Saturday, December 21, 2013
This is a very different post from my usual travel stories but it is indicative of the extent that America has absorbed persons from all around the world,even into the small towns. It also tells the advantage of small town living for meeting those who are different from you. This is based on the "This I Believe" series sponsored by NPR and was done for a book club gathering.
I believe in the diversity of small town living. One of the first persons I met in Paris was my realtor, 30 years my senior. We had just moved from Houston where our social circle’s average age was 30 and I had never had an older friend. We bonded, often lunched together, and she became my surrogate mother. Her friendship was the first of many diverse ones I have had in Paris.
In large cities, ethnic and age groups tend to live close together. There’s the black neighborhoods and Latino areas. Little Asias and Middle Eastern pockets have begun to pop up. Unless they frequent ethnic restaurants, long time residents don’t often socialize with the newly arrived or persons of different color. The opportunity to meet and work with these various groups, including those with age and class differences, is much higher in small towns, if desired.
Our children’s friends opened doors with introductions to mothers of color. Together, we had bake sales, put on harvest festivals and planned the graduation night party. Coaching girls softball and soccer brought in relationships from the poorer neighborhoods and a connection to the Middle East and India.
With a husband in the medical community, we have shared meals with local Pakistanis, Indians, Filipinos, Hungarians, Vietnamese and a doctor from Spain. The dietary requirements at a recent dinner party included no beef for a Hindu guest, no pork for the Moslem, no meat for a vegetarian, and no cilantro for me.
This small town diversity is not entirely new. Growing up in public schools in a small community in Texas exposed me to a variety of economic differences among my classmates. And I had many an adult who followed my school career. But the racial integration happened as I was exciting the system while the majority of Hispanics in our classes were migrants. Today, the explosion of immigrants from around the world has now trickled down into small towns and our children benefited from this.
Things aren’t perfect. Racism still sits tightly with many. Ignorance can be frustrating. But I have danced at an Ethiopian wedding, attended a quincienera, toasted at an Indian birthday party. We had kosher food at a bris, Thai offerings in a downtown restaurant, and watched black, white and brown vie for the top prize in a BBQ cook-off. I have felt underdressed at black funerals and overdressed at white weddings. Yet, the mingling offers opportunities to develop real relationships not available in ethnic clusters of the metroplex. My friends from big cities are amazed and so am I. I believe in the diversity of small town living.
Sunday, December 1, 2013
|Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth, Isarel|
|Upper church at Church of the Annunciation, Nazareth|
The four lane road was very good as was the signage in English, Hebrew and Arabic and we soon exited into the largest Arab city in Israel. Next door, Upper Nazareth is a new suburb with a high percentage Jewish population thanks to a large influx of Russian immigrants. But the old city of Nazareth is about 70% Muslim and 30% Christian. Since most of the Christians are Arabs, the area is a social scientist’s dream lab to study inter-faith relations.
|Lower church at Church of the Annunciation|
Both inside the Church of the Annunciation and its courtyard are vivid stain glass pieces from countries around the world. Artists created their vision of Mary and the annunciation in the style and tradition of each country. The images and colors varied from high Renaissance to folk art to starkly modern. Outside, we heard a tour group from Slovakia singing a dirge like homage in front of their outside Mary piece. In contrast, when we ascended to the empty upper sanctuary, church bells began ringing - not to any tune but simply in apparent celebration. All we could figure was a ten minute joyful acknowledgment of the arrival of 12 noon.
|Mazzawi Sisters in Nazareth|
The YMCA has a long presence in the Holy Lands, dating back to the late 1880s. After 1948, YMCA programs expanded into Eastern Jerusalem to cater to Muslims and Christians. In 1964, Nazareth opened its YMCA with the organization’s motto engraved on the outside wall , “That youth may grow in wisdom, stature, and favor with God and man.” Members of the Israeli Y organization include Muslims, Christians and Jews and its activities provide one of the few inter-faith opportunities in this divided country.
|YMCA in Nazareth, Israrel|
|YMCA in Nazareth, Israel - in Hebrew, English and ARabic|
|Small Plates served before a meal|
We had loved the food in Israel and this restaurant was no exception. It served the wonderful small plates that included homemade humus, corn salad, marinated carrots and eggplant, green salad, colorful peppers, and more. A single order of 14 small plates with side chicken kabobs were enough for the three of us to have a healthy and filling lunch. As we ate, the two sisters from the store joined their families at the restaurant. Since their brother was the manager, they were obvious regulars.
