Christmas Carols

Do you have a favorite Christmas carol or Christmas song? Nowadays options are endless since every singer has his or her own version of Christmas songs. There is something timeless and comforting about Christmas songs; they sing of home, memories, nostalgia, love, tradition, snow, hope — all good things in life. When do you begin listening to Christmas music? Growing up, my mom wouldn’t let us listen until December 1. I say as soon as Thanksgiving has passed, Christmas is fair game.

Here is a list of my favorite Christmas songs. Wishing everyone a peaceful weekend, filled with good thoughts, good memories and hope for a wonderful season and new year.  What would be on your list?

(1) White Christmas (Bing Crosby)

(2) Have Yourself a Merry Christmas (Judy Garland)

(3) Santa Claus is Coming to Town (Bruce Springsteen)

(4) Little Wood Guitar (Sugarland)

(5) Christmas Song (Blues Traveler)

(6) We Need a Little Christmas (Angela Lansbury)

(7) Have a Holly Jolly Christmas (Burl Ives)

(8) Gold & Green (Sugarland)

(9) Step into Christmas (Elton John)

(10) I’ll be Home for Christmas (The Carpenters)

Enjoy!

Christmas Heirlooms

While the Christmas spirit is not about material items, we can all admit that a bit of visual Christmas cheer emphasizes that Christmas feeling. Whether it’s your small town Main Street decked out in lights and trees for the holidays or the city’s storefronts elaborately decorated, the sight of candy canes, or your own Christmas tree, we all have our favorite pieces of holiday elements.

December has long been my favorite month of the year, partially because I have dear memories of my childhood home turning into a Christmas wonderland. My mother has acquired many Christmas items over the years, enough now to redecorate every room for the Christmas season. Plates, framed photographs, snowmen, Christmas trees, candy canes, towels, wreaths, tchotchkes, snowflakes, candles, blankets, books — it’s like living in Christmas. Combine all that with our standard 12′ Christmas tree, and our house was and is always a welcome place for Christmas guests. My sisters and I love it, and Mom continues to decorate, with help from whomever happens to be home. The exterior is less complicated, but Dad has settled on lights and garland around the porch railings, nothing of the lawn ornament kind.

My Christmas collection is only a fraction of my mother’s, but I have a few treasured pieces. These featured below belonged to my great-grandmother Ethel. A few years back when my grandmother was still alive, I was visiting her around the holidays and I took out a basket of Christmas decorations. Included in that basket were a few ceramic figurines that hadn’t been displayed in a while. My grandmother began telling me that her mother always brought these out at Christmas, and she kept them because she always liked them (which is significant coming from a woman who never kept much). When my grandmother passed away, I made sure to keep these Christmas figurines because I knew they were important to her.

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Mrs. Claus and Santa Claus are actually salt and pepper shakers.

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This snow angel figurine has a twin, and both are bells.

Now I proudly display these Christmas heirlooms, knowing that so many of my family members have seen them over the years. To me, knowing that something belonged to my family makes it significant. I’d rather have those heirlooms than something new. I’d rather add myself to the story of the heirloom.

What about you? Do you have a favorite Christmas decoration or any favorite family holiday heirlooms?

Thankfulness

Though we all have much to be thankful for throughout the year, there is something special and comforting about paying extra attention and dutifully remembering to count our blessings each year about this time. Wouldn’t you agree? For what are you thankful, big or small, person, place, or thing, memory or faith or hope?

Fresh air and pretty views.

I am thankful for optimistic people and communities, for those that believe in themselves each other, for the vibrant main streets that get involved in the holidays and all seasons. Success stories of preservationists and non-preservationists, all working to improve quality of life and sense of place, can all have a positive influence. I am thankful to live in a country and an age when almost anything is possible.

Montpelier, VT: a good place to be.

I am thankful for my family and friends and our collective strength and love, and to be able to see them for the holidays, a rare time of year when we are all together under one roof. I am thankful for our home, good memories, and for our Point Lookout house that survived the storm and will recover. I am thankful for good communities, personal and professional to know and to work with as we all make our way in the world. I am thankful for my health. I am thankful for little things like a good cup of a coffee, a cuddly cat, sunny days, snowy days, sitting by the fireplace, baking for the holidays, my grandmother’s necklace, and frivolous things like pink nail polish (of course).

