picture and mentally compare it to the earlier photo of the innocent little girls with curls and bows. The picture shows my aunts and mother as young adults, smiling at something I’m sure is now long forgotten. My mother rejoined her family when she was fifteen to start high school in Danville. I can only chuckle at the chaos living in a house filled with five young women, especially women like my mother and aunts, would ensue. However, it’s often from the chaos that the best memories are made. On more than one occasion, after the retelling of an old story, I’ve found myself wishing I could have been a part of the Bogart chaos. There’s no denying that my mother’s family was one filled with love and laughter.

With the next click of my mouse, I see the first appearance of my father. Oh how I miss them, I think while my eyes mist over at the sight of the next photo. My fresh-faced mother and father are sitting by a stream, both smiling from ear to ear, and my mother’s arms are draped over my father’s shoulders. Their eyes have the same twinkle that many love struck teenagers possess, and many adults long to recapture. My parents were two individuals very much in love with each other. From the moment they met at the Danville YMCA, my mother the gorgeous lifeguard and my father an avid bowler, they were both hooked. Theirs was a love that often amazed me, partly because anyone who knew my father had to have wondered, at least once, “How does Charlotte put up with him?” but mostly because their love survived and created so much.

“Mom, you are a saint.” I say out loud as I reminisce over all the hassle my dad put her through. This is a conclusion I came to not long after I got married. A story that comes to mind right away is the time my dad invited a family of three, a couple with a three year old, to move into our house. Not only did my mother go with it, she worked all day and then came home and made everyone dinner. I honestly have no idea how she did it. But that’s just the kind of person she was: caring, generous, and incredibly self-less (even when she was angry with you). I’ll never forget the day I overheard an argument between my parents that ended with my father stating that he was just going to leave. He had been in bed, sick all day, and even though she wanted to kill him, my mother’s response was “You’re too sick to go anywhere. I’ll leave.” I like to think that I would be just as self-less if put into that situation. Although I have a feeling I’m more of the Barney than the Charlotte in my marriage. I try, every day of my life, to be her mirror. And every day, I fall short. But how lucky am I to have someone so amazing to look up to? How lucky am I to have had such an amazing mentor? The world would be an immensely warmer place if everyone had a Charlotte.

My mother seemed to hold a place in the heart of every person who had the good fortune of meeting her. She had a special gift of being able to see the potential in people that others were blind to. None others benefited from this more than my father. She never kept him from doing what he wanted or being whom he wanted, even if that meant she had to tiptoe behind him and clean up his messes. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the very description of their business partnership. A laugh slips through my lips at just how true that statement is. A million accounts that can accredit this flood my mind.

From the moment my parents left Danville and made way for Roaring Spring to fulfill my father’s dream of having his own newspaper, the cards were stacked against them. The papers my father bought were “throw away” newspapers printed by News Printing Company, Inc. These three papers were teetering on the brink of extinction. No businessman in sound mind believed they could be saved. Thankfully, my parents were just the right combination to not only salvage the feeble papers, but to create an immensely prosperous company. I can recall many times that my parents were described as “ the perfect team” by people in the business world. I remember an employee putting it best. “Barney was the drive and determination, and sometimes things got chaotic, but Charlotte was the maintainer of composure.” In other words, my mother found ways to make my father’s crazy visions into successful realities. It’s hard to believe the tiny, hut-like building in the picture captured on my computer screen is the seed from which grew the United States Government Printing Office’s top supplier. While it’s true that my father’s boldness and tenacity are what created NPC, it was my mother’s charming charisma that kept the business growing. It was my mother who built strong relationships with consumers. It was my mother who made sure employees of theirs felt indispensable. Her “dining room table” philosophy is still the very root of the business today. When the business wasn’t as large, my mother would make lunch for the employees giving them a chance to sit around and discuss the company in a non-threatening environment. Although NPC has grown much too large to continue this tradition, the open communication atmosphere is still there. It’s this philosophy, my mother’s philosophy, which has earned NPC a spot on the list of Best Places to Work in PA.

There’s no way he could’ve done it without you, Mom. I think as I replay all the accomplishments they shared. They complimented each other so unbelievably well. If their best attributes could be combined into one person, that person would truly be unstoppable. I like to think that’s what happened when I was made. With that thought, I can almost hear my parents laughing. While I know I have some traits that are purely Charlene, I also know I carry some of them in me as well. And, like I said before, how lucky am I?