The recently defeated, long-time Christian mayor of Nazareth, Ramiz Jarai called his town the City of Peace. Maybe that’s why Texas A&M just announced a “peace university” campus to be constructed in Nazareth - a place where President John Sharp hopes “different people from all over Israel would not only study to get a degree but would become more familiar with each other and foster understanding”. The YMCA has been working on that for many years. It was an unexpected luncheon site but it gave us as much hope as any place we visited in Israel that three religions can live side by side.
Tuesday, November 19, 2013
|Alexandria National Cemetery in Pineville, Arkansas|
On a recent visit to Pineville, Louisiana we stopped at the small Alexandria National Cemetery - established in 1867 and one of the earlier cemeteries built for burial of Union Civil War soldiers who died in the region. Despite occasional wars and skirmishes after the establishment of the United States, no need for mass burials arose until the horrible losses in the Civil War. In 1862, Congress recognized the numbers of dead just from the North were so large that sites needed to be dedicated to individual and group burials. The Act gave Congress the ability to buy sufficient land to bury those who died “in the service of their country.”
|One of several graves of Unknown Soldiers in |
Alexandria National Cemetery
The last soldier killed in the Civil War was William J. Williams, who is buried at Alexandria. The battle of Palmito Ranch took place at the border of Texas and Mexico one month after the official end of the war. Mr. Williams’s 34th Indiana regiment fought unsuccessfully with two Buffalo Soldier regiments against the remaining Confederate soldiers. When Fort Brown, near Brownsville, Texas, was closed in 1909, the remains of Mr. Williams and 1537 other Union soldiers were reinterred at the Alexandria Cemetery. He once again joined the ranks of 57 Buffalo Soldiers also buried here.
|North Africa American Cemetery, Tunis, Tunisia|
|Gettysburg Address in Alexandria National Cemetery - Part of Campaign to|
Put the Address in all National Cemeteries
Sunday, October 27, 2013
|Squirrel at Alexandria Zoo - This one's safe.|
We arrived in Alexandria, Louisiana on the first day of squirrel hunting season for which some school districts have been known to acknowledge by letting out classes. At the luncheon tea room, The Cottage, a large table of women dressed in camouflage laughed about the men in their construction company office taking the day off to hunt, allowing the ladies to dress much more casually. Last night’s football game was called the Squirrel Bowl as it is the only game played on a Thursday rather than under Friday night lights so that players can hunt the next day.
|Penny Dartigo showing off freshly made cracklins|
|Terry Fogelman stirring cracklins|
Lady Bug’s boyfriend was cooking cracklins behind the food truck and drawing an eager crowd. Some even waited outside the chain link fence for the chance to buy it freshly cooked. Called by turns a jambalaya pot or cracklin pot, the cooking vessel is large, black, filled half-way with oil, and heated by propane. Terry Fogelman patiently stirred the bubbling pieces of pork fat with skin attached advising us to listen carefully for the crackle - like Rice Krispies - indicating it was done. The dish is served as a snack in a small paper bag and was more appealing fresh than those commercial products sold in plastic bags in grocery stores.
|Stuffed Alligator Above salad bar at Tunk's Cypress Inn|
|Deck around Turk's Cypress Inn on Kinkaid Lake|
With his Louisiana drawl, Mr. Thiels talked easily of the various bow and gun hunting seasons including those for wild alligator, ducks, and, of course, squirrels. He said his son could take us gigging for frogs, best found in rice fields when draining, and he would be happy to introduce coon hunting. Knowing that most of our crowd was from California, he admitted they never served anything organic except by accident. Mr. Thiels then gave his mental recipe for cooking squirrel with the same roux requirement as Lady Bug’s but he adds onions, bell peppers and tomato sauce. When asked how it tasted, he kidded with a straight face, “like cat”. It was no surprise his 35 year old restaurant is a favorite for family gatherings, Mardi Gras parties and receptions.
|Alligator at Alexandria Zoo|
While my previous experiences with Louisiana offerings were probably more extensive than my traveling companions, I enjoyed watching their willingness to try it all. And the pride and ease with which the cooks used native animals, ingredients and family recipes simply confirmed Louisiana’s reputation for unique cuisine throughout the state. Now, if they could just figure out alligator sushi for my California friends.
