THE WALTHAM MATTERS SIG: Cornelia Warren

Join Waltham Matters SIG for a discussion of Cornelia Warren and the properties she gave to the University of Massachusetts, the Girl Scouts, and the City of Waltham.  Dee Kricker, an active member of the Waltham community, will meet with us at BOLLI on Friday, April 12 from 10:30 AM to 12 Noon to lead the discussion.

Young Cornelia Lyman Warren by artist Alexandre Cabanel

Cornelia Lyman Warren, her Wikipedia entry indicates, was an American farmer and an educational and social service philanthropist, widely known for her investment in social improvement projects.  She was a trustee of Wellesley College, bought the location for Denison House, and ran a large model dairy farm on Cedar Hill in Waltham.

When she died in 1921, Warren’s will divided the farm among several non-profit organizations, but now, the future of the 58-acre    U. Mass Extension Center property on Beaver Street is uncertain.

Dee will explain the situation and tell us about the activities on the site that are now in jeopardy.  She will also focus on Cornelia Warren’s amazing life.

Questions?  Contact Sue Adams at:   scadams43@gmail.com

 

 

 

MEMOIR WRITING FROM MARGIE ARONS-BARRON

FISHING FOR A STORY…

By Margie Arons-Barron

They’re crammed into the glass jar, some gray or pinkish or maybe brown.  Some are inert, and others squirm.  All are slimy.  I force myself to reach into the jar and pull one out, holding it in my ten-year-old hand while, with the other, I force one end onto the hook, into the anus.  Or maybe it was the mouth.  I could never tell which.  I make sure the worm’s body covers the hook so the fish won’t know its dinner comes at a price.

I let the line out into Long Lake, dragging my “worm hand” in the water to wash off the slime.  I shiver with disgust, looking to my father for approval.  He knows everything about what the bass is thinking.  This inlet is rocky; he’ll hide in the vegetation.  A storm is coming; he’s more likely to bite.  Think like a bass, he tells me, and I nod as if I understand.

Sometimes the bass are not biting.  As the sun comes up, it’s pike that we entice.  We take them to our cabin to grill for breakfast.  Those shared times predate catch-and-release.

My father would face the bow, where I sat, his back to the motor, hand on the tiller.  Occasionally, our Johnson/Evinrude outboard would die, and I’d row the boat, stopping in one place or other depending on what my father believed the fish were thinking that day.

“Uh, Dad,” I said on one occasion.  “The motor is on fire.”

Swiveling on his seat, fearing conflagration, he loosened the clamps and dumped the engine into the lake.  “No point in going farther,” he shrugged, so I picked up the oars.  Blisters on my hands were a badge of our bonding.

Cynics dismiss bass fishing as a hobby, not a sport.  Bass fishing is hardly about reeling in a fifty-pound tuna.  It was my father’s sport, though, and I was grateful to share it with him.

Still, father-daughter bonding would go only so far.  Dad and his best fishing buddy were flying into Brown Paper Company property in northern Maine to fish for several days.  I longed to be included.  My hurt was extreme when he returned, sunburned and bearded, and revealed that the friend’s son, three years younger than I, had gone along.

Years later, when he lost his leg to diabetes, he couldn’t handle the instability of a small boat and settled for deep-sea excursions on charters.  The fishing was never the same for either of us.  Yet, on what would have been his hundredth birthday, my husband, sister, and I went deep-sea fishing out of Gloucester.  Post-hurricane, there were fifteen-foot swells.  Hearty men hung over the gunwhales, projectile vomiting.  Protected by pride and Bonine, I stayed the course and fished for six hours.

I owed it to my father.  My reward was fresh haddock for dinner—and a connection reaching well beyond the line cast over the water for some unsuspecting halibut with a big mouth.

BOLLI Matters Writer Margie Arons-Barron

After a long career in broadcast journalism, Margie has turned to writing memoir and fiction at BOLLI.  She has been a member of the Writers’ Guild and serves on the Journal committee.  She is also an avid and successful blogger.  You can read and subscribe to her blog at:  https://marjoriearonsbarron.com/

CREATIVE NONFICTION WITH DONNA JOHNS: THE LAWN MOWER MAN

The Lawn Mower Man

by Donna Johns

It started with a small act of kindness.

Rodney Smith Jr. saw an elderly man struggling to mow his lawn. He pulled over and offered to finish the job for free. While he was mowing, he thought about all the people who might need this kind of help: the elderly, the disabled, single mothers, veterans. By the time he finished his first lawn, he had committed himself to mowing fifty lawns. He found his clients through Twitter and word of mouth.

Fifty lawns turned into a hundred. Since Rodney didn’t own a mower and some of his clients didn’t have the equipment, he contacted someone on Craigslist who was selling a mower. When Rodney explained his mission, the man gave him the mower. That’s when Rodney realized he could ask for what he needed and people, inspired by his mission, would be happy to help.

Rodney’s next project was more ambitious. He decided to mow lawns in all fifty states. Underwritten by lawn mower companies and private donations, he set out in 2017 to meet his goal. Every family he helped was featured in his Twitter feed. They included veterans suffering from PTSD, moms working three jobs to keep food on the table, elderly widows living alone. He also sampled cuisine from each state; he was not a fan of New England clam chowder.

Returning home to Alabama, Rodney completed his Masters in social work but decided that his true calling was on the road, highlighting the needs present in every community. He grew his one act of kindness by forming a group for young people called the Fifty Lawn Challenge. Hundreds of children have pledged to mow fifty lawns in their communities for free, and the numbers grow with every state he visits.

After a second summer touring the fifty states, Rodney had raised a significant amount of money. He spent part of this past winter reaching out to the homeless in his home state of Alabama. Armed with a trunk full of survival kits (sleeping bags, heavy socks, warm jackets, gloves) and cash cards donated by businesses, he traveled through the state highlighting the plight and the dignity of the homeless. He would approach a homeless person and simply ask them what they really wanted or needed.

Many of them longed for a hot shower and a soft bed for the night. Rodney handed out vouchers for two days at a local hotel. A lot of them wanted cell phones so they could look for work and have a way to have an employer call them. Two brothers in North Carolina just wanted bus tickets so they could go home to see their family. Rodney left each person knowing that someone cared enough to reach out and connect with them.

His newest project? He’s raising money each month for someone in short term financial trouble. Each month he asks his supporters to vote on some candidates submitted to him through his huge social network. Last week he delivered a check to a single mother in Texas whose son has a serious medical problem.

And, of course, he still mows lawns when he sees someone in need.

You can support Rodney’s work at http://weareraisingmen.com/ and you can follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

“BOLLI Matters” feature writer Donna Johns

Donna is a teacher/librarian, writer of unpublished romance novels, sometime director of community theater and BOLLI member. She has two fantastic faux knees which set off the metal detectors at Fenway Park.