The Reunion Project

The Reunion Project

With only days left of 2020, I’m certainly happy to see it end. But there were some bright spots during the year too. At the end of January, my mother turned 80 years old. We gathered with extended family and had a nice dinner at a favorite restaurant. It was the last family gathering before the pandemic, so I’m especially grateful that we were able to celebrate.

Turning 80 is a big deal for anyone. But it was an even bigger milestone for her, because she is a breast cancer survivor of nearly 35 years. Things could have gone very differently. I’m so glad to still have her.

As January turned to February and March, it was clear that this year would require a great deal of isolation. But luckily, my mother became part of The Reunion Project through her involvement with the Bridgewater Senior Center. The project was created by Lora Brody, who is an Affiliated Scholar at the Women’s Study Research Center at Brandeis University. Since I went to Brandeis for undergrad, it was quite a coincidence when they met and discovered the shared connection!

My mom is a very enthusiastic person and dove into the project full steam ahead. Based on questions given to her, she wrote about her experiences and thoughts about life from when she was very young compared to what she knows now as an elder. She was interviewed by a college student and then had her portrait taken by Lora.

Preparation took months, so by the time she was interviewed and sitting for her portrait, the weather was warm and they were able to meet socially distanced outside.

The exhibit took place outside on Bridgewater Common for the month of November. When I visited, it was so interesting seeing the pictures of all the participants from when they were young and their portraits now. The answers that people gave showed the joys and hardships in life that we all face, but then there were many differences in perspective too.

The Enterprise wrote an extensive article about the exhibit. They photographed and interviewed my mom too! I’m so proud of her!

2020, you weren’t all bad. But I’m looking forward to 2021!

Quote of the Week: John Adams

“Posterity!
You will never know, how much it cost the present generation, to preserve your freedom!
I hope you will make a good use of it.
If you do not, I shall repent in heaven, that I ever took half the pains to preserve it.”

~ John Adams

Thinking about the presidential election has occupied way too much of my thoughts. Especially over the last couple of months. And the last couple of weeks. But how can I not think about it?

At the end of September, I visited Peacefield, which is part of the national park system and the historic home of John Adams and John Quincy Adams. It’s not even a ten minute drive from my house, so one day when I was feeling especially distressed, I decided to visit the garden. I walked around and then sat for a bit. Looking at the old house.

And then I prayed. Prayed to the spirits of those presidents to protect this country and keep our democracy. When John Adams spoke of posterity in the quote above, I took it personally. Posterity included me and he was thinking about me and the people in this time.

If these former presidents had any kind of pull with the election, I figured that going to their former home might be enough to get my prayers over to the other side. Autumn is said to be the time when the veil between life and death is thinnest, so I might as well take advantage of the season.

I looked at the magnificent tree in the garden and wondered about all that it has lived through. How long had it been there? Did its roots begin back when these presidents were alive? Did they sit and admire it too?

Joe Biden won the election, but our current president is doing everything to prevent a peaceful transfer of power. He has no respect for democracy. He has no respect for anything. I fear for our nation.

It’s been about three weeks since I last blogged, which is far less than normal. I’ve been waiting for something definitive to write about and to feel less stress about the democratic process. But the stress is still here. When I’m upset, sometimes I stop writing. But that’s the time that I need to write even more.

So I’m writing. But like with the pandemic, we are stuck in the in between. Waiting for the inauguration in January when Biden’s presidency will be real. Waiting for the vaccine, so we can start a new normal way of life without the virus. Just waiting.

Until then, I’ll write for the future. One day, months or years from now, I’ll look back at this post and feel grateful that this period in time is over and our country is still standing. And hopefully John Adams does not regret the pains he took.

Snow Season Begins

first snow of the season

Unbelievable. The day before Halloween and we’ve already had a real snowfall. More than three inches in the Boston area! There are still colorful leaves on the trees! I’m not a fan of winter or snow. But there’s no fighting Mother Nature, so all we can do is settle in and accept the change in season.

Daylight Savings Time ends tomorrow and we turn the clocks back. Now it will be dark at 5pm. These colder months are the season for turning inward and reflecting, while we stay indoors more as well.

For me, appreciating the change in season is a deliberate practice that I’ve cultivated over the past couple of years. Over a year, I noted what was special about each month. Because each month has its merits. Without winter, we can’t get to spring and summer. Below is part of what I wrote about October.

A cup of hot tea.

Looking out a window at the sky.

The sparks and crackle of an outdoor fire

that warms your hands

and smoke that smells like memories.

An Apple Found Poem

apples inspired a found poem

Last weekend, some friends and I went for a walk around Franklin Park. This park is Boston’s largest open space and the crown jewel of Frederick Law Olmsted‘s Emerald Necklace.

It was a beautiful day and October’s colors were in full effect. One of my friend’s co-workers recently bought a home and was surprised to find that she has an apple orchard. Can you imagine? A surprise apple orchard!

Because now she has too many apples, she’s giving them away to everyone she knows. My friend took some and I was lucky enough to leave our walk with dozens of apples. I stewed some with ground cinnamon, ginger and a touch of honey. I still have about a dozen left and not yet sure what I’ll do with them. Maybe make another Dutch baby? An apple crisp?