Alexandria, Louisiana Offerings for the Tourist
Tunk's Cypress Inn
LeCompte's Pie Festival
Lucky Palace Restaurant
Monday, October 14, 2013
|Benny and Nada Mehmeti|
Benny’s history certainly bore out this scenario. By ethnicity an Albanian, he grew up in what was then Yugoslavia but is today Macedonia. Benny always liked America. When a cousin returned to visit from the USA with tales of earning $100/week, Benny decided to escape to Italy to a refugee camp. From there he made his way to Chicago where he joined his brother and uncle and began his now 44 year career in the restaurant business. He started as a dishwasher at a Greek restaurant, progressed to busboy and then bartender. When enough money was saved, he bought a diner with his brother. Thus began 20 years of buying and selling restaurants, living in Dallas and Chicago, and finally in 2001 purchasing Cappizzi’s in Paris.
I asked him about the number of Albanians owning Italian restaurants. He said if you see a small Italian restaurant, there’s a very good chance it’s owned by an ethnic Albanian. Many Albanian immigrants entered the U.S. in New York where they first worked in Italian restaurants. Traditionally, the restaurant business is an obvious but challenging place for a new immigrant to start. Once they learned to cook Italian food, they began buying their own restaurants. The dad would cook, the mother worked out front and the children helped where needed. For Albanians, the Italian restaurant industry has been equivalent to Indians owning hotels, and Vietnamese working as nail technicians.
The original plan was to stay in Paris for five years but the Mehmetis were so well received they stayed. The restaurant quickly attracted a following thanks to Nada’s incredible smile and warm nature. She never forgets a face and is always offering a helping hand. They built upon the business that had been started by the two previous Albanian owners. Benny began to coach soccer, a sport he played wherever he lived. He was so successful that their son, Ilme, is now the captain of the PJC soccer team. Benny is a familiar presence at Ilme’s games, decked out in one of his 34 hats.
I decided to talk to other Italian restaurants in the area to determine if all were owned by ethnic Albanians. In Clarksville, Alek and Aurora Lleshi own the downtown Italian Bistro, rated the number one restaurant in that town on Trip Advisor and featured in Texas Highways magazine. Alek’s family has a strong connection with Italy as his parents lived in Florence but they are native Albanians. Alek is eager to make you feel welcome. His speech is filled with appreciation for his family and how well received they’ve been in Clarksville. The restaurant has a loyal following who enjoy the food and Alek’s attention.
What I enjoyed in meeting these families was the consistency of their respect for the United States. Two of them described their life here as “being reborn”. All thanked God for their families and opportunities. “God Bless America” said Johnny Dervishi many times. And I say, “ God Bless Albanians” for their enthusiasm and contributions to America.
Sunday, September 29, 2013
|St. Martin's Cathedral Where 11 Kings and 8 Queens were crowned|
When Czechoslovakia internally parted ways in 1989, Bratislava became capital of the new country of Slovakia and Prague governed the Czech republic. Slovakia differs significantly from its western twin -
less prosperous and more Catholic and rural. Its roots reach deep into Hungary, a part of the Habsburg monarchy for almost 400 years. Strangely, the centrally placed Bratislava was a favorite coronation destination for the royals. Eleven kings and eight queens were crowned at its St. Martin’s cathedral, including Maria Theresa of Austria.
Historical Bratislava suffered greatly under communism. Two-thirds of the buildings in Old Town were cleared for highway and bridge construction as well as for building large, impersonal prefab apartments. The comparison to its charming and well-preserved sister capital of Prague is tragic. Today, thanks to increasing numbers of tourists, Bratislava has restored what it could and relies on its energy to be quite welcoming.
|Marianna Gajanova and Betty Swasko|
|Betty Swasko and daughter, Kristi Swasko|
Volkswagen was the first major automobile company to set up shop in Bratislava in 1994. Since then, the company has continued to expand, producing through the years the Passat, VW GolfA3, Polo, and AudiQ7 as well as many parts for other cars. Peugeot-Citroen and Kia followed suit in 2004 , meaning Slovakia makes more cars per capita than any other country in the world and is known as the Detroit of Europe. This industry’s presence has lifted many Slovakians from the countryside into relative prosperity.
Happily, Mariana’s English was quite good, and we visited over a typical dinner of dumplings, cabbage, ham, sour cream, and beer. When asked if she liked beer, she smiled, “I’m Slovakian, aren’t I?” We learned Mariana is now an assembly planner for SUV door systems for Volkswagen and Audi and her boyfriend, Rado, works as an internal auditor for CEIT Consutling that provides external support for Volkswagen. They drive a Volkswagen, of course, and because of expensive real estate prices in Bratislava, have bought a house 24 miles outside of town. Despite their strong earning capacity (especially in Slovakia), 25% of their salaries goes to taxes with the house payment eating up more. They have to plan carefully to even visit her home 200 miles away.
