“They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters; these see the works of the Lord, and his wonders in the deep.” (Psalm 107:23-24)
Last Friday, Mary Ann and I observed our 27th Wedding Anniversary. That fact was hard to believe! In fact, I was 27 when I got married (and she was 23) so I’ve been married roughly half my life! We had our young neices with us for a few days last week while Mary Ann’s sister and her husband were away, and so they spent the day with us on Friday. (Jessie, age 12, actually made us a card saying something to the effect of “Aren’t you surprised you’re still together?!” Well, that’s kids!) We took Jessie and her younger sister Beth with us to the South Boston waterfront. After a picnic lunch at Castle Island, we took the mile and a quarter “Boston Harbor Walkway” all around the area. Part of it juts right out into the harbor and is absolutely breath taking.
Suddenly, I experience a “deja vu” which was NOT an imagined memory, but a distant memory which I tapped into. I had been on that walkway several times, well over 40 years ago! My maternal grandmother lived in a apartment in Boston’s Mission Hill section. During the summer months, she’d let me, or one of my siblings, come and spend a few days with her from time to time. We’d be treated like royalty, eating bacon and eggs for breakfast and all sorts of other “cool stuff” such as drinking “fizzies” (you’ve got to be over 50 to know what they were!) and snacking on all kinds of junk food. In addition, we’d go to all kinds of interesting places in the city. To be most accurate, although my grandmother DID take me to a lot of interesting places, I did most of my traveling with her younger sister Cecelia “Celia” MacDonald.
Celia would be over 115 if still alive. She died of natural causes in her 90s. Sadly, despite the fact that she was VERY sociable and popular, and was from a very large family, by the time she died most of her peers were dead and her funeral was one of the smallest I’ve ever attended. Celia was a CHARACTER!
She had a dry wit and could be very funny. She made up names for people like “the old slow guy” or “the tramp” or “the loon”. Today, as a born-again Christian I know dabbling in psychic phenomena is something we don’t approve of, but Celia was also into psychic stuff and at least claimed to have some psychic abilities. Unlike my very overweight grandmother, Celia was slim. Celia had never married. I think she may have had a few factory jobs and and house cleaning jobs, but she spent at least half of her life taking care of sick relatives. She was very efficient at that sort of thing. Had she grown up 40 years later, I think she might well have become a Licensed Practical Nurse or something like that. By the time I was a little kid taking those “vacations” at my grandmother’s, Celia was in her early 70s. She shared an apartment with her brother Arthur who was a retired Boston cop. Celia LOVED to just get on the Boston public transit system and GO. She loved exploring. She’d get on that transit and go ANYWHERE. She could have been called “Celia on the M.T.A.!”
She’d take me with her and we’d go all over the place on the transit system. I learned the city and the transit system very well because of Celia. As a young adult, I was very confident using the “T” and I owe that to Celia. (My mother also told me SHE’D traveled all over the city with Celia as a child and also was very confident finding her way around the city because of that.) I really liked the Boston Common and Public Garden areas, and we went there many times. One of Celia’s favorite places to go was the South Boston waterfront. We’d get a bus at “Roxbury Crossing” (just south of Mission Hill) and take it to “City Point”. We’d walk on the beautiful harborwalk. I recall a soft serve ice cream stand or two and park style benches along the harborwalk. We’d walk along looking at the boats and the water and watching jet planes overhead, and I felt totally happy and totally at peace and that all was right with the world.
That all came back to me on Friday.
One difference is there are far fewer park benches available on the walkway, but otherwise those pleasant feelings all flooded back to me after probably 43 or 44 years. I was very happy walking there on Friday, but I also got kind of misty eyed. To my right across the harbor was the JFK Library where Ted Kennedy’s body was there for “visiting hours”. The last time I walked this harborwalk with Celia, Ted Kennedy was a young senator. The FIRST time I walked it, JFK was President! It seemed AMAZING that all those years had passed, but mentally it was like there was perfect continuity. I felt very grateful to Celia for bringing me to this place on several occasions. I actually wished I could thank her. I then realized that in 43 years I’ll be 97! (No, I don’t expect to be alive at 97!) So, as often happens with me, I was put into a reflective mood, but it was a mostly good reflective mood.
“I used to come here as a KID.” I told Mary Ann.
We sat for awhile just watching the boats and planes. I could have sat there for two hours, but the girls were getting restless so we hopped into the minivan and drove out to the suburbs for ice cream.
Yes, it was quite a nostalgic and pleasant experience, Friday afternoon on the waterfront.
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