There has been a soundtrack to almost every important (and non-important) event in our lives. Sometimes the songs we hear define the moment, sometimes they linger in the background. The first song that I remember was sung from my mother’s lips, a Harry Belefonte tune called Jamaica Farewell. The nostalgia it wells up makes me cry. The students at my kid’s elementary school would often sing this song on assembly days, locking the tune into its second generation. The good songs stay with you and the great ones can even touch your grandkids. Feeling Groovy (Paul Simon and Garfunkle) accompanied me on the most embarrassing day of my young life as I sang it to the entire school in the 8th grade talent show. I may never forgive my mother for that one. Do you remember the song that accompanied your first kiss as I do? (Every Time You Go Away-Tom Waite). I’ll never forget the Billy Joel song, New York State of Mind, coming through the air on a solitary and still winter morning as I rowed on the Orchard Beach Lagoon. At that moment, while the other college kids were stumbling home from a night of drinking, I heard it as the sun came up around me. Someone was accompanying the tune with his drums and I had a serenade like no other. The moment defined my young adulthood and I can still picture its very essence. It’s moments like this you come to appreciate your life’s soundtrack. Just this morning, I sat and watched my daughter listen to her Ipod. Lying relaxed on the ground with my camera in hand, I captured her as she closed her eyes singing her own soundtrack. I wonder what songs will define her? In the end if we could select life’s playlist that could fit on one CD, what would it be? I guess at 40, my list is about halfway there. Whether it was heard via vinyl, 8-Track, a yellow Sony Sportsman or a Nano, the songs are yours for life.
New York State Of Mind
The lone duck.
Every now and again a moment of great clarity hits me square in the forehead. This doesn’t come often in parenting. Usually a mom’s mind is muddled in a myriad of disjointed thoughts. It turns out that this clarity is in fact, my daughter. I remember seventh grade. Mean is trendy, no one knows how to apply make-up, and the boys can be downright frightening. Every morning, I come downstairs looking like something the cat dragged in. The first thing I see through my glazed eyes is a girl, confidently dressed with her backpack sealed up, ready to take on her day. She goes about her day with all the weight of seventh grade threatening her balance. The many hats she metaphorically wears, sway in the hurricane swirling through the hallways as she tries her best to keep things together. It’s the little things added up that are her burden to bear: test, lunchroom-seating debacles, mean-girl looks in the hallway, pesky locker combinations and ridiculous group projects. It’s all part of a formula that will get her ready for her tax paying years come. If she can make it through seventh grade, she’ll make it through anything. She has fortitude well beyond her 12 years. She gets it from her dad. Two peas in a pod, they are just fine with being the lone duck. They are in no way lame. The fact that she isn’t ruled by the whims of her friends, never ceases to amaze me. While I may often find her lost in an episode of glee, she gets that it’s all glamorized. Real life is much harder and the singing in the green team hall never sounds quite as good as it does on tv. But still she finds clarity from within and her song sounds sweet. Clarity becomes her and as I see it, there is no better way to be.
Just this morning, my husband lost his grandmother. In the past weeks, I almost lost my father and have watched my grandmother seem to wither away in a hospital bed. Life has never seemed so precarious. On days like today, I wish I had a regular 9 to 5 job to fill life with trivialities that use up the day. Today, I just had time to think. We’re always told not to weep for those that had full and happy lives, yet we do. Somewhere in the fray of life, time passes and older people seem to fade as the next generation alights. We mask their relevance with our own busyness. From the moment we come into this world, our older counterparts relinquish their self-importance for their offspring’s dreams. Every generation does it. It’s when an elder loved one dies, we realize the importance of making them proud. Does one fulfill the promise our parents envisioned as they gazed upon their newborn infant for the first time? Once they're gone, were the next batter up and it’s time to either make a home run or strike out. We’re one-step closer to knowing how the game finishes and our own mortality comes into question. In losing a grandparent, we’re instantly brought back to our early childhood. We remember what we loved doing most with them, whether it was coin collecting together, or in my case, playing a good game of poker as an eight year old. Grandparents by design have an easier relationship with their grandkids. Rather than look for the perfect embodiment of themselves in their offspring, at this stage they’re happy enough seeing some of their best traits that may have skipped a generation. While the big picture of loss feels considerable, it’s the tiny details that perhaps leave the heaviest heart. The smallest details in life strikes a chord... a ten second memory shared but not forgotten, some indelible words or just a snapshot in our mind. It’s the connection that matters, an everyday ordinary miracle that stays with you even when they’re gone.