“Mom, what are you doing?”

My head snaps up from the computer screen. The sight of my son, Brock who clearly had just woken up, greets me. He’s squinting and rubbing his eyes, still not adjusted to the light of my office. I guess my laughing and talking to myself had been louder than I thought. Yikes I sound old.

“Sorry, honey. I couldn’t sleep so I’m just catching up on some work for next door. I’ll try to keep it down.”

“That’s okay. I can’t sleep either. I think I’m gonna go watch TV or something.”

“Alright.” As he turns to walk out the door, it occurs to me that he just might enjoy these pictures as much as I do. “Hey wait! You want to see something cool?”

He strides over to my computer and towers over me as he peers at the screen.

“Is that grandma??” His smile and the light in his eyes tell me he’s just as hooked as I was. So I stand to offer him my chair, which, to my surprise, he gladly takes.

I watch him take in the pictures and feel a smile of my own forming.

“Mom, is this you?” he says with a laugh.

“Yep. And you better be laughing at your uncle, not at me!” I pat him on the shoulder as I lean in to get a better look.

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My brother, Barry and I are standing at my Mother’s side, Barry looking a bit annoyed. My mother towers between us with her hands delicately placed on our shoulders. My mother and I seem to be the only ones enjoying the photo shoot. I chuckle and stand back, lost in the memories.

There’s no denying that Charlotte Barnhart was an amazing businesswoman. There’s also no denying that Charlotte Barnhart was an even better mother. It was almost like my mom had a sixth sense. She always knew when someone needed her, and knew exactly what they needed. And if she did have a sixth sense, it only intensified when it came to her children. She always knew when we needed space, and when we needed her love. She knew when we needed her help, and when we needed to figure it out on our own. And she most definitely knew when we needed disciplined. I look back at my son and wonder if he would describe me in the same way. This is just another part of my life in which I have tried to mirror my mother.

Brock looks up at me, and smiles. “This is awesome Mom! I want this picture!”

It is a picture of Brock, Drake and my mother, probably the most recent, and last photo ever taken of the three of them. He loves you just as much as I do, Mom.

“Sure! I’ll have to get it printed.”

I believe Grandma was the title my mom was most proud to wear. Whether it was cooking for them, or buying them gifts, there was nothing she wouldn’t do for her grandchildren. They had the kind of bond every child should have with his or her grandmother. And when you’re as good of a cook as my mother was, a bond is not hard to form, especially with boys.

“I miss her.”

“Me too, Hun.” I feel my eyes start to mist over, and I believe my son’s must have too, because he jumps up out of the chair and clears his throat.

“Well I think I’m gonna go back to bed.”

“Alright. Goodnight!”

He starts to walk out of the office, and I watch him slow his stride until he comes to a full halt. He turns and quickly returns to my side and gives me a brief hug.

“Thanks for showing me those pictures. You know, now that I think about it, you kinda remind me of grandma.” He looks me in the eyes and smiles. With that he’s out of the office, and a few seconds later I hear the click of his bedroom door.

I sink back into my desk chair. My eyes are not just misting now. They’re full blown watering. I cover my mouth, lean back in the chair, and smile. This was your plan the whole time. Wasn’t it, Mom? If my mother had a sixth sense here on earth, of course she had it in heaven. I sigh and close my eyes, while my arms drop to my sides. Thanks for letting me know I’m doing alright.

I find it hard to open my eyes again. Maybe I will get some sleep tonight. I decide it’s worth a shot, so I venture back downstairs. Before heading into my bedroom, I make one more stop by the window. The sight of the building next door no longer fills me with stress, but with excitement. It will be my mother’s legacy. It will be warm, beautiful, fun, and exactly what people need. “A warm blanket on a cold day.” They’ll come and shop, admire the new things mixed in with my mother’s beloved antiques. They’ll eat and socialize, get that “dining room table” feel. And all of this will be connected to my mother. When they think of Charlotte’s Trove, they’ll think of my mom, and remember her as the treasure she was.

 

I smile and decide that I not only need some sleep, but I deserve some. As I amble back to my bed, I entertain the thought that maybe I really am that perfect combination of my parents, that truly unstoppable person. I crawl in bed with a newfound peace. Charlotte’s Trove is going to happen, and it’s going to be amazing. Thanks for the pep talk, Mom. After all, if Charlotte Barnhart thinks I’m doing alright, what other opinion matters?