After B’s mom, known here on the blog as Grandma, passed away almost two years ago, one of the things we inherited was her teacup cupboard and most of her teacups, some of which she had collected over the years and some that had come to her through her mother and aunt.
While some people collect objects just to look at them, Grandma made use of her collection, choosing cups to use for coffee after Sunday dinners, birthdays, and holidays in the Vermont home where she lived for decades.
She had distributed a few cups to younger family members over the years, but kept most of the collection together, moving it to the senior living community near us a few years before her death.
After she passed away, B’s brother and his family chose a few teacups to remind them of Grandma, but dozens of them set up residence in our dining room, stacked in the white barristers that Grandma had used.
One of the special happenings this holiday season during L’s visit has been a series of evening teaparties with L, E, and T enjoying tea and treats. They have been working their way methodically through the cupboard, starting with the top shelf and using each cup in each stack as it presents itself, along with its matching saucer, of course. They have been brewing loose tea – from an Adagio Teas sampler that E bought for T as a Christmas gift – in a teapot and using Grandma’s china tea strainer to pour into that evening’s cups.
It warms our hearts to see Grandma’s granddaughters and grandson-in-law using her cups together.
On Sunday morning, I went to breakfast early and was able to say good-bye to some of my classmates who were heading out before the official end of reunion to beat the Sunday afternoon traffic. Everyone was very appreciative of the events and very happy to have had time together. It is amazing how easily we relate to one another, even if we only see each other in person every five years, or even if we had not known each other well during our student days.
At nine o’clock, several dozen alumnae gathered at Helen Hills Hills chapel for a service of remembrance. I arrived early and had a few moments to talk to the college organist about changes over the years. His role and the life at chapel are very different than in my years at Smith. When I was a student, there were Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish chaplains and weekly services at chapel for each tradition, along with a network of faculty and community advisors for other traditions. There were three choirs who periodically provided choral music for services, plus a student led gospel choir which sang for some of the ecumenical Christian services and other student volunteers who most often led music at Catholic Mass. (As a Catholic and an organist, I played often at Mass over my four years at Smith, as well as serving for two years as accompanist for one of the choirs and playing almost every organ piece I learned as a prelude or postlude for the Protestant services.)
Now, there are no chaplains and no regularly scheduled religious services on campus. There are advisors available in different spiritual traditions. The chapel still has space for prayer and meditation, but the main body of the chapel is now a multi-use space for concerts, lectures, classes, and the occasional service, such as the one we were gathering for that morning. The chapel was built in the New England Congregational style, but the pews on the main floor have been removed and the floor was changed to wood. It is jarring to me to walk into chapel. I do understand the need to make the space more versatile, but I think it could have been done in a way that was more in keeping with the architecture had the floor been New England hardwood and the chairs less clunky and modern in design. Even more, I lament the loss of service and leadership opportunities in their faith traditions for current students on campus. It was powerful to have services that were planned and attended almost exclusively by women; this basis has been a rock on which I have relied often in the storms that have followed in subsequent decades.
Sorry. End of rant. Back to our service of remembrance…
The prelude and postlude were Bach and we sang three hymns drawn from various traditions and a fellow ’82er sang a solo. There were readings from the Bible, the Qur’an, and from Rumi. Director of Religious and Spiritual Life Matilda Rose Cantwell prepared and led the service very gently and thoughtfully. The most moving part of the service was when Rev. Cantwell invited alumnae to come forward and give a remembrance of someone close to them. People from many different reunion classes spoke about classmates, professors, and family members. Two of my classmates who were from Northampton spoke movingly about their parents’ relationship with the town and the College. My college roommate, who served as one of the deacons of the Ecumencial Christian Church, spoke about two of her fellow deacons who died, Beth, during our senior year, and Amy, who died just weeks before reunion.
Then, we continued on to our final official reunion activity, Sunday brunch. Our table did express our disappointment that our favorite sour cream coffee cake was not on the buffet.
We went back to our rooms to pack up and make sure that our headquarters was squared away before we left.
Several of us decided to stay in Northampton another night in order to process and decompress, particularly to support our two housemates who had chaired the reunion for our class. We decided to visit the Art Museum, which had a special exhibit on the villas of Oplontis near Pompeii. We then dispersed for hotel check-in and reconvened at Fitzwilly’s in downtown Northampton for dinner, joined by a housemate from the class of ’81 who lives locally. We then went back to one of the hotel rooms and proceeded to talk and talk and talk, with quite a bit of laughter mixed in!
We spent Monday morning doing what we needed to do, in my case, catching up on a bit of shopping, including buying some Massachusetts maple syrup to bring home for us and for Nana and Paco. We met for a final lunch together at Paul and Elizabeth’s, a restaurant at Thorne’s Market that was new when we were students. More eating, talking, and laughing and then a round of good-byes.
Before I left Northampton, I had one more visit to make. Another business that opened in Northampton when we were students is Steve Herrell’s Ice Cream. I always visit when I am in town. They have redecorated since my last visit, giving more area for seating. I splurged and ordered a sampler so I could have four flavors: black raspberry, malted vanilla, peppermint, and apple cider. Yum! I was happy to have the company of my in-town friend. We lingered for a long while, catching up on our lives and marveling at how Smith friends, even when they don’t see each other often, can immediately re-connect on a deep level.
