Fall 2020

I'm writing this of course on the other side of the election, when everything seems a little safer. There will probably be another lockdown this winter, but at least we're going to inaugurate a president who doesn't actively egg on White supremacists, who doesn't trample over multiple groups' of people's civil rights almost daily, and who doesn't make me ashamed of being American.

Above, baby's first protest sign: she was drawing one day while I was teaching and came over and whispered to me "How do you spell 'black'?" and I told her to stretch it out like a rubber band. She said she did that, but she still didn't know if it was "one of those words with a C, a K, or one of those special words with a CK together." I told her yes, it was special, and then finished teaching my class, not thinking anything more of it until she showed me her sign when I was done. It's also possible she was inspired by, I don't know, the signs on our walls, or in front of our house, or the rocks Samantha paints to hide around town.


The night of the election, of course, no one knew anything for sure, and the morning after was the same. Thursday stretched into Friday, then, and there was still no certainty. On Saturday, then, November 7th, Samantha and Helen were at Sarah's house, Marcus was home reading or playing video games, and Robert and I were grabbing take-out from a Dominican place in Roslindale with Sean and Evie. We were crossing the street to walk into the place when cars started honking, so we leapt back onto the curb and thought we had misread the light. Confused, we finally crossed, and as we walked into the place, the women behind the counter were hugging each other and a man stuck his head inside, yelling the news in Spanish. We checked our phones and kept going back outside to yell on the street, in between placing our order (excellent, by the way). Meanwhile Sarah was in another room from the girls when something popped up on her phone. She yelled “OH MY GOSH IT’S OVER!” and Helen called out, “wait, so the bad guy lost?” In the middle of all the happy chaos, I was trying to order pastellitos and meat and plantains and beans and rice, and all around the city people were going nuts honking and banging on pots and pans and yelling from their porches or balconies. It was something to see, to put it all mildly.

That night Sarah and Sean and Evie came back to our house and we grilled steaks and had a celebratory dinner. I even took out six kinds of potato chips I'd been hoarding (bourbon barbeque, parmesan garlic, ranch, salt and vinegar, salted egg, and lime-curry) and we had a blind potato chip tasting, and no one objected (much) when Marcus grabbed an entire bowl of his favorite kind and ran off with it to his D&D game on Discord in his room. I also had people vote on dessert: should it be white chocolate souffle, or dark chocolate cake? There was a short, limited period for lobbying, and then there was a vote. We discussed whether we wanted to vote using an electoral college, with representatives for each family, normed by population, or with a straight-forward popular vote; the popular vote won out, though we of course let Marcus cast a mail-in ballot from upstairs. When all the votes had been counted, cake won, and though Robert was disappointed that his souffle candidate had lost, he consoled himself that this, at last, was democracy at work. Did I mention that November 7th was a very good day?


The end of September, October, and the first week of November leading up to the election were a blur. Pictures are proof they existed, though.

Above, some handmade double-layered soaps, and pastels and papercuts in the styles of Ashley Bryan, after we did an intensive author study of him.

Above, visiting with Grandma and Pop-pop, making chalk art, doing Zoom gym outside.

Above, making kinetic sculptures with a Girls STEM day Zoom workshop through the MIT Museum, and discovering cool art around the neighborhood.


With my parents and some friends, we went to the zoo twice in one weekend--first on a Friday night for their special light show, and then back on Sunday morning to see some animals, play on the playground, and check out the light structures in the sun.


We went apple picking one day, bringing back a heaping bag of apples and some pumpkins, and stopped at Ponyhenge out in the country on the way home, just for fun.


Marcus and Robert went camping with the Boy Scouts two weekends in a row--not far, just to the Blue Hills, but it was nice for them to get out and do things. They also did a service project another weekend, building a vegetable-washing station for a local urban farm, and they took a trip to the Quincy Quarry for rock-climbing on one of the weekends.


