Category Archives: New Hampshire

Longmeadow and New Hampshire with the Lawrences

We drove back up to Massachusetts after the wedding, this time headed towards Western Mass to see Alan’s mom for a few days. It poured rain that day, which was perfect because we had no intentions of doing anything productive. Alan and his mom watched some football games while I finished my book – The Marriage Plot. It’s written by the guy who wrote Middlesex, which I read a few years back and absolutely loved. This one picked up slow, but the second half of the book was fantastic. There was one simile that I so enjoyed. Eugenides describes a scene in which the manic-depressive character faces an emotional event, its effects thwarted by the lithium he was taking. The way he explains it is just magic: “[He] stood rooted to the floor. His eyes were filling, but if he kept blinking fast enough, no tears fell. As much as he hated his lithium, here it was his friend. [He] could feel the huge tide of sadness waiting to rush over him. But there was an invisible barrier keeping the full reality of it from touching him. It was like squeezing a baggie full of water and feeling all the properties of the liquid without getting wet. So there was at least that to be grateful for. The life that was ruined wasn’t entirely his.”

We spent our days in Longmeadow catching up on some much needed exercise, looking into visas for our international trip, and other fun and riveting errands like obtaining flu shots and dozens of passport photos.

In more exciting news, we met Alan’s grandparents, Frieda and David, for dinner and I saw their new home in Longmeadow for the first time. As always, they were wonderful company, and Alan and I came by again for lunch with just them the next day. Afterwards we visited the Longmeadow farmer’s market where Ronnie sets up a stand selling her jewelry. I bought a beautiful vintage piece from her to give to my mother as a gift. Since Ronnie had plans in the evening Alan and I went out to dinner at a new spot in his hometown – Max’s. It’s primarily a burger spot, and Alan enjoyed his Alfred burger, covered with Comté cheese, caramelized onions and rosemary aioli, though I went with the seared scallop salad, which was less impressive.

I headed back to Maine the next day to squeeze in a couple more nights of mom and dad time while Alan bonded with his mother. It was great seeing them (and Bey) again and I of course ate some more lobster and drank some more wine. My last night there we checked out a new restaurant in Kennebunk called the Village Tavern, which was impressive! We went super early and were surprised to have a substantial wait. The pan seared shrimp, sea scallop and lobster stew with truffle oil drizzle was phenommmmmmenal. The fried clam appetizer we shared was also divine. Highly recommend this spot.

That Friday I, Alan, his mother and Rich, aunt, grandparents, brother and cousin, each set out to New Hampshire for a weekend celebrating Frieda’s 90th birthday and her and David’s 70th wedding anniversary. The journey there was crazy for almost all. While I think Kenny, Leslie and Sam made it in relatively with ease, I heard from Alan that after getting a delayed start to have all four tires on their car replaced last minute, the five of them headed out on the highway only to have one of the brand new tires blow out while going 75mph. Yikes. Glad Alan was driving and safely handled the situation. Meanwhile, I was driving from Maine by myself on a route for which no highways existed, meaning a million turns on residential streets. This was absolutely beautiful and idyllic with the incredible foliage except for the fact that the cell coverage was in and out and my sense of direction is lacking even with my iPhone telling me where to turn. I made it there with no directional mishaps, though my own trip was delayed by the strangest stop I’ve ever had. I made a turn onto a one-lane road where I was soon stuck in a line of incredibly slow moving traffic. It was then that I noticed helicopters flying above, and cop cars up ahead. Then I looked closer and saw lots of black SUVs and men wearing jackets that said “FBI” on them. This is when I started panicking. I tend to expect the worst (often of people and definitely situations), and this is when I pictured a shooter on the loose and me stuck in my car with nowhere to turn. Well, it turns out, as usual, my imagination is unnecessarily panic inducing, and my life was not the one at risk. The FBI were searching for and stopping everyone to see if they had any information on a young girl who had gone missing the day before, as well as take note of everyone’s license plate numbers and ask them where they’re going, whether they’ve seen this girl, etc. This was my first ever encounter with the FBI and they must get some really good training, because I felt like the agent could see into my soul. My heart still racing, even after I understood why I’d been stopped, I had to ask him if it was safe to continue driving the way I was headed. His response? “I have no reason to believe it isn’t safe, ma’am.” The bellhop eyed me strangely as I was checking into a fancy hotel with a missing girl flyer in my hand. [As far as I know this girl is still missing. My heart goes out to her family and friends].

After everyone finally made it safely to the hotel we were able to relax and enjoy a weekend celebrating a very special woman and their inspiring marriage. There was lots of tennis played, and I was blown away by David’s skills on the court at age 91. We also played a handful of games. Leslie introduced us to a new game called Anomia, which I believe she said was created by an Oberlin grad. Really fun – I would definitely recommend checking it out (http://www.amazon.com/Everest-Toys-0001-Anomia/dp/B00363B5FC). I also learned how to play “Patterns,” which I guess is a family tradition where the group comes up with a pattern of answering questions when one person walks away from the table. When he or she returns, they ask everyone else questions and try to guess the pattern they are using to answer them. We definitely enjoyed a few rounds. I am always down for a good game.

