Today is the fourth anniversary of my mother’s death.
As often happens with these dates, sometimes it seems that it couldn’t have been that long and other times it seems longer ago. This warping of time is even more prominent because of the pandemic. I remain grateful that my mother died before we were all faced with the impossible prospect of not being able to visit her in the nursing home where she spent her final months. That would have been a particularly heavy burden for my father, with whom she had celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary a few weeks before she died.
This year feels especially poignant for me as I await the publication of my first chapbook of poetry, Hearts, from Kelsay Books, most likely in June or July. The poems center on my mother with a particular emphasis on her last years dealing with heart failure. She appreciated my writing and I think she would be pleased to know she is the focus of my first book.
She didn’t enjoy having her picture taken, so I will share a photo, taken four years ago in her final days, of one of her favorite flowers, lily-of-the-valley, which was also her birth flower.
Love you, Mom. Miss you. Still cry every once in a while…
On September 17th, I returned to my hometown, Monroe, Massachusetts, for their bicentennial celebration.
The day began with a presentation from State Representative Paul Mark of a framed copy of the restoration of the original town charter. In his remarks, he noted that, unlike most Massachusetts charters, Monroe’s does not have any mention of an English king. The town was incorporated from parts of other towns and named for President James Monroe, who was president of the United States at the time.
When I was growing up there in the 1960s-70s, the town had about 200 residents. In the 2020 census, there were 118 residents, making it the smallest town by population on the mainland of Massachusetts.
The festivities centered around the Town Community Center, which was the school back in my day. (Also, in the days of my father and his siblings, when it was built by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s.) The building still houses the town offices and library. What had been the classroom for grades 1-4 when I attended is now a community meeting room where many of the indoor activities were housed. The rest of the building is now used as offices by the power company that is the successor to New England Power, for which my father worked for over forty years.
I was able to make some contributions to the memory board and books. I sent some poems and was surprised to find one of them on display with a vintage newspaper photo of me when I graduated from high school.
Many of us were feeling nostalgic about the post office. There were two postal employees there to hand-cancel envelopes with a bicentennial commemorative postmark, even though the Monroe Bridge post office closed years ago to be replaced by this:
Not nearly as distinctive looking as this mail slot which was salvaged from the old post office and is now in the Monroe Historical Society’s collection.
For an explanation of why it was the Monroe Bridge post office and why I often refer to my hometown as Monroe Bridge, you can read my poem “Monroe Bridge Mail” published by Wilderness House Literary Review here. (It’s the final poem in a set of five.)
I spent quite a lot of time in the Historical Society, looking at the artifacts and photos. It was nice to see that the murals that had been painted by a WPA artist for our classroom had been moved there:
There was memorabilia from the Town’s sesquicentennial (150th anniversary) which I remembered as a very exciting time when I was in grammar school.
It was fun to get to reminisce with people who had been in town when my family lived there. Some are still residents or folks who have stayed local, while a few, like me, had travelled from further afield. I especially appreciated the time that Lucy spent with me, pointing out family connections among the memorabilia on display or in the Historical Society. I was touched by all the kind words about my parents and the expressions of sympathy on their passing. The celebration was just a few days after the first anniversary of my father’s death; he and my mother were among the founding members of the Monroe Historical Society.
There was Bicentennial swag available! One of my purchases was the Bicentennial History Book. I was honored that my poem “Playground” was chosen to be on the back cover. It reads:
Our WPA-built school housed two classrooms, eight grades, two teachers, twenty-some students, old textbooks, reams of assignments designed to keep us quiet at our desks.
Morning and afternoon recess and the remainder of lunch hour, we jumped off swings, attempted running up the two-story slide, sent the spinning merry-go-round swaying to crash with a satisfying clang into the metal pole from which it hung.
Dodge ball, monkey-in-the-middle, a dozen variations of tag, where the tap of a classmate’s hand thawed you from your frozen state or freed you from jungle-gym-jail.
Jump rope chants “Not last night, but the night before, a lemon and a pickle came a-knockin’ at my door.”
Upper-grade boys against girls in Wiffle ball or kick ball. Despite our skirts, the girls, already becoming young women, usually won. *****
Of course, as promised, there was cake!