In any event, these gorgeous beauties inspired me to write a found poem. Back in 2010, on the first iteration of this blog, I discovered found poetry. I’m forever hooked! I love poetry and writing found poetry is easier than starting from scratch. It’s fun too. Like a word game!

To write a found poem, find some text – a book, magazine article, blog post, etc. As you read it, pull out words to create your poem. Ta da! You wrote a poem.

Below is the found poem I wrote using the article 5 Health Benefits of an Apple from EatingWell.

An Apple Found Poem

Doctor away!

Truth.

Apple-licious ways.

Flesh and skin.

Cooked and baked.

Fresh.

2 apples.

8 weeks.

You benefit.

Reduced risk.

Thanks.

You guessed it – apples.

Slices satisfied people.

Applesauce, apple juice.

Granny Smith, McIntosh, Golden Delicious.

Tops among fruits.

Don’t toss the peel.

Found.

The Best Of New England

New England scene showing pumpkins and a field with haystacks

My mom and I recently went to a farm stand. It was so perfectly New England in late summer moving into fall. The pumpkins, stacks of hay, freshly picked vegetables and fruits remind me of the beauty in Massachusetts.

Given the levels of trauma and sadness happening in this country on a daily basis, any degree of serenity and peace I can find is a much needed gift. So with this roundup post, I’m celebrating some the best of things in New England.

Best Drive-In Movies

Going to drive-in movies is a thing again because of the pandemic. I remember going a few times when I was very young and having a blast. Fodor’s Travel lists ten of the best drive-in movie theaters around the country and three of them are in New England. With chilly weather here, it’s the perfect social distanced activity.

#3 Sunset Drive-In – Colchester, VT

#2 Mansfield Drive-In – Mansfield, CT

#1 Wellfleet Drive-In Theater – Wellflett, MA

Best Places To Live

As a third generation New Englander, I’m definitely biased, but there are many good things about living here. People travel here from all over the world to attend school. Whether you love ’em or hate ’em, our sports teams are some of the best. We have world class hospitals and medical care, which is especially important right now. Five places in New England made Money magazine’s list of the 50 best places to live in America.

#37  Salem, NH

#28  Chesire, CT

#26  Braintree, MA

#14  Chelmsford, MA

#12  South Windsor, CT

Best Craft Distilleries

Rhode Island Spirits, located in Pawtucket, came in third in USA Today’s list of the ten best new craft distilleries.  They sell organic and gluten free gins, vodkas and liqueurs. This reminds me of the great time I had touring a rum distillery with my father.

Best Pizza

The Daily Meal recently declared the top 101 pizza places in the United States. Several New England pizza places made the cut. Connecticut has the most places on the list of the New England states and beats the entire country with the number one spot. Mystic Pizza is arguably Connecticut’s most well-know pizzeria and the movie by the same name helped launch Julia Robert into stardom. Back in January 2019, Playbill wrote that Melissa Etheridge was working on the score to a stage adaptation of the movie. Despite the fame of the pizza shop, it’s not on the list.

#90 Micucci Grocery – Portland, ME

#86 Slab – Portland, ME

#67 Al Forno, Providence, RI

#47 BAR – New Haven, CT

#45 Zuppardi’s Apizza – West Haven, CT

#43 Colony Grill – Stamford, CT

#40 Tilton House of Pizza – Tilton, NH

#25 Galleria Umberto – Boston, MA

#16 Modern Apizza – New Haven, CT

#9 Sally’s Apizza– New Haven, CT

#7 Santarpio’s – East Boston, MA

#1 Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana – New Haven, CT

Best Scents

I can’t claim that these are the best scented candles, but I like the idea of them. The brand is called Homesick and the scents are supposed to remind you of a place.

Scent is a big thing for me, so I was thrilled when I was invited to take a smell walk in Boston. That walk focused on scent was one of the coolest things that I’ve done as a blogger.

The Boston candle is described as “Fall days spent wandering the cobblestone streets. Notes of spiced tea with clove and orange capture the City on a Hill.”

There are a few more city candles and state candles too. I think these would make a great gift. To wind up this roundup, here are the descriptions of the scents for each of the New England states.

Connecticut: “Warm-baked pies fragrant of nutmeg, clove and lemon. Eucalyptus and oakmoss evoke memories of brisk fall afternoons spent outside.”

Maine: “Reminiscent of wild Maine blueberries and lavender fields. Woody notes of cedarwood and patchouli balanced with a floral bouquet.”

Massachusetts: “Apple cider, simmering coffee, and just-baked donuts. Sweet hints of tonka bean are balanced by spicy cinnamon and a touch of fragrant clove.”

New Hampshire: “Cozy up with a cup of hot apple cider. Autumn days spent outside with views of foliage and the sweet smell of vanilla in the air.”

Rhode Island: “An afternoon on the Cliff Walk with hot apple cider and cozy sweaters to keep warm. The rolling tides carry the sweet and spicy scents of fall.”

Vermont: “Vibrant foliage covers the rolling hills of the Green Mountain State. Scents of cinnamon and apple pie blend with decadent maple syrup.”

What do you think? Do these scents represent the best of New England? And just because you might like it, here’s a cider donut locator. It doesn’t get much more New England than that.