Marianna knows she’s fortunate to have her job and to be living where she does. She was only two when the regime fell but heard from many that under communism, everyone had a job and seemed happier. That may be true of her parents’ generation but Marianna took advantage of her country’s education and now participates and excels in a very capitalistic world. Her generation is the hope for Slovakia. And the truth is, both Slovakia and the United States are lucky to have those Swasko genes.
Sunday, September 15, 2013
|The Harbor at Rockwall, Texas|
Pop quiz - Where does Rockwall, Texas get its name? I felt foolish after learning the answer. Rockwall is named after the rock wall discovered in the 1850's - just about the time the community was formed. At five miles long, it comes with its own controversy - is it a geological formation or the work of a lost civilization? History 2 Channel will try to answer that in a November program called “America Unearthed.” Regardless of the answer, Rockwall is a surprisingly pleasant week-end getaway spot.
Rockwall is old for Texas, platted in 1854, ten years after Paris. It was a stop on the National Road of the Republic of Texas that brought early settlers to Dallas after crossing the Red River near Clarksville. Rockwall stayed viable with agriculture and later, the railroad, until Dallas’ economy took off in the 1900s and left the town behind.
More recent history explains how a sleepy, little Texas town (11,000 residents in 1990 ) grew 400 per cent in 20 years to become one of the wealthiest in the state (median household income in 2012 $77,500 compared to $49,000 for Texas). Two decisions changed the community’s trajectory. In 1969, construction of Lake Ray Hubbard, bisected by the recently completed I-30, turned Rockwall into a lake town. Dallas just had to grow enough for Rockwall to scoop up commuters. And in 2003, local government entities and developers, Sara and Rob Whittle, signed on to a vision of the Harbor. The City committed lake front park space, the County gave tax incentives and the Whittles built a lakeside Hilton Hotel in 2008. New stores and restaurants followed along the boardwalk. Summer concerts and a sunset harbor cruise appeared. It would be easy to just hang around the lake but there’s more downtown.
|Funky Life House Bakery and Disc Golf|
Truthfully, downtown Rockwall does not have the “bones” to build on that Paris does. It was a poor relation compared to Paris in earlier years. But what Rockwall lacks in historical buildings, it makes up with money. An $8.5 million bond issue passed recently to renovate downtown. Sidewalks will be replaced, seating walls built, a pedestrian street developed, and parking lots brought close. Three solid restaurants already stand on or near the square - Bin 303, Zanata’s and The Fatted Calf (which has a wonderful Sunday Brunch). New stores are opening. In visiting with employees, waitresses, and owners, all love being downtown and in Rockwall. The designer at Expressions Home Decor increased her walk-in traffic significantly since her move to the center of town. A waitress at Bin 303 confessed she never crosses the lake as everything she needs is close-by. At Enjoy, a kitchen store, the salesperson had only recently relocated to Rockwall from Dallas and hoped never to return.
With an average age of 36 (you read that right), that population’s interests are emphasized. The City has miles of trails built by the city and required of developers. An unusually large Home Brewer Association provides beer tasting at events. Two heavily used disc golf courses are available. The San Martino Winery hosts live music events weekly. And, of course, the lake fills with boats of all kinds on week-ends.
Bethany realizes much is happening in Rockwall. An e-mail that day named eight new restaurants coming to town, including Mellow Mushroom, Fuddrucker, Dunkin Donuts and The Londoner. With growth, comes traffic and Rockwall has this in spades. I-30 speaks for itself but the numbers of trucks and cars passing alongside downtown was also notable. The city and county are small and are quickly being filled in meaning the presence of road construction is constant. But when faced with rising student population, the Rockwall school district chose to build a second 4-A high school rather than offer one huge 5-A school - another attempt to keep a small town feel to the community.
Rockwall is an easy drive from Paris with big city restaurants, hotel, waterfront, trails and shopping. If you are there on a week-day, don't miss the new beautiful, cathedral like Rockwall County Courthouse with its state of the art electronics and a touching veterans memorial next door. And Bethany let me in on a little known route. When returning to Paris, try driving north on 205 to Farmersville and then take Highway 78 to 82. You’re quickly out of developments and into rolling hills - a lovely drive back home after your stay in Rockwall. It’s worth the extra time, she promises.
