Anne Notations

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

‘How was your last day at work?’

What might have been a sad day was not. Overnight the heat and humidity fled before a cool front, and early this morning I walked Daisy with a sweet breeze ruffling my hair and a pale three-quarters moon hovering over the water in a blue true sky.

At the office, Mary had brought a huge sack of fresh bagels and three kinds of cream cheese, and Juli came in with amazing pastries and muffins from Seven Stars. Sandy and I spent much of the day finishing a thorough clean-out of our respective offices – and they are more than offices; they have been our professional homes for decades. The stack of materials I gathered for recycling included Brown student directories going back to 1971-72, my sophomore year! – this one inscribed on the front in turquoise Flair pen, "Anne Hinman, Emery Hall." Why did I still have it nearly 40 years later? Who knows. Now I've sent it on to become a new piece of paper and freed myself of a useless thing I've dragged with me all these years.

All day, colleagues stopped by or called. Friends sent sweet e-cards: "Thinking of you." It was a day for remembering and laughing. Kate gave me the biggest, squeeziest hug ever, and Martha brought a nosegay of fragrant lavender tied with a bow. Computer guru Peter wore his "Life is Good" T-shirt and scrambled to erase the hard drives of the five of us leaving by day's end, one of whom was himself, alas. (On the plus side, he begins a new job tomorrow.) My boss came up late in the day to say good-bye and that she was sorry; I believe her. Carrie adopted my ficus plant and carried the microwave oven to my car as I left for the last time.

When I picked up Melinda in front of the South Main Street law firm where she is working this summer, she didn't launch into the usual litany of funny stories about her job, but looked hard at me and asked, "So, Mother – How was your last day at work?" She gave my arm a sympathetic squeeze. "I had a really nice day, actually," I replied. Her warm hand lingered on my forearm.

Tonight: A taste of my life after August, when I'll be on my own 5.5 days a week. Right now Melinda is at Target with Brittney, Kevin at a movie with Mike E., Michael in Connecticut. At home it's just me, Daisy, and the parakeets. As the sun floated lower this evening, I picked a few tomatoes and watered the petunias. I sat for a moment in the porch rocker and watched the soft white sails of a racing fleet in the bay.

I stopped. I breathed. I smelled the roses.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


This greeting card caught my eye as I browsed in the main turnkey post office this morning. How like my thoughts in the previous evening's blog! – especially its last full paragraph. I knew I had to buy the card and scan it so I could add Marcus Aurelius's cogent words here. (Also, the photograph is nice.)

This morning as I walked Daisy, I wished desperately I had brought my camera along. From the walking/bike path stretching over toward our house, the green field was dotted with beautiful wildflowers – and old cultivated rosebushes now run rampant. Orange lilies, red and dark pink roses, phallic yellow spikes (left), brilliant magenta and violet beach-pea blossoms, and white honeysuckle, all popping out in the bright gray morning light like grounded fireworks of the sweetest kind. I breathed their perfume deeply, over and over, until I felt dizzy.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Solstice eve

June 20-21 is one of two solstices, days when the rays of the sun directly strike one of the two tropical latitude lines. … In 2010, the solstice occurs and summer begins in the Northern Hemisphere early on June 21, at 7:28 a.m. EDT.

On the beach, 8:20 pm

Here is what I can show you:
The long, long glowing sunset over the cove.
Endless ripples on the water.
A gull winging by in silhouetted glory.
The moon.

I wish you could smell what I smell tonight:
Heavy-sweet honeysuckle and roses.
The sulphur tang of low tide.
A whiff of clammy fry oil from Iggy's.

I wish you could hear what I hear tonight:
Gentle swush of waves on the shore.
The mournful bark of gulls.
A mother explaining hermit crabs to her son.
A murmur of voices from back yards and jetties.
The fizz and pop of small fireworks.

