(This blog tells my family's story. To see more, click "blog" at the top of this webpage.)
I transferred to the Coop clothing department from textbooks. Everyone I worked with was under-employed and many had more than one college degree. That set the stage for interesting philosophy and political debates while we folded and refolded endless Harvard sweatshirts for big displays. I had friends at the Coop, but no close friends.
Everyone Beth and I met had a story.
Harvard students stood out in one way or another in addition to strong academics. With the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) down the street, a freshman joke claimed that MIT students were smart but Harvard students were interesting.
Cambridge was nothing if not interesting. I grew up near Cleveland in Lorain, Ohio, the International City. Many cultures had settled in Lorain, along with some of my ancestors, drawn by the jobs at the steel mill and shipyards. Cambridge beat Lorain in diversity hands down. My co-workers hailed from India, Germany, Iran, Russia, Kenya, Ireland, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, and more.
For the first time in my life, I numbered among the distinct minority as a white American.
One morning, I walked back to my apartment from my job in the Quad and drove the car to the grocery store and laundromat before my shift at the Coop. Running short on time, I parked on the outskirts of Harvard Square. When my shift ended at 9 p.m., the car wasn't there. I blamed the misleading parking signs and called the police to find out where it had been towed. Not recognizing the address, I walked to the taxi line on Mass Ave.
My taxi driver weaved through many dark streets as the fare ticked up to over twenty-five dollars. At the lot, I also paid the towing charge and received a hefty parking ticket. Finally behind the wheel in Beth’s blue car, I looked at a city map to figure out how to get back. I found the lot within walking distance of the Square, only a short distance northeast. Or a brief drive. I knew parking tickets translated to big bucks for the city of Cambridge, but I hadn’t realized the boon for taxi drivers as well, when they drove the long, long way to the tow lot.
In the news, Christopher Reeve’s death hit me unexpectedly hard.
He had been quadriplegic, a diagnosis Beth shared. A pressure sore on his back became infected and strong antibiotics no longer worked for him after nine years of frequent health issues with a high spinal cord injury. John and I carried the Reeve Foundation's Superman tags and supported the nonprofit’s research and resources. The message of hope on the tags said, “Go Forward.” We mourned Reeve’s passing, a grim reminder of the risks of quadriplegia.
. . . And I bought more antibiotic cream to treat the leg and foot abrasions Beth acquired from swimming.
Next: A Boston Thanksgiving!
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