A Bond Forever


Reprinted from an article in the Providence College alumni magazine, May 18, 2021.

The family tradition that is Providence College has been manifested over the decades in many and various ways. Generations of Friars have attended PC. (In my case: my dad John M. Reynolds ‘40, my cousin Kathy ’73, my sisters Ann ’78 and Mary Beth ’84, and me ’80. My husband James ‘79even though we didn’t know each other then, and his father Ray, also ‘79.) it’s a family tradition! Many of my classmates have sent their children to PC. For those of us who were students in the late 1970s, there is one event that has, and always will, define us.

To write about the Aquinas Hall dormitory fire of December 13, 1977, a tragedy that ultimately claimed the lives of 10 young women, prompts sharp and difficult memories. Memories of youth and innocence, of traveling back through time to golden days full of promise and hope. And in one night, much of our innocence and sense of invincibility was lost.

In 1977, there were no cell phones, no internet, no texts or Skype or Zoom. There was no Netflix or Hulu, no TSA at the airports, no ATMs, no AIDS. The Berlin Wall still stood, and Jimmy Carter was the president. There was great (and not-so-great) music, and if you were dining in Raymond Cafeteria, you might have heard Donna Summer singing about leaving a cake out in the rain at “MacArthur Park” over the intercom system. We wore clogs and Fair Isle sweaters, and we sported Dorothy Hamill haircuts.

Family and friends of the Aquinas Hall fire victims receive Holy Communion during a memorial Mass at the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul in Providence on Dec. 18, 1977. (Photo from Providence College magazine)

For many young women in the mid-1970s, going away to college was an important part of the rite-of-passage experience. A different state perhaps, a new dormitory adventure, and roommates! For some of us, the entire experience was unfamiliar. And daunting. But that’s how bonds begin. Everyone is starting out and going through the same unfamiliar rituals, to varying degrees. Few of us had cars, so our entertainment consisted of basketball or hockey games at Alumni Hall or Schneider Arena, tipping a few pitchers at the Rat, the occasional concert or lecture at ’64 Hall, or just hanging out in each other’s dorm rooms or in Mural Lounge, where the hot ham and cheese grinder was $1 and an ice cream cone was just a quarter.

There were three dorms for girls (which is what we were in those days): Meagher, McVinney, and Aquinas. Each dorm had its own personality, and all three buildings faced what is known as the Quad — a quadrangle of green space flanked by the three women’s dorms, plus McDermott Hall for boys. There were girls who met each other as roommates freshman year and stayed friends forever. And there were attachments forged through tragedy.

I’ve written about that December day, listing all 10 of the young women, even though I only knew two of them well enough to greet by name. But because we’re so connected, because we’re family, all of us, our Friar community is linked by the tragic Aquinas fire.

On Dec. 13, 2002, the 25th anniversary of the Aquinas Hall fire, Providence College dedicated an alcove in the new St. Dominic Chapel to the 10 women who died. They are remembered at a memorial Mass in the chapel each December. The Mass was livestreamed for the first time in 2020. (Photo from Providence College magazine)

When people die young, at the very beginning of their adult lives, one can’t help but imagine what they would have become, how their lives might have turned out. The 10 girls who died in the fire that snowy night will remain youthful in our memories.

Every year in December we stop to remember, because we can’t ever forget. When I return to the Providence College campus, I pause to look up at the fourth-floor windows of Aquinas and offer a prayer for the girls who perished, and for their family members. But I also pray for the girls who survived. One of those survivors told me that for many years, she tried to figure out why she was saved, what was her purpose. Was it her marriage? The birth of her child? She said it took decades to realize she was saved for many reasons, and she tries, even now, to understand. It’s a question that is beyond comprehension, she said. So she focuses on what matters in her life: kindness, expressing to loved ones how much they mean, letting go of anger, cherishing friends.

All these years later and the memories can be as sharp as yesterday. That’s the thing about memory, even as we grow older. Now in our 60s, we often joke about forgetting the most meaningless things, yet none of us can forget the fire. I can remember a conversation with Katie, or the last time I saw Debbie.

Life is filled with moments — some so happy you’ll swear you must be dreaming, and some so tragic you wonder, for years, why they occurred. But if I can learn a lesson from my friend Kim, it is to find joy in small moments, to express kindness, and forgiveness, whenever possible, and to give thanks to the tightly knit community that is Providence College.

Martha Reynolds McVeigh ’80 ended an accomplished career as a fraud investigator and in the past 10 years has written ten novels. Her novel, Villa del Sol, was awarded the 2018 Book Prize in Literary Fiction by the Independent Publishers of New England.

Spotlight on my Happy Ever After series!