Bin 303 - Bin 303 Website - Try the Bin Burger
Zanata's - Zanata's Website
The Fatted Calf - The Fatted Calf Website
Sunday, September 8, 2013
|Reception Area on Second Floor of Pension Pertschy|
I remember the room - beds for six, high ceilings, large windows opening to the street below. It was 1969 and my family had been traveling in Europe for weeks, arriving in Vienna on July 17th. The large, friendly woman in reception at the Pension Pertschy offered to house us all in one room. “Talk about togetherness”, commented my mother in her diary. Mom had booked the pension upon recommendation of “Europe on $5 a Day”, the book that opened up a world of economic travel in Europe. In the heart of historic Vienna, the hotel’s location allowed us to walk to St. Stephen’s Cathedral, Vienna State Opera, Spanish Riding School and the Albertina museum.
|Finished Exterior dates from 1605|
Fast forward forty four years to 2013. My friends and I were planning a trip to Vienna and one recommended the Pension Pertschy based on its location and price. Only after reviewing my mother’s diary did I realize it was the same hotel we had used in 1969. Since it was still owned by the same family, I wanted to know what had happened in the last four decades and asked to speak with a family member upon arrival.
Licia Pertschy is married to Thomas, son of the original owners of the pension. His father was Hungarian whose family left for Canada when the Communists arrived. His mother was German who moved to Canada for the adventure. They met in Toronto, married and had two children there. Mr. Pertschy’s sister, Therese (Aunt Resi), wrote them of an opportunity to buy a pension in Vienna. After purchasing the pension together in 1964, the family moved to Vienna where their son, Thomas, was born. Aunt Resi would have been the woman who greeted us in 1969.
The business began with a reception area, washroom, and 12 rooms that had housed military students from a nearby academy. Being named in “Europe on $5 a Day” was a huge boost for them. Over the years, the family added rooms as they became available with 55 rooms now used by guests. In 2005, a large, exterior elevator replaced the small, cramped one we used in 1969. The family works hard to maintain its four star rating, a rating system that is less about luxury and more about safety, security and certain amenities.
|Breakfast Buffet at Pension Pertschy|
|Breakfast Buffet at Pension Perstchy|
Their guests have always included Americans but I didn’t hear many of our accents at breakfast. Licia noted a larger number of Spaniards now visiting. Statistics bear out the changing face of visitors to Vienna. Germans and Austrians are the largest groups, as always. But in 2012, Russian tourists surpassed the number from the United States, China’s travelers grew by 40% and Saudi Arabians’ by 76% - all contributing to a record year.
|Courtyard of Pension Pertschy|
Pension Pertschy Website
Sunday, August 18, 2013
|Memorial to the Roma and Sinti Victims|
Monuments and memorials can commemorate heroes such as Washington and Lincoln or acknowledge sacrifice of Vietnam’s soldiers. They are also useful to publicly display regret at a past event. In this mea culpa category, Berlin, Germany has finally owned up.
It took 60 years for Berlin to build a memorial to the six millions Jews killed under Hitler’s regime. The delay had its reasons. Facts were painful to face. Many Germans were ignorant of the holocaust and placed blame on their leaders. Berlin was divided. Germany was busy rebuilding a broken country. Only after the two Germanys reunited in 1990, worked out the many details and finances of reunification, and moved the capital back to Berlin was the country ready to face its past here. And, as with most memorials, controversy surrounded the attempts to display the compromised past.
Every decision for the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe was debated. Location (Berlin or nearer a concentration camp) and design (12 artists submitted ideas) had to be approved. Who was being remembered - just Jews or others murdered? And an unexpected controversy appeared when the IG Pharmacy Company provided anti-graffiti paint for the blocks despite the company’s association with producing the nerve gas used in concentration camps. These agitations disappeared once the memorial was completed.
|Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe|
No names are engraved on the 2711 solid concrete stele and each is a unique size. The arrangement of the blocks yields strong images - a graveyard, cattle cars, camp barracks. From the outside, it is not obvious how deep the blocks descend, symbolic of the public’s ignorance of the Jews’ plight. From the inside, visitors feel the hopelessness of internment in a camp. Yet children dashed about, playing hide and go seek as teenagers huddled here and there - the classic image of life moving on which it has. After World War II, only 5,000 Jews remained in Berlin out of 180,000. Today that number has grown to 40,000 made up mostly of Russian Jews who have been welcomed by the city.
