Wednesday, May 28, 2014


At first I was amazed by how many people said, 'I'll never move again,' or 'I have so much stuff I'll just die here.' Until a week ago, I would have given a nonchalant answer about how much I love moving. And I do - that almost giddy excitement about making a new home, exploring a new neighborhood, meeting people who will become new friends, hearing new stories. Until a few days ago, I might even have claimed that we didn't have very much stuff; and until yesterday, I might have added that we're really quite organized. Only this morning, I might have claimed that we're much too young to think about settling down. But I'm older and wiser now.

I've been packing for this move by myself, while Nathan works long hours and the girls are at school. For the first week it went well, but over the past few days it seems that there is always another cupboard filled with things I'd forgotten and yet another drawer crammed with so much stuff that it is difficult to open. I have at least twice as much as I thought I had, and half as many packing boxes.

This morning, at the dog park, I was chatting to a woman I haven't met before.
'I'm moving tomorrow,' I said.
'Ah,' she replied, 'I'll never move again. I've lived in our house for 30 years and they'll have to carry me out in a coffin.'
Truff sat politely at her feet with her dog's ball in his mouth. Her dog was enthusiastically sniffing another dog's bottom so I didn't feel guilty.
'Where are you moving?' she asked.
'Vermont.' I answered, preparing to answer the usual slew of questions about how close to Burlington, which junction of the Interstate, how long a drive to Montreal, the quality of the local schools and the possibility of keeping chickens.
'So you're retiring up there, are you?' she asked, and I wanted to scream 'No! No! I'm 41- of course I'm not going to retire!'

After I had rescued her dog's ball from my dog's mouth and walked home, I looked in the mirror. The woman was right - I looked about 60. Of course, if I could only remember where I had put my moisturizer and my hair brush, I might lose 10 years; but maybe it's just nature's way of telling me it's time to settle down.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Leaving Cambridge: part one

I'd imagined starting this blog with some kind of clever comparison of Cambridge, MA and Underhill, VT, but the past few weeks have left us humbled and overwhelmed by the generosity of our friends and neighbors as well as engaged in some of our favorite things to do in this area.

So, this new blog begins with a summary of how we have set about saying goodbye to our lives in Cambridge.

1. Watching Whales

My children have moved about a great deal and they will claim to thrive on it (if you ask them if they want to say in the same place, they'll loudly chorus 'Boring!'). But I haven't wanted the past few weeks to be all about the move - that unsettling slight chaos of half-filled boxes, half-emptied rooms, and the impossibility of finding matching socks. Therefore, I've built in a few treats along the way. When I asked Iola what she wanted to do, she said 'Whale-watching'. 

A few hours east of Boston is Stellwagen Bank, a relatively shallow plateau in the Atlantic and, last weekend, Iola and I visited it in the hope of finding fin whales, minke whales and - Iola's favorite - humpback whales. The captain decided to break with tradition by taking a much longer excursion to the East side of Stellwagen Bank where there had been been reports of a group of whales feeding. The boat trip took 5 hours (a joy in itself!) and we spent nearly an hour watching a group of 7 humpback whales as they created a circle of bubbles which drove the fish to the surface, slowly ascended to the water's surface with their jaws wide open (gulls would land on their heads while the whales tried to swallow as many fish as possible), and then plunged back down into the waters with a flick of their tails. We spent time enough in their company for Iola to learn to identify them by their tail markings - her favorite was Geometry, whose tail was jet black. 

There are days of sheer happiness and joy - this was one. 

2. Tandem-ing around Boston

On being asked what she would like to do as her farewell to Cambridge, Maya asked to visit Boston. We took a day off school and headed out on the tandem. Our first stop was Boston Athenaeum - our favorite library. In June, Maya will be representing Massachusetts in National History Day in Washington D.C., so we spent a little time on her speech... but all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy (or, Maya a grumpy girl) so it wasn't long before we set off on our own tour of our favorite parts of Boston. 

First stop: Bolocos for burritos and milkshakes
Best coffee in town for Mmmmy (and when I grow up, I think I want to drive a coffee trike too!)

And dessert at Marias - a chocolate-dipped chocolate-filled canoli. 
Our route (in Maya's Boston accent, route' rhymes with 'about') included Boston's Emerald necklace (a collection of parks which stretch around the city), parts of the Freedom Trail (Boston's history trail), the New England Holocaust Memorial, and a stroll around the harbor. Altogether our tour incorporated quite a few pages in the Guide Books, we still had enough energy, sugar and caffeine in our systems to happily cycle home along the banks of the River Charles. 

3. Eating pizza with friends in the park 

Iola has been part of a really exceptional group of children and parents at the Maria L. Baldwin school - barely a week goes by without some occasion: the children presenting research on a Museum Day in the school library, a pot-luck breakfast, a science fair, a whole-school assembly, a parents' night-out... The combination of excellent school leadership, wonderful teachers and committed parents has created an extraordinary school environment in which the children have become almost an extended family to one another. As a farewell to Iola, some of the parents organized a get-together in the park after school on Friday. There are moments of true happiness in watching children play together - including one another's siblings, looking after one another, sharing toys, ensuring everyone got the same amount of pizza and cake. 

As we are cutting the grass in Vermont, we will be day-dreaming about the class camping trip to our new house! As Iola would say, her friends rock!

4. Feasting with neighbors

As well as great friends, we have been blessed with wonderful neighbors. Maya has earned pocket money feeding cats and looking after rabbits, our yard sales have been well-supported, and the Leungs have coached and supported Maya's studying of Chinese. After Friday's pizza, Saturday was spent feasting on a huge array of Shanghai treats and hearing stories about parts of the world we know very little about... Mr. Leung has also persuaded Iola that the animal we really need at our new home is a yak! 

5. Thrift-shopping

My children grow like string beans and Cambridge, and the neighboring areas, are filled with unworn designer clothing in small sizes (my theory is that the clothing is bought as a motivational tool, the diet is started, one's waist shrinks slightly - but not quite enough - and then life intervenes). Thrift stores raise funds for charities, provide employment opportunities for people who need them (Boomerangs, for example, provides a structured 'return-to-work' training scheme for people with HIV), present great recycling opportunities - and have provided a great context for a wonderful Friday out with a good friend. Maya, meanwhile, dresses extremely well...
In anticipation of winters to come, I have bought a lot of sweaters...