Tag Archives: memories

Trips Around the Sun

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Today I applied for Medicare, and yesterday the world lost the Queen of Soul.  Two completely different events, one extremely less relevant, but necessary, and the other so relevant and sad, and so seemingly, unnecessary.  Here’s the bridge…we age, but we think about that fact in a context that explains how things happen in time, our time.  Aretha Franklin’s death makes us stop in our tracks, and remember how old we were when we heard her and fell in love with her and her music, and her grasp on telling the story of loss and love and hardship and becoming powerful, when folks were trying to silence the voices of the oppressed.  We, the baby boomers, have lived through a lot, and the music of our generation still defines us, and  the history of change.  Every generation has those power houses of music who brought us along with them.  Aretha was one of those transcendent beings.  She was on my bucket list of musicians  who I wanted to see in a live  performance.  My FHB and I had tickets for a show in Boston that she was scheduled to perform, this past June.  It was cancelled at the last minute, and now we have a clearer understanding of how illness takes the best laid plans.

The clock is ticking much louder today.  The mundane mandate that suggests (or be penalized) that three months or less prior to my 65th birthday, I must apply for Medicare, even if retirement is not in the forefront of my thinking.  It is a reminder that, at some point, in the future, it will be.  In my head, I remain a teenager at times, a 34 year old mother of two, a newlywed twice, a mother-in-law twice, and a grandmother twice, all in the same head.  It gets busy in there.  Hard to fathom, but yet, reality bellows…” YOU ARE GETTING OLDER”.  We go through a lot of gains in life and then there are the losses.  We consider the people who aren’t with us, and they then remain fixed at the age they died, in our memories.  We are grateful to have those memories, and then we hope that we grow older to make new memories.

Our loft  was filled with music today.  We watched and listened to hold those sounds in our hearts.  I teared up and remembered.  She was a force of nature, that Queen of Soul.  Thank you Aretha for who you are and for showing us the way.  Your voice and music are immortal.  Peace to you and love to your family for allowing us to  sharing you, and your fierce musical passion  with the world.  It is a big deal and so are you.   .

 

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The Maine Road

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So, in about 168 hours,  we will be sitting in a little cottage on a lake.  There will be mosquitos and no wifi.  Last year we saw the fjords of Norway.  This summer, we will see the sights of Skowhegan, Maine.  We will visit places with names like The Broken Hag and the Good Karma Farm.  We might see Bruce the llama.  We will take a tour of the Stanley Museum to be wowed by the inventions that the Stanley brothers created.  We will visit the towns of Unity, Freedom and Liberty.  We will be on vacation. We will do a lot of nothing which is something we don’t usually get to do.  We will eat vegan in Skowhegan.  We will buy the best bagels in Maine in L.A. (the other L.A., Lewiston-Auburn).  We will have time to hear our thoughts.

Do I seem pumped to hit the road?  You betcha.  I want to travel the back roads and country roads.  I want to stop and greet cows….I alway stop and say “Hi Ladies” when I see cows.  My FHB will be on the lookout for moose, which is not dissimilar to Waiting for Godot.  No Godot, no moose.  The meaning of life, and yet we meander on and on.  My FHB has fond memories of childhood trips to Skowhegan.  It was inhabited by the Akanaki indiginous people who named it for “watching the fish”. He will be hoping for a few bites on his fishing pole, and maybe there will be a couple of teases or tugs and maybe this time, a fish and not just a fish story.

Skowhegan has a history much like many of the towns of New England, battles and conflict, forts and more battles, the industrial revolution and a town that was and probably still is a place where people worked hard to make a living.  One of my FHB’s memories was going to “Shirley and Walter’s” which was a restaurant that served “very American food”.  Apparently, according to my sources, Shirley and Walter divorced and there went the restaurant.  I think it will be nice to see where it used to be….or not.  Seems like at this point in our travels, we see or try to see a lot of places that used to be, that we remember from travels with our families.  Nostalgia will be sitting in the backseat, reminding us of “remember when and where”.