Cookies for the holidays.

And of course, I am thankful for readers of Preservation in Pink and the growing community around this blog. Thank you everyone. I wish you all the best holiday, safe travels and time to reflect on what is good in your life.

Izzy, my cuddly cat.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Summer Swimming Spot

Covered Bridge in Waterville, VT.

Welcome to the dog days of summer, as they say. Or at least another heat wave. How do you combat the heat? Everyone has a favorite place in the summer, and probably a favorite place to swim. Where is yours? Do you prefer the ocean, a lake, a river or would you rather be in chlorinated waters?

I’ve discussed my love of the ocean at length, but I’ll admit that I’m partial to it because of my childhood connections. Though I can imagine why people might prefer other spots.  A clear, cool flowing river and a swimming spot beneath a covered bridge seems like a perfect summer afternoon, too. Or sailing on a lake and enjoying calm waters – how peaceful the vistas must be. And of course, the fun filled childhood days of backyard pools and playing games like Marco Polo or practicing the perfect dive, racing back and forth from end to end of a pool, sitting on the deck with popsicle in hand – sounds like a good day, too.

The Atlantic Ocean from Robert Moses State Park, NY.

Why do I ask your favorite swimming spot? The places in our lives that serve as the setting for our memories and our foundations, are perhaps not all of historic significance, but important nonetheless because that is where our memories live. So while you might think of a lake as a place to swim and I might think of the ocean, if we share our memories and our stories, we can collectively appreciate them, learn about each other and perhaps find more places to love.

Summer Days

I remember cool summer mornings, waking up to hear my mom watering the garden or cutting cantaloupe in the kitchen, getting us girls ready for the day. We might be heading to the beach that day, which meant we were responsible for finding the pails & shovels, beach blankets, chairs and any other toys we wanted for the day. We’d spend all day at the beach, moving the blanket if the tide came too close, digging holes in the sand, getting covered with sand and salt water. On the way home, near the day’s end, we’d pass around what was left in the jug of lemonade and the bag of pretzels, enjoying our saltiness while Mom drove with the windows open and the radio playing. Or the day might call for staying home and playing the backyard, climbing trees and eating ice pops. Sometimes we’d head to the public library to return our books for new choices, adding to our summer reading program list. Summer evenings were filled with barbecues, gymnastics routines on the front lawn and often ice cream cones while we sat on the front stoop. You could say that we were living the ideal suburban childhood summer, no responsibilities but being a kid in the summertime.

Recently, I’m struck by how far away those childhood summers seem, and wondering what it could possibly feel like to have that again: the imagination of a child and the freedom of days without a to-do list. What wonderful memories; these are the kind that I would like to store in a box and revisit now and then, and maybe someday relive some of those stories.

How do you feel? You have all probably been working for years or decades, beginning as teenagers and continuing through college and now as adults. Summer is different now; generally calmer than other seasons, easier, adventurous. As adults we get to choose where we’ll spend the days and what we’ll do, perhaps visiting places we never did as a child, and trying new things. It’s a different kind of fun, but perhaps one that is easier to recall and store in our memories, since adulthood is longer than childhood.

So I ask, how do you keep your childhood memories dear? Have you written them or keep them only in your memory? Do you return to your childhood home? Perhaps you relive your childhood through your children. Or maybe every so often something triggers a memory that you didn’t remember. Maybe it’s a certain way the breeze feels, or the smell of low tide or seeing kids racing around the block on bicycles. Regardless of how often you think of your childhood summers, or how you choose to remember them, I hope they are thought of fondly.

For my sisters: the side beach in Point Lookout.

Grandma’s Pyrex Mixing Bowls

Think of one small object in your house to which you are emotionally attached, something that you love for some intangible reason, something that would seem not valuable and ordinary to most any one else. Can you identify and describe why that object is important to you? Why did you save it in the first place, and what keeps you from tossing it with the next yard sale or round of spring cleaning? If you are like me, you have many objects that fall into that category.

