Boston Marathon: the helpers

It was a nice day here in the Boston suburbs. It wasn’t quite as lovely as a certain memorable day in September, but it was warm and clear after a cold and cloudy winter. Today is a Massachusetts holiday – celebrated only in a small area around the Hub. We call it Patriot’s Day, and it starts before dawn with battle reenactments in Concord and Lexington. It moves from that to the earliest baseball game in Major League Baseball, with the first pitch thrown at about 11 am. The game is supposed to let out just in time for the spectators to watch the racers from the Boston Marathon cross the finish line. It’s a day of revelry in Boston.

I didn’t have today off, sadly. My husband took the boys to a museum far away from the Boston crowds, since both school and daycare were closed. I had started work a little early (and worked a little late) so I could go volunteer to play taps for a WWII Navy vet. As the sun was at the zenith, with forsythia and narcissus early harbingers of spring to the Wildwood Cemetery, I traded off with a bagpiper as we laid a brave lady to rest. I watched her family’s face as the strains of Amazing Grace wound away and the piper turned his back, and I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to being a bit weepy myself.

After the last note was sounded, I was home in time to catch the 9th inning of the game. It was a great game today, with a walk off wall-ball double in the bottom of the 9th. I was deep into functional specifications when a one-liner came across Twitter, “US media report two explosions near finish line of Boston Marathon”. It was right after the tweet of a friend whose ultrasound was not showing good news, and right before a notification that Deadliest Catch starts tomorrow.

In this inured age, such early reports often tend to be not that big a deal after all. A firecracker. A backfire. A prank on social media. But this one, with a sick feeling, grew across the feeds. There were pictures. Videos of scenes that were definitely not backfires. Images that had not been approved for general viewing of a national tv audience. I was heartsick. And then I remembered. One of my Sunday School kids (not a kid anymore, of course) was there, working as an EMT. She posted this picture this morning:

Back when it was exciting instead of ominous
Back when it was exciting instead of ominous

I posted hoping to hear back from her. It was a very long hour before she found time to respond to anyone that she was ok, but very very busy.

On a bright, sunny, sorrowful day a lot of folks have reached back to the wise words of Mr. Rogers, advising us to look for the helpers. Before I knew she was ok, I thought that if my friend – who babysits my kids, to whom I taught confirmation and Sunday School classes – was there, it was to the advantage of the world. I know her, and she is one of the helpers. I have yet to hear her story of the day, but I have no doubt she was – is still, probably – helping the hurt, treating the injured, calming the scared and lost, comforting the afflicted.

I have other friends there too – a law enforcement official who won’t be coming home tonight because he’ll be working on finding any unexploded ordinance, on catching the bad guys, on keeping us safe. There’s the fellow mom whose hospital was in a lock down, and who spent tonight a long way away from her kids, taking care of the very sick in a fearsome atmosphere. When you look at the race grounds for those helpers, you will find my friends standing there.

I am so very proud, and so very grateful, for those who help on a dark Patriot’s Day. Thank you, my friends.

Porch time

It’s the middle of April – exactly – today. It’s a time of year where New Englanders start to believe that maybe there are only one or two good snowstorms between them and the three weeks of beach weather we call summer. Friday was the Sox home opener.

I’m sitting – in short sleeves – on my front steps (glare making it hard to read the screen) watching my eldest playing in a gaggle of kids across the street while listening to the Red Sox (winning!) while Thane sleeps. Ah, bliss!

It’s been such an unseasonably warm winter and spring that the oddness of this near 80 degree weather is masked. I mean, we’ve already had 80 degree days this year… why should it be weird to have one before Patriot’s Day (the Boston Marathon day, tomorrow, a state holiday). But oh it is odd. It is an extreme weather event, this winter and spring heat. It’s a rather lovely one, but a touch ominous for all that. Still, I could lament, or I could enjoy. Enjoying seems like a better plan.


My husband was out of town this weekend at Helgacon. I haven’t heard the report on how the Cthulu game went, but it seems like “A good time was had by all”. I’m sort of bummed I wasn’t there, but my mother-in-law is in town which makes things easier. The nice weather has heralded neighbor time (before they’re all gone for their summer activities), and we had an impromptu bbq last and heading into temperate dark. I followed up with a few board games with a neighbor, and conversations. It’s so lovely to feel the leisure of warm weather.

Yesterday we went to IKEa – a marathon adventure. No life-changing purchases: bookshelves and duvet covers and white tapers and enough meatballs to feed an army.

Mmmmm the lassitude of the afternoon keeps stealing any attempt I might make at a thesis statement. Suffice it to say: life is busy, warmth and friendship are a joy.