My family spent a lot of time traversing the roads of Maine.  We crossed the border from Canada (when it was easier) at Jackman.  We rode through the 45th parallel in Rangeley.  My father would point out the Echo satellite as it moved across the sky.  Then we would head to the coast, to Acadia National Park and to Blue Hill and stand on the jagged rocks and look across to Paris.  Then I found out that Maine was filled with places named Norway, Peru, Paris, Carthage and Bath as an homage to places I hadn’t yet travelled to but hoped to see one day.

When we travel to Maine, we often talk about our respective summer vacations with our families.  Sweet memories and we wonder, in our conversations of past moments in the remote and touristy places, whether a dark haired boy ever saw a short dirty blonde haired  girl and maybe even held a door, or got in a car and  perhaps looked through the window at one another.  Maine is our destination, but maybe it was our destiny, long, long ago.

Picture This

 

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Remember the ad that Kodak ran, “the moments of our lives”?  Kodak left for a while, but then turned around, came back, and took another picture of itself, this time digitalized.  And so we all became part of the world of personal photographers who chronical our “moments” for posterity, in perpetuity, forever, in “The Cloud”, wherever that really is.  We point and click, and download and upload.  There is no end to what we can take a picture of from a piece of clothing we want our friend to comment on “should I buy it?” to a street sign that captures something funny, to our children, grandchildren, or the license plate of the person who took our parking space, intentionally.   

There are the posed pictures, the imposed pictures “Smile!  Dammit!” as well as the unintentional pictures of our thumbs and the floor.  I have quite a few of those which I look at for any artistic merit before I put them in the little trash pail icon on my phone.  In my imagination, I envision a cartoon which has the Statue of Liberty surrounded by a mass of people whose faces we cannot see because instead they have a cell phone “photoshopped”  where their faces would be.  We are our iPhones/cameras.  We see through a lens,not just metaphorically, but through the viewfinders of our phones.  

The last significant scenic vacation that my FHB and I travelled was to Norway and Denmark.  The first several days of travel, I chronicled the trip through video and iPhone.  In order to actually get a sense of what I was seeing, I had to remember it via the video and still pictures.  Somehow that seemed wrong.  I felt that I didn’t actually “see” anything.  I didn’t feel the expanse of the mountains or glaciers.  I didn’t get the magnitude of the beauty of Bergen and the fjords because I was not memorializing the pictures in my mind, but rather on my phone.  

Technology is amazing and it has so many tools that we benefit by having access to.  Yet it does not replace our interactions with nature or people, up close and personal, and especially face to face.  I’ve put down the camera at times when I want to take a picture in my mind, and be part of the moment, in the moment.  A picture may be worth a thousand words, and yet some of those words are worth hearing as the person looks at you,  faces you,  and sees your response to something they say.  Something clicks inside us and we don’t need a button to see it.

Becoming Them

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At a certain point you come to the realization that your behaviors and traits are creepily familiar and then you realize….cue the organ music…you have become THEM!  Yes, we are, at times, much like our parents.  The genetic matter is usual obvious in our appearance.  I was mostly told that I resembled the paternal side of his maternal side of my father’s side of the family.  Of course, my mother remarked that I was very much like her mother and had similar behaviors.  To me it was a crap shoot.  I decided long ago that I didn’t want to be like anyone else. I wanted to be myself, my own person.  There were things my mother would do that my sister and I found completely annoying.  We would remark to one another “there she goes again” and silently promise one another that if we ever behaved like that, the other one would have to kill us.

For several years my sister took pleasure in finding birthday cards that essentially said  “Happy Birthday.  Another year closer to looking like mom!”.   We would laugh out loud but silently I knew that although I didn’t look like her, I was beginning to act like her and him.  I started with my father’s puns.  They were awful.  Mine are pretty bad.  He would laugh at his own clever jokes and puns.  Whereas he got the gold, I only achieve the silver…but give me time.  His words would become my words and slowly I would give him the credit, long after he had died and start many stories or sayings by remarking “as my father would often say”.  I will say things like “tomorrow is already today” and comment on the “haves and the have nots”.  My father was an almost PhD in economics and quoted Malthus and his theory of population.  I realize that I listened to his commentary on economics and slowly embedded it into my understanding.

