A Taylor’d Oasis

Serendipity happens when you most need it. A retired New Brunswick couple share their lives with us.

It was hump-day, Wednesday, probably the hardest day of our 125-mile (171 km), week-long, Beyond Borders Walk from Saint John, New Brunswick to St. Stephen, the last Canadian border town near the tip of Maine.

Walking a lonely road

Today, there were 23 miles of walking from St. George to the Chamcook Forest Lodge near St. Andrews. Ken, our fourth team member was out with a back spasm. We started walking country roads which eventually turned into highways. It was not quite like walking an Interstate, but close. By mid-afternoon, the temperature reached the high 80’s, only made hotter by the asphalt, so much so you could feel heat through your shoes. The only relief was an occasional bay breeze near the top of a hill.

This is a relatively undeveloped area of the Provence of New Brunswick just a few miles from the shore. St. George’s lush woods soon gave way to a desolate area with few houses and no commercial business for miles. Even traffic seemed rare. The only thing interesting out here is dead porcupine roadkill.

As the day heated up, I realized I had made a rookie mistake. A long hot day walking requires more than a couple bottles of water, especially when there is no place to refill. About 18 miles (6 hours) into the walk I find myself light-headed and completely empty in every respect. I’m in that state where you watch the heat create mirage waves on the road and begin to wonder “How am I going to make it to the end?”

Miraculously, while heading up a long stretch of highway there appears a sign in the road saying, “Taylor’d Art” an “Open” flag waving underneath. This area was dotted with lakes with a few homes set back. This one though could be seen clearly. Although, we did not come this far to see and appreciate local art, we had no choice and no willpower left to pass this by.

Theresa and Burl Taylor are about as happy couple as I ever met. Married just 52 years ago they were most welcoming to the three of us as we asked (we would have begged) for water. Theresa has maybe 200 natural setting paintings here in a small shed which she had created. She has experimented with various artistic methods from watercolors to oils, flock to canvas and many other methods I had never heard of. Being efficient walkers, we opted to buy a few beautiful refrigerator magnets that pretty much exemplified her work in miniature.

Burl came by with a big pitcher of water and we began talking about life out here as we began to revive. They had moved into a smaller version of this home 50 years ago and discovered this was the place they always wanted to be. Years went by and Burl expanded the house, built a garage, chicken coop, workshop and swimming pool. Much of this prior to his retiring as a forestry engineer. His property and projects look like he put a lot of thought into them.

Theresa is a self-taught artist. As she describes it, one day she just started scribbling and copying things until she began painting a scene, going over and over it until it was right. She presented it to Burl and said this is what she wanted to do and he agreed. Decades later she continues to paint, mainly for the pleasure of it. She painted so much they needed to move some out pieces and Taylor’d Art was born.

They had a son who Theresa mentions often as he developed into an talented artist who’s paintings she still sells. Unfortunately, he passed away a while ago but you can tell he’s very much part of their lives.

There are no other children but a very large extended family. Theresa was one of 21 children! Her mother, whom they speak about with reverence, gave birth to all 21 children individually, no twins or triplets! And, she passed away at the age of 46 due to cancer. Theresa said she spent a great deal of her time with her many siblings and keeps in touch with them often. We are in awe. Can you imagine what a family reunion must look like?

After much water and talk we had to go. Time is very unforgiving when you are walking. I think they enjoyed our company as much as we did their’s. We could have easily stayed for hours learning more about how Theresa and Burl share what they do together – their art, building, hunting, fishing, getting by in the winter and the life between them.

When you are out here you have to be flexible, forgiving, innovative and self-reliant. The Taylor's have figured a way to make the most of their lives and offer an oasis to others.

One Night Stays

Just getting started on our walk. Getting adequate sleep in strange places is a must.

Jul 31 – Day 1 Walking – Sunday was our first full day in Canada. Tom and I stayed Saturday night  at “A Tanner’s Home B&B” which was once a curiously old (148 years old) home of a wealthy gentleman who made his fortune in tanning leather goods and real estate. Today, it was an airbnb-like home which had a 1800s historical vibe but updated to accommodate tourists. It’s still a work in progress.

