Andover, Lexington, Concord, Groton, Mass.

June 3, 2013 at 4:51 am (Uncategorized)

Hayley recently performed with her classmates in the third-grade show, “Portland, A Musical.” It takes the audience through Portland’s history, beginning in 1804 with Lewis and Clark and ending shortly after 1996, with the impressive floods that occurred after historic downpours. The year 1804 SOUNDS SO LONG AGO! Until, that is, one spends some time on the East Coast delving into a bit of America’s history.

Right after Alyssa’s time at home, off we went to the Boston area to attend the Shelby Kimmel and Paul Hess wedding. There, we first stayed in Andover, Mass., home to the storied private boarding school, Phillips Academy, about 30 minutes north of Boston. (One year at that school = $50,000.) From there, we drove another 30 minutes west to the towns of Lexington and Concord, sites of the beginning of the Revolutionary War.

There, we visited the Buckman Tavern. Damn, they no longer were serving flip – some alcoholic beverage with a whole egg included in its concoction – but did have a guide dressed in period clothing running tours of the interior of this cramped wooden structure from the late-18th century. This was the spot where some women and children watched from small windows as Colonial soldiers perished right across the way, on the Lexington Battle Green.

This spot once wasn't so green, nor lacking in bloodshed.

This spot once wasn’t so green, nor lacking in bloodshed.

The gift shop adjacent to the Tavern also had a very impressive diorama, depicting a bird’s-eye view of what the women and children likely witnessed that day – April 19, 1775 – on the Battle Green: Colonial Minutemen hugely outnumbered by the British Red Coats, all holding inefficient and inaccurate muskets, each weighing at least 10 lbs. a piece, we learned.
Living in this time period must have sucked

Living in this time period must have sucked

2nd panel of Revolutionary War diorama
We then traveled further east, on Route 2A, through the town of Lincoln, to Concord, where the Revolutionary War truly began. It was there that all the pieces fit together, both from our school days when Dave and I last learned about this period in modern America’s history, and from what we saw and (re)learned in Lexington.

We aren’t the type of folks who routinely visit Visitors’ Centers; those are for total history nerds (right?). Guess we became those nerds, first hitting the Minute Man National Park. Every half hour all day long, the Park Service runs a terrific, interactive film, “The Road to Revolution.” A man dressed as Daniel Boone – but playing the role of Amos Doolittle, a battlefield artist – narrates the events of April 18 through April 20, 1775. The small screen includes reenactments of Paul Revere’s ride warning the colonists and Minute Men that “the British are coming!” It includes, too, battlefield scenes convincing in their portrayal of Red Coats dying at the hands of the Colonists’ bayonets and Colonists’ dying at the hands of the Red Coats’ muskets.

Having lived in the Boston area for two years (from 1999 to 2001), I also had to chuckle a bit while watching this otherwise very serious and interesting film: Reenactments are extremely popular in this region that’s home to so much of white America’s history. So I couldn’t help but think of the locals giddy about dressing up to act in a real live film about their favorite time period. Scenes included but weren’t limited to:
Stuffing gun powder into muskets!
Hiding behind maple trees!
Kneeling on one knee!
Staggering back with the gun’s recoil, raccoon-tail hat swinging every which way!
Breaking for a Sam Adams beer! Good work, men!

After the film wrapped, we walked to the North Bridge, the very spot where the “Shot heard around the world” occurred, with the British on one side of the Concord River and the Minute Men on the other. There is a monument on either side of the bridge, one to the fallen Red Coats and Loyalists, the other to the Minute Men. Interestingly, the phrase “Shot heard around the world” was coined by Ralph Waldo Emerson after the historic skirmish on the North Bridge; he was influenced by the events there and later wrote a poem including that phrase. It is carved into the monument in honor of the Minutemen.

Not much to look at, but very significant indeed.

Not much to look at, but very significant indeed.

Continuing along route 2A after the film, we walked around the very quaint town of Concord (all three of its main streets) in search of ice cream. (You remember, of course, the import of ice cream on Knudsen family trips. This one was no exception.) And then we drove past both Louisa May Alcott’s home (in which she’s reported to have written “Little Women”) and Emerson’s house. I’d have loved to have toured those historic homes, but the girls were d-u-n and so there ended our foray into the Revolutionary War and the people who made it, that time period, and those places so famous.
Doesn't even the outside of this house make you want to sit at a desk and write overly long sentences?

Doesn’t even the outside of this house make you want to sit at a desk and write overly long sentences?

Hayley 'graciously' shot this photo of Ralphie's house, from inside our moving car. Anything to ensure Mommy didn't stop the car, get out, and tour the house.

Hayley ‘graciously’ shot this photo of Ralphie’s house, from inside our moving car. Anything to ensure Mommy didn’t stop the car, get out, and tour the house.

On Saturday, we continued east to the town of Devens. It’s not so much a town as a decommissioned U.S. Military fort. This place resembles many other former bases, including Albany in Berkeley, Calif., Fort Ord in Monterey, Calif., and even the Presidio in San Francisco. Much of buildings within the confines of the former fort had boarded up windows and doors; there clearly were many military personnel and their families living in housing units there (all constructed of brick, just like so much is in New England), but it felt largely like an abandoned place, save for reservists on weekend duty, tourists like us staying in one of its two hotels and Native Americans there for an intertribal weekend-long pow-wow.

