To Vermont….and Back

I like to think of myself as spontaneous and adventurous….but in reality, my life isn’t nearly as wild as I wish it was. Three kids, a full-time job, a husband that only has one weekend day off…it happens. So, when Jason suggested I take an impromptu road-trip to from Georgia to Vermont, I initially blew it off. There was no way that I could just pick up and drive 1200 miles with a 3 year old and a 7 month old, alone, in a week.

…Is there?

Jason’s mind has no limits. It would have been just as likely for him to suggest I go to the moon for a week (and then stare at me incredulously while I explained why that wasn’t possible). I’m a little more practical. Sometimes TOO practical, I suppose.

…so I went.

I drove up there, stopping at my sister’s house in New Jersey for the night, with no plans beyond the Grace PotterGood Night Irene” benefit concert that I’d procured tickets to a couple days earlier. I didn’t want to fill the week with obligations and plans and hours driving around the state. I just wanted to go. And be. And let things happen.

And things did happen. I had several chance meetings with old friends on the street and in restaurants. I took the kids to a local high school soccer game. I wandered around a farmer’s market with my baby in a sling, with absolutely no other responsibility or schedule. We even caught a Bread & Puppet performance with some old family friends (another family that we’d traveled to Glover with to see B&P’s annual Pageant and & Circus when we were kids…this time we were there with OUR kids).

It was wonderful to be home. Wonderful to be surrounded by so many people who care about community and their neighbors and the state of the world. It’s something I miss so much living in GA. Sure, there are people like that…but they’re few and far between…sigh, that’s a whole other post.

It was wonderful to be able to stop and relax and smile. For some reason, it’s different here. My life is different here.

So, here I am, back in Georgia. I spent yesterday angry at the world because I have to be here and because I have to go to work and because I don’t get to lie around reading books in my everyday life. Tomorrow I’m going to start fresh (Today’s just a transitional day during which I write a blog post about what I’m doing).

I’ve said this before, but I’m going to try and get my focus back to simplifying my life. A re-calibration, if you will. There’s not as much “Simply” in my “Jess” as there should be (sorry, that was corny, but I just kept thinking it).

If I can’t be in Vermont…I might as well bring the Vermont spirit with me back to Georgia.

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Doing What We Can

While the East Coast was bracing for Hurricane Irene and everybody was panicking about New York City, Jason and I sat in our Atlanta area home, watched the projected path and remarked “Whoa, that’s going right through Vermont…and those rivers are going to flood.” We had no idea that it would rival the Great Flood of 1927 or that it would literally cut our hometowns off from the rest of the state.

We expected some water damage, but we never expected that rushing water would wipe out entire roads.

We didn’t realize that our friends’ homes and offices would literally fill with water.

(Photo by Megan Schultz)

And we never imagined that the unthinkable would happen.

When the water had cleared, and we’d finally heard from our loved ones, we wondered “What can we do?”. We felt completely powerless and ached to be there to help. Within a day, we started seeing Facebook status updates from friends elsewhere in the country expressing the same sadness, frustration and feelings of helplessness. Once a Vermonter, always a Vermonter.

While I started pitching stories at work, relaying information from person to person about the conditions of roads & pimping t-shirts, Jason realized that he needed to get his hands dirty. He needed to feel his muscles ache from hard work. He needed to be there.

So, that’s where we are. In 2 weeks, Jason will head up to Vermont. He’ll work wherever he’s needed and do whatever he can. By that time, things will be organized enough that a week’s worth of work by one person will make even more of an impact. Exhaustion will be setting in, and he’ll be able to relieve residents.

The cool thing about all these little towns in VT is that a little will go a long way. Please consider donating whatever you can (no matter how small). 100% of this money benefit communities that Jason will be serving.

And if anyone would like to help in any way at all, travel with him, meet up, send something specific (this is all very fluid right now), let us know!!

Peace, Love & Maple Syrup,
Jessica

Sitting in My Hometown Sun

For the past week, I’ve been trying to figure out what to write about my family’s trip to Vermont (our annual pilgrimage to the mother-land).

Here are the points that I wanted to convey:

  • I grew up in VT
  • I no longer live there
  • I did not appreciate it when I was there
  • I miss it now
  • Being in VT brings me a certain happiness that nothing else does

I’ve spent a week’s worth of commutes to and from work trying to decide what exactly I’d say…how I’d even start.  Admittedly, I’m still in my post-vacay, “why the hell do I have to live in GA?”, pissed off at the world period, so whatever I wrote was probably going to be pretty jumpy and emotional.  Don’t worry, I get like this every year.

The more I thought about it, the more one particular song ran through my head.  First, it was the words….then it was the tune….and suddenly I couldn’t think of anything else:

When I Die  –The Waifs

When I die won’t you bury me
In the town where I was born
Most of my life I’ve been rambling free
When I die I want to come back home

Ever since I was a baby child
I knew I was born to roam
I had to climb to the top of the hill
Just to see what lies beyond
Now seasons change and I am still the same
I don’t belong to anyone
Still a piece of me will always be
Sitting in my hometown sun

In my time I have seen ten thousand setting suns
And I made my bed where I lay my head
And it never hurt anyone
It could be said that a girl like me
Ain’t nothing but a prodigal son
And just like that prodigal boy I’m gonna finish off where I’ve begun

Do I dream about moving back to Vermont?  Absolutely.

