Thursday, January 29, 2009


The stale, musty air of the red line gave way to the wet, winter air of Harvard Square. I opened my umbrella and tilted it forward into the wind. The streetlights and the headlights are reflected off the wet roadways that are covered in cascading, slushy ruts of snow. Surprisingly, the passing cars are slow and deliberate in their movements and I deftly make my way across the street.
Passing through the iron gate I traverse the icy footpaths in search of Sever Hall. I mentally try to remember the map that was sent to me as rain that makes it under my umbrella drips off my fedora. Suddenly I step into a very deep puddle at the intersection of two paths. I'm thankful that I'm wearing my winter shoes as I reach out for firm footing. My right arm is a counterweight to my courier bag which is weighed down with text books. I find my footing and maneuver around the small lake. A young Asian girl smiles at me. It is a kind smile tinted with compassion. She has watched my adventures in the water and learned from my walking faux-pas. She now walks through the snow that covers the grass on the other side of the walkway.
I look up at the fork in the road. I contemplate asking a fellow pedestrian for directions but I balk and convince myself that they could be new here, too, and may not know their way around either. Instead, I hazard a direction and follow the left path. Through the raindrops I see a building looms in front of me. I glance over my left shoulder. A spark of recognition takes hold. "If that's the library and this is the yard then I think this is where I want to be." But, truly, I have no idea. I see a lone smoker standing off to the side of the grand stairs that lead into the building. I decide to pull over and ask for directions.
"Excuse me. Can you tell me where Sever Hall is?"
He smiles sarcastically, knowingly. "Right here," he says, gesturing with his chin.
"Lucky guess on my part. Thanks a lot," I smile and head up the stairs, leaving him alone in the rain. Another young woman holds the door open for me and we both stand in the vestibule and close up our umbrellas. Once again she reaches a door handle before me and I follow her inside.
The air is warm here and full of activity. Many faces pass me on their way to who knows where. Some are clustered together, engaged in conversation full of an easy camaraderie. Others walk alone, either with i-POD stems in their ears or chatting into a cellphone. The minority walk completely alone, bereft of outside stimulus. Their arms are laden with books and they have a look of determination on their faces. They're searching for something; either their next classroom or a friend or something more.
I know I am.
Room 111 is easy to find. I sit outside on the long benches for a few moments and gather my thoughts (or is it my courage)? On the billboard in front of me I see offers for trips to Cancun, Florida and other warm destinations full of scantily clad hard bodied woman holding large, fruity drinks. "Wanted:Tutor" is pinned up next to a request for a lead singer in a new band. I smile to myself. The more things change...
Finally, I stand up and open the door. Beowulf & Seamus Heaney awaits.
Today, I am a student at Harvard.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Day One

"We reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals."
-President Obama
from his inaugural address
January 20th, 2009

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

On a Ribbon of Highway

It started out softly. I was staring out the car window when the first strains of music started from the Lincoln Memorial. I found myself quietly singing along, fumbling over words that I half remembered but that I could feel inside me.
I heard Bridget singing, too; her voice mingling with mine. I looked over from the passenger seat. Her eyes were intent on the road but her gaze was elsewhere. Mine, too.
As we reached the first chorus I heard a tiny voice from behind me, proudly singing out the song that I assume that she learned in school. However, the voice of a six-year old added a beautiful poignancy to these lyrics.
Finally, I looked at my daughter. Jenna had her head leaning against the car door. She was looking out the window, too; her thoughts were her own. Yet, she was singing. Her voice was soft but steady and clear. Her singing voice echoed the hopes that she has long expressed for today.
All four of us, unplanned and unbidden, singing along to a classic folk song. Our voices joined together in praise and hope that tomorrow will be better than yesterday.
For the four of us.
For you and me.
This land is your land, this land is my land
From California
to the New York Island
From the Redwood Forest to the Gulf Stream waters
This land was made for you and me.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Oh, it's ON!