Treasure hunting at home.
This is a coat size Civil War uniform button for the Connecticut state militia. It has the “CNG” lettering on the face of the button that stands for Connecticut National Guard. The original back and shank are present with the correct Civil War era maker’s mark from Scovill Manufacturing Company of Waterbury, Connecticut. Scovill was the largest producer of uniform buttons for the Civil War effort. This is the pattern listed as figure CT20 in Albert’s button book and CT210a1 in Tice’s button book, . Tice states that in 1865 the state of Connecticut joined the local militias into a more organized state National Guard. This button would have been from that circa 1865 time frame. (According to Historian Robert Ellis)
Lid of an old canning jar circa 1900
Two weeks ago I came across a real treasure hunt while driving down Main Street, Durham. Overcome by curiosity, I had to stop and see. Looking like the characters from Ghostbusters, more than 25 men scoured the grounds of a historical home with metal detectors. After some time talking and oogling at their finds, they had an open invitation to come to my old house. Only a week later hunter’s Bob and Roger would come armed with shovels hoping to find something of historical value. Part of what brings you to live in an old house is the intrigue that comes with it. The fabric of living is shared with those that came before us. Despite the generations that separate us, we have mutual experiences. While our guest dug, we too got our hands dirty. Our toy $25 detector was put to use as the kids eyed antique treasures. We were living in the moment, as we contemplated the past. We unearthed some notable objects. Nothing found would make us rich, but the wealth came in the earthly experience. The treasures would reinforce the notion that our home was someone else’s before us. We wondered whom? Little clues like a piece of a broach proved the feminine influence here. An unearthed Civil War button for Connecticut’s First National Guard would remind us of a time when slavery was part of this home’s experience. As we threw the ball for the dog, would the same ground be the place of a soldier's homecoming? We would also find hinges and door straps at the site of a long gone barn. At days end, my kids would realize that other children loved this land too. After examining the artifacts, we lay on the grass. Someone else had done the same before us and others will in the future. We're all a piece of a growing timeline grounded in the notion of history. Because of this we are all truly connected.
Part of an old Broach?
I think this is some of Peter's "old" Pirate treasure.
Commonly used to hold table salt.
Ye Old Miller treasure basket.
Kate protecting the newfound treasure!
Just part of the timeline.
Boston...to the finish line.
(From previous entry)...As I did this, 30,000 others were discovering it too, marching like soldiers from Hopkinton to its boundaries. …
Once I had been like these soldiers. I qualified for Boston, and showed up at the starting line 2 months pregnant with Kate. In a day similar to today’s heat, my conscience forced me to stop. All the pregnancy books said you must be most careful 2 months into pregnancy if you want a kid with an unscrambled brain. I must have made the right decision because today she reads a book a day. My mind was wondering and without regret, my journey continued. I looked downward and noticed I stood on hallowed ground. I was on the site of The Boston Massacre. I knew the subject well, because I recently studied for a test on it. (Having a kid in 5th grade has its privileges). I was on the best type of field trip, one with no soggy brown bag lunches or busses with noisy kids. There was one question swirling in my mind…why is Boston called “Bean Town”? I stopped and pulled out my husband’s Iphone and Googled it. Satisfied with the answer, I remembered that I was no longer a lightweight in Boston. I was hungry and I had meandered into the perfect place, Little Italy. Within minutes I was devouring a cream puff the size of my head. With powdered sugar likely still on my face, I sat and stared at Paul Revere. He looked at me horrified that I wouldn’t share with him. I would begin the long venture through the Boston Gardens to see my husband make the marathon's final turn turn from Commonwealth Avenue. It wasn’t just another day in Bean town; the heat and the crowds were downright suffocating. I stood high up on an electrical box. 10,000 people later, I had missed my husband's fleeting feet. Today, there were more skinny white guys out there in white spandex shirts than could be counted. As any race lugger knows, you take a chance knowing that a quick blink can be a certain miss. Following a route back to find my husband would make an old “Family Circus” map seem ridiculously simple. He would be just where he said he would be, at the “S”. Looking up, he would smile pointing to his medal. I would laugh, as it’s his 11th Boston Marathon medal and still, he gets excited when he gets his reward. I would congratulate him as today would mark his 75th marathon and his first race as a 40 year old. Boston, I enjoyed rediscovering you and for some reason, I have a feeling I’ll be back again soon.