While the boys were away, Samantha and Helen lived out their dreams of girls' weekends: we watched the virtual A Far Cry concert from my bed on a Saturday night, we tie-dyed, we painted pumpkins, we watched "Hidden Figures," we hung out at playgrounds soaking up fall, climbing trees (them) and crocheting (me), we hit up grand-opening bakeries (Third Cliff), we visited Grandma and Pop-pop and walked home, posing in front of a friend's former house.


It was Halloween somewhere in there, too. The girls had big plans to go as Sasuki and Mei, the two sisters in "My Neighbor Totoro," with Robert as the big Totoro. Samantha glue-gunned and crafted Robert's costume, complete with a padded belly, and I sourced the items for their outfits. Everyone got into the Halloween spirit with various origami and other art projects, and my cousin Helen mailed Halloween-decorated chocolate-covered Oreos which were a huge hit.

The day before Halloween we got about six inches of snow, and I took the girls on a walk to the Connolly Library, which was giving out adult craft bags, kids' goodie bags, and a Day of the Dead book. The girls were thrilled to also get Day of the Dead cupcakes from a party in the parking lot of the health center where Samantha does (did?) karate on the way home.

On Halloween, Robert took them to the Boston Nature Center for pumpkin carving and a nature scavenger hunt ("Well, I guess we can't find any acorns right now, because of the snow," the person in charge said apologetically, but then Helen/Mei pulled out an acorn from her bag--part of the Totoro costume, of course), and they wore their costumes for trick-or-treating and to a neighborhood outdoor haunted maze, which completely terrified Helen. Also that day we packed up the treat boxes for our neighbors--every household on the block got a box of goodies (apple cider gingerbread cakelets, pumpkin chocolate chip cookies, candy corn blondies, Day of the Dead sprinkle brownies, maple caramel popcorn) and we added in a Halloween suncatcher ornament and suction cup for each of the kids. The next day we went to a small party at a friend's house and the kids got more candy and Halloween crafts and prizes.


The girls wrote letters to animals at a vegan farm sanctuary in Pennsylvania, but though the sanctuary said the animals would write back, no letters have been received.


We went to a few more of the KidsArts workshops weekday afternoons outdoors at the church by the monument; the highlight was marbling this paper with shaving cream as a vehicle and liquid watercolors. And look who made it to their webpage! Later on, we turned the marbled paper into cards to be given to clients of Community Servings along with each of their freshly-prepared meals and biked them over to drop them off.


We had a dumpling-making Saturday with Sarah and Sean, and lots of happy playground time.


Everyone got flu shots. Hello, social distancing waiting room chairs--distance from your sibling.


One of the highlights of the fall was when Marcus got to see three of his elementary school friends for the first time since March 12 that wasn't on a screen--Robert took the boys to do an outdoor escape "room"/interactive puzzle on the Boston Common, in lieu of a much-belated 12th birthday party for Marcus. It was really good to see them having fun together in person.



Other accomplishments of the past two months include lots of art projects, from ceramics to watercolors to sketches, some advancing progress for Helen on her tiny violin, and some work picking and preserving the final fruits of our garden. The weather has been all over the map--it was 76 on Veterans Day, so the girls sat outside and enjoyed leftover popsicles from the summer, and Robert got to grill in the pitch-dark, but warm, evening.


Now it's almost Thanksgiving, and who knows what the world will be like in another few weeks, even. Still, in hand-me-down Chanukah pajamas, and helping Samantha make a fun menorah (popsicle stick "candles" can be reversed, from flame to wick), Helen is ready for December1

Meanwhile I stocked up on Christmas candy and got a gingerbread house and fancy candy canes ahead of time. Toilet paper and paper towels are becoming difficult to find again. The kids have never once had an in-person day, and who knows when they ever will. I'll be ending my semester on Zoom, the way I began it, but with more of my students scattered, as the university told them that if they leave campus for Thanksgiving they should stay away. I think we're ready for 2020 to be over, but we still have another six weeks.


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Created: 11/20/20. Last Modified: 11/20/20.