Winners of the 2020 Almanac Essay Contest

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Thank you to everyone who submitted an essay. Here are the 2020 winning essays featured in The 2021 Old Farmer’s Almanac.

“What Worn-Out Possession Is Dearest to You, and Why?”

First Prize

When I was 6, I had major leg surgery. Finally, the day came to get the casts that stretched from the tips of my toes to the top of my hips removed. The sound of the cast saw coming from the other room was as loud as that of any lumberjack to a little girl. The buzzing, whirring, and whining hot louder with every passing moment, until I broke out in tears.

As the tears spread down my face, I noticed a woman coming to my side. With delicate fingers, she opened her purse and removed a white hanky and placed it in my hand. She said, “This is my Hanky of Courage. Sometimes htings come along in our lives that call for a little more courage. I can see that you are a brave girl, but please keep this and let it give you a boost of courage to face you fears.”

I held on to that wonderful hanky and made it through that tough day, and it has been a treasure that I have kept with me for 52 years.

–Vickie L. Sargent-Kler
Zephyrhills, Florida

Second Prize

In 1941, my father served in the U.S. Army in Tunis, North Africa. While there, he fashioned a ring from the aluminum of a downed enemy plane. He came home alive and wore the shiny ring unitl his death in 1962. As a family, we were lost in blinding grief that slowly faded but never really passed. Ma trusted me with his ring, which became my touchstone, the band wrapped in white adhesive to fit a boy’s slight finger. Over the years, people would ask about it, and I would take a breath and recall his short life. 

I lost the ring on the Appalachian Trail and could not forgive myself. It found me a few years later from a deep pocket in my pack. We celebrated like father and son. But, like everything, possessions wear down with use. The script “Tunis, North Africa, 1941” became barely legible.

The ring now stays in a box on the bureau. I open it up from time to time and remember and settle. This possession never lets me down.

–Michael Wing
Wast Gardiner, Maine

Third Prize

A handmade 12x16-inch quilt of once-colorful homespun squares neatly blanket-stitched is my most cherished possession. Quilted for me by our beloved babysitter, Mrs. Jean Howard, it has frayed edges and is faded in spots. The formerly white squares are now a golden ecru, and bright colors are now much paler than when new 60 years ago.

Even at a young age, my sisters and I were deeply touched by Mrs. Howard’s sad memories of losing her young soldier husband in World War I and then, a year later, her darling baby girl to the dreaded influenza epidemic. 

A young widow, she became a governess growing deeply attached to the young ones in her charge. Mrs. Howard revealed that she made little quilts for each youngster in loving remembrance of her own little girl. She tried to give these children all of the love that she might have given her own daughter. 

From lovely milk-and-cookie doll tea parties to helping us snugly tuck in our dolls for the night, Mrs. Howard gave us her kind and patient attention. A woman who truly understood little girls and their cherished dolls knew that a miniature quilt was indeed a very special gift.

–Roseann Gulla-Devaney
Winchester, Massachusetts

Honorable Mention

The year 1963 was a difficult time for the United States and the world. I was 10 years old and didn’t really understand adult issues. I came from a small island republic called Trinidad & Tobago. My grandmother gave me the Little Brown Suitcase to travel. I was heading to Michigan to meet my father for the first time.

My mother passed when I was 13 months old. So, as my journey began, it wasn’t a happy one. Lots of moving, but I always had my Little Brown Suitcase to remind me of the place I came from and how things had changed. It holds memories that you can’t see and words that you can’t hear. The years have gotten better and some memories fade, but my suitcase still holds treasured memories.

–Patricia Hoffman
Taylor, Michigan

About The Author

Carol Connare

As the 14th editor of The Old Farmer’s Almanac, Carol Connare works with writers and other editors to develop “new, useful, and entertaining matter” for the annual Almanac as well as books, calendars, and other publications. Read More from Carol Connare

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