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IMG_20170723_085212Most often, I feel shy or hesitant about attending a large event.  I considered whether to attend Big Nick’s Ride for Cape Cod’s Fallen, which takes place in my hometown of Yarmouth, MA. I have seen the one-thousand plus motorcycles go through. This year, I had a personal interest in knowing more about the group. My son is presently in training to become a Marine. I gravitated towards the chance of meeting others who have served or the families of those who served. Although designed to recognize Gold Star Families of Cape Cod, the event description states the occasion is also for past, present and future service persons and their families.

My first tendency is to avoid feeling trapped at a large public event. I considered going to watch from a somewhat secluded part of the route, avoiding the fanfare. My husband pointed out that it would be a unique opportunity and perhaps I should “actually attend.” He certainly was right and I did attend.

Pulling up to the high school, I noticed that their were plenty of parking spots right up front. Well, I may as well park here I thought to myself. It did seem odd to me that there were so many available spots. I set up my beach chair along the route, after consulting with a group of former Marines. Now the only thing to do was wait. I struck up conversations with the scattering of people who were there at a decent hour. I wondered out loud to several people asking where all the spectators were. “They’ll be here” I was told.

The Dennis fire truck came and unfurled its massive flag over the empty, but soon to be full of motorcycles, parking lot. Then we waited some more. I was told by a fellow spectator that the procession often gets a late start out of Bourne.  The Gold Star father of “Big Nick” greeted people as they trickled in. I had a good conversation with a gentleman I later learned, was Nick’s uncle.  While on the sidelines with my sign (see photo), a woman came by whose son is a Marine on his second deployment. We cried together like two old friends. A mother understands like no other.

I decided to engage through Facebook Live. There are military families I am connected with and wanted to share this event with them.  I felt like a reporter on the scene. I spoke with a Marine, who happened to be female, and thoroughly enjoyed hearing about her experience. This event came to life through the many moments that others were generous and willing to share with me. The spectator parking never did quite fill, but there were many quality persons in attendance.

Nick’s father, in Marine dress blues, saluted the riders from beginning to end. It takes time for over 1,200 bikes to roll through and he stood at attention the entire time. After the bikes finished, he found a moment to speak to me about my son, who is presently a Recruit at Parris Island. Nick was a graduate of Dennis-Yarmouth High School, as is my son. Nick’s uncle told him about me and he made a point to come by and speak to me. Just the thing you would expect from one with grace and dignity; having already given his precious son, here he was, on many levels, giving more.

History of the Ride

Seaweed in a Lake!

“Seaweed is the common name for countless species of marine plants and algae that grow in the ocean as well as in rivers, lakes, and other water bodies.”



I recently spent a week at my lakeside camp in Vermont. I hadn’t been swimming there for a few years. And certainly not since I took up swimming laps at my local pool.

I was unpleasantly surprised by the amount of green things growing in the water. Is it called “seaweed” if it grows in a lake I wondered to myself. It grew so tall in patches that I could make out tiny tips just breaking the glassy water surface. My plan was to skirt the patches as best I could but it proved impossible. As the tentacles grabbed at my feet and legs, I hurried off in a different direction, in hopes of avoiding this more than unpleasant confrontation.

The second worry was the depth of the lake. One old-timer knowingly informed me that the lake is over 100 feet at its deepest, a glacier formed lake! I studied the lake’s depth map over the Internet and wondered if it is possible to swim across while avoiding crossing the most significant depths. I wasn’t confident in my map reading skills or my swimming ability without the security of knowing I can safely stop whenever needed.

At least in the depths, it would be very unlikely to experience the seaweed nipping at me! But while avoiding the depths, I would likely encounter the green stuff. I decided more than anything, I mostly needed someone to accompany me. No suitable companion was evident. Perhaps I’ll wait till next trip and bring a boogie board with a wrist strap to help build confidence in crossing the nearly one mile passage without totally panicking. There – I now have a challenge (or two) to look forward to!

Nature – Nurture

Teenager Me: “Nonna, I am on a diet and trying to lose weight.  I can’t eat that.”  
Nonna sweetly and with a chuckle: “The place where I come from, everyone eats this and no one is fat.”

It doesn’t take more than that for me to dig in. Soft mounds of yellow cornmeal pillows await, surprisingly light for being heavy, alternating with a slightly browned, nutty butter, and freshly grated hard cheese – also known as “Polenta Conchata.” Occasionally the melted butter is seasoned with fresh sage from the garden.

What my Nonna didn’t mention was the fact that she lived in the Alps in northern Italy at more than 10,000 feet of elevation. There were few cars or appliances. The wash was done by hand. The rugs were beaten with a long handled broom to clean them. The few recreational activities included skiing and hiking. People worked hard to survive and calorie dense meals such as this sustained them.

I once offered to make this traditional Northern Italian peasant food dish to share with my co-workers. One woman hesitated before commenting that she avoids cornmeal because it is a food used to fatten pigs before slaughter.  

Polenta Conchata – will YOU join me???