What a week we had—from the cradle of liberty and education to the commencement ceremony for my 90-year-old mother who graduated with her degree in professional studies.
We spent much of spring break in Boston with part of our family and seven of our grandchildren. I have talked much about how our children’s and grandchildren’s educations are directly related to our own motivation and pursuit of knowledge. It was a privilege to put action to that principle and learn and grow alongside some of the most important people in my life.
First Stop: Stepping into the life of John and Abigail Adams
John Adams was born in 1735 in the house at the rear of this lot. His son John Quincy was born in 1767 at the home in the foreground. It was here that Abigail managed the house and farm for several years during the American Revolutionary War. In this house John Adams drafted the Massachusetts State Constitution with the separation of powers that would be the model of the United States Constitution. He wrote at the time, “I should have thought myself the Happiest man in the world, if I could have retired to my little hut and forty Acres, and lived on Potatoes and Seaweed.” Abigail wrote, “If what I enjoy I can share with my partner and with Liberty, I can sing o be joyfull and sit down content.”
It was here that a cairn (heap of stones) was erected to honor Abigail Adams who was charged by John while he was in Philadelphia to “Fly to the woods or take Quincy to the top of Penn’s Hill” to witness the Battle of Bunker Hill June 17, 1775. She wrote, “the decisive Day is come on which the fate of America depends.” Though the battle took place 13 miles away, she stated, “the constant roar of the cannon is so distressing we cannot Eat, Drink or Sleep.”
At age 78 John Quincy Adams retained a vivid memory of that day. “I saw with my own eyes those fires, and heard Britannia’s thunders in the Battle of Bunker’s Hill, and witnessed the tears of my mother and mingled with them my own, at the fall of Warren a dear friend of my father, and a beloved Physician to me.”
Next Stop: A Home at Peace Field
After the war, John and Abigail acquired this home in 1788 after John’s time as U.S. ambassador to England. In September of 1796, he wrote, “I think to christen my Place by the Name of Peace field, in commemoration of the Peace which I assisted in making in 1788, of the thirteen Years Peace and Neutrality which I have contributed to preserve, and of the constant Peace and Tranquility which I have enjoyed in this residence.”
In the back of the home were the early spring flowers spontaneously sprouting from the ground—a reminder that spring and Easter, and the new life they represent, were here.
At the front of the home was a plaque admonishing and inviting our education.
An Inspiration in the Pursuit of Education
My mother took up the admonition “Let us dare to read, think, speak and write” at the age of 87 while simultaneously being treated for cancer for the second time. She graduated at age 90 this week. Only three weeks ago, she was in the hospital with pneumonia and was not responding well to the treatments. Providence intervened and she was spared. At the time, I thought of the 23 Psalm and that she was indeed walking “through the valley of the shadow of death…” She did recover thankfully and moved swiftly to catch up her homework and make graduation in time.
I am so very proud of my mother’s accomplishment and implicit invitation to her posterity to never give up or lose hope in your dreams and what you can accomplish. She shared her educational sentiments on a notecard with her 33 grandchildren, 98 great grandchildren and three great, great grandchildren.
Each grandchild received a “key”—key tie tacks for the boys and key necklaces for the girls. With each memento the note read: “Education is the key that unlocks the door to a more abundant life. Study and learn all you can about our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for His Way is The Path that leads to happiness in this life and eternal life in the world to come.”
I sent her this poem by Robert Frost today, reminding her of the miles she still has left to go.
Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
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.
She sent me this beautiful poem by Dora Johnson in reply. She has scores of poems memorized and poetry rolls off her tongue and memory like conversation with an old friend.
You tell me I am getting old, I tell you “That’s not so.”
The house I live in is worn out and this of course I know.
It’s been around a long time — it’s weathered many a gale.
I’m not surprised you think that it is getting somewhat frail.
The colors changing on the roof — the windows are growing dim —
The walls a bit transparent and looking rather thin.
The foundation is not as steady as once it used to be.
Yes, my house is growing old, but my house isn’t me.
The dweller in my little house is young, spry, and full of love and trust
Knowing that even though this little house will soon crumble & fall to the earth in dust.
One day, twill be restored — resurrected, just like new
And I will enter my little house with a panoramic view
Of all my loved ones as far as the eye can see
Once again together for all eternity.
What a mother, mentor, and friend. I love her so much! Education is the great liberator of mankind.