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Waiting for Irene

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on Saturday, 27 August 2011
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Today is still bright and clear but I'll be bringing in the bird feeders tonight, preparing for the storm. One friend who was visiting left this morning instead of tomorrow, fearing she wouldn't be able to get out...and she has tickets to the US Open on Tuesday.  My other guest is still here...he has a flight out late in the day Monday so shuld be okay.

We will likely lose power so are well-stocked with alternative lighting, water stored for when the pump goes off, etc.  But I don't anticipate huge problems here in Maine.

I went out and picked apples...the trees are well laden this year...and then sent this photo to my brother, titled "Pie tonight"

Apples

In reply his wife sent this, titled "cake tonight"

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summer's end

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on Wednesday, 24 August 2011
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The score is 9-1, Red Sox over Texas, in the 6th inning so I felt that it was safe for me to turn it off and head to bed with a book. (If the score is close, they need me to sit here rooting for them)

But before I did, Alfie let me know that he despeately wanted to go outside.  Barking, running to the back door, looking at me imploringly.  Usually he is in for the night after dark...this time of year, 8 PM.  There is too much Out There, at night, as I learned the hard way when he met with a porcupine one night.

But he was really, really wanting to go out so I put a leash on him, donned a jacket (it is chilly at night now) and grabbed a flashlight because it is a moonless cloudy night, very dark outside.  We had barely rounded the corner of the house when I saw why he had been so agitated: a large deer on the lawn, looking back at us, a deer-in-the-headlights look....(make that flashlight).  A deer, even a large one, is not frightening..they all look like Bambi's mother. But Alfie was beside himself; and the deer bounded away and disappeared into the trees.  We continued our walk, Alfie's nose to the ground...there was apparently much deer aroma to check out...and then when we rounded the back of the barn, there was something else in the nearby woods: a growly/hissing sound and a lot of heavy rustling in the underbrush. ..coyote, maybe? THAT was scary, and reminded me why I don't let my 26-pound dog out alone at night.

I am leaving here next week because of commitments back home, and a trip to California coming up; but I'll be back briefly in October and then again in November.  That's when the kitten...soon, I suppose, to be called cat...will be put to the test; because fall is when the mice come in, looking for a winter home. I am planning on Lulu feasting on mouse often. Oh dear: I recently wrote a book in which all the characters were very appealing mice.  There is a discrepency here.

My book revisions (human characters, not rodents) are done and sent off to the editor and by changing font size I got it down from 465 pages to 404, whihc seems slightly less daunting.

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Down Shaker Road

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on Thursday, 18 August 2011
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Yesterday I left the cat and dog both in good hands and went to Yarmouth, Maine, about 45 miles from here, to have lunch with a group of old, old friends in order to celebrate the birthday of one of them.  Gorgeous day; gorgeous house on the ocean; good lunch; good conversation; a nice time all around.

Heading home, I took a different route and found myself on Shaker Road, outside of Gray, Maine, and on an impulse stopped at The Shaker Village at Sabbathday Lake. I had done a lot of research there for my book LIKE THE WILLOW TREE which is set in that village in 1918, but I hadn't been back since the book was published.  I pulled in and parked and watched a group headed out for a tour with one of the volunteer guides. I had begun my research by taking that tour, and then taking it a second time a few days later (and after that had worked in the library there, using the original documents and diaries).

DA LIKE THE WIL… TREE COVER

I stopped in the gift shop, saw that the book is for sale there, and introduced myself to the two women running the shop...also volunteers.  The village has a passionate and loyal and hard-working group of supporters and volunteers.

To ny great joy they told me that they loved the book...but more importantly, that I got it right, that the details were accurate and conveyed the history and feeling of this place that they love. And: here is the good part: that little girls arrive clutching their copy of LIKE THE WILLOW TREE, and want to know just where each little incident took place. Not everything in the book is availble for the public to see, unfortunately, but I was told that one little girl wanted to see the room where Daniel, the brother of the protaganist slept...and was shown there. They can walk up the hill, as Lydia did in the book, and look down at the village; they can see the schoolhouse where she attended school, and some tours include the laundry room where she took her turn at helping with the laundry and learned (and hated) to iron. They can see where Lydia would have learned to weave, and the tiny cemetery with its single headstone SHAKERS, where some of the "real" characters in the book...including Sister Jennie, who was caretaker of the little girls, are buried.

