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Posts Tagged ‘Berkshires’

As you already know, the Fourth holds some significance in my family’s life. In 1949, our Year of Living Dangerously, my Father died from a brain tumor in April. The Flapper decided she needed to take a small road trip on the Fourth of July weekend that year, so she piled everyone in the car. Everyone except my brother Michael, who wanted to stay home. He was eleven years old and had a basketball game.

We were driving outside the city of Scranton to see the new airport in Wilkes Barre, PA. A drunk driver hit us head on. My Nana was holding me in the back seat, I was 10 months old, there were no child seats.

Every Fourth is a mountain for me to climb; and this year is no different. I approach the holiday with some semblance of respect. Don’t get me wrong – I love our flag, the parades, and barbeque. But I’d just as soon not get in a car.

My siblings all had different ways of coping.

Mike, the one who wasn’t in the car, threw an amazing 4th of July party with his wife Jorja every year on Lake Minnetonka in MN. He called it “the good life” and my sister Kay would fly in from NY to be with the Flapper. After all, 14 year old Kay was in a coma for a month in 1949. My brother, seven year old Dr Jim, got to ride in a fire engine after the accident. He later moved his family from California to the Land of a Thousand Lakes.

I was the only one missing. I was the one sent to a foster family, and I started my own family in New England.

The Fourth of July parade was our introduction to Pittsfield, MA. Bob was interviewing for a job as an ER doctor, and I was enchanted with the Berkshires. We sat on Edith Wharton’s lawn to watch A Midsummer Night’s Dream. We got tickets to Jacob’s Pillow and I remembered what it meant to dance. We had the Bride in 1979, while we were living on the side of a mountain with a spring-fed pond.

The Rocker was born midsummer, at the edge of a bird sanctuary. I was writing for the Berkshire Eagle, and I didn’t need to travel for the Fourth. We were content to stay home. Bob always said emergency departments are at their busiest on this holiday.

This year fireworks are cancelled in Nashville. No parade. Our city is taking a step back because the coronavirus infection rates are rising. And bars are closed, which is a good thing.

But love isn’t canceled. Patriotism isn’t cancelled. I still love this country, despite the last three years. Happy Birthday USA! Yes our founders were slave holders and scoundrels, but they did do some things right.

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There was a time in my life in NJ, when I had to renew myself. Don’t get me wrong, I loved being a Mom, but ripping me out of the beautiful Berkshires, where my babies were born, left me adrift in suburbia. I didn’t fit in.

People in the North ask you, “Where did you move from?” People in the South ask you, “What church do you belong to?” Neither move had an acceptable answer, since I don’t go to church, and when I told my NJ acquaintances that we had lived in Pittsfield, MA, the resounding reaction was why the hell did I move to Central NJ?

For my husband’s job? To be closer to our family? Partially true.

Up until that point I’d been coasting along. Marry your high school sweetheart – check. Maybe not at the age of 30 after many years of Woodstock and Westchester, but hey, I was a late bloomer. I felt connected to the Berkshires, I started writing there and made friends that would last a lifetime. There was something about the New England character that spoke to me, something deep.

I kept a saying on my Jersey refrigerator, “Bloom where you’re planted,” and i tried to grow roots.

So I got a job writing at a weekly newspaper, I joined a beach club and ran for the school board. I started working on a Master’s Degree at Monmouth College (now “University”). I ran around trying to get my new suburban life started. And then one day my professor asked me to attend an educational symposium and my editor asked me to write about it too. Some dots were connecting.

That’s where I met and interviewed Ethan Hawke and Robert Sean Leonard. They were fresh off the buzz of Dead Poets Society and I wish I could link you to my article but we weren’t online in the early 90s. I do remember one thing that Hawke said to those teenagers, “Don’t wait around for your life to start, it’s happening right now.”

In light of Robin Williams’ death, I’ve been thinking about that movie. He played the English teacher we all wish we had in high school – and in fact, I did have Miss Flanagan who was phenomenal. I wish you had waited Robin, just a little, to see that your life still has so much meaning, that you brought such beauty and laughter to us all.

“Poetry beauty romance life, these are what we stay alive for…you may contribute a verse…the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse…”

“What will your verse be?”         

 

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This post is early because chances are I’ll be buried in snow tomorrow, and our generator only powers the heat and the lights in the main part of the house. Which means my office will be down and wi-fi will be out.

Forecasters are predicting another “historic” snowstorm for VA. Like the kind we had the year after we moved into this mountain abode.

But this time Bob is home; he hasn’t camped out at the hospital and left me alone for days on end. When we lived in the Berkshires and the kids were little he did shift work, so he was home a lot. Which was good since we had to feed our woodstove all the time, especially when a Nor’easter hit and dumped 2 feet of snow in one fell swoop. I remember when the VA contractor asked us if we wanted wood burning or gas fireplaces in this little house, and we looked at each other and said “Gas” simultaneously. Bob is sure he wrecked his shoulders cutting and stacking many piles of wood on Windsor mountain back in the day.

I’ve heard there’s a shortage of snow boots in the North East. If I didn’t get the kids their boots and snow suits and mittens and hats in August, I was out of luck. We couldn’t order online in the 80’s, all we could do was go down to the main street in Pittsfield, MA and search by hand. We used to have ice skating Valentine’s parties on our pond, it was expected, this snow and ice. New Englanders are always prepared. Kids built snow forts while they waited for the school bus. We were a hardier crew. Or is it just my memory? Am I starting to sound like that old timer who walked 20 miles to school, through rain and snow and ice?

The snow has just started and I’ve got to finish some laundry and get dinner under way. Hope all of you stay warm and safe over the next few days.

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