Does living in VT look this good because I see it as unattainable right now?  Probably.

Do I have doubts that I’d be happy actually living there?  Yep.

Who knows what will happen.  But one thing is for sure…a piece of me will always be sitting in my hometown sun.

(this is the view of my parents’ house if you’re sprawled on the grass in their front yard on a beautiful, sunny day)


Vermont the Top Maple Syrup Producer of 2009

Well…yeah.  It’s not even close!

From the Burlington Free Press website:

U.S. sugarhouses this year produced 2.3 million gallons of syrup.

The top states:

Vermont: 920,000 gallons
Maine: 395,000 gallons
New York: 362,000 gallons
Wisconsin: 200,000 gallons
Michigan: 115,000 gallons
Source: US Department of Agriculture

As ‘VTmountainMan’ commented “this is considered news?”.  He has a good point though, it would be interesting to see Quebec’s numbers.  Although Vermont OBVIOUSLY has a superior product  (not that I’m at all biased…..)

Church Street’s Hot Dog Lady

This is the post that I was GOING to make yesterday…..

From the WCAX website:

Burlington Honors Hot Dog Lady

Burlington, Vermont – November 7, 2009

 The Queen of Hot Dog’s in Vermont was honored Saturday.  Lois Bodoky, known to most as “The Hot Dog Lady”, received red carpet treatment today.  For 28 years Bodoky operated a hot dog cart on Church Street.  She retired in 2005.

 Saturday, the city unveiled a plaque outside Homeport, honoring her years of service to hungry customers. The location is where she operated the cart after her beauty shop burned down in the 70s.  Bodoky says she misses her customers, especially feeding the needy for free.

“There wasn’t a child that didn’t like a hot dog. I remember one day a little boy coming down the street here, and he was crying, and his mother had told him he couldn’t have a hot dog. And so as they got closer, I understand what was going on, and I said to the mother, do you mind if I give him a hot dog, and she said, no, and he took the hot dog in his hands, it was a day like today, cold, and he said this is warm. I love it, made my day,” Bodoky recalled.

Bodoky isn’t fully retired. Even though she is no longer selling hot dogs on the Church Street Marketplace, she hands out food samples at Costco in Colchester.

 

Thanks For the Memories Div

During the summer of 1997, between my Sophomore and Junior years of college, I had what I like to call my “Vermont Student Summer”. During the day I’d scoop Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, sometimes AT the Vermont Teddy Bear factory. And at the end of the day, I’d drive straight up Shelburne Road to my internship in the Sports Department at WCAX. I’d arrive during the 6p newscast (usually smelling of cream and chocolate) and be settled by the time the show was ending and the anchors were filing out of the studio.

Compared to the newsroom I see every day now, WCAX was small and and pretty plain. But at the time, it was the most exciting place I could imagine. Nobody outside of Vermont will understand this, but I saw Marselis Parsons, Sharon Meyer and JJ Cioffi every day. EVERY DAY. Sure, it seems silly now. But, like any kid in any city, I’d grown up watching the local news team every night at 6:00. It didn’t matter that they were just up I-89 in Burlington…these people were on TV.

One of my favorite stories from that summer was when I was working at Ben & Jerrys one Saturday and Marselis Parsons, 6pm anchor and known to friends & colleagues as “Div”, walked into scoop shop. I was still rather new to the station and, being a sports intern, I hadn’t had that much contact with the newsroom team. Still, I saw somebody I recognized and my reflex was to smile and say Hi. For a second, I panicked and worried that he’d think I was an over-familiar fan or worse…a complete dork. Instead, he smiled warmly and said “Hi Jessica!” and introduced me to his entire group as “the newest intern on the sports crew”. Then he said “I wondered if I’d ever bump into you here.” After I scooped their ice cream, he left a good tip and told me he’d see me Monday. It should be said that this entire time there was not one other sound in the ice cream shop. Everyone was staring (some which their mouths open) and as soon as the door shut, they (co-workers, customers) were asking me how I knew Marselis Parsons. My manager later remarked that “Robert Redford came into the shop a few years ago and didn’t get even close to that reaction.”

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It’s been 10 years since I left Vermont for the glitz & glamour of 24 hours news, but I still love watching the WCAX 6pm news when I’m home. It just sounds comforting….the opening music, the news about agriculture, the softness (or complete lack) of the letter ‘T’. Marselis’ voice is the background while I’m helping my mom set the table or sitting on the couch with my dad. Unfortunately, next time I go home, the 6 o’clock news will be a little less familiar.

Tonight, Div will say good-bye to his WCAX viewers and the people who have spent a life-time watching him. He’ll wake up tomorrow retired and not having to be somewhere at 6:00 every night. After 42 years, he’ll have absolutely no professional obligation to know what’s happening in Vermont (although something tells me he’ll never quite turn away).

Unlike the long-time anchors in bigger markets, Parsons isn’t slick or flashy. He has no need to be. He’s not some Ron Burgundy-esque blow-hard, full of ego. He doesn’t have molded hair or strangely white veneers. He’s just a guy…the guy you get your news from.

But, you know, he’s still sort of a superstar to me.

Happy Retirement Div.

div