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words, words, words....

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Saturday, 13 August 2011
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I have been spending the past two days at work on book revisions, making my way page by page through, so far, two-thirds of a lengthy manuscript, guided by insightful comments from a fine editor, and also by having been away from it for a bit, so that I see (and hear it) with fresh eyes and ears. The repetitive phrase...SLASH. The cliché description...DELETE. The murky parargraph...CLARIFY.

I love this process. It is not exhilirating the way the first blast of creativity can be. But it has its own satisfaction to it.

I am not...my guess is that few writers are...aware of the eventual reader of a book when I am at this stage of working on it. That is another, remarkable kind of satisfaction that comes much later. And keeps coming, again and again. Today, for example, I got a very moving letter from a 12-year-old girl who has been diagnosed with clinical depression. She said that in my book "Gathering Blue" she was struck by the phrase "Pain makes you strong" and she was going to try to start thinking that way instead of feeling sorry for her own incapacity.

Another letter, in the same batch of mail, was from a man. He didn't say where he was, but he said this:

Thank you for your wonderful characters and stories. They remind me that even though the world at times can be a scary place, and people don't always treat each other as well as they should,  there is always beauty and love to be found. I have found a piece of that love and beauty in your wonderful books.

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More little-town news

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on Thursday, 11 August 2011
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The weekly newspaper came out today, and my favorite section, the police blotter, included the item that a large group of geese followed the mailman down Main Street.  It is unclear why the police were notified.

When I went to the PO to mail a few things, the woman ahead of me in line was receiving a very noisy package, which turned out to be a dozen baby guinea hens. Guinea chicks, I guess they would be called.  Much chirping from the box, so she opened it and showed them to me and the postal lady.

Much chirping at this moment from my studio, and Alfie is beside himself, investigating.  There is a chipmunk, it turns out, behind a row of books on a shelf. Maybe I should call the local police?

My last guest has gone home, after a nice lunch at Ebenezer's Pub, and with a big supply of freshly-picked blueberries. I will have to go out in the morning and pick some myself.

Blueberries

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Bucky and I

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on Wednesday, 10 August 2011
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Much excitement...and company...over the weekend to celebrate grandson Grey's 13th birthday here at the farm.  His Uncle Jon, an MD, gave him a skeleton. Now what boy wouldn't love to have that?! Bucky, as he is named, is currently sitting in a chair, legs crossed in a yoga position, in my studio.

Bucky yoga


 

But here he is on a rainy weekend afternoon:

Bucky in rain

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Don't look up

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Wednesday, 03 August 2011
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Here in a very small Maine town in the summer, one of my favorite bits of reading each week is the Police Blotter in the local paper.  This is also true in reading the Cambridge Chronicle the rest of the year, but Cambridge is a city and real crime abounds. Not so much here in Maine.  There are the usual domestic abuse calls, the "fox stealing chickens" (yes, really, not a nursery rhyme), and the perpetrator-left-convenience-store-without-paying-for-gas.  But always there is one report that stands out as truly unique. 

Two weeks ago it was this: man in town calls police and tells them that someone has dropped human excrement from a plane onto his roof.  Police officer goes to check it out and reports back that actually, it was vomit.

That was my favorite so far this summer.

This week: maraudng teenagers rearranged the letters of a church sign, and spelled, instead of the religious message, "something foul."   Since the police report didn't repeat either the pious phrase or its foul anagram, this caused me to waste an entire afternoon on speculation. I had very little luck. Best I could come up with is that "only begotten son" can be rearranged to spell "teeny oblong snot."  I don't think this is what the teenage vandals spelled out.

But it did lead my thinking next about combining the two criminal events, and wondering what would happen if an airplane dropped teeny oblong snot on someone's roof.

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Black Cat returns

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on Monday, 18 July 2011
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My daughter is in the middle of moving and she just sent me this snapshot of something she unearthed in the process. This is a collage I made from torn paper back in 1978, and it shows my daughter with her/our cat ... long dead (cat, not daughter) ... I had forgotten this cat. But my new kitten, Lulu, is almost identical. Not that it couldn't be argued that if you seen one black cat you've seen 'em all.

Collage kris and cat

Here's Lulu yesterday, on a hot day, lying on her back on a wicker couch on the porch

Lulu on back

Actually, of course, I see now that Lulu has a white beard and feet; and the earlier cat...whose name was Sebastian...was completely black.

