“The Ramp of Ages”

Sledding down a perfectly steep hill with the crisp air in your face, wearing perma-grin is simply exhilarating! Then there is the buzz-kill. The mood changes. Stopping, disembarking the sled and looking up that foreboding hill. Is the 10 minute climb worth 30 seconds of thrill? It’s questionable.

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Let’s talk about changing habits. When I was pregnant, I felt as if I had a hall pass to consume whatever food I desired. I was eating for two, for goodness sake! As a healthy eater, I did steer clear from McDonald’s and Papa Gino’s (as much as possible) but Ben and Jerry? Guilty as charged.

I helped myself to a generous bowl of cookies and cream ice cream every night. Trust me, I do not take that adjective lightly. It is no surprise that cookies and cream are my boy’s go-to flavor.

Then he arrived, and it was almost perfect. The problem? The hall pass had expired.

I missed my beloved bowl. I felt as if I had been forsaken. It was a process, but I was able to overcome the loss and, in time, I was able to let go. I had no idea that giving up my bowl of happiness would be so hard. It was.

It was a change that I thought would be easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy. No sirree.

Moving on.

Mayor Thomas Menino was my favorite politician of all time. He was the longest-serving mayor of the City of Boston for 20 years. His term aligned almost perfectly with my years residing in Boston.

Mayor Menino did not know me personally. I met him several times. But each time he made me feel as if he had known me for years. That was one of his many great gifts.

‘He was a humble man who was the definition of a public servant. He had no further political aspirations. He just loved his city. It was clear that his focus was to represent us and look out for the best interests of all his constituents. He was a political anomaly. That’s all.

That is everything.

Our Mayor passed away in the fall of 2014, shortly after he retired. It seems grossly unfair that he did not have the opportunity to enjoy his retirement. He died at a young age, left a beautiful family and an indelible mark on Boston.

I will never forget watching his funeral on TV. I was recovering from major surgery and heavily medicated. One might argue that my response was drug induced, but I think not. His loss was a great one, and it affected many on so many levels. I was most emotional.

The most illustrious figures from Boston and beyond assembled to honor him. Politicians including most of the Kennedy family, President Clinton, Big Pappi, Barry and Elliot and many others attended his funeral. It was a sendoff fit for a king and that he was.

In 2005, my Beacon Hill neighborhood’s community center, Hill House, underwent an extensive and much-needed renovation. It was enormously expensive and funded by its residents. The building, a former police station, was given to Beacon Hill by the city in 1966.

Mayor Menino refused to enter Hill House until it was ADA compliant.

To make the building compliant with the American Disabilities Act it needed to be wheelchair accessible. The only feasible place to build a ramp was from the rear of the building which connected to the area used as the children’s playground. Here was the catch. That land was owned by the neighboring fire department. The law says that you cannot build a ramp onto land that you do not own.

We were in a pickle.

The majority of the building housed my son’s school, Beacon Hill Nursery School. The school asked three other parents and me to find a solution do our predicament. We hitched up our britches and started our research. We talked to anyone who would listen.

We spoke to the Boston Fire Department, the ISD, the ADA, our City Counsellor and other neighborhood politicians, lawyers, our civic association you name it. We were merely looking for written permission to build our ramp.

It became a part-time job.

Few believed in our charge, and many doubted the future success of our endeavor. We refused to accept that. Fortuitously, a meeting was arranged with Mayor Menino to pitch our cause. Twelve of us, including Board members, parents and teachers were warmly welcomed by Mayor Menino’s office. We carried our meticulously detailed argument in professional presentation folders. We toted storyboards of our delightful, cherubic children learning at our beloved school.

We wanted his support. We wanted our ramp. We wanted to make our building accessible to all.

Before we could begin our pitch, he told us that he had learned about and understood our mission and that he had decided just to give us the land.

He GAVE us the land. Strike that. He sold us the land for one measly dollar.

After months of planning, months of preparation, endless phone calls and note taking he just GAVE us the land.

This is just one of the many reasons that Mayor Menino was one of my favorite politicians.

The ramp was built. A new playground was constructed. Hill House opened its doors to all. 
Upon completion of the “Ramp Of Ages.” Mayor Menino cut the ribbon.

kindergarten school year (15)

(Mayor Menino signing over the land to us!)

I recently wrote an essay, “Animation 101” which talked about how change can be an excruciatingly slow and painful process. It can take what seems like forever to make the slightest shift.

But here, this is a different type of change. In this case, we expected our outcome, our desired change, to be a lot harder than it was. We invested an outpouring of time and effort for this outcome. All the red tape dulled our scissors. We arrived at his office, and the change had occurred without us even opening our mouths or our pristine presentation folders.

He granted our wish.

Change is unpredictable. There is no formula. There is no instruction manual. We just have to have sea legs.

And for today, that is all I have to say about change. 

mayor menino

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