Our Way Back When — A Slide Show

Photo by Gemma Evans on Unsplash

That’s a slide — for anyone who doesn’t know, hasn’t seen.

I feel sorry for you.

You have missed an ultimate human experience: the compulsory viewing of someone else’s major life event complete with droning monologue, barks of laughter, and unending stories about people you never met and now hope you never will.

The viewing was held in a room made twilight by pulling down shades and drawing the curtains closed. Light would leak around the edges and create an uncommitted dark. Seating would be close, the room made stuffy by the slide projector and the noisy, breathing humans crowded on not enough comfortable furniture. Children sat on the floor.

Cameras and film were expensive — as was the major life event — and viewing countless slides was an essential activity. You role was to pay attention and follow along in the unfolding story. Don’t hog the potato chips and stop picking on your brother.

Slower than you would think possible, the slide projector would advance, one slide at a time dropping into the slot where a bright light would bring it to life. The projector would hum high and loud with a whishing sound. That was the fan blowing out the hot air to deliver the whooshing, stuffy experience.

It was not uncommon for people to fall asleep. If you were very lucky, you slept through most of the viewing. All you had to do to ensure the satisfaction of the host was to compliment the pictures and thank him for the joy of the slide show.

Most slide shows included an array of blurry vacation pictures marred by fingers, scowling children, and unidentifiable venues.

“Where was that, sweetheart?” The view master would ask his wife occupied with breaking up fights and offering snacks to the guests.

She would squinch her eyes at the screen. Most of the time, she had been at the great event, but these were random shots or stiff arrangements that didn’t look like what she remembered.

With great difficulty, the wife or others might persuade the view master to continue his excellent show. Keep him moving was the guiding principle.

After too long, the show would be over. Lights would be turned back on. The windows would be opened. The audience would stand, stretch, and say nice things while they escaped stuffy, tight confines.

That’s if you were lucky.

If you were family or a close friend, you might be subjected to multiple viewings.

Mi Vida de Hormiga

Querida Familia,

It was a very sad feeling to leave my family, my home, my friends and my lover on Christmas night and watch the ground become flatter and smaller and the lights amass into general, segregated squares of occupancy. There was the airport. Venice Marina Del Rey. There was downtown. There was the Santa Monica Pier. Malibu. San Fernando Valley. San Gabriel Mountains. And there was the Inland Empire, where, by the time I was in the air, you were all arriving close within that area.

La tierra se apareció muy pequeño. Y si estaba cierto finalmente que nuestro mundo si esta pequeño. En el cielo, en el vuelo, la verdad es revelada: nosotros y nuestras vidas somos objetivamente minúsculos. Y como puede ser que mi tristeza se siente tan grande, tan real, tan enorme, tan fuerte cuando todo mi mundo esta tan pequeño? Como puedo llorar por mi vida de hormiga?

Es porque también las hormigas sienten grande en su experiencia. En la perspectiva de la hormiga, la vida es grande, realmente. Porque quien puede decir que algo es grande o pequeño objetivamente? Lo que es grande y lo que es chico depende de la perspectiva.

From the air, it became clear that the human world is tiny. But as I looked down at my ant world, it was true that there was nothing more that I wanted in that moment, on that plane, with a God’s-eye-view, than to be an ant again. The divine is not in the clouds. The divine is on the ground, on the Earth, in my eyes, in my body, in my world and in my perspective. El Divino es mi familia y mi casa. El Divino eres tu y yo.

I watched the plane fly over California for a long time and I saw Los Angeles disappear. And I thought about how everything I loved was so small down there. So tiny. I looked at where la familia Moctezuma probably was. And I thought how graceful it is to make things so small become so beautiful. And I didn’t like being disconnected and seeing the objectivity of our smallness. I wanted to be back down and experience everything as big again. And I thought about the laugh and the kisses and the hugs and the food. So I thought about how small those events were from up where I was.

But more importantly, I also remembered how enormous it feels when I am down there.

Mi familia y su amor es enorme.

