Boston History: Mayor Kevin White & My Father

Boston Mayor Kevin White
Left to right: Barbara Christopher (8th grade), Boston Mayor Kevin White, Mrs. Gardner, Dallos Perry (8th grade), Thomas Johnson. (February 4, 1971)

Last week, while looking through photos at my mother’s house, I found this rare gem. A picture from 50 years ago!

Since my father’s passing in 2018, it’s especially nice to find “new to me” old photos of him. And this one is for the history books. He’s with then Boston Mayor Kevin White.

I’m not sure exactly what the occasion was for this photograph, but it must have had something to do with his work as a Boston school teacher. He taught in the Boston Public School system for more than 20 years. Writing found on the back of the picture gives the names and date.

The timing of finding this picture seems especially poignant. Sometimes it feels like overall not much changes in the world. But it does. Step by step.

The week that I found this picture, showing one of Boston’s most influential mayors from last century, Kim Janey made history as the city’s first woman and first Black mayor of Boston. Janey is the 55th mayor and White was the 51st.

And the way it happened was completely unexpected! I remember being so excited when Michelle Wu decided to run for mayor back in September. Then just weeks later, Andrea Campbell put her hat in the mayoral ring. Boston could have a woman of color as mayor!

Then several others decided to run and there’s been speculation about even more. With so many people, it wasn’t as exciting anymore and I was over it. After all, I don’t even live in Boston, so I wouldn’t actually be voting.

But then, out of the blue, President Biden tapped Mayor Walsh for Secretary of Labor. Suddenly, we have a Black woman becoming mayor during Women’s History Month. And the mayoral election had nothing to do with it. Plot twist!

When the time is right, change happens in ways we can never imagine. Like the way the first woman mayor in the United States was elected back in 1887. It was supposed to be a cruel joke — only Susanna Madora Salter won.

My father loved politics and was quite the conversationalist. When a major event happens, I always wonder about conversations we would have had. Which makes me think even more about this picture.

Since the opportunity presented itself, I’m sure my father must have said something to Mayor White. I can only imagine. But on that day back in 1971, Mayor White got the chance to have a conversation with Thomas Johnson. Which is something that I now miss everyday of my life.

When Life Gives You Lemons

I’m about to go off on the lemons to lemonade metaphor, so buckle up.

This is my first post in almost a month and a half. My last post was about the passing of my cousin and trying to come to grips with his being gone. What that meant to me and my family.

Then two weeks later my mother had a stroke. Luckily she survived and is recovering. But talk about shaking up my world. And we’re still in a pandemic! Freaking sour lemons!

When things are bad, they can get worse. Then sink to the depths of what seems to be the absolute worst, then plunge off a bridge. Then plummet straight down to….  Okay. You get it.

I believe that energetically things must balance out eventually. So I’m looking forward to the joyous and carefree times that absolutely positively must be ahead.

Which brings me back to lemons. You know? Lemons get a bad rap. Sure, they’re sour. But they also bring out the taste in so many foods. They aren’t just for lemonade. And it’s not only the juice that we use. Lemon zest adds a different type of flavor than the juice. You can candy the peels. The juice and zest can be used in sweet and savory recipes.

What would food be without lemons? Bland. Because we need the sour to notice the sweet. Without one, we can’t truly appreciate the other.

When I started reaching out to family and friends telling them about my mom, so many have stepped up to help. It feels good knowing people are truly here for me. I actually feel more supported than I have in a long time. Maybe they were always ready to help, but I just didn’t notice.

While scrolling on Instagram a few weeks ago, I noticed that someone had an orange plant grown from seeds. I didn’t have oranges, but I had lemons.

Since they’re both citrus and have seeds, I figured maybe I could grow a lemon plant. I’m plant obsessed and growing from seeds is the cheapest way to get new ones. Plus you get the joy of nurturing the plant from day one. Like a true plant parent!

So I squeezed some lemons. But this time I kept the seeds and planted them. Not all of them sprouted, but I have two very strong looking seedlings.

I kid you not. The day the first one sprouted I had asked the universe to show me some joy. It wasn’t big huge joy. But it was still joy. And showed proof of life. I’ll take it.

Rest In Peace Marshall Johnson

My paternal cousin Marshall Johnson died this past week. It was way too soon. He was way too young. This picture, from much happier days, shows him with his mother at our cousin’s wedding.

He’s with his mom again now and his father. Along with many aunts and uncles, including my father. And some other cousins who died even younger.

When my father died and my mom and I went to the hospital right after, Marshall was there with us. He was there for all of us in my immediate family many times before and many times after. How do I describe such a big presence?

It’s Valentine’s Day, so maybe the best way to talk about him starts there. With love. The day usually focuses on romantic love, but it’s also about love for family and friends. Marshall had a big heart.

He was always one for big celebrations with family and friends. The bigger the celebration the better. He was someone who extended himself to his immediate family, extended family, friends and co-workers. But he wouldn’t stop there. Then he’d also welcome the family, extended family and friends of the first group!

I mean he would go big with invitations and bring everyone into the fold. There would be lots of food, music and an atmosphere of fun and joy. Big gatherings were his thing – backyard barbecues, picnics at a Boston area parks, Super Bowl parties, birthday parties. All kinds of parties. He loved to party!

I have to admit, as an introvert, sometimes the sheer number of people that could be anticipated would be overwhelming to me. I attended many of the gatherings, but not all of them.

Something that I learned and especially appreciated about him over more recent years was that he would truly see and celebrate you as an individual. It didn’t always have to be a big event.

When I got a food writing gig with WGBH, I was so excited! And so was Marshall! He was genuinely happy for me and wanted to celebrate my win by treating me to dinner. I chose Myers + Chang and we had a lovely time.

I thought there would be more time with him. It’s a small circle of people who’ll celebrate your wins and be there at times of extreme loss too. My father was one. Marshall was one. My heart hurts losing both of them so recently. It’s hard to process it all. Writing through it is a start.

Marshall had a lot of extreme health challenges over the last several years. But he beat so many and came back. He was so strong. His most recent health struggles were just too much. I hope he is at peace now. He can finally rest.

I hope he knows how much he will be missed and how much he was loved.

The Chowdah Project: McMenamy Seafood

McMenamy Seafood clam chowder

The wind was whipping hard today in Massachusetts! Those warmer days we had in December have slipped away for the moment and it feels as it should on a January day in New England.

When it’s biting cold out, my mind finds its way to clam chowder. Today, so did the rest of me!

We don’t have Sunday dinners anymore because of the pandemic, but every other week or so, I get take-out from McMenamy Seafood in Brockton and bring it to my brother and my mom. Usually they both want a clam strip plate.

Most of the time I don’t get anything for myself, but today I decided on clam chowder. They also have fish chowder and seafood chowder. All chowders are available in a small size (Dory) and a larger size (Schooner)

Since the chowder was my lunch and dinner, I got the Schooner. It was really good! I wish the portion was bigger though, because I downed the whole thing pretty quickly. I was hoping for some leftovers. Next time maybe I’ll order two types of chowders.

The clam chowder was on point. While a tad bit salty, I still enjoyed it. It was the right consistency too. Just creamy enough, without being too thin or thick, with nice chunks of potatoes and clams.

The restaurant has a drive-up window, so you don’t have to get out of your car to get your food. Which is alright with me during this cold snap.

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McMenamy Seafood ~ Fresh Homemade Chowders
Location: 810 Belmont Street (Route 123), Brockton, MA