A Tanners Home B&B, Saint John NB

Our hosts, Doreen and Sebastian were proud ex-pat Indians who found their formula for retirement hosting this B&B in the warmer months and flying back to Mumbai the rest of the year. Sebastian, a former sea captain, hates the cold but loves Canada. 

Like many parents in search of the best for their family while planning for the next phase of retirement, Canada seemed to fit. There is an active Indian population here in Saint John and a government more inclined to take in immigrants than most. The price you pay is an investment of capital in a legitimate ongoing business to get the benefits of citizenship. This enabled Sebastian to send his kids to Canadian universities where they established residency in Toronto.. They are planning that big wedding for their daughter who had to marry quietly during the pandemic. Hope is that grandchildren will soon be in the picture.

Tom and Loredana – Proud of finishing the half marathon in Saint John

Meanwhile, Tom and Loredana set out on on Sunday to run a half marathon before we started our long Beyond Borders Walk later that day. The “Marathon by the Sea” mostly follows the pedestrian trail along the waterfront and ends around noon. After a shower and change, the four of us begin walking the trail out of Saint John, heading for St. Stephen an almost unimaginable 125 miles away. But today we planned an easy day of only 7 miles to get to our next destination, the Regent Hotel just on the outskirts of Saint John. 

Regent Motel – 2nd night

The Regent was as basic a motel as you could get. But it helped us get a start on the journey. Rooms were dingy but clean. Little tiny soap bars, shampoo in sealed envelopes and no air conditioning. Luckily the single ceiling fan was all we needed. The only problems were no coffee and no place to eat within walking distance. Luckily we found a restaurant that delivered in this remote outskirts of Saint John. With pleasant weather and a single outdoor picnic table the four of us shared a good-enough Chinese dinner.

Its not difficult to find people that want to talk to strangers here at the motel or anywhere in this area. One couple was coming from Manitoba with plans to retire in Nova Scotia. Another guy, with sunburned face and head, struck up a conversation about how he had moved to Alberta only to find his partner had decided she need to be alone. Now he was back to rekindle a relationship with his children and grandkids. Glad to be back “home” he looked forward to seeing his son drive race cars. His sunburned head and face were proof of how he just witnessed a drag car hitting 210 miles per hour. A happy camper glad to be back.

Motels and B&B’s serve a useful purpose in helping us move on. We need sleep to move forward in the morning. But, every host and guest has a story from the past and a story yet to come. 

Check out more information and stay up to date on the Beyond Borders Walk here.

Simple Pleasures Updated

Lessons from another pandemic and unpredictable year. Being thankful for the good things that still happen.

A similar story was originally written a year ago as part of my Storyworth writing project. I'm updating it for our unique times in February 2022. These essays reflect personal thoughts that are written and collected to be passed on later to the family. I include this story in this blog to help remember and savor the simple and good things that we were able to enjoy and are often overlooked. As we work our way through another pandemic year in 2022, we are optimistic that the Covid Omicron variant is passing. But we still need to slowly adjust our behavior and come back to a "normal" lifestyle.  

The writing challenge was to discuss, “What simple pleasures in life do you enjoy?” This question forced me to think about what I take for granted and yet value, even if they seem like small parts of my life. Unfortunately, you soon realize that many simple pleasures have had to be forgone or change over the last two years. You can find my thoughts on this same question a year ago here. Here’s to recognizing and enjoying them lately and again in the near future.

Hugging the Kiddies: Upgraded 👍

My 8 Grandkids on Vacation at Ortley Beach

Throughout last year we made great progress, or so it seemed, until December 2021 when we had to change our behavior again! Still, there was progress – in spite of contradictory advice, vaccines, sicknesses, trial and error, minor emergencies, masks, and taking reasonable risk. No one in our family got Covid, even though there was plenty of it around us!

