Saturday, June 17, 2017

The Changing Role Of Fathers Through The Decades

(I originally posted this on Father's Day four years ago but it's still appropriate today,  as the role of the father is evolving --for the better in my mind--every year.)

In 1911, when my mother was born, the father was a god-like figure who occasionally came down from Mount Olympus to offer criticism, praise and advice.

(My mother is on the far right in the back row. In addition to the seven girls in the family, there were two older boys.   My grandmother, Anna Truan Dobson is holding her ninth and last baby, who was born when Anna was 49 and her hair had turned completely white.  The father, Frederick Fee Dobson, was a Presbyterian minister in Oswego, Kansas.)

In the 1940's, when I was born, the father would come home from work and sit in his favorite chair with his scotch on the rocks and read his newspapers, and he was not to be disturbed until dinner time when he presided over the dinner table.

In the 1970's, when my kids were born, the father was more hands on, but not to the point where he ever changed diapers, took a kid to the park, or knew the names of his children's friends or teachers.

But our granddaughter Amalia, born in 2011, has the benefit of the current breed of father, who is hands-on from the moment of birth.  He changes diapers and makes breakfast and gives baths and Amalia knows a father is also for :
Going down the slide together and

Dancing on the patio together and

Looking for fish and dolphins together and

Feeding giraffes together and

Holding you up in the water and

Playing horsey and

Admiring your artwork and

Walking to the park together and

Singing in the park together.

And grandfathers, whether or not they changed diapers in their younger days, are for telling you a story every day, even if they have to do it by phone or by Skype.

Happy Father's Day to  Emilio and Nick who are now Father and Grandfather (Papou) to both Amalia and Nico!

Thursday, June 15, 2017

A Local Farm, with Links to the Salem Witch Trials

Today I drove past Nourse Farm on Route 30, as I do nearly every day.  I stopped to take a photo of the decorations out front, a giant cake celebrating the town of Westboro's 300th Birthday and a sign advertising Farm Heritage Day, this coming Saturday.

Nourse Farm is a place where you can pick your own strawberries and raspberries in season (and buy corn and pumpkins in the fall.) When I have a party, I often stop by their farm stand to pick up one of their delicious home-baked pies.
I've also taken my kids, when they were small, to see the sheep being sheared and the wool being spun into yarn by the wife of the owner.

I wish the grandchildren were going to be here next weekend for the fun events they've planned.

A long time ago, I was told that Nourse Farm is one of the oldest continuously operating farms in the country, and that it was established in 1722 by one of the descendants of Rebecca Nurse.  She was the innocent elderly woman who was hanged as a witch in the town of Salem in July of 1692 and her courage in the face of fanatic paranoia was portrayed in Arthur Miller's play "The Crucible".

Years ago, when I once stopped at the farm store, I asked the owner if this was true and he said it was, but that when he was young, his parents didn't like to talk about it, even though Rebecca Nurse has been proved an innocent martyr by everyone, including the church.

It's an honor to have a place like this to show my grandchildren.  Whenever I take them there, they allow us to visit the horses and cows and other animals.  (Long ago I did a large watercolor of the two white horses who board there, standing in the field with the red barn and white house in the background.  Then I gave the painting to the owner and he put it up inside the farm store.)

I think Nourse Farm is one of the treasures of our historic New England neighborhood, and I remember the saga of Rebecca Nurse every time I drive by.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

The Voice of the Turtle Is Heard in the Land

Four years ago on May 23, 2013, I published the blog post below, which is basically a love song to my New England village of Grafton.  It started with a photo of the mean giant snapping turtle who comes every year across the road from the lakeside to lay her eggs in our front yard.  

I didn't see her last year and yesterday I was saying, "I wonder if that turtle's still alive?" but just now I looked out of the second floor bedroom window and there she was in the driveway.  So I went outside to say hello and she glared back as always.  I know she'll be several hours out there digging a hole and then laying her eggs (very slowly!) and then we'll try to help her get back across the street safely.

Right now, exactly as I wrote four years ago, the irises and the clematis are in flower and the peonies are about to pop open and I've been photographing it all.  And just as I said then, I'm dreaming about being able to afford a tiny apartment in New York, so I can spend my declining years there. But every spring I start watching for this turtle and I realize there's no place I'd rather be than here in our 300-year-old house in Grafton.   

Song of Solomon 2:11-12 (KJV)
11 For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone;
12 The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land;

She came today, just as she does every year, crossing the road from the lake, digging a nest in our front yard and laying her eggs--the biggest,  meanest old snapping turtle you ever saw, but we always watch from a distance and make sure she makes it back across the road without becoming road kill.
And today the clematis started to pop open and so did the best of the irises.

Last week I was back in New York City. We dined at Swifty's and I walked through Central Park every day at the height of its blossoming and I tried to figure out how I could sell our country house in the Massachusetts village of Grafton and buy a tiny apartment in New York to spend our declining years, but then I got back home for last weekend and realized that Manhattan can't hold a candle to our New England village.

At the Common they were celebrating Grafton History Day--the 150th anniversary of a time when both the Town House and the Unitarian Church were burned down on Sept 11, 1862 as the Civil War was raging, and rebuilt in 1863.
Linda Casey, president of the Grafton Historical Society, greeted me in her daytime dress.  She had another gown for the ball that night.

There was a  Civil War muster and the Mass. 13th Volunteer Infantry Regiment was recreating an authentic Civil War encampment.

Ladies were buying plants on the common, no matter what the shape and size of their petticoats.

Next I went to the Plantapalooza at the Community Barn and Harvest Project where kids and adults were planting about a gazillion tomato plants as part of the community's volunteer farming for hunger relief (they give away everything they've grown) .  And everyone who came got free tomato plants. 

You could meet alpacas and go on the cookie walk & buy handmade crafts and local honey and jams.

And of course there were the yards sales on the weekend--I bought somebody's grandmother's collectible dolls for $2.00 each.  And the all the doll clothes for another $2.00.

Manhattan may be my favorite big city, but as Dorothy said, there's no place like home.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Forgotten Family Photos from 1983

 The other day, going through some files in my husband’s office, I came across these three photos that were taken by a People Magazine photographer early in 1983.  My first thought was “Were we ever that young?”  The second: “Was my hair ever that curly?” (Clearly that was a perm!)
 The photos were taken shortly after Nick’s book Eleni --about his mother’s life and death in 1948 during the Greek civil war-- was published and then sold to become a movie.  The film Eleni was released in 1985, starring Kate Nelligan as Eleni and John Malkovich as the adult Nick.  (Secret: you can watch it on Youtube for free.)
 People published a six-page article about the book and Nick’s attempts to find his mother’s killer. These three photos were never used in the magazine, which is probably why we have them.  They were taken right here in our house in Grafton, MA, which still looks much the same 34 years later, but we sure don’t.  In the photos son Christos is 11, and daughters Eleni and Marina are 8 and 5.  Nick is 43 and Joan is 42. 
 It was poignant but also exciting to rediscover those photos from so long ago, when the children were still small.  We had been living in a suburb of Athens, Greece from September of 1977, when Marina was only a few months old, because Nick was sent there by The New York Times to be a foreign correspondent.  We returned to the U.S. and our house in Grafton in 1982, a year before the book Eleni was published. 
After I discovered the photos, I dug out of the files the People magazine with the article.  The opening spread is above.  You can read the whole article on line here: but it doesn’t include any pictures.

At the same time I discovered the People photos, I came across two amazing shots of Nick on the job in Iran in 1977 when he was covering the Iranian revolution and almost became a hostage in the American embassy in Tehran.  But I’m saving those for a future post.