Because it matters

Because it matters that we hold our nation to the promises made at its founding, that this is a nation “with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Because it matters that our government upholds the legal foundation of our country, that “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Because it matters that we have equal rights, respect, and legal protection for women, for people of color, for people of all religions, for people with disabilities, for gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgendered people, for the poor.

This is why we will march and bear witness today.



As if 2016 hadn’t already been a monumentally awful year, it managed to go out in a particularly hellacious fashion in our family, when E’s mom came down with a life-threatening c. difficile infection in December. Public service announcement: if your elderly relative takes antibiotics (as treatment for a bad laceration received in a fall), and shortly thereafter has several days of increasingly severe diarrhea, do not assume it’s food poisoning from her eating lunch at a restaurant. Not even if it’s a restaurant that has given your wife food poisoning in the past. Not even if your elderly relative thinks it’s getting better because on day 4 she manages to eat a little solid food before getting sick again. Instead, just take your elderly relative to the local emergency room, and get her checked for c. diff., before your elderly relative becomes so dehydrated that kidney function (and everything else) is in peril.

Let’s gloss over how difficult hospital stays can be for a frail elder. Let’s just say that E spent enough time at the hospital that the person who runs the coffee kiosk eventually would just ask her if she wanted the usual.

Fortunately, E’s mom is doing OK now, after 2 separate stays in the hospital, and was back home in time for Christmas. We did a lot of cleaning at her home to avoid the risk of reinfection, which included some serious refrigerator purging for open packages of food, which also happened to turn up 16 outdated eggs meant for holiday baking she never had a chance to do.

All of which helps explain why we officially said goodbye to 2016 today through the highly therapeutic method of going to some deserted woods and whipping 16 eggs at trees.

“This one’s for Carrie Fisher.” SPLAT!

“This one’s for everybody who died.” SPLAT!

“Trump.” SPLAT!

“The electoral college.” SPLAT!


It didn’t matter that my aim is so bad I sometimes missed the trees, and once didn’t even hit underbrush, and got to throw the same egg twice. It just added to the comedy of it all. E, as a former softball player, got in enough good hits for us both.


Good-bye, 2016!


A play in one act.

Setting: an open-plan office space in eastern Massachusetts.

Cast of Characters:

— BG (British Guy) – a middle-aged upper-level manager visiting from the company’s site in England
— AG1 (American Guy #1) – a middle-aged scientist with a PhD
— AG2 (American Guy #2) – a slightly younger and somewhat more junior scientist


BG: So I understand you have your Thanksgiving holiday next week? What exactly is that? Is it something to do with your independence?

AG1: Yeah, next week. It has to do with the Pilgrims. It was the first year they came here, and they were really grateful. For their religious freedom. I think it was their first year. Oh shoot, I should really know this.

BG: And I hear you eat turkey?

AG1: Yes. Only the Pilgrims didn’t. They had more regular stuff. But now mostly it’s turkey.

BG: So is Thanksgiving always on a Thursday or Friday?

AG1: It’s always the 4th Thursday in November.

AG2: Yeah, and so the traffic always used to be really bad on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, with everyone traveling, and one year I got stuck on the Mass Pike for hours, but now the traffic is spread out more into Monday and Tuesday, and so now maybe Tuesday is the worst day.

AG1: There’s a lot of people now who take the whole week off, or at least a couple extra days.

AG2: When I lived in the Midwest, there was never any traffic out there, but here it’s really terrible. And then everyone comes back on Sunday, and the traffic is terrible then too. I got stuck on the Mass Pike for hours all the way from 84 one year.

BG: So does everyone have the Friday off?

AG1: Pretty much. Except for stores. They’re all open and it’s Black Friday.

AG2: Some are even open on Thanksgiving for the Black Friday sales.

BG (looking too confused to dare ask what “Black Friday” means, or why its sales would fall on a Thursday holiday): And then you do all the traveling all over again a month later for Christmas?

AG1: Well, a lot of people celebrate Thanksgiving with one side of the family, and Christmas with the other.

BG (looking relieved at something that finally makes sense, and deciding to end this conversation on a positive note): I can see how that would work out well.

I feel ambivalent about the idea of wearing a safety pin in the aftermath of the election. I understand there are situations where it might be helpful, but mostly it seems like a token feel-good thing. However, I couldn’t resist taking a photo when a teenager pointed out the safety pin holding together the fabric side of the cereal rack, where I was stationed as I volunteered in the food pantry.

Note: taken at almost closing time. Usually it's end-to-end carts in here.

Note: taken at almost closing time. Usually it’s end-to-end carts in here.


Because this is what it means, when I stand by that safety pin in the food pantry:

Even though I am white and you are black/Asian/Hispanic/multi-racial, I care about you. If you want to discuss the weather here compared to the country you came from, or talk about how people from your culture prepare a certain type of food, I’m happy to chat. Otherwise, the only aspect of your color I’ll comment on is if you’ve dyed your hair since the last time I saw you. Because who doesn’t appreciate hearing, “Hey, you did something different with your hair – it looks good!”