What that meant for me was that I gradually got to get back to a normal show of hugs and kisses to all my eight grandkids. Mary Ann and I are still cautious, often seeking news of local covid cases and at-home tests, all of which reduce stress somewhat. Probably the peak of the year was the summer season where we all got together at the Jersey shore, including our two newest members of the family: Maeve and Claire, who reached their first birthday unscathed by pandemic times. Its still not unbridled love and happiness but I’m grateful for what we have.

Live Music: It’s Still Alive 👏

While YouTube did offer some recordings and virtual streaming of performances, it was still nothing like being part of a live audience. Some concerts were held after vaccines became available and they usually required showing proof of vaccination or recent negative testing. Attendance at these concerts was often limited and sometimes attendees were spaced apart. But, it seemed that musicians and venues were ready to make up for lost time.

That summer MaryAnn and I usually played it safe and only occasionally dropped by Ruthie’s in Montclair for some live Blues played outside. There was ample room behind this juke joint and we were feeling good about the possibilities of overcoming Covid by the end of the summer. Here’s one of the very informal, fun and cool presentations of a musician we both like, Dean Shot.

Dean Shot @ Ruthie’s in Montclair

On a whim, my son Ethan who lives in Lexington, MA, suggested I join him and his friend Andy at the Leader Bank Pavilion in Boston for a Wilco concert. Luckily, I was able to book cheap $29 Amtrak tickets from Metropark to South Station (one of the few benefits of this pandemic) and effortlessly traveled to Boston and back home within 24 hours! Besides getting to see him and his family, this was my first live large concert in years with about 3,000 fans in a 5,000 seat open air seasonal arena.

Maybe it was just the freedom to travel or the rarity of such an opportunity but the band and everyone there seemed to really appreciate being part of the event. The following video was a tribute to the Rolling Stones’ Charlie Watts who had just passed away two days before.

Wilco concert in Boston – August 2021

Over the last two years I’ve gained an appreciation of how hard it must be to be an artist, especially in a restricted world. We all need to show those that work for almost nothing these days that their efforts count. I’ve decided to actively click that pervasive “like” button or give a little to my favorite artists, like Sean Tobin, through Patreon and play a small part in helping keep music alive.

Riding a Bike: Born-to-Ride + Gravel 💪

I consider myself lucky that I chose cycling as my primary exercise sport, especially as I get older and especially in these times. Besides the obvious cardio workout, it probably is the best sport for a pandemic. Cyclist can chose to ride anywhere a road or path takes you. And, we, who are notorious for gathering in groups, can usually safely exercise together without masks because of the space and moving air between us. The Omicron wave, however, challenged even those assumptions last year. Donning a mask when we end a ride at our favorite coffee stop is not a big ask at all.

Born to Ride

I’ve organized a long distance (85 miles), end-of-season (early October) bike ride for several years called “Born to Ride” which wraps up the regular cycling season. After taking a year off because of Covid, our group managed to get the ride going again. The ride idea started about 10 years ago on a wave of Bruce Springsteen nostalgia. This year we targeted spots along the route from Ortley Beach to Sandy Hook and back that had some connection with Bruce. (BTW – We have no idea whether Bruce rides a bike. It always seemed like he should.) It was the highlight of my cycling activity for the year.

Official Born to Ride 2021 documentary video

discovering gravel

Over the last few years, a new popular trend has developed in cycling called gravel or multi-surface riding. When I had a custom designed Seven Cycles bike built a few years ago for my 1,600 mile Epic Ride, we chose a design that would allow touring and as a “cross” bike, i.e., a sturdier frameset that could ride well on-road and off-road.

Riding gravel usually means choosing a route that is primarily an unpaved dirt or gravel road. Where I live in Morristown almost all roads are paved. However, only 10 or 15 miles away I have discovered extensive areas of dirt roads, usually around farms, estates or wooded trails. Gravel riding is usually slower, bumpier and requires more attention. But the benefit is seeing and being in nature – and maybe best of all; little or no traffic. I hope riding gravel will add to my interest and options for cycling for years to come.

