Connectedness

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January 7, 2020-

Having my little family here

is a perfect occasion

for cementing my own ties

and building a sense of extended family

between son and daughter-in-law

with the Baha’i friends whom he knew

as a youth,

and with other dear friends,

whom he met for the first time,

and she for the second time, today.

It reminds me, that I have

at least one indelible tie here,

regardless of where life takes me.

It reminds me, too, that  there are those

who will ever have my back,

and I, theirs,

for as long as we draw breath,

and beyond.

On Differing With Ella Winter

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July 3-7, 2019, Saugus, MA-

The fine North Carolina author, Thomas Wolfe, famously used, “You can’t go home again.”as the title of a novel, which he never lived to publish.  His associates took care of that, sometime after his death in 1938, and we have the title as one of the more memorable things with which he is associated.  The quote, though, originated with an Australian writer, Ella Winter, who gave Wolfe permission to use it in his writing.

I’ve been going back to Saugus, continuously, since I left here at age 18.  Service in the Army, college, a quixotic two years getting my bearings in Maine, and then Arizona, South Korea and back to Arizona, all have had a common denominator:  Hometown has never gone away.

There have been changes:  The population has grown, from 25,000 to about 38,000; traffic has increased accordingly; the once lily-white community has opened its doors to people of colour; Hilltop Steak House has given way to Restaurant 110; most of the neighbours have  died or moved away.

There are, though, things which endure:  My mother is still living, quite well; two boyhood friends still live in the neighbourhood-one  in his childhood home; Adams Avenue, the street of my youth, is still within walking distance of both Saugus Center and Cliftondale Square-as well as the West Side’s large shopping mall, Square One; traffic on U.S. Route One can still be daunting at times, though after dealing for so long with traffic in much larger cities, I know not to cringe.

We had the usual family gathering, this time at a niece’s large, beautiful new home, about 1 1/2 hours west of here and dropped in on a nephew and his family, in a town twenty minutes south of Saugus.   These visits are fleeting, but far better than not seeing these gracious, beloved people at all. There was a visit to the aforementioned 110, where I got my fix of fried clams, a boyhood staple.  There were the customary Hallmark movies and binge watching of old episodes of “Blue Bloods”, one of Mom’s favourites.  There was a surprise, when Mom decided to check out a couple of Marvel films, on SyFy.  She had enough, after “Iron Man”, but “Spider Man” was a hit.

I come from large families, on both sides.  There are many cousins, some I haven’t seen in years, and a few aunts and uncles still living.  The group will hopefully get together in late August.  Though I won’t be there, people have to start with what they have available.  I have been able to connect with a cousin in the Midwest, as you know,  and will hopefully make more connections, in future visits.  Gradually, the in-gathering progresses-with social media at least keeping the ties from fraying.

So, not to judge Ella Winter, for the circumstances of her life, but I CAN, and do, go home again. If nothing else, home remains in the heart.  We four, and our extended family, want Mom to keep on, so long as life offers her a measure of blessing.  May she keep the flame, until it’s time to pass the torch on.

NEXT:  Amherst and Its Halls of Learning

 

 

Getting Squared Away

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March 12, 2019, Busan-

We bid farewell to the Shin branch of my extended family, with a fine dinner last night and a heartfelt  series of bows, this morning.  After a few family photos, we were off to the Korea Boivins’ home, here in this crossroads port.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

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There is always a greeter, no matter where one goes in life.  This figure is in the lobby of Aram’s and Yunhee’s apartment building.

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After a fashion, we headed for Shinsegae Department Store, where we first had an American-style dinner, at Johnny Rocket’s, then went suit shopping-for me.  The family wanted to gift me with a new suit, so they did.  It’s a Spring through Fall suit, blue as opposed to my black winter suits, which have had to suffice up to now.  A dress shirt was chosen, to accompany said suit.  With that, and a coffee, downstairs, the shopping jaunt was done.  I guess in some circles,  I’m a wet blanket.

NEXT:  Journey back to Jeju

 

 

These Lengthening Ties

4

March 11, 2019, Gyong-Meon, South Korea-

One of the questions I have been asked about the marriage of Aram and Yunhee is how I feel about my son marrying someone from another nation or culture.  (“Race” is left out of this, thankfully. )  My answer is very simple:  Aram has married a beautiful and highly intelligent young woman, who will bring great pride and joy to my family  We, in turn, will bring a great deal of the same to her equally distinguished family.

There was a time, even during our previous living in Korea, when language and cultural differences cast all manner of misunderstandings and suspicion upon even the strongest of work relationships and faith community affairs.  Slowly and carefully, we managed, by working together, to mitigate the worst of these.  Aram, being an infant and toddler at the time, was largely spared the relatively few insults and personal attacks that came our way-not just from more hidebound people in this society, but from equally narrow-minded people on the eastern shore of the Pacific as well.

My friendship with the Shin and Park families has been instantaneous.  There is none of the rancour or suspicion of the 1980’s and ’90’s to soil the life of the extended family.  The growing pains have eased, and we have found that there is an authentic human bond.

This is as Baha’u’llah intended, in calling for the spiritual unification of the entire planet- before other forms of unity are truly realized  This does not mean uniformity, which is the antithesis of true unity.  We families will long cherish each other, much as those who were previously set, within the bounds of American culture, have proven enduring.  It’s time for the next step forward, and the rising generations are leading the way.  I am gladly following that lead.