Mantua residents remembered at Mullica Hill Library

Betsy and her late husband Chris Groody were honored for their dedication to the community


The Sun

Nestled in the children’s section of the Mullica Hill Branch Library is a playroom where a plaque honoring two lifelong Mantua residents resides.

Betsy Groody’s (nee Hengel) brother Joe Hengel photographed her and her late husband previously, and he and his partner, Allen Reese, decided to turn it into a plaque to honor the two and their dedication to the Mullica Hill and Mantua communities.

Besty, said Reese, came from a Mullica Hill family of nine siblings, and her husband Chris came from a Mantua family of one brother, Michael, and sister, Ann.

“Betsy and Chris are warm and kind people,” he said. “I wanted something for the both of them when Chris passed away, and we wanted him to be remembered for the guy he always was. It’s how we developed the plaque and the wording on it.”

Chris passed away in November 2018. He is survived by his wife Betsy, daughters Melissa, Kristina, Mary and Kelly, six grandchildren, siblings and other nieces, nephews, and in-laws.

The plaque reads, in part, “lifelong residents of Gloucester County, Chris and Betsy, have always shared their warm hearts, generosity and kindness with all who have crossed their paths.”

Reese added various children’s programs are being funded by his family’s fund through the Philadelphia Foundation because of how involved Chris was with his children and grandchildren.

Chris, Reese added, was active in the community from coaching his daughters’ various sport teams and the Clearview Youth Basketball team.

“His grandson always goes to the library and so we thought it’d be a great spot,” said Reese.

He said in his family’s foundation, they’re able to give away money each year to a family or organization in honor of a person or family, and it “felt fitting to do Chris and Betsy.”

The funds donated by his family’s fund, he said, will also go to remodeling the playroom at the library.

He went on to add Chris always listened to people and “wanted to know everyone’s story.”

“He was always there to help people if they needed help and he was always first in line,” he said. “Betsy is the same exact way. The two of them were perfect for each other and were kind to everyone they met.”

He said the two “couldn’t do enough good for people” with them always reaching out and spending time with people who were close, and strangers.

“I would say that they’re kind people who left the world in a better place than what they found it,” he added. “I can’t say enough good about him.”

A Father’s Daughter My Favorite Essays for 2017

I am in the business of rediscovering myself. I’m fascinated by my inner child. I like that girl. I haven’t like me for a very long time. So I’m trying to learn as much as I can about her.

This is me in December, 2016. I am visiting my Grandfather at my Father’s old home in Moscow. He arrived here when he started playing for CSKA. This apartment was given to him from the government. That is how things worked in the Soviet Union. You are rewarded for being someone. That was ingrained in me from childhood.

I am holding a picture of myself. I am around 7 or 8 years old. I’m in San Jose, California and if my math serves me right, this would be house # 9. I’m attending Challenger School. This would be school #4. This is the very same school which held me back a year for messing up the “other” name for a rabbit. Not bunny. Hare.

This is the wall in the main room of my Grandfather’s apartment. These are some of the medals and awards my Father has won. Please note that I used the word some. There are more. In fact, the most impressive ones are displayed in my Father’s office- the first room one encounters when entering my Family Home. Whenever I visit here, I stand and stare. This time is no different. I wonder, how do I come from someone who has done so much? How did he win all of this? What kind of superhuman is this man? And how do I carry his DNA and the Soviet mentality of “being someone”, yet I am no one. How could I have failed him?

This is what it looks like to be from a generation where things don’t happen if they’re not on instagram. He didn’t say this, but I will assume that my Grandfather feels that this is a bizarre concept. I too feel this way and I try to refrain from this but since I consider myself a story-teller, I cannot help but document all that is around me.

My Grandmother, his wife, aforementioned in previous posts, is no longer alive but he keeps up with her table-setting traditions. The silverware, the dish ware, the napkins, and the tablecloth. The kinds of food we eat. He is 90 years old and he washed the curtains for my visit. The place is clean as can be.