I managed to sneak in a blog post before the end of a January. Sorry for not being more consistent, but January finds me deep into drafting my new novel. And I write it out in longhand (with my favorite pen) in a spiral-bound notebook my dear friend Lynne gave to me. I’ve written twenty-four chapters so far – yay, me!

Meanwhile, the three books I wrote as my “Happy Ever After” trilogy are being featured on various book blogs over the coming weeks. This is a way to let readers who may not know me learn about my books, and there’s a giveaway of the trilogy as well. You can follow THIS LINK to find out about all the tour stops and enter the Rafflecopter giveaway.

Hey, if you know me, you know I’m big on giveaways. Belated congratulations to Geri C. in Indiana, who won my big December giveaway box. I’ll have another one coming up in the spring.

Like all indie authors, I could use more reviews on Amazon. Yep, you’ve read this before. But I’ll keep asking because it truly helps. Just a few words will do, and I’d rather have honest feedback, even if it’s critical. It helps me be a better writer.

Back to the new novel. The year is 1981 and the setting is…..wait for it….yes, it’s set in Switzerland! That means I need to go back and research. No, really, my husband insisted. So off I go in March to visit with my friends and refresh my memory. Expect this new novel in late November – I’m already excited about it! I’ll share more as the year progresses.

We’re living in uncertain times, my friends. Each day provides us with opportunities to be kind. I don’t want to miss those chances, do you?

Celebrate It All


What would a birthday be without a blog post? After all, I wrote my first eight years ago, on my 53rd birthday.

When I turned 30, an old college friend convinced me to do it up big, stating, “No one cares when you turn 31.” True. So for most of us, these ‘milestone’ birthdays tend to be momentous.

Last year, when I told my soon-to-be-retired ophthalmologist that I was nearly 60, he chuckled and remarked that once you hit 60, those ‘milestones’ are every five years instead of every ten years. Yikes, I thought.

But he was (partially) right. There are fewer decades left. I’ve seen too many friends die too soon, dammit.

My pal Christine DePetrillo asks every Friday online, “What are you celebrating?” Some Fridays I don’t have an answer, but it’s not because I’m a pessimist. Yesterday I thought, well, I’m celebrating my birthday this weekend. Sixty-one is as much a celebration as sixty, maybe even more so.

So, I jumped waves at the beach today with my husband, sang along to songs on the radio, accepted lots of well wishes (thank you!) and will indulge in something sweet after dinner tonight. It’s all worth celebrating.

Saving Sarah is here!



She thought she’d never feel safe again. She was wrong.When Sarah Bennett’s abusive ex hunts her down in Chicago, her friends spirit her away to Willow Bay, where she hopes to begin again with a different identity. But terror keeps her holed up, unable to start her new life.

Deputy sheriff Tony Reynard never expected to be staring down the barrel of a gun when he enters Sarah’s apartment to finish up some handyman work, but that’s how the fiery little redhead greets him, and he’s beyond intrigued.

After an intervention by her loving friends, Sarah becomes involved in a project to turn an old mansion into a battered women’s shelter. The women work together to renovate the house, along with the help of the townspeople and the delectably handsome Tony, who is a true renaissance man. Tony vows to bring Sarah back to life and love, but knows he needs to move slowly to win her heart.

When her ex tracks her down once more, Sarah must find the courage to protect her friends and her new love from his wrath.

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/saving-sarah-nan-reinhardt/1127062255?ean=2940154535783

Nan Reinhardt has been a copy editor and proofreader for over twenty-five years, and currently works mainly on fiction titles for a variety of clients, including Avon Books, St. Martin’s Press, Kensington Books, Tule Publishing, and Entangled Publishing, as well as for many indie authors.

Author Nan writes romantic fiction for women in their prime. Yeah, women still fall in love and have sex, even after they turn forty-five! Imagine! She is also a wife, a mom, a mother-in-law, and a grandmother. She’s been an antiques dealer, a bank teller, a stay-at-home mom, and a secretary.

She loves her career as a freelance editor, but writing is Nan’s first and most enduring passion. She can’t remember a time in her life when she wasn’t writing—she wrote her first romance novel at the age of ten, a love story between the most sophisticated person she knew at the time, her older sister (who was in high school and had a driver’s license!), and a member of Herman’s Hermits. If you remember who they are, you are Nan’s audience! She’s still writing romance, but now from the viewpoint of a wiser, slightly rumpled, post-menopausal woman who believes that love never ages, women only grow more interesting, and everybody needs a little sexy romance.

