Snapshots of My Mother


This photograph, which I’m guessing was taken around 1940 by my grandfather, shows my grandmother, Dorothy Kenyon Handy, enjoying a day with her children, Joyce, John, and Carter. And some four-legged friends. My mom would have been about twelve in this photo.

Dorothy Handy with Joyce, Carter, John (around 1940)
Daughter
Girl Scout
Girl Scout

My mother died six years ago today, although my sisters and I had lost her long before that, to the ravages of dementia, a disease that is not as cruel to the victim as, say, cancer, but that torments the loved ones who watch it take away memory, recognition, speech. The loving but stricter-than-most mother we knew had become a passive childlike woman who smiled nearly all the time. Her eyes seemed to recognize us, but she was unable to speak any of our names (at one point, she thought my name was ‘Fizzy,’ another time, “Swamp’ while she could still say a few words).

The summer I turned twenty-one was also the summer I returned from a year abroad, and the summer after my father died (three months earlier). A difficult time for everyone, especially for my mom and me, navigating our way through a too-empty house together, me wanting the same freedoms I’d enjoyed in Switzerland, she, probably afraid when any of us was out of her sight for too long. She was a widow, younger than I am now, with three daughters, one still in college, one yet to go. A woman who attended college but whose greatest joy was being a wife and mother. Intelligent, she set the bar high for her children, and didn’t tolerate bad manners, bad language, or kissing a boy in a convertible parked in the driveway late on a sultry summer night. She and I found our way eventually, as mothers and daughters do, and one of my fondest memories is of a trip we took in the early nineties to Switzerland (her second time there). Days were filled with train trips to points around the country. I had a rare opportunity to teach and translate. At night we played cribbage and she won every single hand.

Bride
Bride

I watched her take control of her new life as a husbandless woman. The invitations to parties and bridge games on Saturday night vanished. She learned what her assets were and how to manage them. She traveled, eventually, seeing places she might only have dreamed about.

Travels
Traveler
Montauk
Montauk

Dementia takes its sweet damned time, and my mother lived with the progressive disease for more than four years. It didn’t surprise me at all that she waited until her three daughters and two sons-in-law were gathered around her bed before she took her last breath, as morphine helped her wind down just like a clock.

But today, instead of focusing on that one moment of loss, I’ll finish a crossword puzzle and make a Rhode Island chowder in her memory.

Oh! The Places I’ve Been – “Z” is for ZERMATT


photo by M. Reynolds
photo by M. Reynolds

Of course I’d end up in Switzerland!

The name of Zermatt, as well as that of the Matterhorn itself, derives from the alpine meadows, or matten (in German). The name appeared first as Zur Matte (“in the meadow”) and became later Zermatt. It does not appear until 1495 on a map or 1546 in a text, but may have been employed long before.

There are no cars allowed in Zermatt. You can take a train, but once you arrive at the station, you can walk, ride in an electric car, or climb into one of the lovely-horse-drawn carriages

photo by M. Reynolds
photo by M. Reynolds

This photo, above, was snapped at Sunnegga, a ski area on the Rothorn mountain. As the name implies, there’s usually a lot of sun here. My sister, my mom, and I were here in the early 90’s.

The photo below is from Gornergrat, at 3,089 meters above sea level, March 2007. Yes, the air is thin, but look at this view!

photo by M. Reynolds
photo by M. Reynolds

Honorable mentions go to Zurich (where our dear friends Paul and Athena reside and have welcomed us), Zug, and Zweisimmen. “Z” was easy!

Thanks for following this blog during the April A to Z Blogging Challenge. I hope you enjoyed visiting some of the places that are part of my travel history.

Oh! The Places I’ve Been – “Y” is for YARMOUTH


Bass River, South Yarmouth - photo by John Phelan
Bass River, South Yarmouth – photo by John Phelan

Ah, but which Yarmouth?