I lay down across the triangle shaped snow tube and wait for the "go" signal. I am dressed head-to-toe in various pieces of snow gear. I can move, just a bit stiffly. I haven't been this bundled up since I was put into a snowsuit when I was four years old. I am really glad that I went the bathroom before we started sledding.
Jenna and Riley are sitting on a double snow tube in front of me. I watched them talk conspiratorially as I approached the run. Neither of them is looking at me. Somethings afoot, I think to myself, but I don't care. The girls are having fun and that's all that matters.
Not that I'm not having fun because I certainly am, too.
It's Sunday morning in South Royalton, VT. The mountains are covered in snow but they are barely visible through the lightly falling snow. Instead, I look out over the trees and nearby farms and revel in the peaceful silence of the moment.
Now our group - from six to sixty-four years old - is suited up and on the hill. We have all raced down the hill and met ignoble wipe outs at the bottom. Its so much fun.
Since the driveway is 2/10th of a mile long we use the car to get back up the hill to allow for more sled runs. Bridget has raced to the bottom of the driveway on a snow scooter while Jim followed behind in the car. Bridget is now armed with a video camera while Jim takes up position at the end of the driveway just in case a runaway sled jumps the bank and heads out onto the drive. Bridget has maneuvered into place at the bottom of the connecting trails so that this fantastic race can be recorded for all time.
There have already been two other races. Bridget and I shared the double sled while Riley streaked down hill on the plastic sled "Orange Lightning" and Jenna charged towards the treeline on the triangle tube "Snow Storm". A second triangle blew up on impact with the snowbanks at the bottom of the hill. It was a gruesome death. Bridget and I built up a fantastic head of speed. Not enough to beat the kids (who jumped out of the gate) but enough so that we shrieked and laughed our whole way down the hill even as the sled made two complete rotations despite our efforts to the contrary. The resulting "snow plow effect" at the bottom covered us in light, powdery snow. Still, the laughter continued.
Now, I've challenged the two girls to a race. As we reached the top of the driveway, Riley bellows out, "Oh, it's ON, Andrew!"
Bridget, Jim and I laugh out loud as Riley marches to the top of the track. Now, here I am. Sitting behind the girls and waiting for the "Go" from Bridget and Jim.
At the word "go" Jenna turns about and hurls a snowball at my head, which explodes into a puff of white mist. When I look again she is scrambling their sled off the launch pad as Riley throws two more snowballs at me. "Oh, it's ON!" I yell as my arms flail wildly against the ground to get my sled moving.
Damn, their sled is moving fast.
As I close in on their sled Jenna turns around and throws her last snowball. I let out a roar as I grab on to the back of their sled. Undaunted, she starts to pummel me. Her gloved hands are harmless against my well-insulated frame but it is a distraction. Now we start to turn counter-clockwise and I'm now heading feet-first down the hill. I can hear Jenna yelling to Riley "Hit him! Hit him" and still we hurtle downwards. Now we're gaining speed. We're laughing as the sleds go a bit off-track, spreading a cloud of snow before us. As my vision clears I realize we're close to the bottom.
"Oh no!" I yell as I'm trying to move us towards the snowbanks and NOT the treeline.
"No!" I yell as I realize I'm not going to slow us down.
The two sleds slam into the snowbanks and bodies fly everywhere.
I slide down into the trees, snow covering nearly all of me. Riley flies forward and to the right, sliding to a stop safely away from everything. Jenna somehow lands upright on the top of the snowbank. The sleds have scattered. I can't hear anything over our laughter.
Bridget and Jim start to explain just what it looked like as we raced down the hill while Bridget tells us that she think she captured it all on video. Jenna gets up and jumps on my back; Riley joins in. The three of us, buried in the snow, and laughing. Finally, the girls get up. We head back to the car where Jim will pilot Mountainshuttle One back up the driveway. Bridget catches up to me. "Having a good time?" she asks.
"Absolutely," I reply, grinning like an idiot.
"Let's go again!" Riley yells.
"Yeah!" We say in reply.
Oh, it's ON!

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Horrible Duets

It's a beautiful summer day as I drive along Route 3A from Scituate to Marshfield. I have the windows down and the radio turned up. The voice from the back of the car is singing along happily to Melissa Etheridge.
Please baby cant you see
My minds a burnin hell
I got razors a rippin and tearin and strippin
My heart apart as well
What the @#$%!!
Jenna is belting out the lyrics to "I'm the Only One" with all the heart and soul that her nearly four year-old soul can muster. I laugh to myself as she sings
Go on and hold her till the screaming is gone
Go on believe her when she tells you
Nothings wrong
She obviously has no idea what she's singing but it doesn't matter. She knows the words and she likes the melody. That's all she needs. I turn up the music and listen to her sing along.
My daughter, the songbird.
We've always enjoyed music in the car. For years I had various Disney soundtracks for us to enjoy. We joyfully sang along to "The Little Mermaid" where I would sing Sebastian's part during "Under the Sea" or the French Chef during "Les Poisson". When we sang "The Lion King" I was alternately Timon or Pumba for "Hakuna Matata" depending on Jenna's mood.
As Jenna got older her music selections matured also. Soon she had Radio Disney programmed into my car stereo and we sang along to Hanson, A-Teens and a very young Britney Spears. I'm sure that we were seen belting out songs from "Grease" or "ABBA" as we cruised up Route 3 towards Weymouth and, later, Jamaica Plain.
I remember the first time that Jenna sang along to "Hazard to Myself" by Pink. We were caught singing "Man, I Feel like a Woman" at the top of our lungs in front of her Mom's house, too. Pam didn't let me live that down for some time afterwards.
Lately Jenna has been bringing her iPOD on our car trips and I have been exposed to music that I would never listen to. I find that I like music from "The Decemberists" and "My Chemical Romance" and other groups whose names I can't remember right now. When I was her age I could remember who sang a song after hearing it once. Now, not so much. She has always surprised me by adding songs to her iPOD that she knows I like. Pink's "U + UR Hand" and "Candyman" by Christina Aguilera are only a few of the songs she has surprised me with while we're in the car.
Sometime this past Autumn we were driving back home and Jenna was playing the soundtrack to "Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog". We love this production. We have laughed over it many, many times. The "Bad Horse Chorus" is enough to put us in stitches.
"So make the Bad Horse gleeful, or he'll make you his mare." - I'm laughing as I type this. God, it's brilliant. Anyway...
Today, we're listening to "My Eyes".
As I sing the first verse I realize that Jenna isn't singing along. Undaunted, I continue on. Jenna joins in as my verse ends, singing Penny's verses.
Of course she is...we're singing a duet.

I love her voice. I still do. 12 years later and we're still singing together in the car.
Sometimes, no matter how things change, some things stay pleasantly the same.