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There were a lot of things Mom did and did really well.
But I don’t want to talk about the gardening or the painting, the travel or the photography — I want to talk about something quite small that is actually really big — how she was amazing at making a house a home.
We know a house is really nothing more then a building and a collection of rooms, some furniture.
But a home is a place where you feel comfortable. it is a retreat from a busy, bossy world. A home is a place where you want to invite family and friends and where they feel welcome.
Mom made all of her houses into homes and we always felt welcome there.
141 MAIN STREET
141 Main Street in Farmington was a home.
In High School I wanted to spend all of my time there. All of my friends wanted to spend all of their time there. In fact when I moved out my friend Joe Vitti, moved in.
How is that? I think it was because Mom welcomed people in, wanted them to be comfortable. She didn’t wrap the place with rules. Instead she took the time to connect with people and we in turn wanted to spend time with her.
5 PERRIN ROAD
The ability to open up her home to friends and family and family friends she definitely got from her mom.
I think it is fair to say at least 1/2 of the extended Baker / Barry family tree lived at Grandmere’s house at 5 Perrin Road at one point or another. And the other half of the time it was full of our friends. Grandmere made a house a home by bringing big stories and great jokes, and gregarious dinners.
Mom was less about the party — she made a house a home by filling it with interesting things from far away places, art books she would pull down and reference for some project. She would listen to All Things Considered while cooking in the kitchen and spread out the New York Times Sunday edition in the dinning room to read throughout the week.
She was perfectly content to work away in the sunny sewing room in Farmington and listen to the Metropolitan Opera. She didn’t drive herself crazy with unrealistic expectations. She felt at home.
The psychologists say a home is about a place you feel safe and you can welcome your family, welcome your friends.
When I think about Mom’s home in Newburyport I don’t think about the tour of the gardens, the walks through Maudsley park or the Newburyport Art Fair. I don’t think about using Mom’s precious Plum Island pass to find the one open parking lot not occupied by endangered Puffin Plovers.
I remember the lobster dinners. All of us or some of us or just me and mom at her dining room table eating lobster.
Godfrey, I sure when you decided to fly the Piper Cub into Newburyport it was part the challenge of landing on that short grass field with an almost guaranteed cross wind, but really it was Mom’s lobster dinner.
And Lucy, I know the time it took to research the lost corners of the family tree and crafting the stories into a framed piece for mom — wasn’t it really about the lobster dinners? Making them even better as we talked about family connections?
Now Cyn, coming from Maine I don’t think it was about the lobster. In fact I’m pretty sure for a while you didn’t eat lobster, and you may not even like lobster, but I can say that Mom couldn’t find the words to explain how much she appreciated the time you gave her, particularly in the last few years in Newburyport and then in Portland. You would have all of the lobsters from Portland to Bar Harbor.
But it really isn’t about the lobsters. It is about the time you give and the time you get to spend together.
And there is one more place I’d like to talk about. It is this place.
It is funny, I don’t think I realized how much Mom loved this place until after Aunt Joan passed and we started working together to go through the house and figure out how to fix it up.
For Mom this was a place where in the fifties she had great, great friends. Women she went to Barnard with. Guys, like Jack North, who unfortunately couldn’t be here today. I learned last week that she took Jack to her coming out cotillion in Boston and he took her to his senior ball at Hotchkiss.
Later it was a home where she could relax and enjoy time with her father. Hearing about the manuscripts he and Aunt Joan were working on or simply sitting on the porch and enjoying the view.
We wouldn’t have this place if it wasn’t for Mom. And Uncle Herb. I hope we can make this house as much a home as she could, even without the lobster.
Because the best way to remember her is to learn from her incredible life and learn like her how to make a house a home.