My father found joy in small things like nature and music and perhaps that is part of my inheritance.  My FHB and I took a ride to Cape Cod yesterday because although it was quite cold, it was sunny and bright.  I drove and turned to him and said “I have a million things to do at home and yet this is what I want to do”.  I felt my father looking over my shoulder and telling me not to drive so fast.

My mother has much more insidiously “invaded ”  my days.  She baked for the world.  She showed her caring through cards and brownies.  She remember things that people might have told her once.  She crocheted baby blankets as much for the new babies as for herself.  It made her believe that she would be remembered for a long time.  She never said those words, but it is my thought when I crochet a blanket.  She could be silly and embarrassing.  I am silly and embarrassing.  She liked her alone time. I write at night alone with my thoughts.

They were not perfect but perfect for one another.  My FHB told me shortly after his mother passed away that he made a conscious effort to remember those moments about his mother that were positive.  He knew that she was difficult, but also knew that she cared about him, in her way.  My parents and I did not always agree on how to do things. They had a lot of shoulds and oughts.  I certainly have those threads but try hard to  be aware that in parenting, I need to let things happen organically and allow my children to find their way.  At times, while growing up, I felt that I could not or perhaps would not meet their expectations.  They were stubborn.  I am stubborn.  They are with me every day.  I can’t avoid a memory.  I am their child.

Would that we could…

IMG_0680go back to the day before yesterday.  Would that we could go back to September 10th, 2001.  For some it would be going back to December 6th, 1941.  Some days I look at the sky and it is cloudless and such a beautiful blue.  I say to myself almost automatically, “It’s a September 11th sky”.  For those who lived on the east coast that day, you probably know what I mean.  We stop in our memories to memoralize those moments that all of a sudden matter in a way that is somewhat unconventional, except that now we have more of them and we don’t want them ever to be the way it is, and that we become complacent to the horrors of these days.  I will not catapult one person to infamy by acknowledging him except in the context of those whose lives were taken or mangled at someone’s hands.  I will honor those who showed the best part of humanity in offering assistance in so many ways.  I will be sad with those who lost friends and family.  I will remember this day among the others that now are tatooed on my mind.  A day that might be someone’s birthday is now clouded by a day that makes us stop and take pause. Celebrations seem trite when shared with days of mourning and remembrance.

 

Our world is inside out. How do we help one another turn it back to a time when we didn’t have to be so vigilant and that when we saw someone we don’t know, we could still smile and not worry about their intentions.  More questions…few answers.

The picture above was taken on December 12, 2015.  Frank Sinatra would have been 100.  My FHB and I were in Nantucket.  It was a beautiful warm September 11th sky day.  This has to stop. We are collectively better than this.  We can do it, we must do it.

Singing along with Mahler

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There is something exhilarating about opening nights.  The New Bedford Symphony Orchestra began it’s 2017-18 season this past Saturday evening.  My FHB and I decided this past summer to do something which somewhat followed in the footsteps of my parents.  We became season subscribers to the symphony.  My parents had tickets to the New York Philharmonic for many years.  Like season ticket holders to the Red Sox, after a period of time you get the opportunity to get the better seats and you become part of an elite membership with a common passion for music, or for baseball, sometimes both.

The symphony welcomed a new conductor who brings energy and creativity and marks his territory for the future of the orchestra.  He started with a contemporary piece which was whimsical and surprising.  The second selection was by Leonard Bernstein and listening to it revealed other pieces I was more familiar with that were his signature works.  We had seats that gave us a full view of the orchestra and although my mind wanders and relaxes in a certainly mental harmony, I was very present in the venue.  My FHB took in the music with his eyes shut.  We both moved to the rhythm of the pieces.