I wish you could believe what I know tonight:
We who breathe the breeze, who see the sea and clouds,
who feel the summer air – peau de soie,
We are the luckiest of the lucky.
We are alive. We alone on Earth love beauty.
We are children of a darkly glimpsed Father.

Praise God from whom these blessings flow.

In memory of my father, James Hinman, on this Father's Day.
He loved sunsets and the shore.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

How to spend a summer Friday

"Flowers," by Caroline, age 4

Nana, this mac and cheese is GOOD!

Sings to the tune of "Up on the Housetop":
First comes a butterfly and lays an egg,
Out comes a caterpillar with many legs,
Oh see the caterpillar spin and spin,
A little chrysalis to sleep in.

Oh, oh, oh, wait and see
oh oh oh, wait and see
Out of the chrysalis, my oh my
out comes a pretty butterfly.

We learned that at my school. I go to Buttons and Bows.
Nana, you sing it now.
Say chrysalis, Nana. It's where the caterpillar turns into a butterfly.

My favorite color of butterflies is rainbow.

I'm catching a fish for you and Daisy.

Daisy, this (plastic seahorse) is my baby. I hold her like this when she's afraid. (croons) Poor baby, poor baby. It's all right.

I'm her mother and I take care of her. Next Friday she'll be four years old.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


La Salle Academy Graduation, June 10, 2010
No words necessary.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

With a whimper

It's funny, being a lame duck employee. When you first learn you're being laid off, most co-workers are solicitous and sympathetic, while others never say a word. "Huh? What elephant in which living room?"

The work itself keeps coming pell-mell at first, especially when a high-profile annual event is only weeks away. Gradually, though, your activities begin to taper off, partly thanks to exclusion (no need to attend directors' meetings anymore) and partly because those staying on are looking ahead and adapting to a workplace without you.

People at work cut you a lot of slack when you're a lame duck. You are frequently out of the office to meet with human-resources staff and job counselors, to go for interviews or training. Since you can't begin any long-range projects, you do just the basics and begin cleaning up your office, packing personal objects such as framed photographs, freelance samples, and what's left of your Star Wars collection. You delete old emails and put personal digital content on disks and thumb drives. All of this makes you sad, because your office is that special "room of one's own" where you have been YOU, a creative professional with an identity separate from that of mother, wife, and grandmother.

What you miss most in these waning days of a long career is being needed: for input, brainstorming, institutional perspective, urgent text or web posts, opinions. All of those occasions when one or another boss said, "Let's put Anne on the [choose one] web redesign committee/ research communications group / Clinton visit planning committee / Summer Studies marketing audit team" – they are in the past. You're off the list, dropped from the batting order, cut from the A Team or indeed any team whatsoever. No one cares what you think about this or that proposal, this or that strategy. You are suddenly so yesterday.

Here is the truth: The life of a lame duck is boring, frustrating, demeaning, and melancholy. Driving in each morning to this particular office in this building at this campus on this historic hill in this capital city is What You Do – or rather it has been for more than 30 years. You're three weeks away from losing the whole enchilada – the colleague-friends, the cherished edifice, the professional identity – and you are alternately agitated and verklempt.

Mostly, you are alone – drifting away on your little boat, like it or not. The voices on shore get fainter, the lights on the dock dim, and the mouth of the harbor approaches. Soon even that will recede as you reach the open sea.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Baby, the last time

Is this the little [child] I carried,
Is this the little boy at play?
I don't remember growing older,
When did [he]?
Sunrise, sunset; Sunrise, sunset,
Swiftly fly the years …

Here's our boy – Baby Keckie, as his toddler sister called him some 16 years ago; Kevin from Heaven as dubbed by his Grandma Sally, "Diffles" per his 7th grade classmates; now "Diff" among his male peers, like his father and uncles and boy cousins before him. Kevin.

The Fiddler lyrics are slightly maudlin but somehow right for a bittersweet milestone like this. Sweet, because we're launching the last of our children out of the nest and into his new, adult life. Bitter, because I have enjoyed motherhood in all its forms – step-, adoptive, and biological – more than anything else this life has graced us with.