Why is Boston called Beantown?
Back in colonial days, a favorite Boston food was beans baked in molasses for several hours. Back then, Boston was sort of awash in molasses - it was part of the "triangular trade" in which slaves in the Caribbean grew sugar cane to be shipped to Boston to be made into rum to be sent to West Africa to buy more slaves to send to the West Indies. Even after the end of this practice, Boston continued as big rum producing city - the Great Molasses Flood of 1919 (which killed 21), ocurred when a tank holding molasses for rum production exploded.
Today, Boston baked beans are something of a rarity - there are no companies in the city making it and only a few restaurants serve it.
I love to travel. I could spend every day in a different place soaking up life. Much of my travels happen during race weekends going back as long as I can remember. It started long ago during my rowing days. Boston was always one of the main stops on the rowing circuit. It never grabbed me for some reason. I always seemed to gravitate to gritty Philadelphia over Boston’s more polished appearance. But to Boston’s defense, my lack admiration came purely out of hunger. Every time I was in Boston I was starving. I was a lightweight rower and not a skinny one at that. I stepped out of my hotel room with not a care in the world today. I knew Chris had his own journey to contend with racing the marathon in sweltering heat this morning. My one responsibility was to find him somewhere under a Capital “S” after it was all said and done (hey, it’s not as easy as it seems). I was somewhere near the JKF library. I walked towards the T and (since I’ve never been very good at following directions) just got off at any old stop. Boston virtually make’s no sense when it comes to direction. Water seems to be everywhere, roads twist and turn and everyone seems too young to ask for directions. When I stepped off the T, I felt directionally lost as I looked up at the sun and it seemed to give no answers in return. An old building caught my eye and I headed that way. Stupidly, I wasn’t traveling light. I had brought three lenses, more than I needed on a hot day, but my camera equipment always hijacks me. I easily had 20 lbs on my back and 6 hours to kill. Looking around, I wondered where all that tea had been dumped. Staring into the water, I saw no tea bags and moved on. Hoping for Paul Revere’s horse to get me around town, I knew a ride would be unlikely. But around the bend, a row of bicycles were perfectly aligned, begging to be ridden. I had found my noble steed. Looking the tourist in every way, I read the Hubway directions a hundred times. Get a bike, pay 5 bucks on a credit card, go to another “hub” within a half hour and continue the cycle. It was a commuting service, but I was going to make it work as a tourist. I would repeat the routine 6 times throughout the morning bringing me to every corner of Boston. I felt like a kid getting her freedom wheels as I rode along the Freedom Trail. The Boston I had in my mind was quickly becoming a thing of the past. This Boston had little surprises around every bend, beautiful brownstones, blossoms everywhere and history…so much history. The city was mine to discover. As I did this, 30,000 others were discovering it too, marching like soldiers from Hopkinton to Boston's city boundaries. …
To be continued... (isn't that what life is all about anyway?)
No crates of tea here.
Don't bite the ears.
