Ah, April. Somehow we’ve made it beyond the middle of the month, past the winter that came late but then wouldn’t leave, past the part where buds bloomed, then got covered with snow, then gave it another go. Hurrah for the second half of April when it feels like spring has arrived, finally, for good.
April was a month that had been looming on the calendar for my beloved’s family ever since December, when we gathered together and said a collective fond farewell to my father-in-law. We stood on the edge of Jackson Falls, back on Christmas day, for a lovely private moment that gave us a chance to connect and remember together. It was a moment that offered some sense of having said our piece before his ashes were scattered from atop a mountain he, and all of us, love so well. We all knew that we’d need to prepare for a big public memorial in April, after the ski season was done, before it was time to hike up to Tuckerman Ravine or put the boat in the lake. Georgie would have liked that, scheduling-wise.
Winter came, winter left, April dawned snowy and stayed chilly. One week in, on a lovely daffodil-bright Saturday, hundreds of people gathered in Concord, the town where my beloved and his family grew up. And there we spoke, we remembered, we shared stories and sang. We wiped away tears and gave and received hugs. It was a lovely day. A whole lovely weekend.
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Then came Opening Day of the Red Sox 2016 season, and then OneBoston day, and then the Boston Marathon, and then Patriots’ Day proper–events which come with memories of chilly Red Sox outings, and Concord battle reenactments and parade parties, and time spent standing on the side of the road, cheering friends and strangers alike on their runs from Hopkinton to Back Bay. The marathon, all by itself, is a stockpile of memories happy and sad–the one when my friend Joan set a world record, the one that ended in tragedy. So many memories, so many emotions.
Along with the April memories I share with the whole of Red Sox Nation and Boston Strong, I found myself revisiting my personal collection of Aprils-past recollections, this time around. There was the April I came home from the hospital, anxious to greet a new season with a new baby boy. There was the April that the great horned owls of Mt. Auburn gave birth to two fluffy owlets, and let us stand by in awe. There was the April I was walking to my radiation treatments, every morning, five days a week, and the April (just last year!) when I found myself wandering around my neighborhood on crutches, noticing things with a renewed vision for the smallest of details, the kind you only see when you slow down.
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I don’t know if I happen to have a particular knack for remembering things from Aprils in particular, or if April is just one of those months that I see with more clarity, while I’m living it. I’m guessing it’s probably the latter. The light is brighter and lasts longer, the trees are still bare, the world seems ready to burst forth. It certainly feels that way, this April, this day.
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Also: for those of you who remember and loved him, as well as for those of you who never met him, here’s my little offering from that Concord memorial:
Back when John and I were in courtship mode, I counted myself lucky to be folded into multiple Macomber family Concord traditions: Thanksgiving Day soccer games, wine tastings when GBHMCo employees gifted The Boss with their homemade vintages, and the annual April Bloody Mary mixing extravaganza, on the eve of the famous Macomber Pre-Marathon Patriots’ Day Parade Party. George played a major role in all these events–rating the wine, carving the turkey, mixing and pouring those zingy concoctions. One might presume that, as a man with many jobs to attend to, his role on the home front might have been limited to such celebratory occasions.
But George was so much more than a figurehead at home. Some of my favorite memories are of him in one of his less exalted roles: that is, as his own laborer. George’s idea of a perfect weekend day always included multiple competitive sports events and a vodka and tonic at sunset, but it also included time spent with a wheelbarrow or a chainsaw, wandering around his various realms, doing what needed to be done. In Concord, as in Jackson and at Bald Peak, he was the clear-cutter of the puckerbrush, the dead-header of lilies gone by, the defender of the view. There must have been something particularly grounding for him in the tasks that brought him close to the earth, to let the light in and clear his mind.
One Concord weekend morning, as I was returning from a Great Meadows run, I spotted George in the front yard with pruning shears in hand, wiping his brow and pointing my way as he chatted with the passengers in a car that had pulled over. The out-of-towners were gone by the time I caught up with George, who was already back at his project du jour, whacking back the overgrown lilac bushes.
“Wow,” I remember saying,”How many times do you think you’ve had to stop and give directions to tourists over the years?”
“Oh, lots of times,” George replied. Then he added, “I like to give directions. I like that people care enough to come see where the Old North Bridge is, where it all began.” And with that he went back to his lilacs, happy to have been of service to the strangers who were passing through.
George was a man of service. He helped so many people, so many organizations, so many institutions. He was a giant on multiple fronts. He was a person who cleared the paths, literal and figurative, for generations to come. He showed us all the way–how to be helpful, how to be generous, how to make the world a better place–at every stage of our lives, in every endeavor.
Thank you, Georgie.
Kristin H. Macomber
Macomber family member since 1983