Walking: The Routine Exercise 🚶🏻‍♂️

Walking seems to be a good compliment to cycling and universally accepted. It’s low impact, anybody can do it and it adds a nice social element. Mary Ann and I have developed a daily routine of a one hour walk, usually in town, but sometimes on a trail. Walking is a great way to just get out of our rut and get back into the world. Interestingly, I notice more cyclists lately are also walking as a low intensity alternative exercise.

My history of leading the FreeWalkers, the long distance organization that I created over 1o years ago, is now a past fond memory. Although I have walked with them and will again in the future, these pandemic times have still limited my involvement which feels appropriate right now.

Sunrises and Sunsets: A Better Show 😎

There must be an explanation for it. Sunsets seemed to have been consistently outstanding this year, in particular this past fall and winter. The cloud formations and low horizon light have been stunning. It’s a welcome consolation for a trying year.

Gardening: Bumper Crop 🍅 🥕 🧑‍🌾

My community garden plot grew a bumper crop this past year. Most gardeners would agree that the weather conditions were near perfect. There was sufficient precipitation and seasonal temperatures. Insects seemed controllable. Lots of tomatoes and other vegetables. While cucumbers had a bad year for some reason, my grandson Jack’s sunflower seeds became the tallest plants in the whole garden with giant 18 inch heads!

Dining Out: Fun While it Lasted 🍝🦞🍔🍕

Over the past year, we gradually adventured out to restaurants where there was outdoor seating. By the summer, we had a few chosen spots near Morristown and at the shore where we felt comfortable enough to eat outside weather permitting. But by December, that seemed like a dream between the weather and the threat of Omicron, we have not eaten out in several months. We are now plotting our next meal, possibly indoors, as the threat seems to recently be reduced.

Short Hiking Getaways 🚶🏻‍♂️

Round Valley Camping

In the spring, son Justin, granddaughters Charlotte and Anna and granddog Arlo hiked five miles with packs for an overnight camping adventure at Round Valley Reservoir. It felt great to do an outdoor adventure again, especially with people you love and admire.

Hiking the Berkshires

In the fall, I managed to get away to Williamstown for a few days, hike Mt. Greylock (highest point in Massachusetts) and see a little bit of the Berkshires with my old friend Mike Kennedy. It was great to just get away, see something new and feel some freedom again.

Playing Handyman: Renovations 🔨🪚🔩🧰

It was well past time to renovate our master bathroom, particularly the formica double vanity. Many years ago when I was younger I enjoyed rebuilding kitchens, baths and other rooms in the house. Watching This Old House was the closest I got to a major construction project in decades. So, retirement offered an opportunity to see if I still remembered skills like plumbing, electricity, carpentry and painting.

Mary Ann found a great deal on a double vanity. After planning this out I got to demolish the current setup, install the vanity and rebuild a set of fixtures. Luckily the rest of the bathroom was fairly modern looking and only required minor improvements. It took a couple months to complete but came with great satisfaction. So much so that I recently switched the vanity in the powder room downstairs and refinished our farmhouse kitchen table. I had forgotten how much satisfaction you can get by doing a project on your own.

And a few other things…

In summary, I have a lot to be thankful for. Here’s a few more to add to the list of what I was able to enjoy this past year….

  • The benefits of upgrading to a new iPhone 13
  • The warmth and convenience of converting our wood fireplace to gas
  • The challenge of finishing jigsaw puzzles
  • Helping to build and share our ancestry roots with the family
  • Watching the grandkids enjoy and improve in sports
  • Reading other people’s life stories (shoutout to Bob, Loredana and Barb!)
  • Recording the family talent show “Live From Lavalette 2021” (sample below)
Our Family Talent Show – August 2021

My Early Christmas Memories

Here’s some memories of Christmas when I was a kid. Originally written for my Storyworth project in January 2020.