NEXT:  Chonju and its historical preservation

Tales from the 2016 Road: Christmas in July

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July 3, 2016, Avilla, MO- There was a span of 38 years, since I last saw Lisa, one of my younger cousins.  In our family, last has never been least.  Each member of the brood has an essential place.  Lisa followed in the footsteps of her mother, who served as a WAVE during World War II, by becoming a member of the Women’s Army Corps, for several years.  When that was finished, she became a teacher, like her father.   She’s still a teacher- and a farm wife, in this little slice of heaven, in southwest Missouri, between Joplin and Springfield.

I was invited to join their family’s Christmas in July celebration, with attendant fireworks.  People in the Midwest set off their own fireworks, as befits a farm culture.  There was a marvelous spread, to get things started, and as we recalled from our childhood days, such gatherings involve sitting around ad spinning yarns, as well as discussing the topics of the day, in a civil fashion.

It was a lovely day and evening, so here are a few scenes from down on the farm, in Avilla.

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The farm property at Avilla

Lisa and family were busy, setting up the festivities.

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Here are some scenes of the gang sitting around, and of the fireworks.

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Grandkids getting ready for the display.

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Solving the world’s ills

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Fire away!

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Sky lit up!

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Light show!

We then exchanged gifts, in White Elephant fashion.So went a fine re-connection with a bright and loving member of my extended family, which is now extended even further, with her husband, kids and grandkids.

In Brief

6

December 21, 2015, Saugus, MA- I had a smooth and uneventful pair of flights from Phoenix to Boston, on Friday.  Mom is in good spirits, despite a few minor health issues.  I will be at her house, in which I grew up, until the 28th.

It was a great pleasure to visit my sister’s home, on Saturday.  The place was packed to the rafters, with people of four generations, animals, gifts and FOOD!  So many wonderful souls are in our extended family.  The Georgia Boivins will be here, next weekend, so it’ll be a similar scene at Ma’s, on the 27th, though most likely sans enfants.

I went hiking at Breakheart Reservation, on the north side of town, yesterday, with my younger brother.  He’s legally-blind, and one of the most amazing people, ever.  We did a two-mile loop, sticking to the pavement, of course.  The weather here is rather mild, by Northeastern standards- no snow, and in the 50’s.

The rest of the week will see a series of gatherings, and when I have the chances, I will post more on here.  Mom doesn’t have Wifi, so it’ll depend on what’s going on with her.

The Road to 65, Mile 77: As Luck Does Have It

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July 13, 2015- Panama City, FL Yes, I believe from now on, I will add location to my datelines.  I am back on track, writing, after several days of focusing just on what’s in front of me.  Today, I connected with two friends:  One, an extended family member who’s in an exile, of sorts and the other, an online friend who’s been after me to come by this town, off and on, for the last three years.

So, here I am, in lovely northwest Florida.  The area does seem more soul-connected than some other parts of the Sunshine State, but maybe that’s because its heritage, along with that of St. Augustine and the northeast, runs a bit deeper.  I began my visit by lunching with said family member at Gary’s Oyster Shack, in Springfield, about five miles east of PC.  My eponymous restaurant host was a taciturn sort, a bit reserved, but he and his kids put forth some great Low Country Boil, and a full range of other dishes.  It’s great to be back dining by, and of, the sea.

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After an hour’s conversation, I bid farewell and Godspeed to my friend, and leaded forth to downtown Panama City.  Walking around the seemingly defunct Hawk’s Nest Bar and Grill, I spotted signs that the place was once a fabulous place at which to while away an afternoon, or an evening. The woods outside make for a fine picnic spot.

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Murals most often tell a good story, as this one does.

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Then, there is the front veranda and patio- one of the great appeals of the Coastal South.

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Back along the waterfront, there is a crowded marina- reminder of fishing’s prominence here.

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I walked along the coastal path, crossing a drawbridge- the oldest working such bridge in these parts.

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Towards the end of the road, there were several lovely historical homes.  Some are large, like the Howell/Hobbs House (1909).

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Others were cottage-style, like the McKenzie/Pickens House (1918).

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These homes are in grand proximity to some of the clearest ocean anywhere.

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My host later explained to me that there are pools of fresh water, parallel to the ocean, and that alligators traverse between the two water supplies, feasting on the best of both.

I was in need of a rest, and of wifi, after this fine little outing, and so repaired to Willows British Tea House, just up Harrison Street, as it happens, from the Martin Theater, where I would observe a play practice in a day or so. The awning shows where Willows is located.  There were some ladies inside, who did not wish to be photographed, so this is as close as I choose to show the lovely establishment.  Here, I finally connected with my host, and arranged to meet her at the Martin.  After a refreshing pot of orange tea and a piece of lemon cake, I headed for the theater.

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Here is a scene from the Martin Theater’s lobby.  It has a long exchequer of fine performances, and still serves as Panama City’s center for showing art cinema.

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That evening, after a marvelous meal of gumbo and rice, Kelly, Fernando and I headed for Kaleidoscope Theater and watched a pleasing, though overlong, production of a play entitled “There’s A Burglar In My Bed”- a British-style farce, where several people got in one another’s way, mostly in an inadvertent manner.  It’s all great fun.