I’m not a packrat. I don’t like clutter or a messy house and I have periodic cleaning, recycling, give-away episodes; but, I’ll just say it: I like my stuff. Of course, by “stuff” I refer to sentimental objects, furniture hand-me-downs from family members, picture frames, books, blankets, dinnerware. I could never be someone who lives in a minimalist or tiny house with barely any belongings to her name. These objects – this stuff – holds memories and plays a role in making a house a home. I’m a sentimental fool when it comes to random objects, particularly those given to me by grandparents.

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Grandma's three Pyrex bowls passed on to me.

My grandmother was not so much a fan of stuff, sentimental or otherwise, and she saved little. She never stopped moving forward, but occasionally I’d be lucky enough to hear a memory. I could never completely understand her logic for saving what she did, but with the stories I knew, I could piece together the objects around the house. I know that what I have of my grandmother’s was significant to her, even if I don’t know the reason. Otherwise, she wouldn’t have kept it. What I have of my grandmother’s is important to me. I can feel a connection to those family heirlooms that I love, especially those that I can incorporate into in my everyday life and my home.

Cooking is not my forte, but I do love to bake and experiment with baking (within reason). Kitchenware has always been a favorite household category of mine, particularly mixing bowls. Needless to say, when my mom gave me three Pyrex mixing bowls from Grandma’s house, I was thrilled. These three bowls are in great condition and feel worn, loved and used from decades of baking. Oddly enough, I can’t remember Grandma using these bowls when I was around, but she loved baking oatmeal raisin cookies for me when I was in college. Who wouldn’t love to receive a tin of homemade cookies from Grandma? Delicious. Maybe she didn’t use these bowls to make the cookies for me, but I have a hunch that at some point, they held cookie dough.

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Sitting pretty on my (non-functioning) ca. 1930 Hardwick stove.

There is something about Pyrex that makes me happy while I’m baking.
Did you know that Pyrex is in vogue? Before researching the date on these bowls, I had no idea how much people love Pyrex. There are entire websites dedicated to the patterns, dates, collections, buying and selling of Pyrex bowls. Based on my research, these bowls are 1940s Pyrex mixing bowls, noted as from the solid color set. However, I have a feeling that the bowls are mismatched from more than one set.

If they are from the 1940s, perhaps these bowls were a wedding shower gift to my grandmother or something she purchased as a newlywed. That is my guess as to why she saved them.

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An alternative view of their shape.

I prefer to use a wooden spoon with my Pyrex bowls. As I bake, I remember Grandma fondly. These Pyrex bowls are comforting to me. Grandma kept these for a reason, and I intend to keep them and bake with them for as long as I am able – perhaps with my own grandchildren someday.

For what reasons do you save stuff? What inconsequential objects do you love?

Memories & Songs

Are significant songs classics? Are only classic songs significant? What makes a piece of music important and worthy of archiving?  After all, the world is full of beautiful cultures, all with unique traditions, rituals, folklore, stories and songs. Music and songs can be defining characteristics of a cultural group, perhaps even of your heritage, your ancestors.

Well, here I am to admit that I have absolutely zero ounces of musical ability or talent in my blood. I played the flute in fifth grade, and that was it for instruments. Instead, I took chorus throughout middle school and early high school. I knew I wasn’t a good singer; but, my goodness, I worked hard in chorus class. In high school I received the “Most Improved” recognition award at the end of the year. You probably didn’t need or care to know that about me, but my point is that I am not an expert on music and will not pretend to be.

However, I love a good song and I think it is important to talk about music and preservation. Have you ever considered the songs that would play in the background of a movie about your life? Ten or 20 or 50 years from now, will you remember your favorite songs and what you listened to in the car or while hanging around the house or hosting dinner parties?  Sure, you’ll remember your prom song (maybe) or your wedding song and those few favorites, but what about the others?

The soundtrack of our lives would all be different, but just like old photographs, doesn’t a familiar favorite make you smile and recall a time in your life?  I may not know songs dear to my ancestors from Ireland or Scotland, sadly, but the songs I know keep me grounded to my own story, one that I’d like to remember.

