gratitude-a-thon day 2081: a christmas miracle: smarties

 

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Peter waking up to surprise Smarties delivery from an incredibly thoughtful little girl.

Yesterday we were reminded of the great neighborhood we’re lucky enough to live in, the way a teeny, tiny act of kindness can make us feel all warm and glowy like a fire in a fireplace on one of those frigidly cold winter nights Boston can throw at you.

Two Halloweens ago, a little girl and her friends came to the door and my husband, a rabid Smarties candy fan, asked her if she had any. He said they were his faves and he’d trade her some of our candy for her Smarties. She willingly and happily obliged. The next two years in a row, she came to the door with Smarties she’d actually bought for him. We both thought it was adorable and last year she was with her Dad and we thanked them profusely and we all had a giggle. We asked where they lived and they told us around the corner, but neither of us really took note.

Yesterday, Christmas day, my husband woke up to get the newspapers from the porch and there outside the door was a paper bag with Holiday Smarties! C’mon, really?! That sweeter-than-Smarties little girl brought Peter Smarties for Christmas.

There are so many completely awful and horrible things happening in the world, so many stories of unfairness, neglect, lying, cheating, poverty, terror, political insanity, immigration horror, terrifying climate change. The world just going completely mad. But this little moment of unexpected kindness seemed like a tiny little Christmas miracle. One person giving another a little bit of out-of-the-blue fun, a moment of sheer joy, a minute to forget all the bad and remember how transformative showing someone a little sliver of kindness can be.

Gratitude to the absolutely adorable girl, who we don’t even know, who took the time to be thoughtful yesterday. You reminded us that despite everything, kindness makes us better, changes our outlook, and always, always, always matters.

gratitude-a-thon day 2054: everything changes: emerson park

I lived in a converted brick Victorian condo when my son was born. A perfectly renovated three-story walk up, so beautifully and stylishly restored, I wanted to marry it. When I first saw it, I said to my husband, “Nothing bad could ever happen to us if we lived here.” But of course, I was wrong (I lost my mom to brain cancer, my mother-in-law to her high school boyfriend and my fertility to endometriosis), but loads of good things happened to us there too, just as I’d thought, like (after a three year battle with my female anatomy) I gave birth to my sun (and yes I mean sun), Jake.

We didn’t have a yard at my perfect little condo, but what we did have, just one long block away, was Emerson Park, named after Ralph Waldo and boasting scads of green lawn, flowers, decades-old trees, a sprinkler to run around in and a playground with swings, slides and climbing structures, featuring a sandbox with a colorful pirate ship made of wood. Argh!

I had no idea, when I stepped foot into the park for the first time, that it would become a second home, a place for me to, bleary-eyed, connect with other mom’s to find out if I was at all normal, or if my child was, to make friends that would be in my life, until forever, to eat dinner on hot nights with a picnic basket of great food, or a pizza delivery and lots of juice boxes and wine, to gather for birthday parties, to discuss sleepless nights, politics and potty training. I never suspected this would become a place for celebrations, last days of school, play dates and even a source of much needed and familiar comfort on the night of 9/11 when we all wondered if the world was ending.

My children played there, peed there, partied there. It was at this Town Center of sorts, that my kids learned to share toys, to pump their legs to make a swing work, to throw and kick balls, to practice soccer, to climb without falling, to run fast, to ride their bicycles. On that ground, my children made friends, learned about being good citizens, fell down and very importantly mastered how to get back up.

And so it was with a pit in my stomach that I watched a renovation of the park begin a year ago (when Jake was two, we moved just three blocks away from my original condo–even closer to the park, which was where Ally was born and our love affair with Emerson continued). They dug up every corner of the space, leaving not a trace of the original land my children had, like time-lapse photography, grown up on. I felt a certain sadness as I’d walk my dog around the perimeter, watching each phase of the massive construction, while movie clips of the past popped into my head– the time Ally fell off the top of the climbing structure and had to have stitches in her you know what, the castle cake at a party that took up an entire picnic table, the time Jake had to compromise over a beloved truck in the sandbox, the days of worry I had when I felt I was working too much, or not enough. I secretly wanted some of the dirt–dirt my kid’s tiny feet had touched. It seemed a brutal daily reminder that my children were no longer little and that I had no idea where all that time had gone.

At 23 and 20, my children’s childhood is over, and so too, is the original Emerson Park. Interestingly, and perhaps, appropriately, they seemed to coincide. Don’t get me wrong, it opened a few nights ago, with loads of celebration and it is gorgeous! The town did a fabulous job of updating and beautifying. I walked through with my third baby (Riley, my dog) last night and had a smile on my face right up until I exited. There they were, the new crop of Jake and Ally’s, accompanied by worried parents, just like me, who wondered if they were doing it all ok, how they might get their kids to sleep through the night, what pre-school they should go to, glorying in the site of their toddlers toddling, climbing, swinging, pretending, while fending off the deep exhaustion of parenthood.

Twenty million sippy cups of gratitude for what that park has given to me. And even though it’s all spanking new, I’ll remember the old landscape and knowingly smile at the new generation who presides over it now. “I was once you, and you will be me,” I want to say to the mommy’s, but they’ll find that out soon enough.

Sooner than they can ever imagine.

gratitude-a-thon day 1082: allandale farm’s outstanding in the field

So, last night, amidst the news of hurricanes, wild fires and earthquakes, I got the other end of Mother Nature–a farm to table dinner at the oldest working farm in Boston, Allandale.