These are the results of my incessant documentation. There are few things in this world that make me happier than Russian Bread, Russian Butter, and Russian Caviar. All together. All at once.

The phone rings and reveals that my Father is calling. He says it’s a total coincidence. We all take turns speaking with him, and I realize that I am amongst the Larionov men.

My favorite part of my visits is the time when we can dive into old photographs and newspaper cuttings. My Grandfather is a collector, like me. As I have boxes of memorabilia, so does he. Pictures have notes written on the back of them. Dates. Locations. Descriptions. Details to keep the memories alive. I dive headfirst into time traveling through my relatives lives. I see a younger Grandfather. I see a younger Uncle. I see a younger Father. I watch through a series of photographs as he matures into the man he is today.

I peak over to the wall on my right. It is a constant reminder of who I am not. But in seeing my Father’s life story, I am able to understand that our paths do not have to align. I start to release my self-made pressures of BEING somebody. I start to have empathy towards the struggles he must have faced in finding himself. I wonder if the Soviet System was the reason he is so hardened. I feel lucky that I do not have to abide to any particular societal laws. I can choose to be the woman I want to be. I am free. And through that thought process comes a moment of healing. I let go of the expectations which weigh heavily on me. I am a separate being. I don’t have to be anybody except for me.

For more log onto www.alyonkalarionov.com / Listen to TELL YOUR STORYPodcast / Attend a Wo/Men Workshop / Follow on Instagram, Twitter, andFacebook / Email: alyonka@alyonkalarionov.com

On Lee Smith’s ‘Dimestore: A Writer’s Life’

Dimestore: A Writer’s Life explores the concept of what happens to memory and identity when the place of one’s youth becomes displaced by corporate big-box stores and the influx of university students in a small town that becomes a college town. The fast-paced and jarring evolution of Grundy, Virginia, serves as the catalyst for Smith’s writing career, as well. Although Grundy is known to most for its coal mining and sprawling mountains, it is Smith’s father’s dimestore that she equates the most with her hometown and her ‘truest’ writing material:

“This is an enviable life, to live in the terrain of one’s heart. Most writers don’t — can’t — do this. Most of us are always searching, through our work and in our lives: for meaning, for love, for home.

Writing is about these things. And as writers, we cannot choose our truest material. But sometimes we are lucky enough to find it.”

(p. 74).

These fifteen interconnected essays build a memoir whose beauty mimics the natural grit of the Appalachian South and prose that is poignant, engaging, and — at times — heartbreaking. The narrative is nostalgic without dripping in sentimentality, and remarks on loss of childhood spent assisting her father at the Ben Franklin dimestore that is washed away — figuratively and literally — as Grundy is relocated out of the flood zone. This is also a book about family. Smith’s mother suffers from depression, her father bipolar disorder, and her own musically gifted son has a mental illness with symptoms that show up in his twenties, where the only way to stabilize him is with medications that dull the music and his spirit.

Books, reading, writing, and teaching, all play a pivotal role in her essays as she shares the simultaneous surge of energy and anxieties she has about herself as a writer:

“And actually, I’m feeling a little intoxicated, the way I often feel here, the way I always feel when I’m starting a new novel, which I am — or will, as soon as I get up my nerve. It’s that old disorientation, that scary lightness of being, that moment before you spring off the diving board straight out into the shining air, head first. You could kill yourself, and you know it, and you’ve got to get to the point where you don’t care.

I’m not quite there yet.”

(p. 192).

However, it appears that she is there, but it’s not a novel where she takes the plunge; it’s Dimestore. There is a natural and lyrical cadence to Smith’s writing, and she doesn’t hold back in sharing the intimate details that inspired her to become the writer she always wanted to be.

Considerations on Immigration

I want to make myself clear and identify myself as a person whose political views are more liberal. However, I believe that both conservatives and liberals are both doing what they believe is right. I believe that liberals and conservatives are on the same team. We all care about the well-being of this nation, which is great, but it’s tearing us right down the middle.

