A New England Fortune

New England path, Walden PondBefore the snows begin, and the ice and sleet, I walk in my new neighborhood to become familiar with all of the dips and cracks in the sidewalks and the wooded paths nearby. On this chilly day, I wear a decades-old red LL Bean overcoat and even older soft black gloves that I didn’t need when living in the San Francisco bay area.

I grumble a bit, allowing some self-pity.

     At “home,” I’d still be wearing shorts and a t-shirt.

     At “home,” I’d need a baseball hat to protect my face from the gleaming sun.

As leaves crunch beneath my shoes, my gloved third finger discovers a small crunch in its tip. Is it a years-old crumb? A small pebble from long-ago? Continue reading

Leaving Behind (Tissue) Crumbs

http://hip2bmom.com/2011/08/21/trail-of-breadcrumbs/Getting lost is a hazard in my everyday life. Thus, routine can feel safe and cozy.

Normally, when I leave the house with my brain wired for, let’s say – “grocery store” – I barely think about how I turn left out of the driveway, right down the hill, and then left onto the Boulevard. Instead, I concentrate on work (shoot, did I send off that e-mail to the Board?) or family (should I buy the grandkids the wacky whale t-shirt, or will my daughter-in-law hate it?) or my guy (anniversary coming up – can I convince him we should celebrate with a weekend trip to ‘fill-in-the-blank’?).

Before the answer forms, I’m parked in front of the grocery store.

But now, we’ve just moved to a new state, a new town, and a million ways for me to get lost. Continue reading

Never Ever Say Never

fall, New EnglandWhen my man and I left New England four years ago, I swallowed a huge lump in my throat – a lump of fear and relief, joy and dread, wonder and excitement. After ten years of incredible autumns, rejuvenating springs, god-awful winters and soul-satisfying summers, we were moving back to the land that I love – San Francisco Bay area.

And when our friends greeted us on the left coast, I blithely and ridiculously said, “I’ll never live on the East Coast again.” Continue reading

To the Dump

It’s a weekly (happy) chore to most New Englanders.

Californians are horrified at the thought.

When my man and I moved to Massachusetts after 16 years in sunny California, our realtor informed us that we could choose to either pay for a trash pick-up service or select to take our trash to the town’s dump, euphemistically called the “transfer station.”

“I don’t think we even have to think about that one,” I answered.

“Exactly. The transfer station is the best choice,” the realtor agreed.

“But I meant…” I began.

“You’re new in town. The dump is where you’ll meet your neighbors, hear all the town gossip, and meet the local politicians,” she interrupted.

My guy and I glanced at each other and simultaneously exclaimed, “we’ll take the trash service.”

But our decision shocked our new New England friends.

“Why would you pay to have your trash taken away?” was a frequent question, underlined with a not-so-subtle inference that we wasted money and showed a lack of moral fortitude.

“But how do you ‘transfer’ the trash to the dump?” I’d stammer while still a Yankee newbie.

The looks of disbelief (and yes, a bit of disappointment) taught me that I was a foreigner, in a foreign land.

“You throw your trash bags – separated into garbage, cans, glass, paper – into your car, of course.”

I bit my tongue instead of following through with “what if you own a small car (which I did) and have a lot of trash?”

Because you know what the answer would be, don’t you.

Yup.

You just make more than one trip.

dump, transfer station, New England

On the way to the N.E. dump.

But there are two other reasons besides New England thriftiness that drives residents to the dump.

No, we won't let you take this to the dump!

No, we won’t let you take this to the dump!

One of them is that you can bring your 25-year-old bike, the electric can opener that never worked, and your 21-year-old son’s baby blanket and “dump” them into the garage-like shack at the transfer station.

Someone will be (anonymously) forever grateful.

Now that I’m back on the left coast, I admit to a twinge of remorse when I roll out the large brown trash bin to the curb, all clean and neat and easy.

So after trash day this week, I call a lovely New England friend and ask her how she’s handling her husband’s early retirement.

“Oh, it’s fabulous!” she declares. “He’s never home – he goes to the transfer station three times a day. He finds old junk in our basement to get rid of every week.

transfer station, New England, dump, old treasure

The boys meet at the transfer station.

I laugh, knowing he also meets his buddies there, including the former mayor, the reclusive billionaire, and their stockbroker.

“What could be more perfect?” I ask.

skies, antiques, transfer station“Welll,” she vacillates. “Not perfect. He comes home with new treasure every time, like an ancient pair of skies (‘maybe I’ll learn this year,’ he says) and a 1980s pair of sunglasses that reminds him of the kind he lost 30 years ago.”

“On the plus side, he’s out of the house,” I remind her.

“Oh, the dump has saved our marriage,” she agrees.

And that’s the third reason New Englanders go to the dump.

A Plant Well Loved

baby ficus, plant, mournIs it strange to mourn a plant?

Benji had been a mere babe when we brought him to our California home back in the ‘80s, a vibrant lush green Ficus, about 2 feet high and 1 foot wide. Then, for 16 years he savored his spot in the sunny corner of our dining room.

Until suddenly, we needed to move to the other coast, and Benji wasn’t invited. No moving company would guarantee the safety of a now almost 5 foot by 5 foot splendid plant.

“I won’t go without Benji,” I declared.

So we packed him in a wardrobe box for the move, and as we unfurled the plant two weeks later in the sunny spot made just for him in our new, New England home, I heard him sigh, long and happy.

Ahhhhhhhhhhh.

He breathed in the oxygen and gave it out, growing in his big corner. The piano sat on one end, solid and staid, while Benji stretched and grew on his end, filling up the large ‘Great Room’ as the Yankees call it.

Great Room, Ficus, sunnny room, loveWhen guests walked into the spacious room with high ceilings, tall windows, a masculine brick fireplace highlighted by built-in bookcases, all they noticed at first was Benji. Not the wood floors or Oriental rug or ivory couches or glass-topped tables.

Just Benji.

For 10 more years Benji thrived, and at 6 foot tall, he owned the room like a king on his throne.

Until it was time for us to move again, and this time, the law dictated that no plant could be transported to the west coast.

No friends or relatives or even strangers would take Benji – he was too big. But the new residents of our New England home agreed to keep him.

I left instructions: water once a week, not too much and not too little. Let him soak in the light. Talk to him. Enjoy him.

Half a year later, I returned to our past, to the house in New England, and to Benji. I peeked into the Great Room, and saw the wood floors and the bookcases and the fireplace, but no Benji.

Ah, there he was, just a ghost of himself, down to 4 feet by 2, wispy, yellow.

Pathetic.

And I cried for our beloved plant,

Who no longer owned the room.

Like a child not well loved, or a pet kept outdoors, or a spouse ignored, Benji gave up. I felt silly, feeling so sad about this dying plant, but really…

Wouldn’t you?

Benji

[Ficus benjamina, commonly known as the Weeping Fig, Benjamin’s Fig, or the Ficus Tree and often sold in stores as just a “Ficus”, is a species of fig tree, native to south and southeast Asia and Australia.]