By Priscilla F. Bourgoine
Mondays have become my favorite day of the week. This is thanks to my older daughter and son-in-law for asking me to take care of my grandson.
Since last October, I have driven down from New Hampshire to Boston to spend the day with my baby grandson, while my daughter and son-in-law go to work. With the arrival of April weather and his turning ten-months-old, my daughter and I have been brainstorming about events I can share with Jacob.
Outings were a staple of how I mothered my own three children, how my own mom mothered us, and can be traced back at least two more generations. My mom gave my brother and me a kaleidoscope of new activities, sprinkled with the notion that curiosity about life, shared together, created joy. She encouraged us to step out into the world with her and go beyond our fears of the unknown: riding the train into Manhattan to stand in the grandness of the 42nd Street library, hiking mini-parts of the Appalachian Trail, fishing with bamboo rods, at dusk, along the jetty at Stamford’s Cove Beach, and she brought us to the circus at Madison Square Garden. She had a backstage pass. We held hands and stood inches from the ferocious tigers in their cages.
One of my fondest outings was picking strawberries. My Scottish great-Aunt Teen and her older sister, my Gram, visited us during my first summer living in New Hampshire. My parents had shed their Connecticut roots for the bucolic state of pine trees and lakes, during my sophomore year of high school.
That New Hampshire summer, the Scottish sisters decided to resurrect an activity their mother used to do with them. My mom drove all of us in her station wagon to the local farm. Side by side, Aunt Teen and Gram, instructed us in how to snap the berry from its plant. I plunked handfuls of plump strawberries into our bucket, and I popped some into my mouth. Sweet juice danced on my thirsty tongue. The strong sun burned my sore arms, and the berries stained my fingertips deep red. We had begged to stop. Gram and her sister had told us “Aye, just a wee bit more.” Then, they laughed. In the afternoon, at our home, they had taught us how to make preserves with a pressure cooker, a skill I haven’t duplicated, but one I am glad I learned. Since then, anytime I have bitten into the fleshy meat of a berry, I have been transported to that June day where I knelt in the dusty rows of that farm with my Great Aunt, Gram, and my mom. My remembrance of their Scottish voices soothes me with the notes of their faded melodies.
Bagpipes hummed in the distance this Monday morning, April 21st 2014, Patriots’ Day. My daughter and son-in-law and I had agreed today’s parade would make a great first outing. Jacob napped extra-long. He was probably exhausted from a weekend of Passover and Easter celebrations.
Sleepy-eyed, I zipped Jacob up in his teddy-bear jacket and carried him outside. The blue sky covered cool crisp air with a promise of warmth. Fans soldiered along the sidewalk toward the Alewife T- Station to ride downtown to the Boylston Street Finish Line, the battlefield of last year’s bombings; their arms loaded with clear plastic bags, filled with survival blankets and clean, cushioned socks for their Marathoners.
I covered Jacob’s lap with a quilt, and steered his stroller away from the apartment, as if I was on reconnaissance to locate costumed Rebels or band members or clowns, roaming the streets after the parade disbanded. In a few moments, the intersection with the main road was in view. Blue strobe lights flashed from a police car, which crept along Massachusetts Avenue.
“Hold on Jakey!” I said. I turned my fast walk into a sprint and dug deep to resurrect my decades ago skill in the fifty-yard dash. I huffed and puffed. The moment we landed near the intersection, we saw Paul Revere in his triangular black hat with his cape flowing, mounted on a chestnut horse. Two other period-clothed riders flanked Paul. In a flash, the entourage passed us. I found myself running along the sidewalk with the horse escort. Less than two blocks later, my legs ached, my breathing forced, I changed to a walking pace, resigned to the fact that once a sprinter, not always a sprinter. I’m a grandmother now, so I may have slowed a bit. The horses disappeared around the curve at Arlington Center.
While I am pleased I exposed Jacob to a little bit of history today and stimulated his curiosity, I’m not sure whether he enjoyed the man with the funny hat riding horseback or if he was more captivated by the blue strobe lights from the police car. I’ll take either, because both were new experiences. Mission accomplished. The point was reveling in the joy of doing something new together.
This sunny April day reminds me strawberry season will arrive soon. While it has been years since I took my own children to the farm, when my grandson is older, and with all the grandchildren to come, I will take them strawberry picking and, under the warmth of a summer day, I will egg them on to pluck ripe berries “a wee bit more.”
Priscilla Bourgoine practices as a psychotherapist outside of Boston and, offers web therapy through a Manhattan company. She earned a MFA in creative writing from Queens University of Charlotte. Priscilla lives with her husband in southern New Hampshire.