I’m Joyce Anne, a native and enthusiast of the little corner of America known as New England. Such a fan, in fact, that I can’t but help wax poetical about its places, traditions and stories. And who better to share that with with than you, my fellow aficionados?
Growing up in New England can be a different experience depending on where in the region you come from. My grandparents were first and second generation immigrants to Boston from Ireland (the Irish in me) and Nova Scotia (the French and Scottish in me). My parents were raised in working class Boston, moved to the suburb of Norwood after my sister was born, and proceeded to add four more children to their family – my three brothers and myself.
I learned New England from the stories they and my grandparents shared with me, the traditions they instilled in me, the food they prepared, the places they took me, even their vernacular.
Their stories often turned to memories of their own childhood and early adult years and the events that shaped them – the influx to Boston of Canadians seeking jobs, the experience of growing up Irish in Boston in the early 20th century, exuberant VE day celebrations of World War II, the rebellious refusal of allowing Route 95 through the city, and the iconic (or infamous) places that are no more – like Scollay Square (sadly) and the Combat Zone (thankfully).
My own memories growing up include visits to my maternal grandparents in their triple-decker on Toledo Terrace (which is no more) in Dorchester. I remember Jordan Marsh (gone, alas) and its enchanting holiday windows in Downtown Crossing. And Filene’s (lost, lost) answering across the street.
Most of all, I remember suburban life in a largely Catholic neighborhood of large families – plenty of kids to play “kick the can” with, or baseball, or fix up a street hockey game, which turned to ice hockey and skating at a local pond in winter.
I only learned how much I love this neck of the woods after being away for nearly eight years in the Air Force in California, Germany and the Washington DC area. Those were among my first forays out into the world, and the places were amazing but there was something that often tugged at me, whispered to me in the night.
I missed New England, my home.
And so I returned with my new husband in tow. John grew up in Providence, RI, thereby earning the approval of my family, who had feared I’d be lost forever to some far-away place. John brought with him his family’s Portuguese heritage – the traditions and stories his own parents and grandmother handed down, and the Italian neighborhoods of Providence that also formed his early years.
John and I continued learning more deeply – if unintentionally – about New England as we raised our two children in close proximity to my family. The kids had free rein to roam about the woods and neighborhood with their cousins. We made frequent trips to Manomet to visit Nana and Papa (retired to the old vacation home), and to Providence to visit John’s family, and the favorite haunts of Point Judith and Galilee. We rambled around Vermont from my parents’ vacation home; trekked all over New Hampshire with John’s family; took vacations on the coast of Maine.
We migrated ourselves to Plymouth in 2011, back to the old Manomet stomping ground. Plymouth is a wonderful, vibrant community, in addition to the being the landing place for colonial New England.
I’ve found myself more deeply immersed in the history of that long ago settlement – the good and the bad. With the kids grown, John and I have picked up the pace of New England exploration, and I make a habit of acquiring local history books from independent booksellers on our travels. I often learn as much from the owners of these and other local shops and eateries as I do from the books.
One thing strikes me over and over – everywhere I go, from the easternmost town of Lubec, to the southern shores of Connecticut, to the Great North Woods of New Hampshire, I think to myself, I could totally live here. Each area is as endearing as the next. I can’t get enough of any of it.
That has led, perhaps inevitably, to this blog. I want to share with you the New England I know and am still discovering. I want to weave in your own stories, as well – the heritage and experiences that are uniquely yours, born from the places you’ve been, the people you remember, the traditions that have shaped you.
I want to bring New England to life for all my readers – natives, newcomers and travelers alike – to make the places you experience so much more than its sights and sounds, enriched by a deeper understanding and knowing.
Come journey with me.
With love from Plymouth,
The double entendre of my site name is intentional – it’s about the knowledge that comes from understanding New England deeply through stories and exploration. It’s also about the abiding love for the region that springs naturally from these discoveries.
It’s about knowing New England by Heart.
Fun Fact: John Smith, a leader of Jamestown, exploring up the coast all the way up to the Bay of Fundy, is first credited with calling the region “New England”, and published a map of it. Read more of this fascinating story in this Smithsonian Magazine article.