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Not me, but thanks for the fan

Posted by Lois Lowry
Lois Lowry
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on Friday, 15 July 2011
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LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) - Lafayette resident Lois Lowry enjoyed some much needed relief from a hot Indiana summer day on Friday. Lowry has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and said she doesn't get out much, especially in the heat. A fan to help keep the cool air circulating was a much needed item.

"It will be more comfortable," Lowry said.

Lois was stop number one for employees from Lowe's delivering fans Friday morning. The store donated 50 fans to the Area IV Agency for Aging and Community Action Programs.

"The store itself, our store, has the ability to designate funds that are given to us, for what we consider to be a worthy cause," said Human Resources Manager Dennis Del Carlo.

That worthy cause was giving Area IV clients like Lowry a break from the hot weather.

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Little Lulu

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on Monday, 11 July 2011
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I had been thinking for a whle about getting a cat. Or more precisely: getting Alfie a cat. Alfie loves cats, (when we go to my friend Kate's house, where there are two golden retrievers, Alfie ignores the goldens and runs upstairs looking for Amelia, the 16-year-old cat) and I thought that a cat would be company for him when I have to be gone from the house...he's been missing Martin, I think.

So I had paid two visits to the Harvest Hills Animal Shelter in Fryeburg, Maine, which is a wonderful clean and happy place.  But as I explained to the people there, I needed to be certain that any cat I took home would be okay with a dog. They pointed out that most of their cats are strays; they have no idea whether they are dog friendly. And no, they couldn't let me take one home for a trial, nor would they let me bring Alfie in for a private introduction. They suggested that my best bet would be to get a kitten, which would not have had time to learn to be hostile to dogs.

So yesterday I took my visiting grandsons, 12 and 10, to the shelter. I told them their task was to choose a kitten, and they should base their choice not on beauty or cuteness but on temperament. We needed a mellow, laid-back kitten; and I said a female, becaise I read someplace that females are better mousers than males. Here in the country there are always mice to deal with.

So the boys held, and talked to, and played with, a variety of kittens and then chose a 3-month-old female. On the 10-mile drive home, with small meows coming fron the carrier,  we discussed names...flower names, since it is garden season. Lily? Rosie? Daisy? Lacey, for Queen-Anne's Lace? Holly, for Hollyhock? Daffodil. Lilac.

Remembering Miss Rumphius, we settled on Lupine, and began to call the kitten Lulu.

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Collage

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Saturday, 09 July 2011
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My grandsons are visiting the farm and Grey, age almost 13, has just been examining this framed collage of my life  made for me by middle schoolers at the Elizabth B. David Middle School in Chester, Virginia, two years ago.  I should have mentioned it back when they gave it to me! But better late than never. So I'm going to let Grey describe some of the things  that he found in it:

Collage

This is Grey speaking:

Hi, so here I am in Bridgton Maine apparently describing what I see. I see a great drawing  right in the SMACK middle of the collage of the Newbery award and there is fabulous artwork of some of the many amazing novels my grandmother ( A.K.A. Oma of Omar, don't ask!) has published. Also I see my uncle who sadly perished due to a mechanical error in his aircraft called the F-15 Eagle. I am named after my beloved uncle whom I was never introduced to. Also I saw a drawing with the date "1768", so I then proceded to ask Oma what it meant, and then she told me that is was when the farmhouse that I am sitting in was made.

And now this is Oma speaking, or Omar (I am named, by the boys, for Omar the Tentmaker, because I got them a tent from LL Bean's...and that is where they often sleep in the summer).

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A rose by any other name...

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Thursday, 07 July 2011
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This morning I received a reply in response to a previous blog post, one in which I had talked about Martin and music. This reader pointed out that a Phyllis Naylor book, one of her "Alice" series, was dedicated to "Martin Small"...and, knowing that Phyllis and I are friends, the reader wondered if that could be "my" Martin. Indeed it was. Martin had helped her out with some chamber music information for that book (and Ithink she named a musician character for him)

Later, my brother, a doctor, provided some "field amputation" information to Phyllis for a book called "Blizzard." So Jon (who actually did once have to amputate a leg caught in a farm tractor) is in the acknowledgements.