We need to begin talking to remedy these divisions. Pointing fingers and blaming others will not resolve the divisions we face, but I know that by having an open-hearted, and open-minded discussion we may solve our problems together.

To be very clear, I am not advocating for amnesty, or for being soft on the immigration law or those who may be violating it. However, there are a few issues that are unaddressed that need to be resolved. One issue that I am addressing is how undocumented immigrants are demonized in today’s conversations about immigration.

We often fear what is not familiar. It can be easy to be startled by someone or something new and unfamiliar. We often fear the monsters in the closets, though they do not exist. The only way to get rid of the monsters in the closet is by opening the closet, thereby gaining knowledge that the monster never existed.

In order to open the closet door in regards to the undocumented immigrant, it is important to see these people as they really are. These are people are humans, just like all Americans, but they also treasure values that this nation has held dear for generations.

Family plays a central role in Hispanic culture, much like in American culture. Families form the bedrock of society for these individuals, where husbands and wives have identical traditional roles in the household as do Americans.

Christianity plays a very important role in Hispanic societies. In Mexico, for example, 81% of adults identify themselves as Catholic, while Evangelical Christianity is on the rise there.

If undocumented immigrants are coming in from the southern border, then they are also bringing these values with them. Whether or not they should stay in the United States is up for debate, but they do value families and religion, much like conservatives. But before whether or not we can berate them as “rapists” or “criminals” we have to understand that they are not too dissimilar from us.

Moreover, who are we to judge whether these people are a scourge to our society? One of my favorite passages in the New Testament teaches us,

““1 Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Matthew 7:1–2

With this passage we can understand that though undocumented immigrants have trespassed, this does not mean that they merit the levels of harassment they receive today. They value families, and the morals that Christianity teaches us. Because of this, they deserve some level of respect.

Through understanding that undocumented immigrants generally have a devotion to Christian and family values, we need to question if they merit the harsh treatments and punishments given to them by individuals such as former sheriff Joe Arpaio. If these immigrants hold similar values to us, then why have we turned a blind eye towards keeping them locked away in Tent City, where they were exposed to 130F heat?

Though Tent City is closed, I feel that something is not addressed. Even if these immigrants broke the law, I do not feel that there is any reason why they should be subjected to such high temperatures in Tent City. Even if they broke the law, there is no reason why they are subjected to that. I am born and raised from Phoenix, Arizona, and I am familiar with the heat, but I do not even desire that my enemies to be imprisoned in such high temperatures .

Moreover, this is disturbing because though conservatives tout themselves as defenders of family values, and christianity, then they need to practice these morals in the way we treat detained immigrants. There is no point in advocating for a society built on family values and christianity, if this is the way we treat people. The whole situation seems to violate another scripture that I value.

“Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Luke 6:31

Does anyone want to be detained in a tent in 130F desert heat? If the answer is negative, then we have to reconsider how these individuals are treated.

I understand that conservatives want policies that will be tough on crime, but I want to emphasize that policies can be pursued that are both tough on crime, and humane. The one does not exclude the other.

Another cause for concern that I have is how immigration policies focus on deportations, which separates mothers from daughters and fathers from sons and vice-versa.

Obama during the course of his presidency deported more than two million immigrants during his presidency, but we don’t explore the human side of these numbers. We don’t ask ourselves about the relationships that these two million individuals have cultivated here in the United States.

We do not think about the sons and daughters who have to grow up without parents because they were deported. We do not think the mother who has to call her daughter in a noisy internet café via Skype. We don’t think about the children who miss their parents, and those precious, sacred bonds that hold families together.

If we are tough on crime, does that mean we are also tough on families? Should it mean that we should be tough on children?

Is this teaching children respect for the law, or is it teaching fear of the law? Is the law something moral and virtuous, or is it something harsh and cruel?

I have no answers for these questions, however these are questions that both conservatives and liberals need to ask themselves.