After the intermission, the full orchestra began to play what I quickly realized was a piece I knew and heard repeatedly, if not weekly, growing up.  I never was particularly good at remembering which symphony was what number , or whether it was Mozart or Beethoven or Mahler.  I did not inherit my father’s almost savant ability to know a classical piece after a few notes.  It often bordered on obnoxious as he would then reveal the orchestra and conductor,  and his accuracy was remarkable.  Mahler was one of the composers he always taught us (my sister and me) would become someone who would “grow” on us.  He could talk of the composer’s development over time from early pieces to later ones.  As soon as the first minutes of Mahler’s 1st Symphony was played, I realized that I could hum each movement because it was imbedded in my memory after hearing it over and over, and over again.  It was like coming home.  I could not stop smiling as each note was played with precision and clarity.  It was just beautiful and such a gift.  It evoked memories of many moments of learning about classical music with my father as my teacher.

My sister has a memory for lyrics as did my mother,  and my youngest son is able to know composers, much like my father.  My older son knows classical music from his familiarity with it being played in movies and cartoons.  MY FHB knows who sang what song from the oldies (and he is more oldie than I am).  My musical acumen is in the area of knowing where I heard a song and being able to hum along, whether it is rock, pop or classical.  I don’t know who wrote it, or who sang it or what movie it was from.  The opening of the symphony found an opening in my mind and heart.  I don’t think anyone around us heard me hum along with Mahler, except perhaps my father who might have been sitting in what appeared to be an empty seat right next to me.  At least I would like to imagine he was there.

 

Memories of a Patriot

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Summer Vacation….day 11.  I have about another hundred pages to finish Moby Dick.  So far so good.  Lot of details that should I ever have the opportunity to row in a whaleboat, I will be pretty well versed in the responsibilities and strategies.  Don’t laugh, we have three of the world’s last actual  authentic Azorean whaleboats in New Bedford.  People go and row them. I could be on that waiting list.  Perhaps that will be on my list of things to do next summer.

It is the 4th  of July eve, and the neighbors downstairs are rocking the house.  Outside the windows are streams of fireworks over houses and rockets whistling through the air.  Paka the cat is standing sentry at the window should an errant rocket whisk by.  My FHB is fast asleep, unfettered by the noise of the neighbors or the lights and explosions in the distant skies.

Two memories to share, one sixty years old and the other fifteen years ago.  One involves my three year old self and my mother, and the more recent one was also shared by the two of us, both on the 4th of July.  Many, many years ago my parents took me to visit family in New Jersey.  We were there for a barbeque and to see the fireworks.  I actually do have pretty clear memories of being in a field near an elementary school while the fireworks were launched overhead.  I also remember the abject fear that I experienced at the sounds and the worry that the flashes would come down and hurt me.  I also recall being scooped up by mother and brought inside the school building safe from the fireworks. We stood at the door, her arms around my shoulders, and my leaning against her feeling safe from harm.  The July of 2002, after the September of 2001, my mother came to Massachusetts to celebrate my nephew’s birthday on the 3rd and on the 4th I took her to the Esplanade in Boston to hear the Boston Pops.  My mother was a huge fan and her excitement at finally being part of something she only watched on television was infectious. She smiled at everyone and we had to walk through quite a few police barricades to find ourselves a seat.  It was an especially poignant celebration after 9/11 and it seemed as though everyone on both sides of the Charles River recognized that we were all still here, together in celebration of our country’s birthday.  Several jumbotrons were set up along the river for those who were not close to the Hatch Shell to be able to see Keith Lockhart conduct the Pops and  made it possible to hear the music through the sound system.  There was a flyover from the base nearby as part of the celebration.  My mother was awestruck and she grinned so broadly.  There was a childlike delight in her expression.  People brought chairs and sat on the lawns.  We found a spot to sit, on the steps of the MIT library.  My mother chuckled loudly as she stated in her most “refined” tone….” I am going to tell people that my ass went to MIT!”  People around us roared at her pronouncement.  I had long ago given up being embarrassed at her sometimes inappropriate yet effusive comments.

The music was spectacular and as the sun began to set the fireworks were launched and once again, we shared this particular celebration of history and patriotism.  My mother was a fervent patriot.  She would fight and did fight for the right to be a citizen of the United States. She did not take her allegiance lightly.  As I sat close to her and put my arm around her shoulders and we looked skyward, it seemed like it was, in that moment, all right with the world.

Happy 4th of July, America!