Easter Sunday was exactly a week ago and look what I found hopping around in the garden. I always laugh when I see the earless chocolate bunny. I don’t when my cat leaves a real one as a gift on the doorstep. I digress. The fact that almost every one of us goes for the ears first is a logical one. They’re accessible. We like things easy. Why would we go into the drawer and get a knife when it’s much easier to gnaw off the ears? There have been countless times, I took the easy way out, but generally those moments just pass me by. It’s taking the other way that makes life interesting. The challenge makes life worth living. We can add levels of challenge to virtually every task for a more unique outcome. The journey that any formidable trial takes us on adds so many dimensions to your life and makes your story worth telling. So here’s your test. Don’t bite the ears off first and see what happens. Jump into things completely, get your hands dirty and realize that you can break the mold. If you can do this, chocolate bunnies out there, will rejoice.
At home in Middlefield
I have lived in a number of beautiful places. I grew up in Rye, New York, but spent chunks of my life in The Bronx, Long Beach, CA, Guadalajara (Mexico), Saba (Netherland Antilles), Branford, Ct and Glastonbury, CT. When I close my eyes and dream of the places I once dwelled, each stays with me for different reasons. I’ll never forget the smell of fresh semolina bread, rising and drifting along Arthur Avenue into the window of my 12th story Fordham University dorm room. Soon after, independence was mine in Long Beach along the beautiful shores of the Pacific Ocean. The adventures were boundless within the market towns of Mexico. In Saba, red roofed cottages idyllically placed against the aqua blue ocean backdrop, couldn’t have been any more beautiful. Early motherhood would blur my memory of my first Connecticut homes, but not without noticing the seasonal beauty that New England provides. Middlefield, would never have been on my radar as place to settle down. A quick blink would bring us through town and I distinctly remember looking at my husband and saying, “Is this seriously it?” Our old home seemed to somehow choose us and we became Middlefield residents in a leap of faith. After 7 years, I have no itch to move on. We may lack in boutique stores, but I worry not as there is much distinction to be found here. Like every other place I have lived, a picture swirls in my mind. Lyman Orchards, just above our home will forever be etched in my thoughts as the place that makes Middlefield feel like home. As the seasons happen, it beckons new photographs to tell its story. Like good comfort food, it keeps pleasing and satisfies my edacious appetite for finding the day’s ordinary miracle.
Each Easter is marked by our usual traditions of egg hunts, peeps and chocolate infused highs. But this year feels different. Today, my husband turns 40, a milestone that I too grappled with 6 months ago. We all like to think or be told that our age is only a matter of how we really feel despite how we may really look. On Chris’s last day of his thirties, he won a running race, proving that he will not fade into any sunsets. As he called to tell me of his victory, I was busy photographing children doing various Easter egg hunts around the area. It was a strange day for me, as both of my children had outgrown these rites of passage. Yet, I documented them, feeling parents' joy as they watched their toddlers with such adoration. Age keeps coming, even for my kids and we all have to acclimate in some way or another. They are at an age where their greatest childhood memories may have already been experienced. But it is now in adolescence that they have a rock solid foundation to grow on. Their past defines their future. As we quickly hurdle forward, I hang on to their childhood tightly. The bunny stopping at our house will have to step up his game. My kids are keenly aware that the Easter bunny’s shopping habits are eerily similar to their mother’s. This bunny may have a few tricks left. Yes, my age may lend to having completely forgotten how many eggs were hidden, but they sure were hidden well. The kids climbed trees looking for the elusive money eggs. I sat laughing on the porch drinking a Peep infused hot chocolate knowing it’s all-good on this Easter Sunday Morning.
Happy 40th Chris!
Happy Easter to everyone.
May we all stay forever young.
3 things I did today that I’m proud of:
1. 150 push ups
2. Ran 3 miles (and had some quality time) with my son.
3. Had a student tell me he loves Go Far.
(bonus* helped 25 people to friend Patch)
3 things I’m not so proud of:
1. I gave an obnoxious driver the finger. ( I'll probably do it again tomorrow)
2. I ate whipped cream directly from the Reddi-whip can. ( I’ll surely do it again tomorrow)
3. For the life of me, I couldn't keep up with my son while running. (surely, the rest of my life)
The photo taken of the happy pup ended the day on a high note. Yes, he has a face only a mother could love.