Patriot’s Day

Today is Patriot’s Day in Boston. I’m a big fan of made-up holidays, so I have a certain fellow-feeling with the day, tempered only by the fact I don’t get it off. Boston has an excellent tradition of “historic” holidays (usually revolving around some Revolutionary war thingy) that just HAPPEN, though sheer COINCIDENCE to be on the same day as something even the historically ignorant might care about. For example, amazingly Evacuation Day (a holiday for state workers) MIRACULOUSLY always occurs on St. Patrick’s day. As for the coincidence of the Boston Marathon, the earliest baseball game of the year (the Red Sox ALWAYS have an 11 am home game on Patriot’s Day) and the recreation of the Battle of Lexington… well, let’s just say it’s three great tastes that taste great together.

You can tell which companies are Massachusetts companies vs. which companies happen to be headquartered in Massachusetts based on a) whether this is a holiday on the calendar and b) if it’s not, what percentage of people show up for work that day.

My sons’ preschool is a true Massachusetts institution. I work for a global company. This means, of course, that there’s no preschool but I have to work.

I’d actually been waiting for a day like this. I knew one would come. It was very wrenching for me to pull my sons out of the care of a woman they called Abuela – grandma – who had cared for Grey since he was 8 weeks old. But the round trip commute was not possible. I knew that putting the children in daycare in our community was a good long-term solution. Still, I kept my eyes open for just such an opportunity. See, Abuela doesn’t believe in taking vacations or holidays or nights and weekends. She’s taken kids 3rd shift, for days at a time, and over weekends. I knew she’d be up for taking the boys (assuming she had slots) on a day that preschool was closed.

I called her to ask and the joy in her voice was apparent. She’d missed me. She’d missed the boys. Their friends had missed them too. When I asked if she could take them for a day, she sounded super-happy. I felt happy too, this morning, retracing the steps of my habitual commute. I thought about it. The length of time I spent doing that commute ties with the most durable pattern I’ve ever had in my life. For six years I tread those roads, with minor additions, changes and modifications. I’ve only ever lived in one house for six years… all other places I’ve had shorter tenures. I slipped right back in to the habit. It was hard to even think about the fact this was now exceptional, it felt so ordinary and at-home. The glorious brisk, bright morning seemed to make the familiar path into a dance of spring.

As the boys and I walked up the steps to daycare, I thought about the differences in them. Grey has become obsessed with Star Wars — an obsession given to him by his new preschool compatriots. His reading has come a long, long way. He’s asking complicated vocabulary questions. If Grey has changed incrementally, Thane has changed radically. He’s ceased being practically deaf. He’s started talking (oh has he!). He walked up those stairs on his own feet for the first time today. Heck, I pretty much never even put shoes on him when I was bringing him to Abuela’s, since the ice and snow were disincentives to asking him to walk himself. As I waited the (long, familiar) wait for the door to open, I wondered if he’d remember her. Two months — nearly three! — is a very long time when you’re not quite 18 months old. Would he run in? Rejoice? Be afraid? Turn away?

The door opened. Grey ran in with hugs and “I missed you!”. Thane stood at the door, and then pelted in too, to be picked up by a woman who loved him and held him close — happy to see him, marveling at how he’d grown. Then she put an arm around me, too. “I so happy to see you!” And she was. And so was I.

For lunch, the boys likely had Abuela’s rice and beans which is “So delicious. You would love it mommy. It’s not like YOUR rice and beans.” (Hey, I’m trying.) She’s probably noticed that Thane talks non-stop and screeches a lot now. Grey is likely borrowing Pablito’s DS (assuming Pablito’s parents don’t have Patriot’s Day off, which you never know). Isaiah is probably teaching Grey something fun and inappropriate. (Grey: Isaiah knows about EVERYTHING. ME: Don’t I know it!) I have heard that Devin pitched fits for weeks after Grey left, because he missed him so. (This is entirely one-sided. Grey was like “Devin who?”)

I’ll go and pick them up after work, and I’ll practice my Spanish some more to attempt to keep the rust from forming. We’ll chat and gossip a bit.

Before, my last words when I left were always, “Hasta manana” (see you tomorrow) or “Hasta el lunes” (until Monday) or variations on that theme. This time, and every time now, I do not know until when that “hasta” is. Grey has decided, this last week or so, that he has three grandmas. I wrestle with the evident truth of this. She and I share a love of these children and a common history, but little else. Not even a common language. On the other hand, that is so much. Of course I include her in my Christmas cards, keep up with her daughter on Facebook, the easy things. But how can I honor her grandmahood, and my sons’ love of her, while the realities of my life march on? All I’m sure of is that the attempt must be made because there are few things more precious than someone who loves your children and whom your children love — related by blood or not.