Even though I am able-bodied and you use a cane/walker/wheelchair, I care about you. When I help everyone heave their grocery carts over the wooden threshold in the doorway to the next room, I will be extra-gentle with you because I know you’re leaning on that cart for balance. And if you have reusable shopping bags, I can tuck their handles into the sides of the cart, so the bags stay open and you can drop food in one-handed.

Even though I speak fluent English and you speak Spanish/Portuguese/French/Arabic/Chinese, I care about you. When my limited Spanish means I explain the difference between instant oatmeal and slow-cook oats by describing it as “rapido” versus “no rapido” because I can’t remember the word for “slow,” we can both laugh about it. And you will know what type of oats you’re picking.

Even though I am Christian and you are Muslim/Jewish/atheist/pagan, I care about you. When you show up looking nervously out from your hijab, unsure of your welcome after some particularly bad news week, I will let you know how impressed I am by your sewing skills at converting a secondhand sweater into part of an abaya. I will be aware of which major holidays are coming up in each of the major religions, especially since so many of them involve celebrating with special meals and foods, and we can talk about what you’re planning to cook to celebrate. Although I still haven’t found any religious traditions which would involve the jumbo-sized can of clam juice that’s been sitting on the miscellaneous rack for weeks.

And even though I am tired from a long day at work and a couple hours in the pantry, and you are one of the last people through, and your child is an undisciplined terror who is about to knock over the entire cereal rack, I care about you. And I will let you move on to the next room as quickly as possible, even if it means you’re kind of blocking the doorway, so your son can feel like he’s nearing the end. Or at least he’ll have room to spin around in circles without bumping into too many people. Because even the best-behaved little kid would get very restless, standing in an hour-long line at dinnertime, to get groceries.

Because in an ideal world, this is not how anyone should have to get their food.

But because we’re not in that ideal world, I’ll be doling out the cereal, and checking sugar content for diabetics who can’t afford reading glasses, and helping carts over the threshold.

All while standing by that safety pin.

Election Day

I spent last night volunteering at the food pantry.  We’re supposed to be open 5-7 pm, but anyone who arrives by 7 pm will get groceries, and the volunteers stay as long as it takes.  Most weeks, the last client is out no later than 7:10.

Last night, the last client left at 7:45.

I know that, realistically, there’s not much Clinton could do to make many of these clients’ lives better.  The elderly woman who hobbles through with her walker, and is collecting groceries for a household consisting of her plus 3 grandchildren under the age of 14, is going to have a tough time with life no matter what.  The immigrant who works a 12-hour shift, and is so tired by the time he’s waiting for groceries that he said last night he’d rather be in his bed than win the lottery, is not going to suddenly land a well-paying 9-5 job.

But I also know that many of these clients’ lives would be distinctly harmed if Trump is elected.  They need Obamacare.  They need a nation that doesn’t institutionalize discrimination against immigrants and Muslims.  They need higher-education opportunities for their children or grandchildren that are affordable, not scams.

And so I’m very proud of M, who has spent the last several days campaigning down in Pennsylvania with the Democratic students’ group from his university.  I haven’t heard anything from him since he left.  But judging by the write-up here in the Pennsylvania news, those kids have been working really hard.

They’ve probably been working almost as hard as the elderly grandmother, and the exhausted immigrant.

As this horrific election cycle draws to a nail-bitingly anxious end (oh please God, make it come to an end next week, and not drag on like Bush/Gore 16 years ago), I actually saw an election-related piece of news today that made me smile. The Boston Globe had a story about a viral movement of (mostly) women choosing to wear white as they go vote, in honor of the suffragists 96 years ago, and in recognition of how far we’ve come, as we cast our votes for a woman at the very top of the ticket.


I remember being at an all-girls summer camp, when the news came out in 1984 that Geraldine Ferraro was nominated as vice-president. It had never even occurred to me, or most of the other campers, that a woman would even be considered for that role. And here we are, a mere (snort) 32 years later, with a woman running for the very top office on a major party ticket.

8 years ago, M and I went into the voting booth together, and together we very carefully filled in the oval next to Obama’s name, so someday we could each tell our grandchildren that we voted for the first African-American president — something that had been just as unthinkable in my childhood as the idea of a woman as president.

This time around, M will be spending Election Day helping with a get-out-the-vote campaign in Pennsylvania, as part of the Democratic students’ group from his college, having already cast his absentee vote for Clinton.

And on Election Day, in honor of the women almost a century ago who helped make it possible for me to vote, I’m going to wear my white turtleneck and white sweater, as I walk into that voting booth, and very carefully color in the oval next to Clinton’s name.


Shortly after dawn, he spies his prey, and moves into position. 

He creeps ever closer, one stealthy pace at a time.

His prey moves to the floor, and he leaps down, then closes in, scoring the last few drops of milk.  Success!