At the end of the day, we, as Americans have to come to understand that rough, and aggressive immigration policy is something dangerous. If we are to simply believe that all undocumented immigrants are criminals, then we forget to include their values, family roles, and humanity.

It is for this reason why harsh and unlawful practices, such as racial profiling, deportations, and inhumane detention facilities need to be reconsidered. Moreover, the rights that these immigrants have as human beings needs to be addressed.

Additionally, figures who have pursued to enforce the law through illegal means, such as former sheriff Joe Arpaio should not be held in high esteem. If ICE raids, racial profiling, and threats of detention and deportation are the way that we shall enforce immigration policy, then these immigrants have every reason to hide from the law. If the law is threatening to tear apart families and strike fear, then it is natural that immigrants will not want to face justice.

Moreover, if figures such as Joe Arpaio, targeted conservative families and communities, would he be deserving of the title “America’s toughest sheriff” and all the praise he enjoys from conservative circles?

If America is to be like a city on the hill, we have to acknowledge that the world is watching our every move. If we revere individuals who broke the law, while detaining husbands and mothers in hot deserts, while separating families then what does that say about us? What will the world think when they see these things? Will America be seen as a defender of human rights, if we neglect these rights to undocumented immigrants?

In my own personal opinion I feel that immigrant communities need to be developed, educated, and empowered in order to protect and defend themselves and their families.We need to reconsider the ways we view these immigrants, because the sooner we can understand both halves of the coin, the sooner we can come to a solution that can benefit everyone.

We need to practice more empathy. Of the things that the Apostle Peter asks us, he asks all to be, “like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.” 1 Peter 3:8

We need to be able to comprehend this scripture in order to continue the debate around immigration. Before questioning if we need to be harder on immigrants we need to be able to understand them. We need open our hearts and our minds before deciding on tightening our grip.

It is my hope that we can become more sympathetic with one another. These times are very sensitive, but we need to be able understand not only our own sensitivities but also the sensitivities of others.

If you are reading this, I hope that you were able to think about these points, and think about the weight that these things have. It’s easy see immigrants as criminals, but there is a very human element which is oftentimes neglected. I hope that you have begun seeing this part of the conversation. If you are still wanting stronger immigration policies, I will not blame you or guilt you into changing your mind, however I do want you to understand that we need to respect human rights, and the rights that these families have.

For Grandpa

A year ago yesterday was opening day of little league. We were probably running late. I was probably trying to tightly tie my son's cleats while nursing a barely three-month-old baby while simultaneously trying to convince the four-year-old that watching her brother play baseball was fun to do on a cold Saturday morning in March. And it was just as we were throwing that baseball bag in the car that I got the phone call: Grandpa died.

I knew it was coming. We all did. He had the stroke and got a little better, then a little worse again and then he stopped eating and communicating and it was just a matter of time. So, since right now, opening day of little league, had to be the time, I chose to go hardcore mom. I asked my son if he had his hat, told everyone to buckle up, put on a smile and got through the day. Then I came home and I wrote this. I read it at his service, through very shaky tears, for a small group of family and friends. I remember the last time I saw him, my baby, Sloane, was barely two months old. He hadn’t been awake in days but when we walked in the hospital room, he was actually awake. I took the baby out of the carrier and my Dad held her up and said “This is Sloane, Dad. She is your new great-granddaughter” and he looked at her and smiled. I’d like to believe he knew who she was at that moment and it made him happy. So I am sharing what I said about him today because I would like to think if there is even the slightest chance he could see this, he would read it and it would make him happy.

Such a handsome devil

If you’re an Andersen, you know what it means when I say, “fifteen, two, four, and there ain’t no more,” “count your measley,” and “do you smell a skunk?” If you are an Andersen, you know that the hearts are the best part of the chicken gizzards and dumplings stew. If you are an Andersen, you know that the “peach room” is where all the toys were, and the best hiding places for kick the can were on the roof and up the telephone pole. If you are an Andersen, it wasn’t weird that you slept in the shed on Thanksgiving. If you are an Andersen, you know that the cookie jar will always be full, and you know that the best kliners west of Racine, Wisconsin can be found in Auburn, California. If you are an Andersen, you have said this phrase countless times:

“Last name is Andersen, with an S-E-N.”

