WHERE IN THE WORLD IS CHELMSFORD?

What are the on-the-loose Lawsons doing in a small town in Massachusetts that neither of us had ever heard of? We’re making it our home for most of May. You’d think we’d have been familiar with Chelmsford; it’s been around a long time. Incorporated by a handful of people in 1655, Chelmsford now boasts a population of 34,000+. We’re here because it offered a B&B as close to Nashua, New Hampshire as we could afford. Nashua was our destination because that’s where Adam and Lauren and Nathanael Tomlinson live. We came to New England to see them.

Adam, Lauren, and Nathanael Tomlinson on Robert Frost’s farm.

Adam was my PA (Professor’s Assistant) at Emmanuel Christian Seminary before he deserted me to become one of the pastors of Crossway Christian Church in Nashua. When I told him we were coming to see how he turned out, he got even  by arranging with his senior pastor, Ron Kastens, for me to preach for the church and consult with the staff. Work, always work, even for people on the loose.

Lauren is important to us also, and not just as Adam’s long-suffering wife. One of the joys of living a long time is becoming acquainted with the descendants of old friends. Lauren is such a discovery. She’s the granddaughter of Ron and Garnett Eversole. Decades ago I preached a week-long meeting for Ron, then the pastor of the Christian church in Andover, Ohio. I’ve never forgotten the Eversoles or the always gray skies of Andover in the spring.

Imagine my delight when, many years later at a seniors retreat at White Mills camp in Kentucky, I met a delightful little lady who asked whether I knew her great-grandson-in-law at Emmanuel. She was speaking of Adam; he had married her great-granddaughter Lauren, granddaughter of the same Ron and Garnett. You see, you have to behave wherever you go. There’s almost always someone there who knows someone who knows you–and will tell[.

Nathanael testing the old-fashioned wringer at the Derry farm.

Even more important than Adam and Lauren is Nathanael, a happy, energetic, obviously sharp almost-three-year-old who, at least when we were around, showed none of the typical two-year-old symptoms. He spent the day with us at Robert Frost’s farm in Derry, N. H., and the Currier Museum of Art in Manchester, without obvious complaint. I was ready to quit before he was. [I wrote this paragraph before we were together for a second outing. That day we learned he is a normal two-year-old after all. Still pretty lovable, however!]

What a good day that was for this old English teacher. Robert Frost—to state the obvious—is one of America’s favorite poets. His Derry farm was his major inspiration. He lived there for only eleven years and wrote about it the rest of his life. In this rural setting he and Elinor and their three children prospered—more personally than financially, I should add, since he was a better poet than farmer.

Robert Frost Farm at Derry, New Hampshire

The residence was/is unadorned, a plain New England farmhouse with almost spartan furnishings. Everything about it took me down memory lane: the cast iron wood-burning cook stove just like my grandmother’s; the ten-party-line phone hanging on the wall complete with crank to wind it up and a fixed mouthpiece to speak into; the laundry tub and wringer; the two-seater outhouse, unheated and separate from the living area but still under the main roof–rather than at the end of a path, a practical accommodation to New England’s harsh winters.  The Singer sewing machine was almost identical to my grandmother’s; I used to play on its treadle when I was little, probably much to her annoyance.

The Hat and Adam examine Robert Frost’s books.

I walked through the house undoubtedly boring the rest of our group with my unending commentary on how things were back in my day. The Tomlinsons already knew I was old; they just didn’t realize how old! A large measure of my enjoyment of the farm came from recalling (to myself—no sense further boring everybody) the lines of many Frost poems, not a few of which have made their way into my speeches:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I–

      I took the one less traveled by,

     And that has made all the difference.

*******

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,

But I have promises to keep

And miles to go before I sleep,

And miles to go before I sleep.

                     *******

    “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall, that wants it down…”

    “Good fences make good neighbors.”

 

The Hat admires Currier Museum’s outdoor sculpture. It surely must signify something.

The Currier Museum of Art fooled me. I had suspected it was named for the Currier of the famous lithographers Currier and Ives, but it wasn’t. Nathaniel Currier and James Ives were two businessmen who printed over 7500 lithographs from 1857 to 1907. Those prints are highly valued today. I was eager to see them. But this museum isn’t about them.

Andrew Wyeth painting at the Currier Museum of Art
A Picasso in the Currier Museum of Art

Instead, it’s one of the finest small art museums we’ve visited, featuring paintings from Europe and America, photographs, sculptures, decorative and other arts. It was a pleasant surprise to view the Currier’s samples of works by Picasso, Matisse, Monet, O’Keeffe, Wyeth and even Grandma Moses.

