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.

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.