New England Vignettes | Summer Edit

Farmstand peonies

Farmstands like this are generously sprinkled throughout Western Massachusetts. Asparagus bundles in the spring. Signs for eggs at the end of so many driveways. Truckbeds overflowing with butternut squash and pumpkins in the autumn.

Masons and Graduations

I drove through the Buttonwood Masonic Youth Park’s imposing iron gate in Warwick, RI.

Winding down the narrow road, nothing made me think, “Well this is clearly a fun place to have a graduation party.” It reminded me more of an abandoned asylum campus as I passed quiet brick buildings and still surroundings.

Finally, I encountered a booth where a teenager asked my purpose. I did not reply “Finding the Holy Grail”, so he pointed onward down the road. The space opened up to a huge grassy field with picnic tables and old trees shading the groups of people underneath. On the park’s edge is Narraganset Bay whose mouth opens to the Atlantic Ocean.

My cousin spent SIX years working hard through pharmacy school. My zaide (grandfather) told me that as a young man, he wanted to be a pharmacist. But when he returned from the war he needed to start work immediately to take care of his growing family, which now included a baby. He went into the plumbing trade, an essential, useful career for sure, but not his original dream. And now we have our first doctorate in the family in pharmacy. I’m so proud of her!

Her mom, my Aunt Debbie, is a professional chef and longtime caterer. She’s recently opened Cafe Richmond in Providence where people can get delicious breakfast and lunch items to go. They’re also a place you can get Yacht Club Soda, a local Rhode Island company that produces SUCH tasty drinks made in their factory right over in North Providence.

At the party, my favorite food-related element was a literal snack TABLE. Debbie filled the table with small bowls of delicious cheeses, jelly beans, sesame sticks, carrot sticks, pepper slices, hummus, and on and on. She artfully covered the unused space between the bowls with heaping rivers of crunchy things: tortilla chip cups, pretzels, fancy crackers, pita chips. So often at parties people congregate around the food anyhow, so a snack table is a total stroke of genius.

After the party, on the way back, I stopped at the cemetery to “say hello” to a bunch of relatives and lay a pebble on their headstones. Then I headed to the other side to visit my great grandparents, one of whom is my namesake. 

Does anybody have suggestions for how to clean moss/lichen off of a gravestone? Leave any good ideas in the comments.

Just a bunch of kitten photos

Oh hai, (Oreo) Cookie and Felix!

Driving through town

When you exit the Mass Pike and turn into town, whatever Massachusetts town it might be, it’s common to pass a bunch of houses with historic date plaques. The houses having been built in 1832, 1865, 1797, even 1699. All still lived in. 

The abundant greenery here is often unruly and presses in on roads and houses. Many yards have colonial-style flower beds with tiger lilies, daisies, echinacea rioting tall and bold across the lawn and against the houses. These robust blooms can grow to half the height of a small house. 

Tiger lilies always make me think of July when the sun blazes hot and my mind wanders to 4th of July parades, carnivals, and, fireworks.

Boston Harbor

Independence Day stahted on Bahston Hahbah (started on Boston Harbor for the uninitiated). My friend Cory and I took a Lyft to Quincy, south of Boston. His  Uncle Tom, a boat captain, was taking us and his Aunt Sandy out on the water to watch a quintessential Boston ritual. 

Every year Old Ironsides, aka the USS Constitution, leaves her mooring in the Charlestown Navy Yard and sails down to Castle Island for her annual turnaround cruise. This ship, the longest active duty battleship in the United States, was built from live wood, so if she doesn’t switch sides on the dock every year she’ll weather unevenly.

Usually on the Fourth of July Boston Harbor is packed with boats gill to gill. Imagine a nightmare traffic jam but on the water. But on this temperate, cloudy day we had the harbor almost completely to ourselves! It was sprinkling off and on, but we were dry under the deck’s plastic covering. Thunderstorms were rolling our way, but the Fighting Lady has doppler radar so Tom just kept an eye on the storm’s progress. Everyone else just… stayed home… 

We motored past Castle Island where a has fort stood protecting Boston all the way back to the Boston Tea Party. People carpeted the damp, grassy slope facing the water waiting for the USS Constitution’s arrival. 

We continued north and Boston’s skyline came into view. 

When we met the USS Constitution we turned around and joined the annual impromptu boat parade that follows her on the journey. 

Now back at Castle Island where the good folks on the grass were enjoying a downpour, she stopped and turned to face the thick granite walls of Fort Independence. Then began the ship’s 21-gun salute of cannon fire. Crazy loud, as you can imagine.

Then the cannons pointing out of Fort Independence, once manned by young men who surely lost their hearing early in life, shot a return 21-gun salute. 

This annual Boston ritual resonates with the meaning of Independence Day. As complicated as my country is, it’s also an incredible country that I’m proud to call home for countless reasons. Citizens have been fighting battles to gain freedom, keep freedom, and grow freedom since the beginning. Sometimes through military battle, like at the country’s birth. Sometimes through activism and wielding the right to use our voices and votes. Witnessing this living military history sparks inspiration to keep fighting for the dream of what America is and can be, the fundamental principles that we still hold precious today. 

Fireworks at 220 feet

Rather than camping out on the Esplanade all day to get a good seat for the Boston Pops concert, my friends got a hotel room at the Sheraton in Back Bay. Our room on the 22nd floor had a perfect, eye-level view for the 4th of July fireworks. 

Before the show started in front of us we watched fireworks go off across the horizon for an hour. Quincy, Brookline, Saugus, Somerville. Calling out to each other and watching with delight each time we spotted another one.

At 10:30 pm, the 5 barges between the Longfellow Bridge and the Mass Ave Bridge began rocketing fireworks into the sky. I perched on the windowsill like a puma (or any big cat) to watch. 

Thick clouds hung low in the sky over the Charles River. So rather than exploding into giant fiery pom poms of glory, the fireworks went off inside the clouds and turned them different colors. Kinda cool, in a “mega-concert pyrotechnics” kinda way, but mostly anti-climactic. 

But in my imagination the scene twisted. The blasting explosions ringing my ears, clouds igniting with unnatural colors, pointlettes of fire raining down from those bellicose clouds. An alien invasion descending hard and fast upon the unprepared city of Boston. A cut scene from the movie Independence Day. After the fire(works) finally stopped, the whole city to the north was gone. The clouds prevented any smoke from dissipating. All any of us could see was a thick cloak masking what lay beyond.

<– just relaxing and watching the world burn

1 thought on “New England Vignettes | Summer Edit”

  1. Sue Glickstein

    Beautiful! I never knew that about your Zadies history. Mazel Tov to the Pharmacist!!! Sounds like Life Is 😊 Good
    Thanks for looking out for all the relatives.

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