  • There’s Yarmouth, or Great Yarmouth, in Britain, on the eastern coast near Norwich, an old fishing port now servicing natural gas rigs. Never been there.
  • There’s the town of Yarmouth in Maine, northeast of Portland and bordering Freeport (LL Bean area). Been there, great New England town.
  • There’s a Yarmouth in Nova Scotia, located in the heart of the world’s largest lobster fishing grounds. Want to go!
  • There’s another Yarmouth on the Isle of Wight, one of the island’s earliest settled regions. Would love to visit sometime.
  • No, this Yarmouth is close to home, in Massachusetts, on Cape Cod. The town itself is made up of South Yarmouth, West Yarmouth, and Yarmouth Port. As the land was inhabited by Native Americans prior to English settlement, many of the tribal names remain and are familiar in the region: Wampanoag, Cummaquid, Algonquin. And the town is named after the first Yarmouth listed, Great Yarmouth.  The land was used to raise pigs, sheep, and cattle until the late 19th century, when developers began to turn it into a fashionable summer resort. Hotels and summer cottages sprung up along what is now Route 28.  Yarmouth Port boasts the headquarters of the International Fund for Animal Welfare and the very first Christmas Tree Shop.
Judah Baker Windmill, South Yarmouth - photo by John Phelan
Judah Baker Windmill, South Yarmouth – photo by John Phelan

For us, it’s always been a great getaway destination, but only off-season (I wouldn’t go near the Cape in the summer!).

Okay, there’s your “Y.” Tomorrow is the last day. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz………………..  🙂

Oh! The Places I’ve Been – “X” is for AIX-en-PROVENCE


It is not cheating. Besides, I’ve never been to China, where all the X’s reside (and you thought all my exes lived in Texas…)

So, first a little history lesson. Aix was founded in 123 BC by Sextius Calvinus, who gave his name to its springs. A few years later, in 102 BC, its neighborhood was the scene of a big battle. In 477 AD it was occupied by the Visigoths. And then the town was repeatedly plundered by other groups and tribes, and it wasn’t until after the 12th century that Aix settled down and became a place for art and learning.

Finally, in the late 15th century, Aix and the rest of Provence became part of France.

http://wikitravel.org/en/Aix-en-Provence
http://wikitravel.org/en/Aix-en-Provence

I traveled to Aix on my own. It was the summer I returned to Switzerland, in 1981, and accepted a job as an au pair (nanny) to a totally undisciplined two-year-old. Two days later I received a job offer to work and teach at an exclusive boarding school somewhere near Gstaad. Yes, it would have been incredible, well-paid, perhaps even life-changing. But I’d told this couple I’d work for them and I was a woman of my word. So many times during that summer I wished I wasn’t.

Anyway, before I started working for them, I took a weekend and traveled by train from Geneva. I stopped in Aix because even then I loved all things Provence: fields of lavender, soupe au pistou, pastis……

http://wikitravel.org/en/Aix-en-Provence
http://wikitravel.org/en/Aix-en-Provence

The Cours Mirabeau is a wide thoroughfare, bordered by fine houses and decorated by fountains. It follows the line of the old city wall and divides the town into two sections. The new town extends to the south and west; the old town, with its wide but irregular streets and its old mansions dating from the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, lies to the north. Along this avenue is the Deux Garçons, the most famous brasserie in Aix. Built in 1792, some of its more famous patrons have been Paul Cezanne, Emile Zola, and Ernest Hemingway.

Aix! Just say “X.”  We’re almost done with the A to Z Challenge. I’ll showcase “Y” and “Z” on Monday and Tuesday.

Oh! The Places I’ve Been – “W” is for WOLFEBORO


Quick – Name the Oldest Summer Resort in America. Okay, you read the title of this post first, so you already know.

Main Street, Wolfeboro photo from www.wikipedia.com
Main Street, Wolfeboro photo from http://www.wikipedia.com

Well, I was surprised. I really thought our own Newport (RI) would have won.