Later still, Phyllis allowed me to use an old family photograph in my book "The Silent Boy," which is illustrated with old photos. So she appears in the acknowledgements, along with her husband (whose family photo it actually was).

Earlier, and just to show that it isn't only Phyllis and me who play this back-and-forth game, I dedicated a book, "The One Hundredth Thing about Caroline", to Michael Small from People Magazine. Michael, who was Martin's nephew, appeared (with his permisison, and People's legal staff's permisison) in the book....

...and so it goes.  Two of the second graders in the Gooney Bird series (Beanie and Chelsea) are named for my granddaughter and the illustrator's granddaughter.

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Jeff and me

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on Thursday, 30 June 2011
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Jeff-bridges1

Yes, that Jeff.

The word is out...someone put out a press release, I suppose....that Jeff Bridges is once again trying to get the film of THE GIVER made. He has been trying to for some years! Things in Hollywood get stalled for all sorts of reasons, most of them having to do with money.   But over these past years, with The Giver floating around out there, I have gotten to know some wonderful people who genuinely care about the quality of the movies they make (or don't end up making, as happens frequently). Jeff Bridges is one.

Most people (well, I haven't done a statistical study, but this is my impression) list The Big Lebowski as their favorite JB movie. My own personal favorite is a lesser-known film called The Door in the Floor. But when Crazy Heart was released, I came close to changing my mind. I loved Crazy Heart. I wrote Jeff at the time that when I saw The Door in the Floor I related to it in many very personal ways.  I could believe in the main character (played by JB) because he was a children's book writer obsessed by grief after the loss of two of his children. I had been there. I was a children's book writer who had lost a son and had to navigate that territory myself.

But then (as I told him at the time) I saw Crazy Heart  and he made me believe in that character as well. And that was more of a feat, because I had never been down and out, never been a drunk, never been as desperate and lost as Bad Blake. I thought Jeff was amazing in that film (for which, of course, he deservedly won an Oscar).

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The jury is still out

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on Tuesday, 28 June 2011
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No, I am not talking about the Casey Anthony murder trial.  It's the reading-in-bed-with-a-flashlight question. If you look at comments to the previous post, you'll see the verdict is not final and maybe never will be.  I think, though, that it may be a generational thing. I was a child in the 1940's. Some months ago I wrote a post about my scissor fixation...the fact that today there are scissors EVERYWHERE in my house, probably because when I was a kid there were never any scissors available when I wanted to cut out paper dolls. Mother wouldn't let me use her sewing scissors. Dad wouldn't let me use his medical scissors. My sister and I were always looking for scissors. Now I can't walk through Staples without buying yet one more pair.  My visiting brother recently said, while looking in my kitchen for a screwdriver:  "Why are there six pairs of scissors in the junk drawer?"

Same, I think, with flashlights. If there was a flashlight in my childhood home (and there may have been, but I don't remember one) it would have been regarded as a serious and expensive implement (somewhat like scissors), not something for a child to fool around with. But today there are flashlights everywhere in both my houses. Flashlights are cheap.

 

 

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Maine days

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on Sunday, 05 June 2011
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I head back to Cambridge tomorrow, to prepare for the memorial celebration next weekend (friends coming from as far away as Minnesota, California, Florida!) but it has been a lovely few days here, with friends for dinner Thursday night...

Rhubarb pudding

Here is a rhubarb bread pudding which was delicious for dessert. (Dinner was baked salmon stuffed with fennel).

And my brother is with me. (Here he is):

  Jon in kitchen

Everyone should have a meticulous brother who likes to fix things. Martin was a great guy and a wonderful companion but not Mr. Fixit. (My friend Susan refers to such men affectionately as "Jews with Tools")  Jon has busied himself at the Cambridge house and now, in Maine, he has taken on the problem of the old butcher block in the kitchen and its many years of accumulated crud. After solvents, sandpaper, elbow grease, and mineral oil:

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Life is still there and you still have to live it

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on Tuesday, 31 May 2011
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A friend has sent me this photo of Martin and me....

Hawk Mountain

...taken at the top of a smallish mountain, not far from our Maine farm. Martin, in his younger years, had climbed many of the New England mountains, and skiied Tuckerman's Ravine, the mecca for stalwart and sturdy skiiers... But though those days had passed, he still enjoyed the outdoors and these small treks to places where we could look down on lakes and sky and beyond.

