Last Saturday, I got up before breakfast, as my mother would have put it, and was on the road by 6 a.m. Off to the University of Maine at Orono I went to see my favorite nephew—Patrick Meunier—graduate from college. The ceremony started at 9:30 a.m. As there were over 1,000 students graduating, it was important to arrive at the university a couple of hours before the ceremony began in order to get a good place to park and good seating.
This I did, and I was even able to save seats for Patrick’s parents—my brother Steve and my sister-in-law Rose—an aunt and uncle, and his maternal grandmother. Unfortunately, Clif was not able to come. It was simply too long to leave the dog, and now that Liam is blind, we don’t feel comfortable asking any of our friends to take care of him if we are to be away for a long time. But Patrick is a dog lover, and he understood about Liam.
My mother passed away nine years ago, and how I wish she had lived long enough to see Patrick graduate. She helped take care of him when he was little, and she loved Patrick very much. To bring a piece of Mom to the ceremony, I wore one of her favorite bracelets, and it was comforting for me to have something of hers on my wrist.
Because we arrived so early, we naturally had to wait a while before the ceremony began. Somehow, I didn’t mind at all. I watched the people stream in. I chatted with Steve and Rose, and the time just zipped by. The ceremony was held in an arena, and there was a jumbotron flashing scenes from the inside. But then, a little before 9:30, the cameras turned outward and focused on the large stream of students in blue marching toward the arena. Later, we found out from Patrick that there wasn’t any rehearsal. The students were told to march in some semblance of a line, and by gum they did.
Into the arena they came, and our little party strained eagerly to see Patrick. And there he was, smiling and radiant and looking oh so happy to be graduating. “After all,” Clif would say later. “He’s worked hard to get that degree.” Indeed he has.
Here’s a picture of the marching students. Can you guess which one is Patrick?
As I watched his beaming face, I felt my eyes prickle with tears. I’ve known Patrick since he was a little baby, and I’ve watched him grow into a fine young man—kind, energetic, and determined—who loves art and theater and movies. I had to speak very sternly to myself so that I didn’t go from being misty eyed to outright blubbering. I am happy to report I was successful.
Considering how many students were getting their degrees, the ceremony moved along smartly. The commencement speakers were Heather and Abe Furth, local entrepreneurs and a power couple who started their first business—Woodman’s Bar and Grill—when they were twenty-three. The Furths took turns speaking not only of the importance of fearlessly going forth in life but also of making a commitment to local economies and communities. Very impressive.
Then the graduation ceremony was over, and out we went into the blessedly rain-free day, the first in a while. Naturally, we took pictures.
After pictures, we went to a restaurant in Brewer, the High Tide, right beside the Penobscot River. Such a lovely view! To mark this momentous occasion, I had one of my favorite things—a lobster roll—and as we ate, there was much merriment and joy.
The title of this piece indicates that Clif and I are playing favorites when it comes to Patrick. As Patrick is our only nephew, this is not strictly true. However, even if he weren’t our only nephew, he would still be our favorite.
Best of luck, Patrick, as you begin your creative journey!
Today is Earth Day, a very special day in our family. Not only is this a day to honor the beautiful blue planet we live on, but this is also the birthday of our youngest daughter, Shannon. We’ve always thought it was oh-so-cool to have a child with a birthday on Earth Day. (Our eldest daughter just missed having a birthday on Halloween, and that’s cool, too.)
So happy birthday, Shannon! I know you will have the finest kind of day in North Carolina. And by the by, your yearly birthday wish has come to pass this spring—the snow is completely gone from the yard and woods by April 22.
As for Earth Day—I’m going to paraphrase what Scrooge said in A Christmas Carol: “I will honor Earth Day in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.”
A few days ago, the weather forecast was for sun on Saturday and rain for Easter Sunday. Clif and I had planned to have crab-meat rolls on the patio on Easter, but as the forecast didn’t look good, we decided to have the rolls on Saturday. After all, our philosophy is to celebrate early and celebrate often.
Saturday, as predicted, turned out to be a beauty of a day. In honor of the occasion and of the lovely weather, we brought out the round white table from down cellar. I felt like jumping up and down with joy. It is always a thrill to have the outside furniture on the patio, and soon the large green table will be joining the smaller one.
Oh, what a nice little feast we had, with a shared whoopie pie for dessert.
The sun was warm, the red buds were showing on the maples, and all around us birds called, sang, and twittered. Best of all, in April, there are no biting bugs to vex us, which makes time spent on the patio even sweeter.
Today, Easter Sunday, did indeed start out cloudy, and in the spirit of celebrating often, we decided to have a small Easter brunch of egg-in-toast and turkey bacon.
By eleven, the clouds were gone, the sun was shining, and I made a pot of green tea sweetened with honey. It will be chilled for iced tea for mid-afternoon when we go out on—you guessed it!—the patio.