This post brought to you by Deadliest Catch

I don’t watch much tv. I have never seen an episode of Friends, Dr. Who, or Glee. Frankly, if it weren’t for baseball, I’d be more or less ok getting no cable whatsoever. (But there is baseball. Do not underestimate baseball.) But on Saturday, a friend came to stay with me while my husband was away with our friends on the Cape. One thing lead to another, and we spent most of the evening watching Deadliest Catch. I have to admit, I love this show. On bad days, it makes me insanely grateful for a desk job with benefits and a practically 0 chance of having 32 degree Bering Sea water dumped on my head. On other days, I reflect on the ties back to a former age. Interspersed with sonar readings and hydraulic cranes are age-old superstitions and an environment where men teach each other to be men in the oldest ways — as men have in the ruggedest environments since they first plied the waters. It’s an interesting environment for a feminist to see. I can tell you this much: I couldn’t hack it. I’m pretty sure that after 20 hours of backbreaking labor I’d be in tears and handing in my resignation.

Thane loves the park. It has the BEST garbage!
Thane loves the park. It has the BEST garbage!

I figured that as long as he didn’t go around preschool saying, “What the *beep* took you so *beeping* long to *beep* bring me my *beeping* Legos?” this was a pretty good show to watch. The only violence is against crabs. And there’s a truth to it. Of course, now he says he wants to be a fisherman because “It looks like fun.” Clearly he’s not paying attention.

Since I complain plenty when the boys are hard to handle, in fairness I should tell you that they’ve been just amazingly lately. Thane has stopped clinging to my leg like a screeching limpet while I make dinner. Now he’ll play with cars (he LOVES lining them up on a table, taking them down, and lining them up again). He has this Spongebob figure he’s extremely fond of. He, like his brother before him, calls the little yellow guy “Bob-bob”. He’s talking up a storm. He’s extremely interested in whatever his brother is doing. One of his most frequent words is “Gwey”. He’s also recently become obsessed with apples. Normal people will eat a great apple down to the core. With Thane, if he’s hungry, he’ll eat the entire apple. As in, there are no remnants of the apple left when he’s done. Apple is also one of his clearest words. At the height of apple-mania, I believe my 25 pound son (or so) ate about 5 apples in one day. There was a dinner where the boys collectively turned their noses up at pizza and preferred to eat apples instead. I confess that one left me not knowing how to feel. On the one hand, children should eat their dinner. On the other hand, apples are likely much better nutritionally than pizza.

Project “Teach Thane To Walk” has been going extremely well. Thane will now walk considerable distances holding a hand. The other day, he walked all the way down the block with me. This may not sound astonishing, but he has little legs and strong opinions. For him to nicely walk such a distance past so many distractions is real progress. Grey is quite a walker. My friend who spent Saturday brought her pedometer. We walked 3.7 miles that day. Grey walked all of it with us, and with the running around and jumping, much likely significantly more. I look forward to the day when all four of us can walk through the woods together (and not stop every 3 feet for a snack).

Grey has been super and fun and a delight (with one or two exceptions). I’m continually stunned by how USEFUL and HELPFUL he is, and how we can DO things with him. For example, we played several games of “Kids of Carcasonne” and he followed the rules and played correctly. He was also compassionate towards his parents (possibly not getting the idea of a game) and helped us complete our roads. He’s really, truly, honestly reading. I asked him to read a book to my friend, and he read through the entire thing with one mistake. He said “not” when the word was “never”. And it wasn’t a book he knew by heart — he was really reading it. (The book in question is Today I Will Fly). He is superb with Thane… most of the time. It’s a joy to watch him run and jump and play and make friends. And he’s very loving towards me. He’s also really sensitive. The other night he said he was scared. As I carried him to his room, I was talking about all the reasons he should be happy and ended with “And all’s right with the world.” He replied, “No, it’s not. There was that earthquake, and all the people got hurt.” He’s right, of course. All is right in his small world, but not the larger world. I was struck by his awareness that just because everything is good for him, doesn’t mean everything is good.

Little boy blue
Little boy blue

Monday is Patriot’s Day. It’s a state holiday. While theoretically it’s about some historic thingamajig, in reality it’s a day when Boston shuts down to watch some baseball and then watch the Boston marathon come through. There are some battle recreations in the morning, too, I believe. I have to work, but the boys’ new preschool is closed for the day. So I called Abuela tonight to ask if she’d be willing to take the boys. You know, she sounded really, really happy to hear from me. She really wanted to hear how the boys were doing. She said she really missed them – and I believe her. I’m caught between feeling great and feeling sad. Feeling great because it was such a great relationship for so long. And of course, feeling sad because I don’t see how that relationship can be well continued (although I have suspicions that if the Y takes Patriot’s Day off, they probably take all the other holidays off that I don’t get).

I hope that all is as well and joyful with you out there as it is for us!