Wolfeboro is situated at the head of Wolfeboro Bay on Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire. It’s a popular summer destination, particularly for families from parts of New England, especially Boston and southern New Hampshire. This long tradition as a summer colony led to the motto “The Oldest Summer Resort in America.” Recently, it has also become a popular year-round home for many seeking a small town existence in “Live Free or Die” New Hampshire. Its downtown is picturesque, with shops lining the main street, and large public docks at the lake shore.

The town has seen a steady stream of famous individuals visit on vacation, including Prince Rainier and Princess Grace of Monaco, Kurt Vonnegut, Drew Barrymore, and Jimmy Fallon.

Last January, we drove around the lake from Meredith to Wolfeboro. I looked out the car window to the right, the lake side. There were giant houses, three- and four-car garages, all closed up for winter, but monstrously big and quiet. I looked out the left side and saw trailers, piles of wood to fuel the stoves, blue tarps on roofs, the homes of year-round residents who know what hard winters are like.

Oh! The Places I’ve Been – “V” is for VENICE


 

photo by M. Reynolds
photo by M. Reynolds

Kathy and I arrived at the Venezia Santa Lucia railway station a few days before Easter in 1979.  Before we left Fribourg, someone advised us to arrive at dusk (“it’s so pretty at that time of day!”). As we walked through the station, I noted a half-dozen or so people lying on the floor. We checked our guidebook and walked from pensione to pensione, only to find every single hotel booked solid. Finally, someone who spoke English told us we were crazy to come to Venice during Holy Week and think we’d get a hotel room. Ah, now the station-sleepers made more sense. And yes, we joined them. I unrolled my sleeping bag (pure luck that I had it with me) and Kathy and I bedded down for the night, our valuables tucked under our heads. The station was patrolled by a couple of the local polizia, which was comforting, I guess.

Venice was a stop on the way to Greece, anyway, so we spent the next day in Saint Mark’s Square, which was constructed in the 9th century. The square was laid out in front of the original St. Mark’s Basilica, which at the time was a small chapel attached to the Doge’s Palace. Besides people and magnificent architecture, the square is also home to a great many pigeons. They’re everywhere. They’ve caused a lot of damage to the delicate mosaics, but all attempts to reduce the population have failed.

photo by M. Reynolds
photo by M. Reynolds

Anyway, Kathy and I spent a long day in Venice and boarded a train that evening, one that would travel all the way down the eastern coast of Italy to Brindisi. The train was packed full of people traveling somewhere for Easter, so we had the pleasure of standing all night. I think there were finally seats available by the time we stopped in Foggia, probably around five in the morning. From Brindisi, we waited around all day until the ferry departed at night for Greece (remember “C” is for Corfu?).

 

Oh! The Places I’ve Been – “U” is for USQUEPAUGH


photo by M. Reynolds
photo by M. Reynolds

I love johnnycakes (or Johnny cakes). If you’re not from around here, you won’t know what I mean. Right?

Well, along the Usquepaugh River lies Kenyon’s Grist Mill, where the original granite millstones quarried from Westerly, RI, are used to grind whole wheat or corn into flour or cornmeal. According to Kenyon’s, “Single pass stone grinding also preserves the vital, natural nutrition of the grains.”  Kenyon’s has been grinding continuously on-site since 1696. 

So, back to johnnycakes. This traditional Rhode Island food dates back to the colonial time when Native American Indians introduced corn to the settlers.  At first, they were known as “Journey Cakes.”  Settlers often took them along on their journeys.  The “r” eventually got dropped (we Rhode Islanders love to drop the “r”) and “Journey Cakes” became, “Johnny Cakes.”

Here’s the traditional recipe for making johnnycakes. In my house, we never add maple syrup! My mom would make them to serve along with leftover lamb. So good. I like them for breakfast, with two eggs over easy, please.