Visit Nan’s website at http://www.nanreinhardt.com, where you’ll find links to all her books as well as blogs about writing, being a Baby Boomer, and aging gracefully…mostly. Nan also blogs every Tuesday at Word Wranglers, sharing the spotlight with four other romance authors; and she is a regular contributor at the Romance University website, where she blogs as Nan Reinhardt, Copy Editor. Her latest novel, Saving Sarah, book 4 in the Women of Willow Bay series releases in all outlets on September 26, 2017.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/authornanreinhardt

Twitter: @NanReinhardt

Talk to Nan at: nan@nanreinhardt.com

Thoughts from the Cliff’s Edge



I wrote my first blog post on my birthday five years ago (and maybe ten friends read it). Here I am, entering my sixtieth year, and I have something to say:

  • Don’t tell me it’s just a number. I know the number. It’s 59, dammit. 😉 And yes, I’m very aware that I’ve just entered my sixtieth year.
  • I talk to myself a lot these days, especially in the supermarket when I’ve forgotten my list.
  • I still make mistakes, but I laugh about them. Mostly. 
  • I used to pull all-nighters. Not so much anymore, unless insomnia taunts me until sunrise.
  • Kids know so much more then we did, and we thought we knew everything. They’re way too grown up, though, which is a little sad. Kids shouldn’t have to worry until they’re sixteen and driving. Then everybody worries.
  • I rarely wear makeup anymore, unless I go out. And if I go out without makeup, I’ll definitely run into someone I don’t want to see.
  • I don’t wear perfume, either. Deodorant, yes. Sunscreen, definitely.
  • I wish I’d worn a lot more sunscreen in my younger days.
  • I don’t miss full-time work at all.
  • I have never made a “bucket list,” and I never will. There are places I’ll never get to see, things I may not get to do, and it’s okay. I’ve traveled a lot. I’m not done traveling, either, or learning. But no lists.
  • Well, maybe one. Today begins the Year of Living Minimally. Throughout the coming months, I’ll be posting about this journey. 
  • There were a few Mr. Wrongs in my twenties and thirties, but at 35, I met the man who could not have been more right. I’m very grateful for that, and for him, and for the hands of my father and his mother who guided us to each other. However long we have together is a gift, something to be cherished. 
  • And speaking of gratitude, I’m thankful for coffee in the morning, a good bed at night, and air conditioning in the summer. And for you, the reader of this blog post!
  • By the way, I was just kidding about that title. Really.

Tell me something good today. Or make me smile. After all, I only turn 59 once. 🎉🎂🎶🎈🙌

Our Day of Remembrance


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I wasn’t sure what to title this annual tribute. My previous posts about December 13 are listed here, if you want to revisit them:

https://marthareynoldswrites.com/2012/12/12/ten-young-women/

https://marthareynoldswrites.com/2013/12/13/bring-all-the-priests/

https://marthareynoldswrites.com/2014/12/12/what-december-13th-means-to-us/

https://marthareynoldswrites.com/2015/12/12/the-memory-of-sense/

We were all affected by the Aquinas fire in 1977, whether we slept through the event (as I did) or witnessed it first-hand and survived. 39 years later, that memory is as sharp as it was then.

My classmate Michelle Dumont Vezina ’80 writes, “I experienced December 13th somewhat as an outsider looking in. We stayed up late that night studying for finals. We must have been in a deep sleep when everything was happening.

“I remember calling my parents to tell them. They had heard that morning that the largest dorm at Providence College was on fire. They assumed McVinney was the largest because of its height and thought I had been in the fire. They were relieved when I called.

“My mother picked me up that morning for what became the beginning of Christmas break. The campus was quiet, eerily so. I remember looking at Aquinas Chapel from my dorm room window, thinking about the girls who died.

“At that time, I had never experienced death of anyone close to me.  I didn’t really understand the feeling. No one really understands until they lose someone close to them.”

*****

A survivor, Kim Fasolo Martin ’80 writes, “December 13, 1977 changed every part of me down to my soul. For many years, I tried to figure out a specific event in my life that I was saved for, such as my marriage or the birth of my child. It took me decades to realize that I was saved for many reasons. I try to give the lessons that I learned from that terrible night to anyone who will listen. These are some of these lessons that I live by:

“Be kind to people. Tell your loved ones how much they mean to you and how much you love them every chance you get. Never go to bed mad at anyone. Cherish your friends. Do not judge people for how they act until you know what has happened in their life.

“There are so many more lessons that I learned and am still learning.

“All the women who suffered this tragedy on December 13, 1977 share a bond that cannot be broken even if we have not spoken to each other.

“Sometimes, out of tragedies, there is good and when this happens,  we have to share this good to anyone who will listen.”
*****

The Aquinas fire claimed the lives of ten women living on the north end of Aquinas Hall’s fourth floor on Dec. 13, 1977. Katie Andresakes ’80, Jackie Botelho ’79, Barbara Feeney ’81, Donna Galligan ’81, Sallyann Garvey ’81, Gretchen Ludwig ’81, Cathy Repucci ’81, Laura Ryan ’81, Debbie Smith ’78, and Dotty Widman ’81.

Focus on the Positive


“Find every opening to reinforce the value of returning to right and reason in your own life.”