Songs trigger sweet memories, whether specific to a particular moment or day or era. They can make us say, I haven’t heard this song in ages or I used to love this song or I’d listen to this song when…” 

Music can serve as a time capsule and a time warp, nostalgia included. Maybe that song that you loved in high school or the one from the day you moved into your first apartment means nothing to anyone but you. It is still significant and it should be a part of your self-made life soundtrack. They can be popular, unknown, brilliant, terrible, happy, sad; there are no rules for why songs are meaningful to us.

The most important songs that would appear in my list take me back to dancing in the living with my sisters, Dad blasting music from the garage as the entire family worked in the yard, celebrating holidays and the first mixed CD from Vinny. A few remind me of high school homecoming, others recall college track meets and late summer night writing marathons. The summer I lived in Omaha, Nebraska and had my first car (Derby) has many songs to its memory. My list goes on and on, as yours does, I’m sure.

And if music can be such a powerful trigger for memories, wouldn’t it be a good idea to keep a record of them? Calendars, photographs and journal entries probably skip over the music playing in the background as you write and work. Just as we talk about the sounds and smells of historic sites, the background sounds to your life are also worth noting and remembering.

So, write down the names of these songs and start your own playlist. Share it with your children and your grandchildren. I would love to know what my grandparents listened to as they studied, got ready for a date, traveled across the country, took care of their children, cleaned the house or as they simply relaxed. Of course, I could guess based on the decades, but that’s too impersonal and potentially inaccurate. I’d rather know specific songs and their memories.

What do you think? How important is music in your life?

What am I listening to as I write Preservation in Pink? Tonight it’s country music. (I love it.)

You Do Not Have to be a Historic Preservationist

Lately, I have been thinking about historic preservation and how it is viewed by non-preservationists. Non-preservationists can be those who may be interested in but do not define themselves as preservationists, those who are generally uninterested in the field or those who are unaware of what preservation is. To the latter two categories, the term “historic preservation” may sound unfriendly, scarred by stereotypes and preconceived notions or affiliated too much with gentrification.

Those of us familiar with the field of historic preservation know that it is anything but elitist. The days of focusing solely on house museums and famous figures only have long passed. Now historic preservation includes all ethnicities, all races, all classes, all architectural styles, all communities and reaches beyond history to intertwine itself with economic revitalization, sustainability and quality of life. It is quite the challenge to be effectively succinct about preservation.

You do not have to be a historic preservationist in order to appreciate historic preservation.

Has anyone ever told you that? Does that sound strange? Or obvious? In other words, as I write and talk about historic preservation, I am not hoping to transform you into preservationists. My motivation is not to make every other field sound less important. Rather, the goal is to gain your respect for preservation while providing education about the field.

Reliving my childhood in summer 2005 at The Big Duck, except as a kid I bought a kite inside the store.

For reference, I consider my family members who are not trained in preservation nor would they define themselves as preservationists. Yet, there are traces of preservation throughout our childhoods. We all grew up loving The Big Duck on Long Island (and we had ducks for pets; Mom still does).  We were and remain incredibly attached to the town of and our memories in Point Lookout. My mom could explain the history of most places we’d pass on our drives to eastern Long Island. My sister Sarah loved road-tripping with my mom and me where we saw more roadside architecture, an abandoned schoolhouse, state and national parks and memorials and small towns in the middle of nowhere.

Sarah and me at the giant Prairie Dog outside Badlands National Park in August 2006.

Inside an abandoned Nebraska schoolhouse, August 2006.

My youngest sister Erin (a frequent commenter on PiP) understands how quality of life and sense of place are improved through supporting small businesses and getting behind the development of bicycle trails. Both girls loved the first time I brought them to a drive-in movie theater.  My sister Annie holds our family traditions dear, yearns to take a cross-country road trip together, and explains to me that I’d love Austria because of the narrow, winding streets and little stores and the architecture. My dad tells me the history of Forest Hills and his parents, his visits to the 1964 World’s Fair and his love for train travel.

I have taken many road trips (Route 66, South Carolina, South Dakota, Great Lakes) on which I have stayed in little motels, seen roadside America galore, driven through small towns and big cities and of course, seen flamingos along the way and/or had a flamingo in tow. And I always drink a lot of coffee.

On the road with Pip in July 2009, and lots of coffee.