To acknowledge other groups targeted by the Nazi regime, Berlin built more memorials. Gays had to also wait until 2008 for their own monument. A slit window in a concrete enclosed structure allows visitors to watch a video of a gay couple kissing. Its controversy centered on whether to include lesbians as most of the discrimination occurred against male couples. As a compromise, the film alternates every two years between female and male couples.
At the Gypsy memorial to the Roma and Sinti victims, just opened in 2012, traditional Roma music plays. Designed by Israeli artist Dani Karavan, the still water pool features a triangular stone pillar, symbolic of the triangle badge required to be worn by this population. A new flower is placed in the center daily.
|Outdoor Reading Library at Bebelplatz|
|Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and Concentration Camp Victim|
The subject of memorials in Berlin generates strong feelings among those who feel it necessary to acknowledge culpability and those who feel it’s time to move on. Complaints of too much hand-wringing are becoming more common. As our guide said, “Memory is tricky in Berlin”. With the Nazi and Communist histories, the argument will always be what to remember and what to forget. Monuments and memorials make it much harder to forget.
Recommended Guide - Heather Mae Ellis, an American living in Berlin.
Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Tuesday, July 30, 2013
|Rita Gillooly, Mary Clark and Beth Ferree - Friends from Houston days|
I met Rita Gillooly in the lounge of the University of Houston law school in 1974. She was also eating a sack lunch alone. We were both transfer students from other law schools and naturally gravitated to each other. Our differences were stark despite her being only three days older. Rita grew up in public housing in Boston and I was a farmer’s daughter from the panhandle of Texas. No one in her family drove a car and I had my license at age 14. My family traveled extensively and hers got no further than a summer jaunt to Cape Cod. Yet, we bonded, stayed in touch, and in June, I finally got to experience Boston through Rita’s history.
|117 Garfield Avenue is on the right|
The Gillooly family immigrated from Ireland to join the many Irish in Boston. With such an unusual name, anyone claiming it had to be kin to Rita. She knew of 35 first cousins. Her father delivered mail and her mother cared for the four children. Rita candidly disclosed that her father’s drinking caused instability in the family. They moved often with occasional residence in public housing (Rita attended 5 schools in 7 years), before settling in Hyde Park, a nice neighborhood south of Boston proper. Though surrounded by middle class homes, her cul-de-sac ended in several two story, three bedroom public apartment buildings. Theirs was number 117 Garfield Avenue.
When we visited it, Rita was shocked at the quietness - empty stoops, vacant street, and no hordes of children playing on the back yard monkey bars. She noted window air units had been added since her time, possibly the source for the minimal activity. Rita pointed out one apartment where she had done Mrs. Carroll’s hair and the O’Grady and O’Hara families’ homes where she babysat. All earned money went for clothes as she avoided the outfits bought by her mother at Salvation Army’s thrift store.
|Boston bomb memorial in Copley Square|
At home, Rita’s mother knew the value of education and played word games with the kids, surrounded them with books and alw
ays had paper and pens ready for writing. Even though the TV was often on, her mother would lay a board over a chair for each to do homework. Her father was harder to please. Despite her excellent grades (she graduated 3rd in her class), her father would look at the report card and always say, “Room for Improvement”.
Her life changed forever when a school counselor suggested she apply to Brown University, a nearby Ivy League school. She had never heard of Brown, and never been to Providence, despite its proximity at the end of her train line. The school was full of far wealthier students and Rita realized quickly she needed to tone down her strong working class accent. After getting her undergraduate and law degrees and practicing in Texas for several years, Rita returned to Boston in 1985.
|Charles River, Boston|
|Swan Boats in Boston's Public Garden|
At the Public Garden, across from the Boston Common, we saw the famous swan boats ferrying tourists and families around a small lake. Rita’s mother would bring the four kids downtown once a year to ride the boats, an experience they loved. And nearby we walked by the headquarters of the insurance giant, Liberty Mutual, where Rita now works in the legal department.
Rita is not bitter about her father’s drinking nor does she indulge in self-pity. She and her husband raised two children in Canton, only two train stops from her family’s apartment on Garfield Avenue in Hyde Park. Her journey to a home in the suburbs with good schools is the American dream. I missed seeing many famous sites of Boston but the city became more real with Rita as the guide - a place for immigrants to settle and thrive and where a self-motivated, smart child of the projects could use a good education to expand her world.
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