A Dyed-in-the-Wool New Englander Waitin' Out the Stawm
January 27, 2015
I am a dyed-in-the-wool New Englander. I’ve often used that expression over the years without ever knowing its origin and I never thought to ask other dyed-in-the-wool New Englanders why we refer to ourselves as such. I’d read, at some point, that the expression means “thorough-going and uncompromising” but it wasn’t until today that I found a history of the phrase on Merriam Webster’s website. There I learned that:
"Early yarn makers would dye wool before spinning it into yarn to make the fibers retain their color longer. In 16th-century England, that make-it-last coloring practice provoked writers to draw a comparison between the dyeing of wool and the way children could, if taught early, be influenced in ways that would adhere throughout their lives. In the 19th-century U.S., the wool-dyeing practice put eloquent Federalist orator Daniel Webster in mind of a certain type of Democrat whose attitudes were as unyielding as the dye in unspun wool. Of course, Democrats were soon using the term against their opponents, too, but over time the partisanship of the expression faded and it is now a general term for anyone or anything that seems unlikely or unwilling to change."
I am one who has had the privilege of travelling extensively over the years – for work and pleasure - and, as I write this, I am in sunny Southwest Florida, hundreds of miles away from my beloved New England. I give thanks every day for the treasured times I’ve had in dots on the map from Barcelona to Manila; from Hwange to the Arctic Circle; from Capri to San Francisco; from Key West to Half Moon Bay. I could rhapsodize for hours on each and every one of these glorious places and hundreds of others. But, as a storm – and a storm for the books – is bearing down on New England, I find my mind and heart and spirit turning home. I find myself missin’ my New England somethin’ awful.
I miss the culture and intellectual stimulation of Boston and Cambridge and the incomparable beauty of the Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine coastlines. I miss cider donuts and fresh-off-the-tree Macs. I miss my farmers' markets; I miss my May strawberries. I miss cross-country skiing from pub to pub in North Conway; I miss the apres ski at Sugarbush and Killington. I miss Vermont cheddar, Vermont maple syrup and Vermont maple candy purchased in Vermont. I miss the Green Monster, Boston Garden, the Boston Public Gardens, the icky sticky subway, and the "Make Way for Ducklings" statue. I miss the dome on the Statehouse, Comm. Ave, haddock, fried clams, and the old Filene's Basement. I miss the MFA and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. I miss Irish Pubs especially on St. Pat's, the Freedom Trail, the sailboats on the Charles, the Hatch Shell, the Symphony and the Boston Pops. I miss the Huntington Theatre and I miss Bunratty’s. I miss Harvard Square, the Flume, the Concord Bridge, Walden Pond and Hampton Beach (where I pastored the most delightful congregation of Baptists). I miss all the folks with whom I made memories in these places. And I miss the comfort in knowing a place and having it know me.
Today as a blizzard, that may rival the one of ’78, is moving in with its threats of 30 plus inches of snow, I think back to the storm of 37 years ago. I was six months pregnant with our daughter, Brooke, living on the North Shore of Boston and making an hour-long trip each day to the South Shore to teach in an alternative high school. The administration dismissed us just a bit early and, though the state was closing the highway - literally - right behind me, I was able to make it home – after several hours - in my Triumph Spitfire (which, as some of you may know, was little more than a go-cart!). Any Triumph devotee will tell you that part of the charm of the car was that you had to have towels at the ready to catch any drops coming in where the convertible top met the body. It was very low to the ground – you could stick your arm out the window and push yourself along - and it was so light, it didn’t stand a chance in Hell of holding the road in inclement weather. Oh, how I miss that car!! I really did love it! Anyway, my husband Gene and I had another vehicle at the time - a Blazer - with four-wheel drive and we decided to volunteer with the Red Cross. Gene helped pull folks out of flooded properties on the Lynn shore and I worked to create a shelter in one of the schools for those displaced by the storm.
Well, now the Blizzard of ’15 has arrived. We won’t be stocking up on bread and milk. We won’t be getting out the candles. And, though, we have another four-wheel drive vehicle, we won’t be digging anybody out and we won’t be making snow angels. No throwing snowballs. No building snow forts. No counting how many shovelfuls of snow we’ve tossed. The dogs won’t be leaping over snow piles and we won’t have to avoid eating yellow snow. We won’t be sharing storm stories with the neighbors, the bagger at the grocery, or friends on the phone. Sigh. . .
I pray everyone stays safe and I hope our loved ones up there will think of me missing all the hunkering down in front of the fire waiting to see just how wicked big the "stawm" will be. Make sure you have a way to heat up the Dunks should the power go out. I’ll be thinking of you and please, think of me missing you and all of this. I’m still dyed-in-the-wool but I can only be there with you - in my woolies - in my dreams. I’ll be watching the weather and toasting you with hot chocolate (or, more likely, a glass of wine)!
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