Posts Tagged ‘Shepherdstown’

Letter From New York 12 26 15 Thoughts on Boxing Day….

December 26, 2015

Boxing Day.  Shepherdstown, WV, Olde Hudson Cheese.  Dena Moran. Sarah Malone.  Kevin Malone. Michelle Melton. Jim Malone. Syria. Mosque fire in Texas. Corsican fire.  Australian fires. NY Times Virtual Reality. World Food Program. Hope, AK.  Bill Clinton.  Hillary Clinton.

Outside it is as grey, as it has been for the last few days. It is warm, too, near 50 degrees in Shepherdstown, WV.  It will be grey all day with rain probable in the evening.

It is the 26th of December, Boxing Day in those countries once affiliated with the British Empire.  Boxing Day derived its name from two traditions.  One is that for servants it was the day they had off to celebrate Christmas after devoting the actual day to waiting on their “betters.”  The other reason was that on the 26th of December, children would roam the streets of England collecting alms for the poor in boxes.

Often in the past I’ve had a “Boxing Day” party.  When Dena Moran, proprietor of Olde Hudson Cheese in Hudson heard I was gone between Christmas and New Year’s, she frowned and said, “What, no Boxing Day party?”

But I am gone, sitting at the dining room table of my friends’ home in Shepherdstown, sipping coffee the morning after a lovely Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

My oldest friend, Sarah McCormick Malone, her husband Jim, their son Kevin and his wife Michelle, and I gathered around the dining table and have feasted.  We have sipped wine and consumed appetizers and desserts and wonderful mains, crab cakes and duck.

We spent two hours opening presents around a small tree we purchased on Christmas Eve to ensure that there was Christmas spirit in the house. 

Now, on Boxing Day morning we are all gathered in the kitchen, preparing for French toast and more feasting and a concert tonight.

While I’ve been coddled in the warmth of my friends and the coziness of this home, the world has been relatively quiet as I looked at the news this morning.

In Corsica and in Texas, mosques were burned on Christmas Day as antipathy against Islam grows in the West.  In Hope, AK the childhood home of Bill Clinton burned in a case of suspected arson.  Was he the target of the anger or his spouse, Hillary, who is leading the Democratic field for the Presidential nomination?

Disastrous fires burned over a hundred homes outside of Melbourne, Australia while tornadoes and flooding ravaged northern Alabama.

While we feasted, celebrated, opened presents, and enjoyed the coziness of this house, the war waged on in Syria with a rebel leader killed on Saturday.  He was anti-Assad and his death will have ramifications in the confusing cauldron of that country.

As we were prepping our Christmas duck last night, Kevin shared a VR NY Times video about refugees, taking us as visually close as we could to the lives of three young refugees, one from Ukraine, one from Syria and one from South Sudan, two boys and one girl.  It was stunning and affecting and each of us experienced it felt closer to their experiences than we would have simply by reading articles.

The Ukrainian boy fled with his family as rebels advanced.  When they returned, his grandfather’s body had been in the garden all winter, the school destroyed and most homes damaged.  The Syrian girl lives in a refugee camp and gets up at 4 AM to work in the fields.  In Syria they had toys, now they only have each other.  The Sudanese boy fled with his grandmother into the swamps.  His father was killed, his mother has disappeared.  They fend as best they can. 

VR Video made this painfully real.

When I begin teaching in January and someone asks me what to look at in media, I would suggest looking at Virtual Reality as a career opportunity.  It is changing our media experiences.

We spent time after opening presents to discuss what charity we might want to support this year.  High of the list was World Food Program which supports the feeding of refugees.  I tended toward that organization after seeing the plight of the three children.

We have more refugees since any time since the end of World War II.

It is a great deal to think about as I wander through another day, in a warm house, surrounded by warm friends, knowing that my friends and family are safe but from all but the most normal of hazards, living without, for the most part, any fear of suicide bombers, starvation and having to live with idea of fleeing at a moment’s notice from their homes and towns.

Not like so much of the rest of the world.

Letter From New York

July 22, 2013

July 20, 2013

A vision of things not to be…

When I was very, very little I encountered the McCormick family. They had six children, all about my age. I don’t know quite how I met Sarah, the McCormick that was my age but we were fast friends by the time we walked together to Kindergarten at Fuller School.

I grew up with that family and have remained close to them in all the decades that have passed since Sarah and I headed off to school for the first time. It is unusual, I know. Our childhood friends seem to slip away as we move into adulthood but Sarah and the entire McCormick family did not. When they moved to St. Louis after 8th grade, I flew down to visit them. When Sarah was living in Spain, I visited her there. When she moved to Albuquerque, I visited her there and she visited me when I lived in Santa Monica. Her son, Kevin, has grown up thinking of me as Uncle Mat and I think of and call him my nephew.

I attended family reunions with her and stood with the McCormick family when a drunk driver killed the youngest daughter, Trish, one night shortly after I had visited her in Colorado.

Mary Clare is the oldest and lives in Shepherdstown, West Virginia. I have visited her there, was present when her daughter Margaret got married and returned when Margaret died. She and her husband Jim lived in New York awhile and we dined together at a favorite restaurant, Café du Soleil. I introduced them to my friends and they became friends.

John and Eileen, the parents, settled in New York after St. Louis and once I had moved to New York, I dined with them on a regular basis at their country club and attended family events with them. I contributed to John’s 80th birthday presents as if I were one of the kids. I mourned when both of them passed away within months of each other.

For four years I have spent my Christmases with these people. They are as much a part of my life as if they were my blood family. They are a family of choice and I went to be with them once again when Joe Eros, the oldest son of Jim and Mary Clare, died in an accident while he was hiking in Alaska, where he was stationed in the Army.

Kevin and I sat, looking at Joe in his coffin, and he said to me that he had always had a vision of the future and it had included doing things with his cousin Joe. We cried together. I, too, had a vision of the future that included getting to always know Joe a little better. And now our vision of the future included things that would not be…

He was a special man. Smarter than anyone I know. His Uncle John said that before there was Google, there was Joe. There seemed to be no nook or cranny of history of which he didn’t have some knowledge. He had a wry, dry wit that would bring a crooked smile to my face as he would crack a joke with his own crooked grin. His eyes danced with intelligence.

After 9/11 he joined the Army, served in Iraq, left the Army, went to law school and re-enlisted and was stationed in Alaska, a place he loved. He died doing what he loved, being outdoors, being alive.

I cannot tell you how much I miss him and miss that I will not have more opportunities for knowing him better. His brother Michael went to Alaska and met with his friends, met with the people who had been present when the accident happened and then accompanied Joe home. My admiration for Michael is enormous and my vision of the future includes knowing him better. He demonstrated what an amazing man he is during this painful period.

I have my family of origin. I have a family of choice. My vision of the future includes them both. I cannot imagine it differently.