You see, it is easy to identify many elements of and connections to preservation running through my family members and our conversations, even if they don’t completely (or didn’t always) realize it. Aside from my mom, I would be surprised if any of my family members included “historic preservationist” in their “about me” descriptions.

Yet, they understand why it is important and appreciate the benefits of historic preservation. And that is what matters most. While they may not want to do what I do for a living, they are glad that I want to do it. (Don’t be fooled; families are not perfect. We avoid discussions about big box stores.)

The same can be said for every field, probably. Sarah works in the wildlife conservation & environmentalism fields, which is another incredibly vital role in the health of our world. Wildlife conservation is not something I can see myself doing as a career/lifestyle, but I understand its importance. The same can be said environmentalism. Not everyone is going to keep up with the latest scientific findings and reports, but many will do his/her part to improve efficient use of resources in order to help save the planet, habitats and environment.

This is a non-succinct story to explain that just because you understand (or sort of understand) all of the historic preservation chatter and theories, does not mean that you have to define yourself as a preservationist. (This is not to discourage you from defining yourself as one if you’d like.) In fact, you don’t have to understand it all. The needed part, by all, is to respect historic preservation and those of us who believe strongly in the power (for good) of the wide-reaching field. You do not have to do the preservation work, but if you can come to terms with even one aspect of preservation (e.g. local shopping, rehabilitation of historic buildings, land use planning, heritage tourism), then you are enabling us preservationists to keep at what we love – and more importantly, to work at ways in improving quality of life and sense of place for person and every community.

So, what do you think? Does knowing that, as a preservationist, I am not attempting to “convert” you or others to a new field make you less apprehensive to historic preservation?  And if you are a preservationist, how do you feel about this?

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p.s. Did you miss Friday’s Pop Quiz? Take it today and the answer will be up tomorrow.

My Ode to Derby

Note: if you don’t know me, you might think I’m crazy. That seems to be the trend this week. I’m not. But you’ve been forewarned.

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This is written in memory of my beloved green 2002 Subaru Outback Impreza Sport, whose existence met an untimely end on October 21, 2010. Since the day I bought the car in 2006, I referred to it as “Derby.” Derby traveled with me to Nebraska, on Route 66, around the Midwest, to North Carolina, to and from work at Fort Bragg, to Florida, to South Carolina, to New York, around the Great Lakes, and throughout Vermont for a while. This was my first car, and I loved it dearly. When I switched my license and plates to Vermont, I even crowned Derby with a plate, “THE DERB.”

Derby and me, August 2010.

Derby loved off-road driving, drive-in movie theaters, preservation adventures, getting lost, winding, rural roads, and long road trips. His compass never worked after visiting Carhenge in Nebraska, and more than once the Check Engine light turned on for no good reason. Derby had an attitude and I loved it. Also, Derby was a proud displayer of the bumper sticker, “Historic Preservationists Make It Last Longer.” Derby made me love driving and I understood the American fascination with the open road and the automobile.

Derby camped out, happily, in East Harbor State Park, Ohio, May 2009.

On October 21, 2010, a drunk driver hit my parked car in front of my house (which was parked legally, in the parking lane). I saw and heard it happen, all in a blur in the evening. Luckily, I was not in the car or hurt, nor was anyone else, and the drunk driver was arrested before she could kill someone. Derby took one for the team. I cried when it happened and the next day when Derby was towed away. At first, the promising news was that Derby would be fixed at no charge to me. The auto shop ordered the parts and began the work, only to discover that the damage was much more than expected (the rear driver side of my car was smashed, though it looked perfectly fine elsewhere on the exterior). So, now, the final news was that Derby would be totaled. Insurance is never fair, even when it’s not your fault, and what ensued is not something I’d rehash here, but just know that the entire situation is terrible.

The aftermath. Note that the wheel should not be where it is.

As you can decipher, I was irrationally attached to Derby. I could probably claim permanent emotional damage, but I won’t (outright anyway). Say what you will about my personification of inanimate objects, but when you spend as much time driving as I did, it’s inevitable. And apparently it’s in my nature: my mother said that when I was two years old, I cried as my parents’ 1972 Chevy Impala was towed away. At least the story explains that part of my personality, I suppose. I never wanted any other car and my 2002 Subaru had so much life left in it before the accident. It was a miserable experience and I’ll probably never love a car as much as Derby.