~ Deepak Chopra

I thought I’d post this one line instead of Chopra’s entire article (which you can read here if you’re so inclined). I didn’t want to turn it into a political post – haven’t we all had enough of this exhaustive ugliness anyway? It’s Sunday and I’m feeling a little bit lazy, so here are some pictures to brighten your day. Focus on the positive when you can – all this negativity does you no good.

bonnie-baby
All photoS by M. Reynolds

Gandria, Switzerland
Gandria, Switzerland

wilcox-park
Wilcox Park, Westerly, RI

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Roger Williams Park Zoo, Providence, RI

 

 

Looking Back (Way Back)


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As I’ve been working on recreating this journal written by my maternal grandfather (which will be a book by December), it’s inevitably led to some family tree research.

Over twenty years ago, I picked up on my mother’s love of genealogy and created a binder of information for her. Lots of pages, many, many branches of a tree that went all the way back to King Alfred the Great. (‘Mom, if we’re descended from royalty, why do I have to work?’ ‘Someone married for love, that’s why.’) Of course, the argument can be made that we’re all connected, and the more I do this research, the more I believe it.

My husband’s mother was born in Salzburg, and we have documents, official certificates of births and marriages and deaths. I have Zeinzingers back to the late 1700s, and Strauss, Altmann, Eder. Everything in German!

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This has helped! So has my online friend Eva Merryman – her translations have been valuable in figuring out the who, the what, and the where.

So, how about you? Do you look back? Have you discovered something wonderful in your family history?

Oversharing


sharing

I know three or four loyal readers of this blog who don’t have a social media presence (I love them!), but many of us do, whether it’s on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, blahblahblahblahblah. We do it for varying reasons: I first joined Facebook at the invitation of a high school friend, and found I could enjoy a virtual reunion without worrying about what to wear. College friends, former co-workers, an old crush, neighbors, even my best friend from second grade. We’re all connected online.

Some have more of a presence than others, for different reasons. As an author, I’ve learned that it’s important to stay connected with readers. I try not to shill my books (they’re all right there on the page, isn’t that enough?!), and love to promote others. I enjoy seeing photos of my friends’  kids grandkids, pets, and even the same sunset from another viewpoint.

This past week I was struck with the concept of oversharing. And its opposite. A former co-worker completed her rounds of chemotherapy (breast cancer) without a single post to the world. Her family and close friends were aware, I’m sure, but someone like me, an acquaintance at best, had no need, and she didn’t find it necessary to share her struggle. Only when the chemo was completed did her husband post joyfully (with her okay). And I think we all felt the same joy for her, even if we hadn’t known what she’d endured these past months.

That isn’t to say that those who feel the need to share every last tidbit are bad people. According to the Daily Mail (UK), scientists have revealed that people who feel compelled to share intimate details of their lives on social media sites have heightened activity in the region of the brain relating to self-cognition. Some folks just like to share information about themselves. It’s their diary (for everyone to read!). And for us, we have the option to simply hide, delete, scroll through.

 

 

Hi, My Name is….Introvert


introvert-vs-shy

Some of you will read this title and think, ‘Not Martha!’  I know. I play a good game of it.

Last week I attended an event with my pal Lynne. I didn’t think I’d know anyone there. I ended up seeing a couple of former co-workers (people who were actually nice), and I was introduced to a few of Lynne’s colleagues. Smiles and handshakes all around. Nodding at conversation.

And yesterday I attended my 40th high school reunion. It was a very successful day, and, as I’d had a hand in the planning of the event, I received plenty of compliments and positive feedback about the day.

After a few hours, I couldn’t wait to leave.

Now hold on – it wasn’t that I didn’t want to see old friends. I did! And they’re really great people. Yes, we’ve all grown up (way up), and after forty years, much of my teenage angst is pushed back. Maybe not forgotten but certainly diluted by life’s joys and accomplishments. I had a chance to speak with just about everyone, and even led a goofy trivia contest.

Well, that doesn’t sound like an introvert, does it?

But here’s the thing, and I thank Lynne for the conversation last week as we were driving back home from the beach event: an extrovert derives energy from being around people – an introvert’s energy is sucked out by being around others. An introvert may work hard at being sociable, but it’s draining.

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Introverts don’t like small talk – not because they dislike people, but because it serves as a kind of barrier. Introverts sometimes feel alone, even in the midst of familiar faces. Introverts can be excellent public speakers (yes!), but find it more difficult and stressful to mingle with others afterwards. Introverts start to shut down after they’ve been active for too long. And I did, at both events. So, my apologies to my high school friends for leaving the party without saying my goodbyes. I was so grateful to be in your company! And for the ones from my high school class who couldn’t attend the reunion, meeting one-on-one or in a small group would be absolutely perfect. But you knew that.