Celebrating First Lady Abigail Adams

Abigail Adams Statue

Maybe it’s because I live in Quincy. The one in Massachusetts, that is. Or because I feel a strong sense of history. Possibly both.

Whatever the reason, whenever there is an election where democracy hangs in the balance, which seems to be every election now; I find myself making a pilgrimage of sorts to places dedicated to the Adams family. One “d” not two! The presidential family, not the fictional funny/creepy one.

Anyway, soon after the 2020 election, we Americans, and probably most of the world, wondered if there would be be a peaceful transfer of power. To calm my nerves, I wandered around the garden at Peacefield. I sat and looked at the most magnificent tree. I thought about the depth of the tree’s roots and the depth of our democracy. Immersed myself into the feel of that place and called on the spirits of this old Quincy family to help democracy hold. Because if anything was important to former presidents John Adams and John Quincy Adams, it was democracy and this lovely place where they lived.

Because of January 6th, there was not a peaceful transfer of power. However, there was a transfer of power. And thankfully we were spared from another term of the one whose name I don’t want to write.

And here we are again. It’s Saturday, November 12th. The midterm election was only this past Tuesday, but it feels like it was weeks or months ago. Partly because Twitter’s new owner is causing complete chaos. Vote counts continue, so we still don’t know who will control the House or Senate.

Abigail Adams statue and memorial park in Quincy, Massachusetts.

Close up of Abigail Adams statute showing her hand holding a letter.

Last Saturday, the city of Quincy recognized another member of the Adams family with a new statue. This time it was finally for a woman! The magnificent Abigail Adams! Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to attend the ceremony that day. According to an article in The Patriot Ledger, the sculptor, Sergey Eylanbekov, also created the nearby John Adams and John Hancock statutes. His work is beautiful.

To vote for this election, I had my ballot mailed to me and on Monday, I dropped it off at Quincy City Hall. The new memorial is right across the street, so I walked by it. While I was there, several other people stopped to look and take pictures. Again, I called on Abigail’s spirit (and the rest of her family!) to help democracy hold, because it’s still faltering.

A couple of years ago, here in the United States, society was toppling, tearing down, removing, renaming and sometimes defacing statues. Most with good reason in my opinion. It’s nice to see someone remembered who was by most, if not all, accounts a kind person, intelligent and forward looking.

Some quick research shows that there may be some disagreement on the day she was born. Most places, including the National Park Service, give the date of November 11, 1744. However other places, including part of the memorial pictured below, give the date of November 22, 1744. The White House just gives the year. Either way, it’s around that time now, so either early or belated 278th birthday Abigail Adams!

Quote by Abigail Adams in letter to John Adams to remember the ladies.

She was our nation’s second first lady, the mother of the sixth president, against slavery and wanted better treatment for women.

One of her most famous quotes, from a letter dated March 31, 1776, to her husband, was memorialized in the picture above. But it’s not the original spelling or the full text as written by Abigail. The Massachusetts Historical Society has archives of her letters and they are available on the website. Below is more from the letter with the original spelling.

“I long to hear that you have declared an independency — and by the way in the new Code of Laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make I desire you would Remember the Ladies, and be more generous and favourable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the Husbands. Remember all Men would be tyrants if they could. If perticuliar care and attention is not paid to the Laidies we are determined to foment a Rebelion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any Laws in which we have no voice, or Representation.”

Abigail Adams was right. We women did have to rebel and did not hold ourselves bound by laws not giving us a voice or representation. Otherwise we would never have gotten the right to vote or the right to own property.

Credit cards were created in 1958, but only for men. Women couldn’t open a credit card in their own names until 1974! We would have never had reproductive choice without rebellion. And we are still fighting. Sometimes the same fight over and over again.

The constitutional right to an abortion was only decided in 1973 and we lost that right just this year. The more things change, the more they stay the same. But just like Abigail, we women have to adjust to our current circumstances so we can survive. Then fight and keep looking to the future.

The Rituals of Others

school bus ritual

How often do we think about the small tasks in our daily life? Each day may feel like we’re on autopilot unless we take a step back and try to see our lives from a different perspective. Those things that we do each day without thinking are little rituals, though we may not usually see them as such.

Because I’m between work projects right now, I’m able to catch up on some things at home and help out my mom a bit more during the week. My schedule isn’t the norm, so I’m seeing different people at different times and in different places. It’s been exactly one year since moving to this apartment building. How time flies! But I’m still noticing new things about it.

Last week, maybe around 2pm, I exited the elevator and was on my way out of the building. I noticed several women just sitting or standing in the lobby area. It seemed odd. I wondered why they were all there. A few were speaking to each other, but others were alone and on their phones or silent. When I drove my car out of the garage, I noticed a school bus pull up to the building and all the kids got out. Then I saw some of the women walking down the stairs to meet the kids.

Oh, this is a mom thing, I suddenly realized! This must be an everyday ritual getting the kids from the school bus. Since I’m not a mom, this is not a ritual that I’m familiar with.

It also must be a generational thing. When I was a kid my mom didn’t meet me at the bus. When I was in elementary school and junior high, I walked to school and back, either alone or with a friend. From what I recall, no parents were waiting for us outside. Kids whose parents worked didn’t even have parents waiting for them inside! When I was older and we lived further away from the school, I did take a bus, but I still walked from the bus by myself. No parent waiting!