On Saturday night we had “the” celebration and Frieda opened her gifts. The gift giving ended with a “rap” written and performed by her three grandsons, which was witty, funny and touching. Alan also donned his tuxedo for the occasion knowing his regal grandmother would approve. We had a lovely dinner (among several other great meals on the property that weekend). The boys, Leslie and I checked out the hotel bar “late” night and we were wowed by Leslie’s dance moves.

::one year of marriage : seventy years of marriage::
::one year of marriage : seventy years of marriage::

It was great spending this QT with the Lawrence side of the family, and to celebrate a woman and a couple whom both Alan and I very much admire.

New Hampshire + Massachusetts (Part II), and Frieda’s poem!

I spent some time in Longmeadow (Jenni went back to Maine for some of this time) where I grew up.  My grandparents moved there from Queens at the beginning of the year, so in addition to my Mom and Rich I also spent time with David and Frieda.  Then we all drove up together to Bretton Wodds, New Hampshire to celebrate Frieda’s 90th birthday (my fourth grandparent to have a 90th birthday!!) and her and David’s 70th wedding anniversary (my second set of grandparents to have a 70th anniversary!!!!).  I have some massive shoes to fill in terms of life and marital longevity 🙂

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Omni Mount Washington

October 6-14, 2013 (Sunday-Monday)

The masochist in me asked my Mom to tape the Giants vs. Eagles game so I could watch yet another defeat as soon as I got home.  Followed by a heartbreaker vs. the Bears on Thursday night.  Since Kenny is at Kellogg, we seriously considered attending that game at Solider Field.  I am very thankful we did not.

Time in Longmeadow included meals at Glenmeadow (the retirement community where David and Frieda live), working out at JCC, visiting the travel clinic at Mercy Medical Center (Jen was super helpful and kind and it cost $25 vs. the $95 I pay in LA), sending out personalized Samburu splash bash letters, getting large quantities of passport photos for visas etc. (we “borrowed” the white screen at CVS for background to use with iPhoto passport pic software), catching up on Boardwalk Empire and Bill Maher, a little tennis at the Field Club, MLB playoffs, and more.

I am elated to see how well my grandparents have settled into their new homes.  They really are extraordinary.  They pretty much never complain.  I may have already written this elsewhere, but if you ask how the Springfield Symphony is they never say anything like “it’s OK but doesn’t compare to the NY Philharmonic”.  They just say “it’s fabulous.”  You would be hard-pressed to find a pair who goes emotionally to that nostalgic sad place less frequently.  I also love how much my grandpa disdains white meat chicken.  If there is a menu option that includes chicken, as soon as the waitress says white meat he shuts down the conversation.

Burger quality was high in Western Mass.  Jenni and I visited Max Burger in the middle of Longmeadow.  This is a pretty hip spot where I had the half-pound Alfred burger with Comte, caramelized onions and rosemary aioli plus I added bacon.  I chose a Young’s Double Chocolate Stout from many draught options.  A couple days later I completed a solo mission to White Hut on my way to the travel clinic.  White Hut is legendary in this area.

It has been around since 1939.  While it is much the same it has always been, there were actually noticeable changes since I was last there.  They added a big menu sign, soft serve ice cream and shakes, raised the prices a bit and now accept credit cards.  It used to be cash only and they would always give half-dollar coins as change, if possible.  Most remarkable, there is now an Amherst location!  At the original, the flat top, metal stools with red tops and fridge full of Stewart’s remain the same.  As do both the perfect tasting thin and greasy cheeseburger with fried onions and the hot dog.

The Tuesday afternoon Forest Park farmer’s market was a welcome surprise.  My Mom had a u-shaped table set-up with lots of jewelry she makes.  The rest of the market was small but efficient.  Instead of several different types of each vendor, there was only one or two but the offerings still included lots of vegetables, meat, fresh eggs, seafood, dog food, jams and syrups, kettle corn etc.  Mom is kind of the mayor…everywhere she knows lots of people and is perhaps the most gregarious person you will encounter.

I'd direct you to her website, but...
I’d direct you to her website, but…

There is a Somali family that moved to Springfield years ago and my Mom has been very involved in their lives to help ease the transition.  Wednesday night we grabbed a couple pies from Pizza Works and had dinner together.  The parents were out, so it was just us and the TEN kids.  This family of 12 lives in a small apartment with ONE bathroom.  I helped Teta (sp?) with his math homework and then we bounced.  From my limited interaction, I suspect if these kids had the same educational opportunities and parental involvement that most of us had, they would be just as likely to succeed.