These are just a handful of memories that have pushed their way to the front of my brain over the past few days. There are so many more from all the times spent with him and together as a family. When I think of them, I always come back to one common theme that binds all the memories together: Pride. My grandpa was so very proud of all he’d accomplished throughout his 97 years. Proud of the little things like his cribbage game. He was proud of his cooking, his kliners, and his home. But mostly, he was proud of his family and proud of his name.

I remember when my oldest son, Charlie, was a baby and we were up visiting him, sitting around the dining room table chatting and eating a variety of snacks (including but not limited to mayo and onions on toast, and smoked oysters in a can), and grandpa looked at me and the baby and said, “You know what is such a miracle? That one single sperm and one single egg made that perfect little boy.”

Now I am not a religious person and I don’t pray in the Christian sense of the word, but at that moment, I prayed. I thought to myself, “Oh dear lord help me because my grandfather is talking to me about sperm.” I wasn’t sure where this conversation was going, and quite frankly, I wanted it to stop. But he went on and I nervously listened for what was to come next. He went on to say, “And if it hadn’t been for me, you know, there would be no Charlie.”

Well, Grandpa, I thought to myself, that is not exactly how this all works. But what he meant (and liked to remind us of often) was that it’s because of the choices he made and the paths he took in life that got us all here, including my son. Obviously, he left out some other very important factors, namely the role Charlie’s father played in the whole thing. Perhaps it was an oversimplification of how we all came to be, but in some ways, he’s a little bit right.

It’s because of him that we are his family. It’s because he came to California. It’s because he “convinced” (or as he often said, “nagged”) my grandma to marry him. It’s because he looked out the window one day at Shoreham Park and convinced my Dad that Allison Blair was someone worth fighting for. It’s why I’m here. It’s why my kids are here. And that is just my story. We all have one that comes right back to Grandpa.

I’m terrible at cribbage. I’ve never made kliners. And I’m pretty sure I couldn’t pay my kids to eat chicken gizzard stew. But I do know that despite this, my grandpa was proud of me. He was proud of all of us and proud to call us his family. And no matter the challenges we faced or the mistakes we made his pride and love for us never wavered. And I find comfort in that knowledge. Because no matter who I become, or where I go, I know my grandpa would be proud. Because thanks to him I am here, and I’m an Andersen. With an S-E-N.

I Have My Father’s Y’s

Every time I write the letter ‘y,’ I’m reminded of my father. That letter, in particular, I write the same as him. As I’ve matured and grown older, I’ve often weighed and considered the characteristics I hope to keep that I’ve subconsciously been passed down from him and also those that I’ve needed to define on my own. To me at least, it’s unclear why I write this letter the same. Perhaps, when I was a child I noticed it looked distinctly different from how others wrote it (similarly, I often write my capital ‘Js’ the same way he does) or maybe it’s just that I saw it often enough on notes scribbled in-between the pages of his Bible or the pencil marks on 2×4’s used to build many of the houses we lived in. It’s entirely possible I only wanted to be like him; who’s to say why I’ve been gifted this trait and not others.

We’re similar, him and I, and it wasn’t too noticeable until I struck out after high school and had been on my own for a few years, but we are. There have been seasons of embracing this reality and others of running from it. However, I’m distinctly his. We each have hair that curls up along the tops of our necks when it gets too long, and our body shapes and heights are nearly identical. The faith in Christ I hold so dear is because of him. Although my faith and journey have looked entirely different than his, it’s without a doubt a credit to him for bringing me up under a roof and fatherly protection that sought after God. When I was a teenager, I didn’t care to be like him. I often saw his outlook on my life to be in direct opposition to my own and my desires for it. To be fair, we were in direct opposition at times. Our love looked more like a tennis match that never resolves due to the aggravated batting of hurt and frustration toward the other until our bodies give way to defeat from exhaustion, not resolution.