It was a great celebration for a little town! Even though I’ve lived out-of-state for forty years now, a part of me is still at home there.
And even if you have never visited, there are now new signs to welcome you. This is the one you will see if you cross the state line from Whitingham, Vermont into Monroe.
On Saturday, September 17, 2022, I went back to my hometown, Monroe, Massachusetts, for their bicentennial celebration. There will eventually be a proper post about the fun and meaningful day I had there but I wanted to give a little shout-out today.
These welcome signs are new. This is the one at the Massachusetts/Vermont state line about half a mile from where our house was back in the day.
Today is my ninth blogaversary! Blogoversary? The spelling of made-up words seems a bit fluid…
This is my 1,682nd post. There have been 6,458 comments, 56,348 views, and 31,286 visitors from 126 countries and territories. There are 1,572 followers via WordPress with another couple hundred by email, twitter, and Facebook, with, I’m sure, a bit of overlap.
It seems like so many added up that way, but Top of JC’s Mind is still a small blog, averaging about 20 views a day. I remain grateful for all my visitors and followers. [Time for my usual disclaimer: I rarely look at my stats and don’t do much to actively gain views. In the crush of real life, I decided to devote my blogging time to writing posts and answering comments, so I don’t do the kinds of outreach needed to build up a large readership.]
I’m thankful to still be actively blogging at all. It seems that many bloggers start out but don’t continue for this many years or only post a few times a year.
Not that I post on a regular schedule but I’ve made it to 1,682 posts, so I do manage to say things!
I’ve been happy with my choice to be an eclectic blog. I know some of you visit for the poetry posts or for the family stories. Others might favor my political posts or pandemic posts or environmental posts. Some visit via Linda G. Hill‘s One-Liner Wednesdays or Stream of Consciousness Saturdays series. Some seem to arrive via searches of various sorts, which I find fascinating.
I know now that there are quite a few other eclectic blogs and I love knowing that there are so many of us rambling on about whatever is “top of mind” at the moment.
So, on to Year 10! Hope to see you checking in from time to time.
Spouse B and I returned yesterday from a weekend celebrating our 40th wedding anniversary at Geneva on the Lake. We had never been there before but had received a gift certificate for the inn as an expression of gratitude from my sisters after our father’s death for the years of caretaking for Nana and Paco as the “local daughter.”
Geneva on the Lake is located in the Finger Lakes region of central New York State, on the north end of Seneca Lake, about a two-and-a-quarter hour scenic drive from our home, featuring views of farms, vineyards, forested hills, and the entire western side of the lake.
After delays in our getaway due to pandemic surges, weather conditions, and our trips to the UK to visit family, we decided to go for the weekend of our 40th wedding anniversary. The gift certificate allowed us to splurge on the Loft Suite in the original 1910 portion of the villa, directly overlooking the gardens and Seneca Lake. In this photo, our suite is located on the third floor above the central doors, where you see three half-moon windows and three rectangular windows above.
Here you can see the windows from the inside and why it is called the Loft Suite:
All the furniture in the suite, including in the adjoining bedroom, is Stickley, which is a venerable upstate New York mainstay, still headquartered in Manlius, near Syracuse. I especially enjoyed the loft space for reading and looking out at the lake.
There was also a full kitchen and a small dining table, although we didn’t have much use for them as we ate breakfasts and dinners at the Inn. Our first evening there was warm, so we ate under the canopy on the terrace but the other meals were in the Lancellotti dining rooms. Because we like to eat (unfashionably) early, we were able to sit near the windows and enjoy our food and the view in relative – and unmasked – quiet.
When staff asked if we were there celebrating, we told them it was our 40th anniversary. They would offer congratulations, followed on a couple of occasions by the question, “What’s your secret?” Like the college reunion question about what I’d been doing for the last forty years, I didn’t have a ready answer. If I had been able to think quickly enough, I might have echoed Paco’s line about taking it one day at a time, although I don’t think that is the answer.
Like my answer to most questions, it’s complicated. First, I don’t think there is a secret to being married for forty years. It helps to find the right person when you are young and to manage not to develop a grave illness that threatens longevity. Of course, there needs to be love and respect between the spouses, but that is not a secret.