Fast forward to now and I have another car – another Subaru. I heard somewhere that Subaru owners have an unexplainable attachment to their cars. I will never ever park this car on my street, even though it’s completely normal and everyone else parks there. I like my car, and we’re getting to be good friends, but I still miss Derby and feel a twinge of sadness every time I see an identical one on the road.

Do you love your car, too? I hope so. It certainly makes driving more fun.

How Derby would like to be remembered: among the motorcycles heading towards the South Dakota Sturgis Rally 2006.

Long live the spirit of Derby.

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Does anyone know where I can get another Historic Preservationists Make it Last Longer bumper sticker – identical to those from Mary Washington? My new car and I will be eternally grateful.

Derby's round one of bumper stickers. They later changed (but the preservation one stayed - talk about an attention grabber!)

How about something like this, too?

 

This is written in memory of my beloved green 2002 Subaru Outback Impreza Sport, whose existence met an untimely end on October 21, 2010. Since the day I bought the car in 2006, I referred to it as “Derby.” Derby traveled with me to Nebraska, on Route 66, around the Midwest, to North Carolina, to and from work at Fort Bragg, to Florida, to South Carolina, to New York, around the Great Lakes, and throughout Vermont for a while. This was my first car, and I loved it dearly. Derby loved off-road driving, drive-in movie theaters, preservation adventures, getting lost, winding, rural roads, and long road trips. His compass never worked after visiting Carhenge in Nebraska, and more than once the Check Engine light turned on for no good reason. Derby had an attitude and I loved it. Also, Derby was a proud displayer of the bumper sticker, “Historic Preservationists Make It Last Longer.” Derby made me love driving and I understood the American fascination with the open road and the automobile.

On October 21, 2010, a drunk driver hit my parked car in front of my house (legally, in the parking lane). I saw and heard it happen, all in a blur in the evening. Luckily, I was not in the car or hurt, nor was anyone else, and the drunk driver was arrested before she could kill someone. Derby took one for the team. I cried when it happened and the next day when Derby was towed away. At first, the promising news was that Derby would be fixed at no charge to me. The auto shop ordered the parts and began the work, only to discover that the damage was much more than expected (the rear driver side of my car was smashed, though it looked perfectly fine elsewhere on the exterior). So, now, the final news was that Derby would be totaled.

As you can decipher, I was irrationally attached to Derby. I could probably claim permanent emotional damage, but I won’t (outright anyway). Say what you will about my personification of inanimate objects, but when you spend as much time driving as I did, it’s inevitable. And apparently it’s in my nature: my mother said that when I was two years old, I cried as my parents’ 1972 Chevy Impala was towed away.  At least the story explains that part of my personality, I suppose.  I never wanted any other car and my 2002 Subaru had so much life left in it before the accident. It was a miserable experience and I’ll probably never love a car as much as Derby.

Fast forward to now and I have another car – another Subaru. I heard somewhere that Subaru owners have an unexplainable attachment to their cars. I like my car, and we’re getting to be good friends, but I still miss Derby and feel a twinge of sadness every time I see an identical one on the road.

Do you love your car, too? I hope so. It certainly makes driving more fun.

Long live the spirit of Derby.

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Does anyone know where I can get another Historic Preservationists Make it Last Longer bumper sticker – identical to those from Mary Washington? My new car and I will be eternally grateful.

Landmarks Shaping Me

“We shape our buildings; thereafter, our buildings shape us.” -Winston Churchill

How many places have played a part with defining moments that shape your life thereafter? It is possibly one that is significant to you, but not necessarily on the National Register of Historic Places (sounds like the National Trust’s This Place Matters campaign). A few weeks ago, fellow preservation blogger, Sabra Smith at My Own Time Machine, followed suit of another blogger and asked and answered the following question:

Can you think of any time or landmarks in your life that can teach you something about yourself that you’ve forgotten? We hold so many stories within the gaps… Find something heart warming and worth honoring about your life today.