Our trips over the years had often been to places where the scenery was monumental—the African grasslands; the fjords of Norway; the blue-gray splendor of Antarctica. While I remembered Austria for the cafes and strudel mit schlag...he remembered the bright yellow fields of wild mustard. When we bought the farm in Maine I lamented briefly that it wasn't on the coast, that we couldn't watch the ocean and its changes minute to minute---but he pointed out the sky, so vast across our hilly meadow, and how it changed in the same way.

Friends and family will gather on June 12th to say our goodbyes, through some favorite readings and some rememembered anecdotes...and music, of course; Martin's life centered around music.

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Coming Home

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on Friday, 13 May 2011
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A friend kindly sent me this photograph of my driveway in Maine. It was a long winter there, as it was everywhere in New England, and I have not been able to go to Maine since Christmas, so it is a treat to see my daffodils in bloom, such a reminder that May does follow the cruelest month, and that things are renewed again and again.

IMG_0860

I have been mostly silent on this blog because for 18 days I have been spending hours each day in the hospital at Martin's bedside and have been wrung out by evening. Friends have stopped by again and again, bringing food and wine and conversation and sympathy and yes, even laughter , such an important commodity in tough times.

Tomorrow he will be discharged and I will take care of him myself with help from Hospice nurses and aides. It won't be easy. But if it's possible, people should be in their homes, with their famliies...and dogs! Martin is so eager to see Alfie!...as their lives come to an end.  Hospitals are astonishingly noisy; privacy is a lost cause; the food sucks; and there is never a parking place. Aside from that?...well, the doctors and nursing staff are dedicated and compassionate (though overworked) and the technology is state of the art. There is much to marvel at and to be grateful for.

But now it is time to come home.

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Mothers' Day...

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on Sunday, 08 May 2011
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Today would have been the day that I flew to Orlando, for IRA.  My thanks to those authors who are filling in for me there.

And this coming Wednesday I would have been speaking to the annual meeting of the New England Child Psychiatrists/Psychoanalysts, but I have had to cancel that appearance as well.

Instead, I am spending most of each day by Martin's hospital bed and oddly being grateful for that (mostly) uninterrupted time to sit and reminisce about some of the extraordinary adventures we have had together.  I think it was at an IRA convention many years ago in Anaheim, where we found ourselves in a hotel elevator with a group of the New Orleans Saints football team...it was, we realized, like standing in a redwood forest.

It was 1985 whe we spent time in Africa, 1992 when we spent time in Antarctica, 1995 when we were in rural Japan....and when, just this week, they looked at a chest x-ray and commented on some healed rib fractures...we remembered the rafting trip down the Colorado River---who knows what year!---when he fell on some rocks, broke some ribs, and then had to continue for the remaining 3 days (of 9) thudding down the river...  Ouch.

Yesterday I received these photos from rural China

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Not running for office. But...

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on Wednesday, 04 May 2011
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...just for the record, here is my (long form) Hawaiian birth certificate (and please note that I was labeled "legitimate"):

LL birth cert

 

 

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Dreamworld

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on Sunday, 24 April 2011
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http://www.lsa.umich.edu/english/news/newsDetail.asp?ID=182

This is long. Sorry.  But it's a lecture I gave last month at the University of Michigan.

 

A beautiful Easter Sunday here in Cambridge, with yellow tulips in bloom in my front yard. I remember childhood Easters in Pennsylvania  and the frustration of having to wear a coat, covering up the new dress that I would wear to Sunday School. New clothes were a big deal then. Twice a year we would take a trip to Harrisburg---I think only about 18 miles, but it seemed a huge excursion---my sister, mother, and I, (it was a ritual that my sister and I held our breath while we drove across the bridge that crossed the Susquhanna River)  and go to a big department store to get new clothes.  Following the shopping we would go to the park in front of the capital building, and feed the pigeons with peanuts from a vendor with a cart. Everything seemed adventurous and exciting back in those days when kids were not overloaded with advetures and excitement.  

I am always aware when I start to fall into "in my day..." tales of simpler times, and how I rolled my eyes in feigned boredom as an adolescent when my mother did the same thing. How I treasure her stories now! Some years ago, in a book called The Silent Boy, which is set in a small Pennsylvania town in the early 1900s, I used some of those childhood stories of my mother's. She was gone by the time I wrote that book (which is illustrated with old photographs, including some of her).

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