This recollection of Christmas as a child was written a year ago as part of my Storyworth writing project. These are essays reflecting personal thoughts that are written and collected to be passed on later to the family. I believe we all have fond memories at this time of the year. 

I include this story in this blog to help remember and savor those simple and good times as a child, especially as we work our way to the end of another tough year in 2021. Many traditions will be paused or changed due to Covid this year. I trust children will still see the best in this holiday season and remember it fondly anyway, even if it's not all it could be. 

Christmastime brings back old memories more than any other time of the year. Regardless of how old you are (I’m 72 as I write this), or where you were that Christmas, there’s always a warm memory of giving and sharing with others. It’s a time of mystery, music and carrying forth customs from long ago. Even corny decorations, questionable food choices and extreme commercialization can’t get in the way of enjoying the spirit of the season, especially as a child.

For as long as I can remember, Christmas has been a personal family tradition that we gratefully accept, look forward to and even add to as the years go on. Some Christmas traditions fade over time. And, rightly so. This year we have been forced to change or eliminate many routines that might be called traditions. Hopefully, good old traditions will make it back in future years. Or, we move on with new traditions, still keeping fragments of memories of what used to be.

Here’s some of my memories of Christmas before I turned into a teenager and became a product of the 1960’s. By then I think we had our mind on other things but we always looked forward to coming home for Christmas.

Christmas Presents at Christmas

Some of my oldest memories as a kid were of toys and presents of the day. Boys wanted guns and outfits like those worn in westerns or the military. We wanted to look like Davy Crockett or The Lone Ranger. We took our play seriously with cool toys and games that were interactive. At the time, Monopoly, Electric Football and Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots were popular. Girls wished for dolls that shed tears like Tiny Tears or talked like Chatty Cathy by pulling on a string or those that looked like a teenage Barbie.

Wanna-be Cowboys in the mid 1950’s – Me, John, Cousin Bernadette and sister Chris

My brother John (two years older) and I had hobbies that kept us busy over many years; collecting stamps, coins, trading cards and building our HO train set in the basement. Stamp collecting, filling coin books and collecting baseball cards were ongoing, year-round projects. While that miniature HO town spent much of the year in storage. It came to life in glorious detail, like a lot of things do, each Christmas season.

When I was very young, we rode trains, buses or walked more than we used cars. Most major highways had yet to be built. My father and mother moved to Roselle from Jersey City when I was just a few years old but still connected to family using the Jersey Central Railroad. They did not even have a drivers license or car for several years.

It was easy to see how you could build a miniature imaginative city around a HO train line including a smoking engine, switch tracks, an elevated trestle, street lights, miniature farms, factories and parks. We plowed back the money we made on our newspaper routes into our growing town, which became really special at Christmas.

Typical wishlist presents in the 1950’s – 1960’s

Hobby stores were fairly common businesses in those days and a great place for gifts. There were Revell plastic model kits that taught you the parts of a 32’ Duce Coup, a B-52 bomber or even the parts of a body like “The Visible Man” (or Visible Woman). You could even get creative by customizing your “Hot Rod” car with paint, decals and optional parts like fender skirts and a continental kit.

As we got older there were more challenging kits to build working models like airplanes, boats and cars. Companies like Heathkit and Radio Shack encouraged building real electronic devices that worked, like transistor radios and TVs. Model kits helped us understand a complicated world but one where you could still take something apart – to learn how it works – or to fix it.

Commercializing Christmas

Christmas represented a once-a-year chance to earn some real cash for a pre-teen with a newspaper route. It instilled in me a love of being an entrepreneur and learning customer service and how to interact with adults. You would be extra careful each year at this time to deliver your papers on time and at the doorstep. Of course, you would sneak a Christmas card into the newspaper a couple weeks before to butter up your clients. In those days, you went door-to-door each month collecting, hopefully receiving a special season tip or gift from many of your customers. This bonus money would help fund our ongoing interests in trains, stamps, trading cards, coins and sports equipment.