A good example of modern art. Look closely–the cracks in this wooden bowl are stitched with some kind of fiber. I suspect it still leaks.

 

As usual, I was more taken with these giants than with some of the contemporary art, but even in this section I found myself not grumbling about the meaninglessness of the modern as I so often do when trying to figure out these “artistic” pieces.

On the whole, Nathanael and I had a good day. I think the adults in our group did, also.

I haven’t told you the whole story. There’s another reason we included New England in this Next Phase adventure. During our marriage we have lived in four of the five major sections of the lower 48: Northwest, Southeast, Midwest, Southwest. But not the Northeast. So here we are, parked for a while in the fifth, trying to soak up a little of its distinctive culture. We’re glad to be here. The weather’s been cool and wet (although in a couple of days the forecast is for a high of 91!). The houses look amazingly like what Cape Cod houses are supposed to look like. The accent quickly tells us who the natives are. The cost of living is just what we were afraid it would be. We won’t stay long. But the extra dollars are worth it.

The faux fireplace in our basement apartment feels just like the real thing!

Our home is the basement apartment of a large single-family dwelling. Suzette, our landlady, is attending to our every need. We both have always loved a fireplace, which the apartment doesn’t have. But what it does have is a faux fireplace, an electric heater with simulated logs and flames. Just looking at it makes us feel warmer, especially on gray, drippy days—days which feel so much like Western Oregon.

This is just our first post from Massachusetts. We’ll be back.

JOY’S PICK OF THE PICS

Grandma Moses’ painting at the Currier Museum of Art
Always something rather oddball at a museum featuring modern art.
Nathanael Tomlinson, a busy and charming little guy

15 thoughts on “WHERE IN THE WORLD IS CHELMSFORD?”

  1. Roy and Joy….our daughter Kathi and her family live in Bedford NH, just outside of Manchester…so close to where you are now! Kath and her husband Michael graduated from Milligan in 1996. I know they would welcome a visit IF you have time!! She has long been a fan of yours😊 We love New England and will be there in early June for Kath’s son’s high school graduation. Just let us know and we can put you in touch. Grace and peace…

  2. Hi Roy and Joy! As I was reading this, I realized how close you are to Mike & Laure Close over in Pepperell, MA. Don’t know if you heard that Laure was diagnised with breast cancer earlier this year. She recently had surgery and they think they got it all, but now she’s on chemo. I know they’d love to hear from you. Her cell: 714-747-3917. Love keeping up with all your travels. Looking forward to seeing you at the NACC.

    Love, Becky

  3. So glad you’re enjoying New England. I experienced the area as a 13 year old Girl Scout. I loved Mystic Connecticut I love the Seaport I love the whaling Museum’s and love the painting by Andrew Wyeth. Thank you for quoting some of the best of Robert frost we need more poetry in our lives
    Forgive all grammar mistakes I’m using voice recognition to write this as my nails are extra long for vacation right now and I can’t type!

  4. Loved the wood bowl with the stitches in it. I’m not sure about the modern part of it though, unless it is that it would leak. I have a wood gourd sewn by a Turkana that I carry around for my display. It would still hold liquid. I’ve always liked the way it looked. It’s useful, practical and artistic.

    1. But would you have expected to see it in a museum? So glad to hear from Kenya. Thanks for commenting, Lynn.

  5. Roy- it always shocks me to visit museums where most of the things on display were items I used as a child. Does that mean we’re older than dirt? I did enjoy your observations. When we were in the Boston area we walked through a cemetery and saw the names that I knew from playing the Authors card game when I was a kid.

  6. Hey Roy, Happy Birthday (I was going to say Old Friend, but I’ll be kind) Friend. I’d like to have your email address. The last time I emailed you, it said something like, “He’s gone, and nobody knows where he is!”

  7. Happy Birthday, dear Roy! Enjoy your special day! Love you bunches! 💖🎁🎉🇺🇸
    Debby

  8. We’re glad you are seeing the Northeast, including dear friends and Frost’s farm: “One could do worse than be a swinger of birches.” We hope some sunshine joins your party before you leave.

  9. So wish our paths would cross! We will be with the Larson’s in Cape Cod the top of August ….any chance you would be close?? Toni

    1. We need better coordination, don’t we Toni? We have only one more week in New England. Then we’ll be in Johnson City for a packed few days of maintenance (dentist, doctors, preaching, business stuff, etc.) before flying westward for our annual all-family vacation.

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