Above and into the falls

We live in a region of rivers and dams. Back when this country was more a hope than a reality, this was the river where America’s transition to industrialization began.

According to the National Parks guide:

“The Blackstone River Valley of Massachusetts and Rhode Island is the “Birthplace of the American Industrial Revolution,” the place where America made the transformation from Farm to Factory. America’s first textile mill could have been built along practically any river on the eastern seaboard, but in 1790 the forces of capital, ingenuity, mechanical know-how and skilled labor came together at Pawtucket, Rhode Island where the Blackstone River provided the power that kicked off America’s drive to industrialization.”

It’s easy to see our history when you live in the Blackstone Valley. There were 46 dams on the Blackstone River. There are some fewer now. They are trying to remove dams and let the river run freely. But wherever you see a dam, there was a mill, a factory, or both at that turning of the river.

Photo: Garry Armstrong – Below the falls

The soil supporting these dams is terminally hazardous. Packed behind the dams, it can’t spread its poison downstream. Allowed to run into the rivers, it could easily poison the river that was saved from (and is still being saved from) some of the worst pollution anywhere in the world. In the mid 1974, the Blackstone was considered one of the three most polluted rivers in the U.S. Today, it’s a living river filled with birds and fish and even some humans enjoying its waters.

Waiting on the Mumford River in Uxbridge

Most of the remaining dams will stay where they are. The danger to the environment that would come with removing them is incalculable. Thus we enjoy the beauty of the dams. Swans, geese, ducks, divers and the occasional beavers enjoy the calm waters. While swimming is still forbidden both because of the still somewhat polluted water and the dangerous currents in the river, trout breed there and the river is open for kayaking, canoeing, and fishing along many banks.

Waiting and the rush

All the dams were built between 1789 and the early 1900s. Each dam is unique to its place on the river and built of natural local stone.

The pool that forms in the pond before the waterfall is always as still as a glass mirror. It’s remarkable how clear and shiny that water is. Barely a ripple to announce the imminent falling of water over a dam that may be just inches away.

I participate in WordPress’ Weekly Photo Challenge 2017


Sometimes people come into your life inauspiciously and then suddenly become pivotal to your existence. For me and my children, that person was Brian.

To explain how our lives intersected, I have to give you some background. My parents had a beautiful house on 40 glorious acres in Easton, CT. There was a second building on the grounds, made up of two one bedroom cottages. The full-time caretakers lived in one of the cottages. They were hired to run both houses and take care of all the land and the equipment that the ground care required.

Brian came to work for my mom as a caretaker in 1981, shortly after my father had died. I was 32 and had a two-year old son, David. Brian was 39 and was married to a woman named Peg. Brian was smart, well-read and very interesting to talk to. He also had a great sense of humor. We hit it off immediately. He was also incredibly handy, skilled and knowledgeable about all things house and garden related. Perfect for the job.

Brian in 1989 at one of David’s Birthday Parties

I began spending most of each summer in CT with David and later with my daughter, Sarah, too. We lived in the other one bedroom cottage that backed onto the caretaker’s house. My husband joined us on summer weekends. We also spent many weekends there in the spring and fall. Brian and I became good friends.

Brian got divorced in 1985, shortly after Sarah was born. He now had more time to spend with me and my kids. Which was fortunate for us.

In 1991, we moved into the CT house full-time. My husband worked as a lawyer in NYC so he only came up once during the week and on weekends. So I spent a lot of time as a single parent. Brian picked up the slack and started acting like an uncle, or a surrogate father to the kids.

Brian helped me chauffeur the kids to after school activities, play dates and doctor’s appointments (my son had a lot). He went to more softball games, school performances and gymnastics exhibitions than my husband did. And he was the only one who knew how to videotape these performances!

Brian, David and Sarah in 1993 at David’s Bar Mitzvah

Brian heard about what happened at school every day and knew the kids’ friends. He developed close and supportive relationships with both David and Sarah. He also helped the kids with homework and school projects. David had ADHD, so getting homework done took the full attention of an adult most week nights. Brian took turns with me working with David and hanging out with Sarah or helping her with her school work.

I don’t think any of us would have survived that period without Brian’s dedication and friendship. In many ways, Brian was a more hands on, day-to-day father to my kids than their biological dad. He even took Sarah on a trip to Williamsburg when she was eleven or twelve.

Brian was very handy (I am not) and could make almost anything. So, when Halloween came around, Brian and the kids went crazy. They picked weird costumes and Brian made them work. They went as things like a gum ball machine, a refrigerator with shelves and a door that opened, and a bed, complete with pillow and blanket. The kids were thrilled that they could be so unique and creative with their costumes. They still talk about them!

Sarah modeling the “Bed” Halloween costume that      Brian made with her

Brian was also a sea of calm in our otherwise tempestuous lives. My husband was bipolar. When he had manic episodes, things got ugly for long periods of time. Brian was our sanity and ballast during those times. He was there for me when I was having meltdowns over my husband’s erratic, volatile and often mentally abusive behavior. He helped keep me sane and strong for my children and helped them deal with the same situation. I was often overwhelmed. Brian made my job with the kids manageable, both emotionally and logistically. And he made life more upbeat and fun for the kids.

Brian continued to work for my mom until she died in 2002. After that he lived with me, my second husband, Tom, and the kids for a few months before moving to Canada. He now lives in Florida but always spends a few weeks a year with us in CT.

Brian, me, David and Sarah at my 2002 wedding to Tom

My kids and I will always be grateful to Brian, who stepped up when we needed him. We are all still very close and consider Brian an important part of our family. We were very lucky to find someone who fit so seamlessly into our lives and stayed with us through thick and thin. Brian also gained a second devoted family, so it was a win-win all around.