(Read Sabra’s post; you’ll enjoy it!) What does this question mean to me? Well, first of all, trying to remember something that I’ve forgotten about myself sounds like a trick question, something along the lines of trying to look up a word in the dictionary that I don’t know how to spell (yea, thanks, Mom for that answer all of these years). I’ve been pondering this question for a while, and I cannot pinpoint just one. Maybe it is because when I think of landmarks in my life, I don’t think of buildings. I think of places, places in which I have spent much time in over the years because I know this was where the best conversations have been with the great people in my life.  To me, landmarks are landscapes, streets, and buildings with the human component. There are a few places that I know have shaped the person I am.

First, I think of Point Lookout, which I’ve written about many times (see this list and here). When I stayed with my grandmother in the summertime I would get up early and walk, run, or ride my bike to the beach, early enough that I had time to sit on the jetty before the lifeguards chased me away (KEEP OFF JETTY, the signs read). The sun would be shining brightly, halfway up the sky, the wind blowing my hair, and the ocean spray just reaching my toes. I loved to walk on the jetty or just sit there, imagining, thinking, dreaming. I might be imagining the lives of historic characters I was reading about (i.e. Laura Ingalls or the American Girl Dolls). Or I might be trying to recall days at the beach when I was much younger, when my dad would stand with me under huge, crashing waves. I know that this beach is deep in my soul and it is the reason I love the ocean as much as I do, and why I have to visit the ocean every time I visit Grandma Jeanne.

Another place that comes to mind is the basement of my parents’ house, before we finished it to the den, computer room, and another bedroom. My three sisters and I would play for hours, making up the best games from animal school, house, Global Guts obstacle courses, anything we could imagine and recreate amongst the workbench, Fisher Price kitchen sets, laundry room, hot water heater and furnace, on roller skates, on furniture dollies, and with our many, many toys. We would play the radio, sing, dance, skate, and to keep warm we turned on the small box electric heater and wear extra socks.  Between the four of us, we had the best imagination. The basement holds so many memories for all four of us, and it is a strong bond between us. The basement serves as a reminder of the importance of sisters and family and just how much fun we had without video games or really expensive toys. I think it kept us grounded and we understand the importance of an imagination and free playing. It shaped our personalities (I may have been the bossy, oldest one, ahem) and I would bet that part of my love for ordinary houses and the need to know the stories of buildings comes from the memories I have in an “insignificant” house.

I must have a thing for basements, because I also think of the basement in Combs Hall at Mary Washington, where I spent many hours studying, drafting, talking, developing into a preservationist and deciding to embark on whatever preservation task came my way. And I think of the basement of Kenmore Plantation in Fredericksburg, VA, where I worked as a restoration intern. And now I think of the basement of Wheeler House at UVM. Actually, why are preservationists always in the basement?

But let’s take a step back in time, before I was studying preservation in basements. Aside from basements, I think of Room 216 in my high school, Mrs. Morahan’s room. She came to be the in-school-mom for my best friends and me. We stored our track bags under a table in her room, gathered there in the mornings before the bell, during free periods, and always after school. My best friend and I had lockers right across the hall, so there was always a reason to go there. My friends and I spent our time with the loving Mrs. Morahan, and we loved her back. We talked about school stress, college choices, boyfriends, siblings, worries, happiness, track, student government, and just about everything that was on our minds. She taught us in the classroom and out of the classroom. It was always, always warm in her room and full of decorations (school related and holiday related), munchkin donuts every Friday, and the best teacher’s chair in the world. Whoever had the worst day got to sit in the chair. Mrs. Morahan remains my favorite teacher, she means so much to us, and I don’t think any of us would have done so well in school without her. Room 216 in the 1971 high school is truly the type of unassuming place that matters. Much of who I am developed in that room and many important decisions were made.

I don’t know that I have answered the question that Sabra asked, as my answers are more shaping who I am, rather than one defining spot. Maybe with more time, I can think of one place and one moment, but for now, I think in terms of connectivity. So instead, I ask the question:

How would you define landmarks of your life? What does that mean to you and what types (and specific) places have made you the person you are today? What do these places teach you about other places?

And, so, we continue the celebration of places and they shape who we are.