Hilltown Families


The Good Life: A Year of Thoughtful Seasons by Sarah Mattison Buhl

May is the Perfect Time…

According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, the month of May is significant. The Celts traditionally celebrated Beltane on the first of May, later known as May Day: a day half-way between spring and summer which welcomed the return of earthly fertility in the form of flowers. Modern pagans still believe that it is a day when the veil separating them from the spiritual world thins, making May 1st powerful for enchantments, similar to Samhain or Halloween. Northern Europeans still celebrate Walpurgisnacht (also known as Vappu or Walpurgis depending on what country you are from) with dancing, bonfires, and sprigs of tender flowers to ward off “evil” and welcome the sun’s return.

In Wisconsin in 1975, we celebrated May Day by making rough-looking, tenderly-wrought baskets of construction paper filled with colorful candies and maybe a grubby dandelion or two. We’d hang them on the doors of our neighborhood friends and sometimes the doors of elderly people we didn’t know, having witnessed their solitude from a safe distance. My brother Charlie and I would stealthily hang a wide, paper basket-handle over a doorknob, ring the bell, then run like mad to avoid being seen. We overflowed with joy. It was a day similar to Valentine’s, but free from the weight of commitment. We once saw a May Day basket strewn in the middle of the road as we walked up the block to make a delivery. My young heart was struck by the discord between the beauty of the sparkling treasure and the ugly spillage.

May Day is a holiday worthy of reviving here, given the endless winter we have finally escaped, but also because we should always look for opportunities to celebrate metamorphosis. Like a May celebration from a forgotten time, the annual Mayor’s Dance is almost upon us. I know because my daughter is in the eighth grade and she has been anticipating this event since the sixth grade. I wonder if the Mayor knows. For those of you who aren’t parents of middle school girls in Northampton, Massachusetts, I will explain. It is the first real dance of “teenagerhood.” The parameters of this spring rite of passage are shrouded in mystery. The girls speculate amongst themselves about what to wear and rejoice not only that their parents are not coming, but that they aren’t invited. We will drop them off and drive away slowly, wishing we could see more, but knowing it isn’t meant for us. There will be music. There will be dancing. Possibility will swirl in the air; they will smell its scent, but won’t know what it looks like. Not yet. Maybe it is just a dance, but maybe it is a celebration of childhoods deeply felt in a community that embraces its children as we bear witness to the beginnings of their own metamorphoses. They will encounter sparkling “treasure” along the way, and try to make sense of the “ugly spillage.” They will overflow with joy.

Thank you, Mr. Mayor. Your momentous event heralds the advent of new and wonderful things to come. May is the perfect time.


Sarah Mattison Buhl

As a mother of three, Sarah appreciates the extraordinary beauty of the ordinary. She makes her home with her family in Northampton, MA.

This month in “Teens 101: Hacks, Ideas, Commiserations, and Small Wonders,” Catherine share her thoughts on parenting and living, starting off with the reflection on the adage, “No one lies on their death bed wishing they spent more time at the office.”

What are the effects of antagonistic relationships? What would it take to maintain supportive relationships between adults and teens and reduce or even eradicate antagonism? This month in “Teens 101: Hacks, Ideas, Commiserations and Small Wonders,” Hilltown Families Contributor, Catherine Gobron, reflects on these questions and how slowing down to consideration and respect our teens might be an answer.

This month in “Teen 101: Hacks, Ideas, Commiserations and Small Wonders,” Catherine takes a look at how her own ego sometimes gets in the way of allowing her children to make choices that are right for them. Learning to listen and let go allows her kids to choose what’s best.

This adolescent period is a clunky time for all mammals- one long and clumsy transition. As adults, our role is to walk the impossible balance of supporting just enough challenge and exposure so that they can gain necessary skills, with enough safety and protection to prevent injury.