There were a handful of instances I embarrassed him, brought discomfort, and disappointed him. He felt how he felt though and faulting him for those emotions is something I can’t do. The thought that he perhaps stopped loving me never crept into my mind or heart, but in hindsight, I’m able to see that I wasn’t mature enough to consider him having emotions like you, or I or anyone else has emotions. It’s strange how easy it is to think parents are like robots and function only to provide and discipline, but not feel. My interests weren’t his, or at least not how he pictured them developing, and I get that. Thinking about having children myself one day, I, of course, want them to care about what I care about. I desire that connection. The relationship existing between a parent and child is never secure, and only speaking from the viewpoint of a son, I’m confident my understanding will be destroyed and rebuilt on this topic over and over once I walk into fatherhood.

Throughout each up and down that every parent and child go through, and now that the dust has settled, I see so much of him in me. Despite my previous rejections of this possibility, I am filled with thanks and gratitude for it now. It’s easy not to pay attention to or understand how challenging it is to be a single parent in an expensive town or make career decisions that build equity in the bank of relationship and not self-indulgence & personal security. No parent is perfect, and for many, parents aren’t a part of the equation at all, which is devastating. The simple choice is never to consider what others have done for us and pretend that we’ve made it on our own; or, that each problem or deficiency is a result of wounds brought on by others, often by those who raised us. There may undoubtedly be truth running through those veins, but in this moment, on this misty mid-afternoon day, I’m thankful for both the strikes and the gifts bestowed upon me by him. I am his, and he is mine; tied together by DNA but not without love and friendship.

Stay up-to-date with all of my writing as well as things I’m currently into and what I’m finding inspiring on my site iamcartermoore.com

Hamilton Princess shows kids the Royal Treatment at the ‘Prince & Princess Club’ starting April 15

Family travel with young kids is all about balance. Between booking a safe location that appeals to the kids — while also having the option to escape them for at least a day — the options are scarce.

Fortunately, for families looking for the perfect Summer ’19 vacay, Bermuda’s iconic Hamilton Princess is launching the exclusive “Prince & Princess’ Club” just in time for Easter break starting April 15 with activities and adventures that will keep even the most fidgety of family members entertained.

Coined the “Pink Palace,” this historic property has been a Bermudian icon since 1885 with its pink exterior, breathtaking scenery, and vintage charm. Parents can utilize a fully trained camp staff featuring extensive programming built around interactive activities and experiential education tied with Bermudian culture.

In addition to special programming below, kids can participate in daily adventures like scavenger hunts throughout the property, sand castle building, and learn about the fascinating history of Bermuda. Parents can use this time to indulge with an Exhale spa treatment, conduct a private art tour, or enjoy Hamilton’s top restaurants, shops, and bars (located just minutes away).

For opening weekend during Easter, April 15–22, the special activities include:

  • Princess Art Hunt — Kids will be utilizing special clues and polaroids to help them discover the wonderful art throughout the property.
  • Crazy Sand Crafts — Children can experiment with Bermuda sand to show off their creativity!
  • Ocean Discovery Zone — Children can learn about ocean creatures native to Bermuda, the importance of sailing in the community, and discover the secrets of the Bermuda Triangle

  • Bermuda Kite Building — With the help of camp counselors, kids can create their very own kites to fly all over!
  • An easter egg hunt to ring in the Easter festivities.
  • Classic games such as air hockey, giant chess, bean bag toss & more

Parents can book their children for full-day stays (9am-5pm) for up to a week, or a la carte offerings if they so desire. Plus, babysitting is offered year-round with just 48 hour’s notice!

Mom, I hope I’ve made you proud

From understanding my mother’s tough disciplinarian stance to appreciating her as the world’s greatest friend — the journey to knowing my mother has been tremendously rewarding — and as today marks a new chapter of her life (she is 71 years old), here is hoping that the woman who birthed me and has lived a remarkable life, finds all the joy the world can bring for her.