And so begins tomorrow the long-awaited graduation week with its hoopla and solemnity stretched out over four days. We've done all this before; now we'll do it one last time: the last senior liturgy, the last senior banquet at the legendary Venus de Milo, the last beautiful graduation ceremony in the Cathedral of Sts. Peter and Paul in downtown Providence. For this is our baby, our last child to make his way through the halls of La Salle Academy and don the maroon gown and mortarboard and gold tassel with his classmates on an evening in June.

I didn't cry at Andrés's (2005) and Melinda's (2008) La Salle graduations. I was excited and happy for them; each achieved beyond anyone's expectations, and I was proud, giddy even, to watch the formal ceremonies and snap their photographs on those nights.

This may be the year I cry in the cathedral. Kevin's path to his graduation week has been more fraught, more hair-raising (hair-graying may be more apt) for me than I could have predicted. My bright, beautiful boy has been the classic underachiever. His standardized test scores are fairly dazzling, but his grades were all over the map, mostly (alas) south of the border. He was actually expelled after his sophomore year, but was readmitted after passing some summer school courses and pledging his best intentions to Principal Kavanagh. His diagnosis with severe ADHD that same summer helped us get him an education plan and some medication that did help with his focus, but not with motivation. That part was up to him, and it was a moving target. Junior year he made second honors on his report cards. Senior year he failed four subjects one quarter. He had to get very high grades on his final exams and in his last quarter just to graduate ... and he did it.

In late August he'll be off to Curry College in Milton, Mass., seven miles from downtown Boston. He was lucky to be accepted by three good schools; he was rejected by six other colleges. Curry is small (2,000 undergraduates, no graduate programs), on a lovely estate-like campus in a pretty suburb, and has a gorgeous new campus center/gymnasium and an excellent program in communications and journalism. He decided against two larger schools with higher visibility because, thank God, my son knows himself and understands what he needs to do well. "I thought I'd be able to focus better in a small school where the faculty get to know you really well." Exactly.

Kevin was a squally, unhappy baby; I think "fussy" and "agitated" were words Dr. Utter, our beloved pediatrician used. I had to give him simethicone drops for gas, Augmentin for recurrent ear infections beginning at three weeks old, Aveeno oatmeal soaks and silver nitrate ointment for raw-red diaper rash (probably yeast infections caused by the antibiotics for the ear infections). He did not sleep through the night until he was three years old. He wanted to be held and nursed, and I did my best but also returned to work part-time after a few months, due to my dear boss/mentor's unexpected stroke. Kevin loved and wanted me so much, he would lunge at my shoulder like a shark as I held him upright and sink his milk teeth into my flesh, leaving crescent-shaped bruise lines and sometimes even a mosaic of blood. He exhausted me and sank an anchor into my heart. He was devoted beyond all reason to his enormous collection of stuffed animals and Beanie Babies.

When Kevin finally began to say more than "no", "Mama", "Papa", and "hot!", around age two, he spoke immediately in full, grammatical sentences, as if he'd been watching us and waiting until he had it right before he went verbal. And verbal he was, often in odd and surprising ways. I kept a small lined notebook to record his quirky utterances:

• "How old is God? Is he older than that guy who planted the apple seeds?"

