Despite my best efforts to limit the Vachette’s screen time to the occasional Sesame Street youtube clip, the infamous preschool Elmo obsession has started. The Vachette has been infected with ardor for the most annoying of muppets.
Like a flying hawk in search of prey, the Vachette can spot Elmo anytime anywhere. She regularly points out the minuscule picture of Elmo on every cardboard Pampers box. She once found a discarded a well-weathered Elmo toy at the playground that had morphed from a bright red to a pastel pink. I believe all of Cape Ann heard her excited squeal of delight when we discovered an Elmo toothbrush, which naturally Mommy had to buy.
I’m not quite sure where this Elmo love came from. As I control the keyboard, I first exposed her to Sesame Street through the same classic Bert and Ernie clips that I used to watch when I was a kid. Somehow, Elmo worked his way onto her radar. Perhaps I can blame her father, a convenient explanation for any and all undesirable behaviors.
I wonder if I would be able to better stomach Elmo if I had grown up with him as a character like I did with Bert, Ernie, Grover, Big Bird, etc. This theory may be correct, since Elmo was first developed in 1985. In fact, per this very enlightening article on Elmo obsession, Elmo was designed to fill a character gap, specifically to appeal to the prototypic preschool child- “curious, open-minded, fun, loves to learn new things, very optimistic, happy-go-lucky” . To further endear him to the small set, Elmo’s speech patterns were structured very similar to “mother-ese”, i.e. high pitched with dragged out vowels and exaggerated inflections comparable to the way moms and dads talk to their munchkins.
I still prefer the Sesame Street characters that I grew up with, but understanding Elmo’s appeal makes him more palatable.
Californians live in California. Texans live in Texas. New Yorkers (from both the city and state) live in New York. So what are residents of Massachusetts called?
Seriously though, many state names like Massachusetts do not easily adapt to common English gentilic morphemes like the ones used in the joke above. The traditional and archaic demonyms for Massachusetts are respectively “Massachusite” and “Massachusettians”; the official state term for a MA resident is “Bay Stater”.
These days, my good friend artist Paige Tighe can be found on the road, as her “Walk with ME” project is currently touring the East Coast.
Paige started “Walk with ME” in car-centric Los Angeles. Instead of using California’s more ubiquitous form of transportation, i.e. the car, she is taking, and documenting, a series of half hour to hour long walks done as a hand-holding pair. Through kickstarter, she was able to get enough financing to take her project from its birthplace out to the East Coast where Paige is economically working her way from Boston (and its environ) to Athens, GA, going on as many hand-held walks as possible.
As some of you already know, I am a big fan of walking, not just in the not-driving sense. There are few things as natural as the physical act of walking. The desire to walk is ingrained with us at birth and propels us from babyhood into toddlerdom. Walking not only distinguishes us from our four-legged friends and other posture-challenged primates; it grounds us, both spiritually and physically, as you can clear your head while your feet make concrete contact with terra firma.
I got to be walk #5 on the Gloucester/Rockport portion of Paige’s Massachusetts itinerary. I suggested we walk along Rockport’s beautiful road Marmion Way, which may not have been the best idea on a raw, wet day. The closer we got to the ocean, the more brutal the wind felt on our entwined bare hands (my other hand was warmly stuffed in my jacket pocket.)
After the walk, Paige has both herself and her fellow walker write/draw their post-walk reflections. It could have been due to the cold, but I never managed to lose this disconnected-appendage feeling in my hand-holding arm. It was just there, inanimate like the limbs sticking out of Madame Tussaud’s wax figures. Interestingly, this feeling directly contrasted with the personal, emotionally-connected conversation that Paige and I had while walking. It started with some laughs and local lore, but then, the more we got into the rhythm of the walk, the conversation snowballed into the deeper stuff. (Click here for Paige’s thoughts on our walk. The above pictures were harvested from her entry.)
Paige hopes to get a grant to finance an exhibit about the project in Minneapolis, her hometown, so let’s wish her the best of luck with that.
An interesting side-note: on our walk, I learned that Paige is one of the rare Americans who literally does not drive. She does not have a driver’s license, nor has she ever had one. Yet, she still managed to find ways (buses, Shanks’ pony, the kindness of car-driving friends) to successful get around LA for SEVERAL years. Now that is a feat worthy of recognition. Bravo Paige!
One of the Vachette’s favorite games these days is tea party, or as she calls it “pah-ty”. Basically, she sits down at the dining room table with a toy tea set and two stuffed ducks and a chick. Then either Niko or I have to voice the ducks and chick and ask the Vachette for various drinks (can I have some milk? can I have some tea? can I have some coffee?). The usual response to which is an enthusiastic, giggled “no”. The Vachette takes great pleasure in denying her party guests of refreshments.