It’s shaping up to be a lovely Easter weekend, the gateway to spring then summer and lots of time spent outside.
Spring, spring is here. This morning, I grabbed my wee wonder of a camera and headed outside. The weather was so warm and sunny that I didn’t even need to wear a jacket.
Now, readers in warmer places might not be impressed by my yard, but to me it is a glorious sight to behold. In the shady front yard, the snow is melting nicely.
A closer look.
In the backyard, it is even better, with just a few patches of snow close to the house.
I sat down for a few minutes to enjoy the birds, the sun, the red buds, and the squirrels.
I hated to go inside and sit at my desk, but there was work to do.
However later on, I’ll be be back outside, cleaning the back garden, feeling the sun, and listening to the birds.
There might even be drinks on the patio.
Everybody loves me ’cause I’m spring? You bet!
Yesterday was a beautiful sunny Sunday, just perfect for an outing to celebrate the fact that I, along with millions of other people, still have affordable health insurance that provides good coverage.
And where did Clif and I go? Why to Lucky Garden in Hallowell, of course. I was feeling extraordinarily lucky. And grateful.
Lucky’s was full of people, and the atmosphere was lively, even festive. Perhaps I wasn’t the only one who was relieved by the turn of events on Friday? At any rate, the food on the buffet was hot and fresh, and Clif and I had very tasty meals.
When we came out, we stood on the deck and took pictures of the Kennebec River. The ice chunks are gone. Surely spring can’t be far away?
After that, it was on to Falmouth, just outside Freeport (home of L.L. Bean) to check out the Goodwill. We had heard that it was an extra special Goodwill because it is an affluent part of Maine. Well, maybe we just hit it on an off day, but the Falmouth Goodwill is no better than Augusta’s Goodwill.
However, all was not lost. Next to Goodwill is The Book Review, one of those special bookstores that makes you want to come back again and again. As soon as we entered, I was smitten. First of all, there is that lovely smell of books. Second, there are dark wooden shelves. Third, the many comfortable chairs tucked here and there. And, finally, and most important, the books themselves, a wonderful selection that would appeal to a wide variety of readers.
I headed right toward the children’s section. While I do read novels written for adults, it seems to me that I really do prefer middle reader and young adult books. Clif and I discussed this on the way home.
“The storylines are cleaner, more direct,” he said. “Middle reader and YA books often have a clarity that’s lacking in adult books.”
Clif is right. As a reader, I place great value on clarity of writing and clean storylines. Or maybe it’s just a case of arrested development. Whatever the reason, I know I’m not alone. Many adults, especially women, like middle reader and young adult novels, and my own Maya and the Book of Everything is developing quite a following among adults.
Naturally, I bought some books at The Book Review.
Last night, I read The Penderwicks, a middle reader book, in one greedy gulp. It’s a gentle, almost old-fashioned story of four sisters and the misadventures they have on their summer vacation in the Berkshires. There are dark threads woven in—the mother has died of cancer, and Rosalind, the eldest, reflects on how she doesn’t have time or energy to nurture plants when she is so busy nurturing her sisters. (I’m paraphrasing. Jeanne Birdsall phrases it much more eloquently.) The ending is satisfying—happy, even—but realistic, too. The children don’t get everything they want.
There are several more books in the series, and I intend to read every one of them.
And when I’m back in the Falmouth area, I will definitely go to The Book Review.
Last night, I went to bed at about 11:30 p.m., and I slept straight through until nearly 8:00 a.m. without waking up once. Now for younger folks, this might not sound like much of an achievement. It might even sound a little boring.
But as I have, ahem, reached a certain age, a full night’s sleep often eludes me.
And why did I sleep so well last night? It wasn’t because of medication—I didn’t even take a Benadryl.
Could it be because the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was not repealed, and I still have affordable health insurance, at least for the moment? (With the Republican plan, it was estimated that we’d have to pay over 50 percent of our income for my health insurance. There was no way we could afford this, even if we cut out all our simple pleasures.)
Ever since Trump was elected president, I have been worrying about my health care. Simply put, I did not have a Plan B if health insurance jumped to over 50 percent of our income. And this past few weeks, when the drumbeat for repealing the ACA grew ever louder, I have been worrying even more.
But it seems the Republicans are a house divided—the proposed replacement bill was too drastic for the moderates and not draconian enough for the radicals. Hence, not enough votes to repeal the current ACA. President Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan pulled the bill, and as Ryan noted, the ACA is the law of the land for the foreseeable future.
No wonder I slept so well!
Now, if only the Republicans would work with the Democrats to fix what is wrong with the ACA. I know some people whose insurance premiums, while not technically unaffordable, are too expensive and will not cover certain tests. The ACA was a start, not the finish, and with proper amending, these problems could be fixed.
But at least the Affordable Care Act wasn’t ditched, and maybe, just maybe, it will someday be put to rights so that the ACA benefits all who need it.
I can hope.