A dinner like this has always been on my bucket list, but one of those things that I never seem to get tickets to. My friend flagged me months ago, when September seemed too distant to actually plan for, but I was happy to click on “buy” and have something to look forward to throughout the summer. And last night, the crew from Outstanding in the Field and the Chef Tony Maws from Craigie on Main created a dinner I’d like to have every night for the rest of my life.

This is the super cool bus the team at Outstanding in the Field travels around the country in, leaving happy eaters and farms in its wake.

We were told that it’s a tradition that each person bring their own plate so that each place setting would be unique. They washed your plate after dinner and you retrieved it on your way out. (I wish this happened in my house after dinner.)

Our plates.

First appetizers, beer and wine in a grove of pine trees. Then a little walk around the farm to learn about its crops with John who has been farming the land for the last 35 years and had retired only the day before. And then, we were lead to a long table for all of us to sit, all 175 of us, in a field that was as promised, outstanding.

I hate fish, but my husband loves it, although doesn’t like oysters, however, these–he wanted to marry.

 

Good friends, good food, out on a farm. C’mon, what could be better?

 

 

 

 

John, who has been farming this land for the past 35 years tells us about the farm. He retired the day before!

From the onion dip that I wanted to bathe in, served with baby tomatoes and Iggy’s crusty bread to the spectacular everything-in-the-garden salad with tomatoes the size of my head and feta dressing,  to the special spicy tomato soup I had in place of the Portuguese Stew everyone else was served, on account of fish makes me vomit, to the main course of short ribs rubbed in a myriad of spices with a kick-ass sauce and onions and eggplant and carrots to the grilled carrot cake, all paired with beautiful wines, we were all dizzy with delight and satiated not only by the beautiful food, but also by the gorgeous nature that surrounded us.

This salad was out of this world.
Short ribs jam-packed with flavor.
Yeah, I didn’t like it much.

The servers were friendly, gracious, knowledgeable and solicitous. The setting was out of a Pinterest board. The weather was perfection.

I didn’t think it could be more beautiful, but when the candles came out, it was.
Magical. It really was.

 

Darkness finally came and we were lead back to our cars by a path of candles. To say it was a perfect evening wouldn’t even come close. Gratitude for Mother Nature’s good mood, good friends and good food. Oustanding. Really.

gratitude-a-thon day 77: dog people (sandy has been found!)

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Sandy. Lost, then found. I love my neighborhood!

I have written about my dog Riley before. And about how much I love him. And about how he really is this (wo) man’s best friend. But it has come to my attention, and Riley, cover your floppy ears, I really love all dogs. Even dogs I don’t know, or have ever seen. Case in point: Sandy.

Sandy lives a few streets over. She was hit by a car 48 hours ago, and then ran off from her owner, clearly injured, but well enough to make a getaway. In Brookline, where I live, we have something called the Green Dog Program. It’s an effort to allow dogs to use parks during certain hours, in order to run free. I think it’s really great, since Brookline has many houses with small yards, and enough traffic, that people don’t necessarily feel comfortable allowing their dogs to walk off leash. Anyway, I am on an email list, comprised of my local green dog peeps and pups and received an urgent message two mornings ago that Sandy had been hit, and to please be on the lookout for her. My heart fell, my stomach lurched. I could imagine exactly how frantic and overwhelmed the owners must be, and I could also feel how scared the dog must be. Now, as you know, I am human, but I am wondering if I might be at least part canine, because I really started to experience this dog’s fear (I have never once told you that my sanity was in tact in this blog, so you can decide). Anyway, while I walked Riley and started to look around. I was kind of peering under bushes and in backyards. But all I came up with were some candy wrappers (which made me wonder if we needed a litter campaign). The emails continued to come with news. My friend Leah, another part dog person like me, put up a Sandy post on Facebook. Sandy had still not been found. We were asked to please look under our porches, and in our garages and yards. I volunteered to help in any way I could. I walked Riley yesterday, and once again, snooped my way around the neighborhood, including telling a woman on the street who was walking a dog. She was very nice, but I did notice she scurried off when I started to get teary. I saw a flyer on an electrical post with Sandy on it. The campaign to find this dog was in full swing.

I kept telling my family how worried I was about Sandy, but they weren’t very moved, which I took offense at, and which made me start thinking that I might not be as balanced a human being as I thought. I was about to leave to go get a haircut, when my friend Dave called to talk about Sandy (FINALLY, a normal response) and ask me to go take a peak in his garage. No, don’t get excited, she wasn’t there. But I did appreciate Dave’s concern. And I am moving him onto my “favorites” list on my phone.

Anyway, I got an email yesterday, actually I got several emails, from the Green Dog Park list, from the Emerson Garden neighborhood list, and from the owner himself, to let me know that Sandy had been found! I wanted to have a parade! Someone had brought her to Angell Memorial, and because she had a chip, they were able to locate her family. And she seems to be in pretty good shape. You’d have thought I had just won an all expense paid trip to Bora Bora, when I heard this news. I was so happy and excited that this dog was ok.

I am very grateful to live in a place where dogs are considered people. I am so happy to know if my furry guy ever got loose, and ran away, that people in my hood would take it seriously, and go looking for him. That means a lot to me. Dog people are a different breed. And I’m happy to call myself one of them. Notice, I am not calling myself sane here, but I am calling myself a dog person. And that may mean a little nuts, but that’s just fine with me.