As I got a bit older, I added to my resume selling Christmas trees. Our Stewart’s Root Beer drive-in, a couple blocks away, sold trees during the holiday and I quickly learned that there were big tips to be had for a kid with a little hustle.

Decking the Halls

A string of lights, a big illuminated Santa face on the front door and plastic statues of carolers decorated the outside of our house at 626 East 2nd Ave. The Christmas tree took up a third of the living room with its soft glowing screw-in light bulbs, shining glass ornaments and silver tinsel or garland. Of course, there was the nativity scene with plaster-cast characters of wisemen, shepherds and the holy family, which always seemed to need some glue repair from the previous year’s wear.

Holiday Music in the Air

At least as important as the tree was the Sylvania TV to see the holiday specials and the sounds of our our Zenith stereo set with its radio, record player with odd-looking cone speakers.

These were the early days of  ​33 1⁄3 rpm LP vinyl record albums. Ordinary people obsessed over “stereo” and “high fidelity” and improving sound quality with the right “diamond” needle that played in the record grooves. We bought our “stereo” at a local radio/TV store to provide the best holiday music. And, in our family it was watching Christmas specials or playing albums of Perry Como, Frank Sinatra, Mitch Miller, and of course, Lawrence Welk.

My father, an amateur harmonica player (learned in the Army), believed in the beauty of music and wouldn’t mind singing along if the occasion called for it. The popular musical instrument to learn at the time, especially if you were Polish, was the accordian.

One year the family broke down and bought a Yamaha organ which my youngest sister Carolyn (11 years younger than me) took lessons. My other sisters, Christine and Barbara and even Mom and Dad took some free lessons but did not get far. John and I were not motivated enough to learn any instrument. In time, the musical fad faded and I think we passed the organ  to an aspiring neighbor, which probably became a tradition. I’m still wondering how it fit in that small living room.

Christmas Mass

John (altar boy) Me (choir boy)

Christmas Mass was always a center of time during the holiday. I remember in grade school being in the special Christmas choir dressed in a red cassock, starched collar and a big bow. Our parish, St. Joseph’s, took this seriously. It was probably a Latin mass at that time. Also, an altar boy, you had to know the Latin responses during the Mass, but we had no idea what they translated to. We typically went to either the special Christmas Eve mass with the singing or midnight Mass which was “Standing Room Only”.

A Polish Christmas Eve

My Parents: Stella and John Kiczek

Since my Mom (Stella) and Dad (John, Sr.) had very ethnic and religious childhoods growing up in Jersey City, there was a strong desire to carry on some of the sacred Polish traditions at Christmas. My Dad was the youngest of 9 children. My Mom was an only child. Dad’s closest siblings were aunt (Polish: “Cioci”) Frances and aunt Josephine who lived next door to us in Roselle.

A new look at our old family house.

His oldest brother, Father Al, a well-respected priest and pastor at St. Casmir’s and Sacred Heart in Newark, his cousin Joe and his sister Mary “May” Slawinski with her family might visit and we usually made the long journey out to Jersey City to visit them after Christmas.

As kids, holiday old country traditions were almost dreaded. It was hard to be on your best behavior with the company of strange food, a strange language being spoken and relatives that seemed to come from a different world. Jersey City was rough, noisy and crowded. We wondered why everyone lived there in small apartments when they could move out to the suburbs. Little did I know then that my son Justin and daughter Alison would gladly choose to settle there once they started their careers.

My uncle Stan (Slawinski, Sr., husband of May) was a jolly old, stout guy. He set a light hearted-tone for their family and our gatherings. He had a distinctive mustache, much like Charlie Chaplin. I do remember vaguely (spoiler alert) that he showed up at our place on at least one Christmas Eve dressed perfectly as the real Santa Claus. Can you imagine that!

Uncle Stan (aka Santa) with sister Carolyn (1962)

For our family there was probably no tradition more memorable than the Christmas Eve celebration otherwise known as Wigilia. With aunts Frances and Josephine  next door in Roselle, we ate this sacred meal either at home or at their place. Cousin Joe or Father Al might drop by. This is a time where it is traditional to get together and invite others for a polish meal with 12 meatless dishes (12 signifying the 12 apostles). It’s also a tradition to set an extra empty plate for anyone who might drop by representing a true Christmas spirit.