The World Can Be Tough The world can be tough. If you are soft or Pollyanna-ish, it can really do a number on you. I am beginning to believe that in our current days one of the most important things we can do as parents is to prepare, not shield, our children from the unfair and sometimes downright cruel things that take place whether worldly or locally, whether in families or with… Read More

An Awkward Dance Yesterday I saw my youngest son for the first time in five weeks. He wasn’t away at camp or on vacation, and he still lived just a mere 7 miles away with his dad. But for reasons I won’t go into here, he didn’t want to see me or any of us who lived in the little house in which he used to reside. So it came as a… Read More

QUESTION AND ANSWERS J.W. writes, “Has anyone yet dealt with their t(w)een aged daughters wanting to shave their legs? My 13yo daughter has recently asked if she could. At what age do you allow a responsible girl to shave her legs? And how do you address the self-image issues that surrounds this topic with them? Any advice from parents who have already gone through this ‘rites of passage’ with their daughters?” Jody… Read More

QUESTION AND ANSWERS What do families with TEENS do when they do not want to participate in family outings or summer vacations? Do you force them along? Let them stay at home? Find outings that appeal to them? Bring along a friend? Glenda Spurling writes, “We always (usually always) have her go, memories are being made, and always let her bring a friend. Usually the same friend will go, our family members… Read More

What Makes a Good Mom? Do you have a running reel in your mom brain?  You know what I mean.  Words that you say to yourself, questions you are constantly posing, reprimands with which you punish yourself?  Maybe it’s just me.  Maybe I should be called Sybil.  Who knows? My running reel is lengthy and complicated and persistent, and includes a pesky question that really has become my mantra for motherhood.  “What… Read More

My Back and Help Please Instead of the Birds and the Bees Our teens are bombarded with images…constant pictures, messages, videos, television shows that promote promiscuity and sexual exploration. I recently ran across a particular show that glorified teen moms, and while the show didn’t sugar coat the trial and tribulations that come with parenting, the mere fact that these teen couples are on a very popular television station makes it tempting… Read More

Crazy About Being A Mom So I have been struggling with what to write this week because, well honestly, I don’t want to sound schizophrenic, psychotic, crazy, loony tony…you get what I mean. You see looking over that last few columns it sounds like life has just been peachy here in teenage boy land. But well that just not true. It truly is a see saw here, or a roller coaster, or… Read More

Guilty Mom I can’t watch the new Rice Krispies commercials.  They make me sick with guilt.  Do you know the ones I am talking about?  They usually portray a very attentive mom and a toddler/preschooler on her lap.  She is helping the child stir marshmallow into the bowl of Rice Krispies.  She’s talking quietly, face beaming.  The child is enraptured by his or her mama…and after watching this mommy bliss the tag… Read More

Together for Better or for Worse I used to be afraid to leave them alone—together. It seemed that every time I went grocery shopping, to the dentist, over to a friend’s house, I’d come back to what was equivalent to Armageddon. Chairs would be tipped. Food on the counter, on the table, down the stairs, all over the basement couch. Wrappers littered the living room floor, the front steps, the driveway, front… Read More

It’s Memé Clean! One summer, when the boys were little… say around 10 and 7… we had quite a fly problem in the house. It seemed no matter what I did — spray, fly paper, clean, clean, clean every day — there seemed to be more and more flies bouncing off the windows and zoom-buzzing by my head, seemingly taunting me with their existence. I became obsessed with ridding the house of them and… Read More

Mother Called the Doctor and the Doctor Said, “No More…” Well You Know The Rest! As a mother of two teen boys I know a lot of things that I never in the world thought I’d know.  For instance, I know that young athletes play 6 innings of baseball in Little League and I can recite the names of every Yankee player on the team including all the relief pitchers.  I know… Read More

Okay, Okay… Ease Was the Wrong Word! Two weeks ago I wrote about the ease of boys friendships, but many parents privately called me out on it.  They disagreed that it wasn’t as cut and dry as I claimed it to be.  This of course caused me to think deeper about the topic, and I have come to several conclusions: Boys are more inclusive but they can become exclusive, just not in… Read More

Boys and Their Friends: A Drama Free Zone When I was a “tween” and adolescent girl, it was difficult to maneuver and understand the nature of my friendships with other girls. The cattiness and moodiness, the cliques and the clashes, the fakeness of friends who pretend camaraderie just to gossip behind your back made being friends with girls a maze of confusion. Most times it felt like a lead jacket of the… Read More