Divisions, differences, disabilities

Today, like yesterday, is Boston.  I have loved this area of the world since my friends Faith Mauro and Nancy Crego brought me here when I was maybe Brian’s age.  But so many facets of life here remind me of differences, divisions, discord, separations…

But first the purely fun parts… the Harvard natural history museum was PERFECT for our family.  None of us, not even Dixon, were able to walk out of there without learning lots.  Don’t take that comment about Dixon the wrong way… it’s just after twenty years of marriage, I still am surprised every day about all the stuff he knows.  I mean, really, who would think that your average hospitalist ICU doc kind of guy would know what percentages of which kinds of malachite came from what parts of the world???

But it’s not a big museum.  The whole thing, from gemstones to whale skeletons, is on part of one floor of one building.  Very approachable.  And what fun for Danny to be able to escape from the Violet Mobile in a museum, so he could really see!  Couldn’t ever do that at the air and space museum 🙂  He and the brothers abandoned it in a corner early on, and Danny navigated all the closely spaced exhibits independently.

Thinking of Danny, this one’s for his godmother.  We did NOT take photos of the artistic arrangement of cockroaches in the next frame.  But back to the title… where is the division or difference here?  (and keep in mind, not all differences or divisions are negative…) … this museum, perfect for our family, even 99 % handicapped accessible, would never be built today.  The animals are in cases, not photorealistic scenes… with yellow typed labels, family, genus, species… Very few parts of any of the displays talked or sang or had interactive computer games to play.  Certainly not fancy and modern… but deep and rich and FULL.   This gets a ten.

Then Walden Pond.  Emily’s first choice.  What a poet my daughter is…

When the Emersons and two other families donated the land including Walden Pond to the government in 1923, part of the agreement included preservation AND recreation.  Balancing those two has been a tricky challenge that I think they’ve done well with.  1000 people are allowed in each day, carefully spread out, and when capacity is high, they close the gates.  Many areas are carefully undisturbed.

Here’s a difference… Emily was here to immerse herself, literally and metaphorically, into the water of Walden Pond.  The rest of the families were there to cool off during an August afternoon.  The other families, though, made me acutely aware of a division that has discouraged me every day.

My physical limitations have prevented me from doing so much that I would have loved to do and share with my children.  We stayed in the sand.  Other mamas hiked several kilometers around to the north to see where Thoreau had his little cabin.  Every day we have to think about what I can do and what we have to skip because I can’t do it all.  And it seems as we get further along on our journey, we have to skip more because of me.  Makes me sad, this does.

Then this morning at Mass we saw another difference.  Not long ago, Elizabeth F. , Esther P and I had an email chat about Catholic parish growth and un-growth in our various parts of the country.  I’ve read about nearly empty churches on the brink of being closed, and I know that the stained glass windows in our packed-to-the-rafters church came from an abandoned church not far from here.

Oh how I wish I’d been able to take a photo of the inside of the church we went to this morning.  It was GORGEOUS.  Seriously.  A truly visual manifestation of the beauty of our faith.  And it was huge.  Way big.  Even George noticed it was big.  But, sadly, it was pretty darn empty.  There were whole chunks of empty pews.  There are actually several Catholic churches right in this one little town.  I chose this particular one because they offer confession every day, and I think that says something about a church… but to get back to our topic at hand, I was stunned at the emptiness.  So different from the South.

This afternoon, for the first time for recreational activities, we split up.  No, it’s not that spending so many consecutive days in one room or one van was driving us crazy,  but going back to the limitations thing, as much as I would have loved hopping on the “T” to go to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and wandering there for the afternoon, I just couldn’t.  But Sam and Emily could, and wanted to, very much.  So we sent them off and the rest of us (after nap time) went to Concord.

Somebody truly earned his hat… we walked into the Minute Men Visitors Center, about the events of April 19, 1775, and Danny chirped up with the first ten or twelve lines of the poem and instantly knew why the morning after the midnight ride was so important.