We hung out at the pow-wow for about an hour, watching beautifully and heavily dressed and jeweled people representing myriad tribes beat drums, chant, and dance around a small bonfire in the heat of the day. The gray-and-white feather headdresses we saw were stunning; one man, however, was wearing what looked like a headdress of turkey feathers – on his rear end. I knew it was impolite to find its placement odd. But, alas, I did. I learned that whatever color or specific dress style individuals wore represented his or her own tribe. It’s sad I have no information with which to identify one tribe from another; that’s simply not something I ever learned, and it’s likely something I never will.
On Sunday, we drove to the uber-quaint town of Groton – home to the private prep school, the Groton School ($52,000 annual tuition and board) – for Shelby Kimmel’s wedding to Paul Hess inside a historic barn. It overlooked grazing cattle and otherwise untouched green, rolling hills. I only can describe that scenery as bucolic.

Shelby is my first cousin and grew up in Newton, Mass. And she’d asked Hayley and Alyssa – along with Abby’s children, Izabella and Jordana, and three other girls from the groom’s side of the family – to be flower girls in the evening wedding. This event was particularly meaningful for me, as Abby and I were flower girls in Shelby’s parents’ wedding nearly 35 years ago. Shelby and her sister, Deena, then, were flower girls in Dave and my wedding, nearly 17 years ago. And, on this day (May 19, 2013), my daughters were Shelby’s flower girls. Not only that, but the intricately embroidered cloth draped over Shelby and Paul’s chuppah (wedding canopy) was one of Nanny’s formal tablecloths. So while Shelby’s grandparents (mine, too!) weren’t physically there, the family truly felt Nanny and Papa’s presence in a very visceral way.

As the rockin’ band struck up after the moving wedding ceremony, my girls and Abby’s cut a rug all night long, not only with Shelby and Deena, but with my other first cousins, Justin and Nick Director, who grew up and live in New York. I felt nice and old, witnessing my children shuck and jive to Katy Perry, Nicki Menaj, and Bruno Mars covers with my way-hipper-than-me cousins – all in their 20s – whom I still view in my mind’s eye as children as young as my own.

More pictures coming soon.


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The Oregon Jewish Museum — and more — with an 11-year-old in tow

June 3, 2013 at 4:26 am (Uncategorized)

I spent a week in mid-May with Alyssa. School was in session, but Alyssa was getting a week of home-schooling. The entire fifth grade headed to Camp Hancock in Eastern Oregon; Alyssa, about a month before the kids’ departure, started lobbying me to stay at home, to avoid that five-day camp with (she reported) no showers or flush toilets during the day and instead perhaps stay home close to the luxury of indoor plumbing and – er – perhaps some TV on a random Tuesday morning? (She asked, but knew I’d say ‘no’ to that one. Guess what? I did.)

In the interim, I chatted with both Alyssa’s classroom teacher and the school principal; I told them that I had a feeling it would be better for Alyssa to sit out this round of overnight enrichment experiences. Surprisingly, both teacher and administrator agreed; they offered up a couple soft alternatives but didn’t really buck my stance that Alyssa stay home.
Ideally, I told the principal, I’d like Alyssa to have on-campus enrichment opportunities – perhaps as a reading tutor to first graders, shadowing a teacher’s aide – but, apparently, “no such precedent exists,” he said, and so Alyssa was to be mine during May’s middle.

My boss very graciously gave me permission to take that week off. So I commenced planning what Alyssa and I would do, during school hours, for the first three days of the week until our family would head to Groton, Mass., for Shelby Kimmel’s wedding to Paul Hess.

On the week’s agenda: the Korean War Memorial in Wilsonville, Ore., the Oregon Historical Society, the West Slope Community Library, piano lessons, the Oregon Jewish Museum’s “Settling In” exhibit, dining out for lunch, and, at last, the Freaky But True Peculiarium.

It's not only OK but encouraged that one write on the walls in this green-hued room.

It’s not only OK but encouraged that one write on the walls in this green-hued room.

The product name says it all.

The product name says it all.

Mean mom that I am, I had Alyssa journal after each day’s adventure. Admittedly, I’m disappointed with what she wrote, in that her entries were too brief to be terribly, terribly meaningful or insightful. But, still, she wrote them without balking.
I may have been disappointed by her entries, but I was certainly not disappointed in the week we had together. Usually, when I’m at home with the girls, it’s because they’re sick; we’re confined to the house, and I’m confined to meeting their needs to help make them feel better. This time, Alyssa was happy to do as I’d planned. It was either that, or be in a place where – my friends have reported since their kids returned from Camp Hancock – the kids wore the same pair of underwear and socks worn five days runnin. (Oh, horror!)

I loved observing Alyssa, say, at the Oregon Historical Society, while really using the hands-on exhibits and experiencing some raw emotions while watching the short videos about Portland’s homeless and mentally ill populations (it’s so interesting what she gravitates toward wanting to learn about). At the Korean War Memorial, she – and I – was stunned by the numbers of local soldiers who’d died in that three-year conflict, one of whose key battles occurred on July 25. Granted, that was in 1950, but when she saw her birthdate carved in granite, the information connected to that date nearly 65 years ago really resonated.

Also during that week, Hayley transformed from a young kid into a much older (looking!) one. She got her braces off and a very fun pair of glasses on.

No more braces; glasses added; say 'hello' to a transformed girl

No more braces; glasses added; say ‘hello’ to a transformed girl

Her smile is truly radiant (and so white, with all that metal extracted!). And her face now somehow looks like it should have had glasses on it all the time. Folks now say she looks even more like me. Poor child. To celebrate her transformation, we got a pedicure together. We had such fun at the salon. The lovely Vietnamese ladies, I’m certain, were saying this to one another: “My goodness that little girl looks like her mom. Oh well. At least we can make her toes beautiful.”

Joking aside, I actually am not certain there’s tons of resemblance between Hayley and me. I find both my children beautiful. Just ‘cuz they’re mine.

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