On Friday we set off for a long weekend in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire.  I noticed my grandpa’s tire was very low so we stopped at a service station in Longmeadow where they convinced us to replace all four tires lest we have a blowout doing 75 on the highway.  This delayed us a couple hours but hey, better safe than sorry.  So we head up, stop in Brattleboro at exit 2 on I-91 in Vermont for the amazing Vermont Country Deli and then continue.  And as I am driving 75 in the left lane, wouldn’t ya know it:  TIRE BLOWOUT.  WTF?!?!?!  I guess they gave us some defective tires.  We called AAA but in the interim a true good Samaritan pulled over and backed up to help us change the tire.  He told us he was the youngest of 13 children and was raised right.  My grandpa tried to give him $20 but almost got run over as the man pulled away.

With that little mishap behind us, we exited the highway for Route 302 and drove through charming towns like Wells River, Littleton and Bethlehem before arriving at 4 pm to the impressive Omni Mount Washington Resort.  That night we had a very solid dinner at Stickney’s which is a pub, steakhouse and more.  The cheddar and ale dip was great, as were the ribeye and NY strip that Kenny and I split.

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My Mom had a great quote about my Dad, something to the effect of “they always said at Brown if you want to go out at night find Leavitt, but don’t ask him to cut class.”  I am not sure they really said that, but if you know Ronnie it was pretty hilarious.  Which reminds me of an even better quote that you will appreciate if you know Ronnie.  Last time we were all at Peter Luger in Great Neck talking about travel to developing countries.  And she said “that’s what I love about it, no privacy.”

91, I said
91, I said

Time at the resort included fun tennis games on red clay (shout out to David, looking mighty fine at 91 YEARS OLD!); live music and bar shuffleboard at the Cave (Kenny and I beat this couple 16-0, even though you only play to 15); mailing our taxes from the on-site post office; seeing the room in which the agreement establishing the IMF was signed in 1944; great lunches at the Golf Shed; walks on the paths by/through the golf course; playing a fun new game called Anomia; playing patterns, a family special that Leslie brought to us many moons ago; hot tub; and more.

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The property is gorgeous.  The lobby is a long room with white columns and hardwood floors.  I believe it would not be out of place in SoHo, except for the moose head above the fire place.  Breakfast was a good buffet spread with many options.  The service is definitely lacking.  The effort is there but the execution needs work.

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The time with family was fantastic, as always.  The three grandkids (Kenny, Sam and I) live in Chicago, New Orleans and Los Angeles but we all made it to this out-of-the-way destination.

The main event was Saturday night when we gathered pre-dinner for champagne and gifts.  I wore my tuxedo for the special occasion.  David and Frieda said what they are most proud of in life is their family and how well we all get along and come together.

Sorry to belabor the point, but I cannot stress enough how much I love and admire them.  My grandpa had his own animal hospital in Queens and did well, but the key is that they always spent on experiences and not goods.  They lived in the same modest house in Queens for over 60 years but traveled all over the world and spent generously on countless family trips and vacations and education for all of us.

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It has become a tradition for the grandkids to write a poem/rap to David or Frieda (and my mom for her 65th) for these major birthday events.  I have pasted below what we wrote, for your reading pleasure.  The night and whole weekend were a great success!

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Impressive pumpkin carving

For Frieda’s 90th birthday:

Once upon a time back in ‘23

The world’s greatest grandma came to be

Born in Borough Park, she was such a gem

Yes, a Diamond, and the youngest of them

Jennie and Phillip made a proper Jewish home

But when college came, it was time to roam

Cornell was the call, Balch was the hall

Grandpa was lucky, cutest gal at the ball

With flawless Regents she was a natural grammarian

And for her love of reading, became a librarian

From Alcott to Hampl, she knows good books

That perfect combo of brains and good looks

Frequents the symphony, she’s so cosmopolitan

Been to Burma, and each exhibit at the Metropolitan

Does crossword puzzles and quite the film critic

Packs a mean matzo ball even though she’s arthritic

Noodle kugel, potato pie and apple cake

Oh sugar, the lady can bake!

The number one fan of the New York great Knicks

After the roast chicken I be giving my plate licks

She’s so charmin’ it’s almost alarmin’

Always globe trottin’ with the Harmons

Aboard the QE2 it almost got legal

Accused of impersonating the Queen, but she’s just that regal

Silk shirt and pearls, parasol for the sun

Wears a lot of black and white, but she ain’t no nun

Nor is she loquacious, never mendacious

But definitely sagacious and perspicacious

Even though Migis threw a lobster-induced hissy

Grandma keeps us in good stead at Quisi

That’s no surprise since she’s always so classy

Brings the diplomacy when Ronnie gets sassy

She carries David in duplicate bridge

Despite that her man bought the wrong fridge

And so here we are, it’s been 70 years

Very few tears but a whole lot of cheers!

Now back to Frieda, there’s nobody sweetah

To join your party, we ran here like cheetahs

You’re an inspiration, a comforting soul

You bring us elation, and make us all whole