Soon after this realization, when I was driving to my mom’s house, I noticed a women sitting cross-legged on the grass in front of a house. Another woman further down the street was outside her house milling about on the lawn. I noticed similar scenes over and over at most of the houses up and down the streets. All these moms were waiting for their kids to be dropped off. It’s a big thing!

It was so interesting realizing that what’s such a big ritual for all these families is not a thing for me. And for other non-moms like me. There are certain parts of our daily lives, these rituals that we take for granted that are just not a part of other people’s lives. I noticed this again while watching a couple of new to me YouTubers.

Depending on where you live, earthquakes can be a big part of daily life, so you take precautions and it’s part of your mindset. Hayao is a new young father and husband living in Japan who does it all – cooking, baking, building, planting and more. When he was improving some shelves that he built, he added an extra support in the event of a big earthquake. I realized that if you live in Japan, you definitely would think about earthquakes. According to an earthquake tracking website that I found, Japan has an earthquake almost everyday. Sometimes several a day.

Another YouTuber named Mamiko is a Japanese woman living in Paris with her husband and two cats. They enjoy meeting new people, going to markets and all sorts of places, eating, cooking, and generally living the good life. Their vlog is called GOROGORO KITCHEN. Her husband, Tsu-san, films the videos and they have the most wonderful rapport and humor. She is fluent in Japanese, French and English. Seeing her quickly switch between all of them is amazing! Needless to say, I’m quite a fan.

Watching a video today, they were visiting a shop where bottles were placed high up on shelves. She noted that putting things up like that signals living in an earthquake-free country. Because if there were an earthquake, things could fall on your head!

Living in New England, my daily habits and rituals have never taken earthquakes into account! The more you know. ⭐⭐⭐

Putting the Phone Down & Talking to Strangers

phone down on table

How often do you put your phone down? Stop scrolling or even turn it all the way off?

No judgement here. I’m usually holding my phone and maybe scrolling through Twitter or Instagram. It might be on my lap or on a table near me. As I write this, it’s just to the left of my keyboard. Not that I’m usually expecting a bunch of calls or texts.

Well, actually I take that back. I’m in the process of helping my mom sell her house and there are two showings today. It seems that whenever I accidentally leave my phone in another room, I miss a call.

But usually, it wouldn’t hurt to put the phone down or away. Lots of people take social media breaks or at least claim to. I always find it amusing when people announce on social media that they’re taking a break, then check-in during their breaks. Is it to create drama and suspense? Maybe they’re truly addicted to social media? I don’t get it.

Anyway, like so many days in this season of my life, yesterday, I brought my mom to a doctor’s appointment. As we were sitting down, a woman in the waiting area said, “Hello ladies!” with smiling eyes above her mask and a very friendly voice. She seemed so happy to see us! I think we said, “Hi,” back to her and I hope our eyes were smiling too.

My mom mentioned to me that her phone was acting strangely and when she was reading a news story it would just go away. I said that maybe it was just refreshing the feed. Then my mom went in to see the doctor while I remained in the waiting area.

The woman with smiling eyes was on her phone talking with someone, then she went up to the front desk to answer some questions. In very fluent English, I overheard her say that her first language was Portuguese. When she went back to talking on her phone, I did notice that it sounded like she was speaking in Portuguese. I was scrolling on my phone the whole time.

Then she got off her phone and mentioned to me that she had overheard me and my mom talking. She said that my mom might need to restart her phone. I had forgotten that maybe there could be a glitch needing that. I thanked her. Then another woman came in and sat down. She said to me that my earring was stuck behind my mask so I fixed it. I thanked her.

Then we all started chatting about how people need to tell people if something is wrong like that. I mentioned how I had a friend that we would always tell each other if we had lipstick on our teeth. Then I mentioned that I don’t really wear lipstick anymore because of masks. My red lipstick used to be part of my signature look. We all lamented my pandemic loss of lipstick.

Then smiling eyes mentioned that she saw a woman whose skirt was all up in the back once and she told her. We agreed that we need people to tell us when something is wrong even if it’s an embarrassing situation. It’s worse not knowing when something is wrong.

Then smiling eyes said that her kids are always on their phones. Even when they are at parties. Kids will text each other, but not talk. We all said how that’s horrible, but I admitted to always being on my phone too. Every few minutes I’d go back to looking at my phone, then we’d start chatting again and I’d put it down.

Smiling eyes mentioned that it was her first time going to this doctor and she was nervous. She has diabetes and needs to get it under control, but hates needles and doesn’t test like she should. “When it’s my time, it’s my time,” she said.

She reminded me of my cousin who used to always say that too. And he meant it. He lived a full and very good life. But he died a needlessly painful and early death last year. It’s still hard to believe that he’s gone. But nobody can change someone else’s life philosophy. They will do what they want to do and can’t be forced to do otherwise.

Smiling eyes looked like she might be in her 40s. She had some lines around her eyes. I thought about mentioning my cousin and what happened to him. But I didn’t. I just listened. The doctor called her into the office and I wished her good luck. Later in the day, I remembered her and restarted my mom’s phone. Then I silently wished her well.