Posts

On Alzheimers, Irish singalongs and History

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 My mom loved St. Patrick's Day. The retinue of "deedle-lee-dee" gave her great joy. At some point in the week leading up to the holiday, there would be singing in person or over the phone, depending on where I lived.  Her favorite song was "McNamara's Band" and she would giggle every time " Henessee Tennessee tootles the flute" was sung in the chorus.  She also loved that classic of Irish America, which has grown on me over the years, " If you're Irish come into the parlour." (In this version by the Irish Rovers, the two songs are played together.)   I hated it when I was younger for the clippy-clappiness of it.  Now, older and having lost my mom, there is something about the "big songs" of the Irish American songbook that cheer and ground me. I miss her "welcome mat" and the song, for a moment, returns it to me. When I spend time with my father these days, it is in a car.  We go for drives on Sundays a couple t

PEM Event, "Witch Trials and Salem Then and Now"

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 Last month, I had the pleasure of joining a panel hosted by Dan Lipcan of the Phillips Library and moderated by public historian Kristin Harris about the legacies of the Salem Witch Trials.  There are many events in Salem around Halloween that invoke, in one way or another, the witch hysteria that tore Salem apart in 1692 and led to the execution of 29 people.  This one, however, was different.  With Fara Wolfson from Voices Against Injustice and Erica Feldmann, who started HausWitch Home + Healing as part store, part community center and informal educational hub for 21st century witches,  Harris invited us to explore what the history of Salem means and how contemporary pa gans, wiccans and witches in Salem and around the world orient towards the town and its most celebrated holiday, Halloween.     You can watch the presentation here .  Be sure to let me know what you think.    

Book Talk at Wistariahurst Museum on Derry City

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 The lovely people at Wistariahurst invited me to talk about Derry City and people got to jump in and ask questions, which was really fun.  The talk is a little different, though obvs the themes are the same! Let me know what you think! To learn more about my book, Derry City , click here .  To receive a 40% discount, enter   14SUM21 at the UND website until August 15th. (Hint: type, don't copy and paste, the code.)

Book Talk at the Malden Public Library on Zoom September 3, 2020

  Want to hear more about my book?  You can watch an author talk here . To receive a 40% discount, enter   14SUM21 at the UND website until August 15, 2021. (Hint: type, don't copy and paste, the code.)

Two Civil Rights Leaders at the Pearly Gates

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It is rare that I speculate about the after life and rarer still that I anthropomorphize it, but I suppose childhood visions of heaven get stuck in our heads.   I amused myself while trying to fall asleep last night with this vision. The line-up was longer than usual at check-in, due to COVID-19 and the sheer psychic exhaustion of 2020.  C.T. Vivian and John Lewis stood in the line and were enjoying a catch-up when someone shuffled up behind them. "Yes, lads. What are we at?" Their first reaction was alarm.  Lads??????  They turned around slowly.  "Oh, it's OK.  It's just John Hume from Derry. Great to see you, John."   "Good to see youse both." As they began with pleasantries fit for men of their situation (Do you think they'll have baps/fritters/fifteens/fill-in-the-blank -- because the doctor has had me on a scarcity diet for the past two decades.....,) they were interrupted by a call from an ambient loudspeaker inviting "Joh

Strawberry Queen

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In case you missed it on Historians Cooking the Past , I am posting my essay about my mom,  Janice Weigand Shea, here. June 30, 2020 If he had a tail, my father's would have been wagging. He would dash from wherever he was when the car approached the driveway and stand at the screen door, waiting. "Here she comes! All hail the Strawberry Queen!" My mother emerged from the shadows into the flourescent light of the garage, smile and sneer competing on her face as she kicked off muddy construction boots. "Oh, please." Still, she liked the title. Returning from a 16-hour work day at the pick-your-own strawberry farm she managed with fields in Plainville, Hamden and North Haven, Connecticut, she'd kiss him hello and head to the shower, first peeling off dirt-encrusted jeans and a tee shirt with a big red strawberry on it. My dad would bring her a cocktail or an icy glass of white wine and heat up whatev