I think, for B and me, an important factor is that we met and became friends early in high school. Because we experienced adolescence together, we managed to influence, complement, and support each other as we grew into adulthood. I don’t think I would be the same person that I am now without B’s love, encouragement, and commitment over the years.
B and I share our rural roots and were both raised by long-married parents; my parents, known here as Nana and Paco, celebrated their 65th anniversary not long before her death in 2019. We both are of a serious temperament with wide-ranging interests and the inclination to dig deeply into topics. However, our central interests differ. I spend much more time on the arts, especially music, writing, and poetry, and on spiritual/philosophical issues, which influence my analysis on politics and public policy. B is much more involved with technology and quantitative/analytical issues with additional interests in history and science fiction/fantasy. We are both liberal-artsy enough, though, to be able to understand and approach different topics and problems from multiple vectors. This helps when we have to make decisions, whether it’s nuts and blots plans for our home or complex care-giving situations. We have faced a greater than average number of medical problems across our families’generations. Many marriages succumb to these kinds of stressors, but B and I have been able to weather them with our ability to think and talk things through and our commitment to dedicate ourselves to doing the best we are able. Our mantra has been “no regrets” and, while we certainly do have instances where outcomes were not what we had hoped, we are content that we were able to give comfort and care to the best of our abilities.
Sunday was also Father’s Day, our first without Paco and B’s first as being part of the eldest generation in the family. I admit that our anniversary was a good distraction for me to keep me from dwelling too much on being without my father on Father’s Day for the first time. I hope that B will be granted a similarly long stint as a grandparent and, if ABC and/or JG choose, the opportunity to become a great-grandfather someday. B loves being a grandpa, although the distance factor does present complications. We are hoping, though, that when B retires, we may be able to spend some longer periods of time in the UK.
We returned home from Geneva in time to celebrate Father’s Day and our anniversary with daughter T, who had chosen cards for the occasion. When we decorate envelopes for hand-delivered greeting cards, we often draw a personalized “stamp” in the corner. On our anniversary card, T had drawn a shining ruby. As I don’t often wear jewelry, I had neglected to look up that the 40th anniversary is commemorated with rubies.
I had, however, worn two significant pieces of jewelry for the weekend.
The ring is a family birthstone ring with topaz for B, rose zircon for me, the diamond that was originally in my engagement ring for E, and alexandrite for T. The necklace is by Wedgwood and was B’s wedding gift to me.
In the photo, you can also see my gold wedding band, which I always wear. It’s a simple gold band and has been resized once but still bears its original inscription of our name and wedding date on the inside.
I had two parents, but they are both gone now. A few days ago, we observed the first wedding anniversary for them since Paco died last September. They celebrated 65 anniversaries together and this year would have been 68.
Now that it’s (maybe) safer to travel, there are a few trips that I and/or family members may take this spring.
T is going to a high school friend’s wedding in Florida in April. Arrangements are all in place so this is the surest bet to happen.
The three of us have been wanting to get back to the western MA/southern Vermont area where B and I grew up and where we still have friends and relatives. Maybe we will actually make it when the weather is better and we work through a few health things that have been annoying us lately. At the moment, it’s snowing like crazy, a reminder that spring is not here yet.
B and I also are hoping for a getaway this spring. It’s been a while since the two of us could do this, first due to caring for our elders and then still having the pandemic hanging around. Granted, the pandemic is still with us, much as we all wish it were over, but the rates of infection are finally getting down to where leisure travel is possible. My sisters gave me a lovely gift certificate to a posh Finger Lakes inn that I want to use this spring, especially because our 40th anniversary is approaching.
Speaking of 40th, my reunion at Smith College is in May. We finally got word on March 1st that it will be in person. (The last couple of years had been virtual due to the pandemic.) We haven’t started the registration project yet but I’m definitely planning to attend and stay on campus, as is traditional. Our reunion will be the same weekend as commencement; it’s always great and energizing to be on campus with the students and a fuller celebration of the traditions, such as Ivy Day and Illumination Night.