• "Guess what I'm going to be for Halloween next year. … Jesus!"
• "I hate soccer." (Note: He loved playing soccer but was angry at not scoring a goal.) "It's a plump rock."
• "When we say the Hail Mary in school, I sing this: Yankee Doodle went to town, riding on a pony."
[Watching trucks tearing up our street for repaving] "I'm not sure I like those trucks. I'm very concerned with that."
• "I'm as tired as a snake!"
• "Peanuts [his Beanie Baby elephant] likes raw, dead corn."
• [Watching me cook supper] "Fortunately, my magic markers smell better than that chicken."
• "Holy chickens of the Lord's death!"
• "Next Halloween I don't want to be Jesus." [Me: "That's fine, honey."] "I want to be Mary."
[At Fred's Barbershop with Michael for haircuts] "I get to go first because I don't have any patience."
• [Furious at me for something] "You're just a shack!"
• Me: "Did you talk to anyone at soccer camp today?" Kevin: "Yes. I called the other team names."
[At Prospect Park in Providence, where RISD students were sitting on the grass playing medieval instruments] "Mommy! That sounds like ducks fainting on a hot day."
• [Drawing a dinosaur:] "I'm terrible at drawing T. Rexes. Look at this! It looks like a person in a bathrobe with a pig nose and no eyeballs."
• Michael: "Boys can be naked with other boys [in the pool club showers], and girls can be naked with girls. But boys and girls shouldn't be naked together. They only do that when they're married."
Kevin: "I'm not going to get married! I'm going to kill myself!"

• "Melinda and I made up a TV show. It's called He-Man and His Little Pet Bunny. He's supposed to be strong, but he's just dumb."

• [Discussing Career Day at school, with Andrés] "After I'm done being a pro hockey player, I'm going to be a scientist."
• [At breakfast, watching our parakeets Patty and Laurie in their cage] "Laurie looks like a graduate student."

We had just left the NCAA women's national hockey championship game in Boston, which Brown lost narrowly to Minnesota. Michael grumbled that he'd seen two of the referees joking around, not taking the game seriously.
Kevin, indignant: "I know! I heard one say to the other, 'Why did the cow cross the road?'!!"
• "I could never play the violin. If I tried to play the violin, I would scribble."

Daisy had just galloped downstairs in the morning. "She sounds like an elephant on tiptoe."

The kid can still turn a phrase, although no longer in such delightfully unorthodox ways as when he was a boy without a self-censor. As someone who lives to make words flow and sing and communicate clearly, I could not be more thrilled that Kevin got the writing gene. Little did I know he would also grow into a passionate (and fairly well informed) debater, an unabashed leftist liberal who would have fit right in with Dorothy Day's Catholic Workers Movement, a poised orator at Mass and on the Mock Trial team, a nimble and persistent conversationalist, and (yay) an avid reader of the daily newspaper – not just the sports section, which he reads from cover to cover, but also of the news and editorial pages. He recently wrote a letter to the editor about the misplaced priorities of our nation: Why fight wars in areas of the world where no one wants us? Why not spend that money – OUR money – on better school for all children, not just those whose parents can afford (as we managed to do) private and parochial tuitions, or homes in pricey suburbs?

Kevin (second from left) and his "bros" before the junior prom, May 2009.

This is our son, Kevin from Heaven, or somewhere, from whence he arrived in my 41st year: not quite a good enough hockey player to make varsity, but potentially a great sports reporter; not the blue-eyed blond tot I'd imagined I'd produce, but his father's Armenian son – dark and handsome and well-built. Tolerated and beloved by his sister and brother. More and more, understood and guided by Michael, perhaps better than I can guide a teenaged boy at this stage in his development. And utterly cherished by his weary, protective, ever hopeful mother.

Let the festivities begin, one last time! Here comes my son, the almost grown-up, the former underachiever, the writer and thinker and mordantly funny commentator. Kevin, I love you so much. Your grandmother angels will be watching over you as you walk into your future.

Photo at right: Kevin and date Livia before the senior prom, June 4, 2010.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Comeback kid

As my last month of employment at Brown winds down, I look forward to many things: a long summer vacation, possibly an evening course, regaining my confidence, losing some weight (please), and ... drum roll ... getting back to writing my blogs. I love writing for the sheer pleasure of it. It's like a sweet prize at the end of a day.

Tonight I got caught up on my sunset photo blog. Please visit and enjoy the colors. Check back here, too. I have lots to say!