As I have previously written, repetition is quite big with the under-two set. We currently average a dozen tea parties a day.(This mommy sometimes would like to add margaritas to the list of requested tea party drinks.) Since Niko and I are both masters at silly, we sometimes make ducks and chick do some lindy hop and other dances, or we make them drink their rarely bestowed beverages in ways reminiscent of the Three Stooges, i.e. having the tea cups get stuck on the stuffed animals’ heads. Niko took this slapstick to the next level of painful comedy, by having the cup-covered duck and chick blindly run into each other. The Vachette found this H-I-L-A-R-I-O-U-S. She then took the two animals and started ramming them into each other, even after one of the tea cups popped off. While nothing makes tea party more tolerable than her roll-on-the-floor laughter, I can’t help wondering whether I will ever see her try to reenact this slapstick routine with live, as opposed to stuffed, guests.
Newbery Award winner E.L. Konigsburg died this weekend.
I first discovered Konigsburg’s books in fourth grade when I read her first two novels “Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley, and Me, Elizabeth” and “From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler”. Both of these books were published in the late 60s, but they felt relevant to me when I read them a good two decades later. I wonder what the Vachette will think of these books when she is old enough to read them. This recently published cover to “From the Mixed-Up Files…” (that I found Amazon) features the protagonists in contemporary garb, which implies the book still resonates with today’s elementary school set. I can see the timeless appeal to social misfits who run away from home, hide in an art museum, and then solve an art mystery.
In addition to its obvious advantages (historical charm within walking distance of Old Garden Beach and Bearskin Neck), the Benjamin Tarr House, my temporary abode, is located across the street from the Seaview Farm.
A former dairy farm, the Seaview Farm now focuses on boarding horses. However, it also houses a year-round farm stand featuring eggs, grass-fed beef, seasonal produce and other local products like maple syrup and honey. Obviously, the grass-fed beef is not all that interesting for my vegetarian household, but I am thrilled about having this eggs and veggies.
This farm stand works on the honor system. You help yourself to whatever you want and then leave your money in a cash box.
Last week, when they had fresh spinach advertised, I was disappointed to see it had all been bought. However, on my way out, I ran into one of the farmers workers who offered to pick some more for me. Fifteen minutes later, I had the freshest spinach in Rockport. Now that is impressive farm-to-table service!
When I told a SF acquaintance (and fellow Eastcoaster) that we were moving to Massachusetts, she mentioned New England’s old cemeteries. In particular, she described them as peaceful, historic places worthy of a quiet stroll. Sounds lovely, no? These days, while meandering, I spend less time reflecting and more time focusing on toddler injury prevention, i.e. keeping said toddler from diving off a pier or running into traffic. That said, the Vachette was kind enough to allow me a brief, initial perusal of Rockport’s Old Parish Burial Ground, the town’s first European cemetery.
Regarding history, Massachusetts commemorated the Old First Parish Burial Ground with a sign for the state’s tercentenary.
Facing the ocean, the dead couldn’t ask for a more serene view for eternal rest, but their grave markers have been left exposed to the elements. Bearing the brunt of winter storms, many of these almost illegible tombstones no longer stand upright, casting mismatched shadows on the ground.
The Vachette was more interested in the beach. With her patience tried after five minutes, we had to make a run for it, but I plan to come back and see what the place feels like sans toddler.
The Vachette recently referred to my sunglasses case as a “wallet for glasses”. Her father and I were floored by her creative ability to use two words that she knows well in order to describe a third thing. Most impressive. I’ve employed a similar inductive tactic with foreign languages when I’ve found myself at a loss for the correct vocabulary word.
The Vachette’s language development is so much fun to watch.
Before San Francisco, before Zurich, long before the Vachette, when Niko and I used to live in Central Square, Somerville felt like Cambridge’s gawky little sister. Both were cousins to Boston, but Cambridge was the cooler, hipper, smarter one while Somerville was the acne-covered wallflower. Not anymore.
Current home prices paint Somerville as a place in the process of gentrifying, or perhaps more aptly put, hipsturbifying. (For more on “hipsturbia”, see this NY Times article.) We recently checked out a property near Ball Square and found a commercial intersections with enough post-modern prom queen potential to rival Central Square and to siphon off scorned suitors from SF’s Mission District.
Coffee House, check.
Old school diner, check.
Vegetarian and vegan food options, check.
Plus bonus points for the semi-public bowling alley. Call Butch for your private lane session.
With the spring equinox looming, it feels somewhat sacrilegious to use the following picture as an introduction to our amazing temporary housing situation. However, fresh February snow is more attractive than the remnants of melting sludge, so without further ado, I present the Benjamin Tarr House.
First, a little backstory. My best friend from high school bought a practically-condemned historical property in the Cape Ann town Rockport. She then used her architectural background to renovate the house into the 21st century while keeping as much of structural colonial charm as possible. Think centuries-old hardwood floors, ceilings with exposed wooden beams, and a quirky vintage staircase that sadly does not photograph well.
She now plans to turn this three-bedroom space into a summer rental. You can guess who her guinea pig tenant is.
So who is Benjamin Tarr? Fortunately, the Massachusetts Bay Colony Tercentenary Commission has provided a public answer.
Answering a sudden alarm to meet at the house of Lieutenant Benjamin Tarr, grandson of Richard Tarr the first settler, sixty-six men from this village under Captain John Rowe, marched to Charlestown and fought in the Battle of Bunker Hill.