 This is a DON’T MISS SITE if you are in Boston.  We decided to sit through the 25 minute video at the visitors center because i was so tired.  Little did we know that it wasn’t a video.  It was a three dimensional media learning experience that was amazing for all of us.  We really and truly learned the hows and whys of that fateful day.  And you know, as many times as I’ve taught the Sonlight cores covering American History, I’d never known some of the things I learned today… how did I miss learning that Paul Revere had been captured???  And I’d never thought about some of the divisions, differences, dichotomies between the British regulars and the Minutemen… the latter still being officially British, and therefore not only risking their lives in battle that day, but risking punishment for treason for turning on “their” army…

The best part outdoors (in the rain) was a talk by a Park Service intern about the battles at North Bridge.  Where we sat, through her dramatic and highly visual words, we could see the slowly growing groups of Minutemen up on the hill across the river and to the right, and how the British regulars could send three companies up over the bridge to the farm beyond, but keep four there, just to our left, to keep safe their escape…  To be right there today, and imagine it all… how amazing!

High tech and low tech..  Old museums of old stuff and new museums of old stuff.  Empty churches full of beauty.  Families with energy and families with mamas like me.

And this mama needs to go to sleep.  Tomorrow is MIT day, and if, and only if, I am well enough for the adventure, Brian and Danny NEED to see Old North Church to cap off their experience of today.  We’ll see.


8 thoughts on “Divisions, differences, disabilities

  1. It looks like such a wonderful trip! I am often charmed by older museums, small historic houses with just a few dedicated volunteers staffing them, and scientific exhibits, historic sites, and state parks where the “gee whiz” factor is less the high tech interactive displays designed to dazzle (though those can be fun, too!) and more the artful arrangement of carefully chosen artifacts and examples, the passionately-told stories recounted by people who really care, and the time taken by staff members and volunteers to thoughtfully and wisely answer the questions of a child.

    I hope you’re able to keep balancing your need to rest with your desire to see and do so much with your family. Wonderful memories can, of course, be made in quieter moments, too, so even when you can’t do it all, I’m sure this trip is turning out to be an amazing experience for your whole family.

  2. Elizabeth,
    I am truly enjoying your college grand tour and vacation no matter what you cannot experience. What a wonderful time together for all of you.

    I too enjoy the small museums, the artifacts that you see and the stories told. Somehow it brings events and the way people actually lived more to life than the sparkly and interactive museums can. Both kinds of museums and spaces are educational and needed, but sometimes the smaller simpler ones are more thought provoking. I have had more, “Why didn’t I ever realize or think of that?” experiences in the smaller simpler spaces than the bigger ones.

    I hope that Emily and Sam enjoyed their trip into Boston, which would have been a whole different kind of educational experience.

    Your time with your family is much more important that thinking about what your children might be missing because of your physical limitations. I am much older than you and I can truly say that my memories of vacations with my family while growing up are more about the fun and just being with them than what we saw or did. Sure, I have some wonderful memories of beautiful little falls in the U.P., crystal clear waters in a lake over a large spring, being near the place where the sun first touches the U.S. every morning, of museums or historical sites. But, the overwhelming memories I have now are of us laughing, singing, some arguing (my siblings and I, not my parents) and discussions of what we saw, did, tasted, smelled or felt than what we actually did.

    Thanks for taking us along on your diverse adventures of your trip.

  3. One of the reasons for the empty churches is probably the mass exodus (no pun intended) to the suburbs. The new churches built are uglier but usually fuller and are intended to cover a wider area. Yet, it is sad to think that at one time there were many Catholics occupying those city pews. Wouldn’t it be a different story in the south? Changing demographics makes Catholic population higher now than in the past?

    Thank you for sharing your trip. Our limitations our financial and we have never been on a vacation except to visit family for short periods of time. So I am enjoying a vacation vicariouly through your photos. God bless you!


  4. I am enjoying your recaps of this truly fabulous family trip. Keep taking those naps, and don’t feel badly about them – such a busy schedule would have me and my whole famly in need of naps too. 🙂

  5. Pingback: It was the best of days, it was the worst of days… « Keep on Spinning

  6. There is so much that ia cannot do with my children now, due this new disability. I’ve learned a lot over this past year … It’s hard, but we adjust and grow, both me and the kids.

    It’s fabulous, you being able to do this traveling with the whole family! I love reading about it, thank you for taking the effort to do so much writing here!

  7. Speaking of small spaces, did I ever tell you that my wedding reception was at Longfellow’s Wayside Inn (http://www.wayside.org/)? My husband is 6 feet tall. Our wedding photos were taken INSIDE the museum. Here was a 6-foot tall man standing aside a desk from the late 18th century. In our wedding pictures, hubby and I look like Mr. and Mrs. Guliver in Lilliput. Truly funny.

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