My mom (in green) and her family.

There are so many stories to tell about my mom and I don’t even know where to begin. Do I start from the time she called me on the phone at 5 a.m to wake me up for my 6 a.m appointment while she is in Ibadan and I in Abuja? Or do I tell the story of that time I called her, my teeth chattering, to tell her how cold I was in a foreign country and her response, laced with genuine concern, being: “would you like to take the next available flight home if that place is too cold for you?” I laugh every time I remember that time in my life.

I could start with that time, 30 years ago, when she threatened to report me to father because I had done something wrong. I don’t remember what the offence was, but I do remember the terror of being whopped by father (not that he had ever at the time) and the way her face softened after she must have realized I was shitting myself.

Going back in time, I can now see the undeniable and undying love my mother has for me, I was just too stupid to realize it sooner, and for that I am very sorry. I am truly sorry for the grief I caused her, and for the disappointment she must have felt with each and every stupid decision I have ever made in my teenage and early adult life. But I hope today, that she looks at me and she’s proud of me.

I have always known my mother as a tough disciplinarian who never took no for an answer, and at those times, I never imagined that she loved me. Yes, I was stupid, I know; I said that already! Our mother was so tough that it never occurred to us, her three daughters, to disobey her even in her absence. If she told us to do something before she got back, we did it and if she asked us not to do something while she wasn’t there to watch over us, we just didn’t do it, at all. For instance, growing up, the standing rule was never to eat out. God help you if you thought you were going to die of hunger and someone — even a family friend — offered you food and you ate it. One time in Ibeto, Niger state, a couple we had gone visiting came home with us, packed jollof rice in tow, to report my sisters and I for refusing their meal. It’s hilarious now thinking about it, it wasn’t back then.

At certain phases of children’s lives, they begin to think they know better than their parents, and I was one of those children. Naturally, life became a lot more contentious between my mother and I but in all of that drama, she never failed to love me desperately. There are no in-betweens with my mother, and so was the time of love she has for us, for me, especially because if I am being honest, I was an atypical first daughter a conservative African woman would raise.

The very first time I saw my mother in a different light, as a friend more like, was one of the darkest period of my life. Prior to this, I’d always seen her as a formidable disciplinarian, a woman who you could not mess with. Don’t get me wrong, she is as steadfastly caring as they come, at the same time, she’s relentlessly demanded of highest form of discipline, something I struggled to live up to. Consequently, we would fight bitterly. But on this day, something shifted from the way I saw my mother; the strongest woman I have ever known.

“Mum, Oluyomi is dead” I sobbed, crumpling into her arms. It must have taken her a minute to process what was going on. For instance, “who is Oluyomi and what did he mean to you, my daughter?”, were possible questions that must have raced through her mind. But she didn’t ask. She just sat there, with me in her arms, my heart threatening to tear itself out of my body.

Oluyomi was the man I had planned to spend the rest of my life with, the man I planned on introducing to her, my mother. He had been killed in an accident, it was so sudden, his death felt brutal. I still can’t explain why my mother’s reaction to my sadness was a defining moment in my relationship with her, but for me, it just is. I mean, this was a woman who had stood steadfastly behind me like a rock when I had my son (out of marriage I might add), the woman who gave me her shoulders to stand on when the world was unspeakably overwhelming. This was a woman who forgave me time and time again, and never failed to amaze us with the strength of her deep commitment to her family and the world she lives in. If anyone was to judge the events of my life differently, they’d pick the time she stood with me as I brought a whole human into the world as on obvious choice, not when one was taken from me.

It was that moment in unimaginable grieve that I knew my mother was my friend all along, I had just failed to see it sooner. Today, I am living a life close enough to what my mother had imagined for me — a happy and successful life, that is — and I hope she sees me today and she is happy that the daughter she birthed nearly four decades ago is turning out to be who she wanted her to be.

Happy birthday, mom. I, your daughter, call you blessed. And I love you so steadfastly.