If you’re around these parts in October, come to the Johnnycake Festival!

photo by M. Reynolds
photo by M. Reynolds
photo by M. Reynolds
photo by M. Reynolds
photo by M. Reynolds
photo by M. Reynolds
photo by M. Reynolds
photo by M. Reynolds

Oh! The Places I’ve Been – “R” is for ROME


photo by M. Reynolds
photo by M. Reynolds

This is the Vatican in 1978. Pope John Paul I reigned for 33 days, and died the day my classmates and I flew from Boston to Zurich to begin a year of study in Switzerland. By mid-October, his successor had been chosen, and we traveled by night train to Rome to witness the Papal inauguration.

Below is the Trevi fountain, made most popular in the 1954 movie, “Three Coins in the Fountain.” I only recently watched the movie about three American girls (Anita, Maria, and Frances) hoping to find love and romance in Rome. After all, they threw coins into the Trevi fountain

photo by M. Reynolds
photo by M. Reynolds

Here is the Coliseum (or Colosseum), the largest amphitheater in the world. Construction began in 70 A.D. and was completed in 80 A.D.  Damaged by fire, earthquakes, and stone robbers, still it stands, nearly 2,100 years later. Remarkable!

photo by M. Reynolds
photo by M. Reynolds

This photo was taken from atop St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City. There are 320 steps to the top of the dome, but isn’t it worth it?!

photo by M. Reynolds
photo by M. Reynolds

And, of course, let me conclude with a song…

Oh! The Places I’ve Been – “Q” is for QUONOCHONTAUG


Were you wondering what I’d come up with for the letter Q? Perhaps you were thinking Quebec Canada, Quincy Massachusetts, Queens New York. Yep, been to those places. Queensland Australia, Quimper France, Qatar? Nope, not yet. I chose Quonochontaug Rhode Island as my pick today.

Quonochontaug is actually an area composed of three small beach communities in Charlestown. Located between two salt ponds – Ninigret Pond and Quonochontaug, or “Quonnie” Pond – and their respective barrier beaches, the communities of West Beach, Central Beach, and East Beach house several hundred residents, some year-round, others summer only. Today, many houses are available as summer rentals. In the 19th century, Quonochontaug was a busy and fashionable resort of small hotels and boarding houses, and the popularity of the resort continued up until the Great Hurricane of 1938.

Quonochontaug used to be the site of an iron mining operation financed by Thomas A. Edison in the 1880s. Iron particles existed in the form of black sand on the beach and they could be separated out with magnets and melted to produce iron. The venture failed after cheaper iron was later discovered.

There are vacation rentals available in quiet Quonochontaug. Now, I don’t know these people, but you could rent an old-fashioned beach cottage (click to see). Isn’t it pretty?

photo by M. Reynolds
photo by M. Reynolds
photo by M. Reynolds
photo by M. Reynolds
photo by M. Reynolds
photo by M. Reynolds
photo by M. Reynolds
photo by M. Reynolds

Oh! The Places I’ve Been – “P” is for PARIS


It’s been a very long time since I’ve seen Paris. When I look at these photographs, I’m transported back in time. Walking around the city with a paper map in one hand. Envying the French women and their style, so effortless. The scent of buttery croissants. Ghosts of Victor Hugo, Ernest Hemingway, Maurice Chevalier. Painters. Gypsies. Tourists. Lovers.

photo by M. Reynolds
photo by M. Reynolds

Notre-Dame Cathedral (above). The ubiquitous Eiffel Tower (below).

photo by M. Reynolds
photo by M. Reynolds
photo by M. Reynolds
photo by M. Reynolds

“If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.” (E. Hemingway)

And to end with a video. Here is a Spaniard (Julio Iglesias) singing a song about the sea (La Mer), better known to many of you as “Beyond the Sea,” sung by Bobby Darin. This is from 1976, hence the disco vibe. I love it, but then, I belong to a different time.