But the first thing that night was to say a family prayer and share opłatek, the Christmas communion wafer. The custom is to take a larger piece and allow each person to break off a piece of yours and eat it, while you do the same to theirs. This commemorates the Last Supper and is a nice social way to wish everyone individually a Merry Christmas.

The meal began late because, as I learned recently, it was customary to start when “the first star can be seen” commemorating the Star of Bethlehem. The two most prominent dishes were a beet borscht soup and fish. Mushroom dishes (Poles are big on mushrooms) were many and varied. First, was the deep red beet soup served with potato dumplings then fried fish, then a mushroom dish. Pickled herring was also an option as it was seen as a sign of good luck for the new year.

Needless to say once the borscht and fish came out, all the kids would bolt away from the table or eat little, until better choices arrived like pierogis and/or potato pancakes (placki). Our favorite polish foods like kielbasa or gołąbki, stuffed cabbage, could not be served, at least not today. We were fasting from meat. Somewhere between dishes we were probably singing or at least listening to Polish and English Christmas songs.

My fondest food memory of the season was probably the buttery kolaczki cookies for dessert made by my Aunt Frances with raspberry, apricot, poppy and prune filling.  With 12 dishes to get through, conversation and some drinking it was a sit-down party lasted late into the night as we were sent to bed with beautiful visions of Santa on his sleigh and nightmares of borscht and fish in our heads.

Tradition Continues at Christmas

Old rituals that have stayed the same or maybe improved over time are especially significant to me as I get older. As kids, I’d like to think we behaved a little bit better during the season and learned the valuable lessons of giving and receiving . All this we experienced through the same legends of a jolly old man and a baby being born and through the lens of our own family customs. Tradition helps make the magic.

We might not have understood these mysteries, but we instinctively respected the forces around us and solemnness of the season. Christmastime is still the best of times which we continue to cherish and hope to pass on to other generations.

Fond Memories of the Last Catastrophe

Living through a year of self-inflicted quarantine has been tough. Then, I remembered we had it rough before and made it thru.

This post is a story I wrote for my Storyworth project. It represents an installment of a personal compilation of stories I hope to complete this year. While the Covid pandemic has delayed long bike trips, I guess I have no excuse to stop writing.

How quickly we forget. 

Its been a year living through the Covid-19 pandemic. Our lives have been altered to avoid contracting the disease and to protect others from its spread. Basically, we have led a life that was 90% isolated except for a few selected safe relationships and occasional adventurous activities outside of our homes. Someday soon I hope we can look back on this with some nostalgia. But, not right now. 

Ironically, I just came across a note I wrote in 2012 during the last crisis we faced. I’m not even sure why I wrote the note or if I ever published it or showed it to anyone, but it struck me as oddly meaningful today. 

At that time, thank God, we did not have our Ortley Beach home when Hurricane Sandy hit. Still, after our Morristown home power lines went out and we tried living in a cold, dark house for days we decided to seek shelter. Ours was by no means the worse thing that happened at that time so we steeled ourselves and made the best of it.

Mary Ann’s mom Caroline, in her mid 80’s at the time and who has since passed, was living alone and independently in her home in Lake Parsippany. She welcomed company and we needed a lifeline.

As I remember it, it was a great relief to be in a warm home where mom appreciated the company and we sure appreciated the roof over our heads. This would do until the chaos passed and we could return to normal. It was not a perfect situation but we were all in this together. 

Here’s the note I wrote around mid November 2012 as our power was about to be restored after 12 days or so in my mother-in-law’s home:

It made me think that in any catastrophe there are those that suffer much worse than I. Also, overcoming the challenge can lead to good outcomes. Who knew that someday we would all look back on those days when being together in any form would be better than being alone?

In case you forgot what that time was all about…

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