Eventually, though, I had to head for home, although I could not help but feel that reunions are too short and too far apart.
Today, my mother-in-law, known here as Grandma, would have turned 85.
Instead of buying flowers or her favorite truffles from a local sweets shop and making plans for her birthday dinner, we are faced with the six-month anniversary of her death and the beginning of a new season without her.
We have already been through the first Easter and Mother’s Day without her.
On August 15th, we didn’t buy flowers in remembrance of her and Grandpa’s wedding anniversary.
In the months ahead, there will be the first Thanksgiving without her and the first Christmas and the first Valentine’s Day.
We won’t be bringing her flowers on March 17th to celebrate Evacuation Day, an inside family joke that originated with Grandpa’s years as an elementary school principal.
A few days later will be the first anniversary of her death.
I am honored to share the blog post of my friend, Rev. Pat Raube, which includes her remarks at last night’s vigil in Binghamton for the victims of Orlando’s Pulse.
A taste of what Pat said: “At the same time, for you, for me, for each of us: I offer you what my faith tells me to be true: that Love, a love greater than any of us is capable of on our own, created us, each of us, and made us mysterious, and beautiful and perfect, just as we are.”
Today would have been my friend Angie‘s 65th birthday and I just sent a contribution to her memorial fund. In the brief note that I sent to her family, I noted that I can’t imagine that Angie would have “retired” because she was all about love and service and would not have stopped doing that. I am honoring her memory today and remembering her family and friends who have been without her physical presence for over ten years.
As it happens, two of my college friends lost their mothers this month, one unexpectedly and one after a long period of illness, so I am sending thoughts and prayers out to Sally and Tricia, their moms, and their families.
Two friends are dealing with a sudden medical emergency with their loved ones. One’s husband’s life was saved by emergency open heart surgery. The other’s asymptomatic brother was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer at his first screening colonoscopy at age 50. Both men are facing a long road to recovery and I am holding them and their whole families in thought and prayer as well.
Yesterday, I attended vigil mass at St. Joseph’s, which was the long-time church home of my friend Marcia, whom we lost to ovarian cancer several years ago. Last month was ovarian cancer awareness month, with several big fundraising events. There has been some progress in detection and treatment since Marcia died and I hope that the advances will help her descendants to lead long, healthy lives.
It’s a quiet Sunday morning. Soon, B and I will head up to Good Shepherd Village to visit Grandma, Nana, and Paco with an extra measure of thankfulness.
Last May, our community lost a wonderful friend and musician, Peter Browne. I wrote about here and here.
Now that September is here, we are missing him again. At Binghamton University, Harpur Chorale, which Peter had directed for many years, has begun the semester under the direction of a talented local music teacher who earned her master’s in choral conducting at Binghamton U. a few years ago.
Yesterday, I wound up having an extended conversation about bladder cancer, which what took Peter’s life so unexpectedly.
Today, I put on the car radio in time to hear the last movement of the Saint-Saëns Organ Symphony. I immediately thought of Peter playing this piece with the Binghamton Philharmonic at the Broome County Forum.
We just returned from Holy Thursday Mass. Fittingly, the focus of the homily was remembrance. The 4,000+ years of remembrance of the Passover, the almost 2,000 years remembrance of the celebration of the Eucharist, and the remembrance of our call to serve one another, symbolized by the washing of the feet. The twelve whose feet were washed were a cross-section of the community, diverse in race, ethnicity, and gender, with an age range of at least six decades.
There were other personal remembrances for me, especially of my former parish, which was the Church of the Blessed Sacrament. This made the Holy Thursday liturgy especially significant for us and it was always my favorite liturgy of the year. I was remembering our music ministry at Blessed Sacrament, which was brought to mind by the fact that some of the musicians this evening, including my daughter, were music ministers at Blessed Sacrament back in the day.
I was remembering the sculpture of Jesus, seated as though at a table, holding the bread and the cup, which dominated the wall behind the altar. It was such a welcoming presence; during times in my life when I felt unwelcomed by some in the Church, it was a comfort to meditate on it.
At communion, I was remembering that on Holy Thursday, instead of the usual hosts, we consecrated tiny individual unleavened breads that had been baked by one of our long-time parishioners.
The Holy Thursday liturgy ends with the Blessed Sacrament being placed on an altar of reposition, instead of in the main tabernacle of the church. Tonight, the church had placed a glass tabernacle in a simply but beautifully decorated space along the side wall of the church. I was holding in remembrance my favorite tabernacle, which was the one we used at Blessed Sacrament after our major renovation. A liturgical artist made a natural linen-colored square-based tent for us, decorated with piping that matched the red, blue, and green color accents painted in the tower of the church. On Holy Thursday, we carried the tabernacle in procession before the Blessed Sacrament and set it on the altar of repose. The Blessed Sacrament was placed inside, incensed, and then the tent flap was closed. I loved the symbolism, because the word tabernacle comes from the word tent and reminds us of the tent in which the Ark of the Covenant was housed before the Temple was built in Jerusalem. Like the Passover remembrance, the tent-tabernacle reminds me of the profoundly Jewish roots of Christians and the love and respect to which we are all called.