I also have my fingers crossed for another trip to London to visit daughter E and family. We are hoping for June but it’s so hard to say right now if it will be possible. Will there be another variant racing around the globe? Will there be war ongoing? It’s so painful to think of the current suffering, much less project its horrifying dimensions into the future.
Way to go, Linda! Today marks the eighth anniversary of Stream of Consciousness Saturday on Linda’s blog, Life in Progress. I and so many others have connected with each other as bloggers through SoCS, One-Liner Wednesdays, and Just Jot it January, all thanks to Linda G. Hill.
Check out Linda’s blog and her books! Join us for SoCS and/or One-Liner Wednesdays! Whether you contribute posts or just read along, it’s all good.
Linda chose “where” as a prompt for this September 11th, assuming, perhaps correctly, that most posts would be about where we were when we found out about the 9/11 attacks in the US twenty years ago.
In Broome County NY where I live, besides the twenty year retrospectives of the 9/11 attacks, we are having the ten year retrospective of a record high flooding event on the Susquehanna River. The ground was still saturated from hurricane Irene when the remnants of tropical storm Lee dumped about ten inches of rain.
Where my house is is near a flood wall for a creek that runs into the Susquehanna. The creek came up fast with the river flooding a bit later as it collected all the run-off from the creeks as well as what was running off the hills and being dumped by storm drains.
The power was shut off in our neighborhood as the houses closer to the river started to flood. If we didn’t have a generator, our basement would have flooded when our sump pump lost electricity. One of my Memories on Facebook helpfully reminded me that two blocks from us houses had basements totally full of water and two blocks in the other direction the road was washed out and a gas main was broken. Three blocks away there was standing surface water. A big intersection of Main Street and the Parkway was underwater, too.
Most of our neighborhood had been evacuated the night the flooding began, but our little section was only under evacuation order for a few hours on the third day of the flood. We later discovered that the reason was that they were afraid of the flood wall being overtopped. Even though the creek itself had begun to recede, the flooding of the river had backed water up into the creekbed so that the water was within a foot of the top of the wall. (Just to clarify, this is an earthen/stone flood wall, not a concrete one.)
We have been lucky not to have had another severe flood like that one in the last ten years. The prior record-setting flood had been in 2006 and I fully expected we would have had another horrible flood by now.
Unfortunately, I know it is just a matter of time. Looking around the US, we have catastrophic fires in the West and flooding aftermath in Louisiana and the South, in Tennessee, and across a swath of the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast. There are fires in Siberia, floods in Germany and other areas in Europe, killer heat waves, and on and on. While the events themselves are natural, they have been made worse by human-caused climate change.
We have so much work to do to try to stabilize the climate and protect human, animal, plant, and marine life. And we are far behind in our efforts.
I’m upset because scientists and activists have been warning about this for decades. I myself have tried to amplify the message about climate change. It seems that people are finally listening but the amount of change of policy and behavior now will have to be huge to make a dent. Our family has tried hard to reduce our carbon footprint and to advocate for change but the world needs those in power to finally step up and lead. Governments and businesses need to put people and planet over profits. The money won’t be worth much if the planet becomes uninhabitable. **** This less-than-cheery post is part of Linda’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday series. Join us! Find out more here: https://lindaghill.com/2021/09/10/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-sept-11-2021/
Last week was rough as I wrote about for Stream of Consciousness Saturday yesterday.
Today is Father’s Day in the United States. I was able to speak briefly with my dad this morning, but he was pretty confused about handling the phone and they were about to change one of his dressings. There aren’t visiting hours until Tuesday evening, so there is no chance to see him. We did drop off a card yesterday and he has gifts and cards already from my sisters.
He can’t really remember that it’s Father’s Day anyway…
Meanwhile, it is also Father’s Day for B here at our house but I’m having trouble focusing enough to plan dinner or much of anything else. It’s taking effort just to make my eyes focus to write this.
I did sleep quite a bit last night after very little sleep the night before.
Somewhere in the midst of all of this, we went out to dinner for our 39th wedding anniversary and opened some cards. Originally, we were going to go away for a couple of days. We still might, once I get through the initial care conference for Paco on Tuesday. I need to write notes and questions to prepare for that. Oh, and also get ready to deal with all the insurance folks.