Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door: A Tribute to Leo Medisch of the Back Porch Cafe

I haven’t blogged in a while, and this is a departure from my usual topics, but I just learned that someone I admired tremendously died earlier this week, and it feels important to express the huge impact that Leo Medisch had on me. Sometimes you don’t realize such a thing until it comes sharply into focus — until that person has slipped away.

Leo was the early founder and chef at The Back Porch Cafe, to this day one of my favorite restaurants in the world. Because my dad’s brother had also been one of the original founders, they were kind (crazy?) enough to hire me for a series of summer jobs that I truly had no business doing. For two summers I worked in the Back Porch Store, a gourmet take-out shop that was a couple decades ahead of its time. And the summer after the shop closed, I waited tables in the exquisitely casual, sprawling, creaky, fabulous main restaurant.

Tribute to Leo Medisch of the Back Porch Cafe

The Back Porch Cafe from Rehoboth Avenue (Creative Commons photo by ding_pression)

When I worked in the shop, Leo would come kind of sailing in, usually carrying an enormous bucket of enormous organic carrots that I had to chop or something. He had this wonderful, grand, floaty way of walking. He was usually humming or singing — my favorite was “Knock knock knockin’ on heaven’s door.” He had a lovely, Cheshire cat sort of smile and a sly sense of humor.

In my memory he kept this kind of composure, this presence, even in the outlandishly cramped, hot kitchen during dinner rush. I’d like to say that I keep my cool like this when things get crazy, but it is something I think about and aspire to. Really, Leo was the opposite of the “Hell’s Kitchen” type of chef. He definitely wasn’t pleased the time I left two lunch plates sitting under the hot lamp and reflexively dropped them, inches away from the table who’d been waiting far too long, in a crash of plates all over the back deck. But he didn’t fire me, although I probably would have fired me.

Tribute to Leo Medisch of the Back Porch Cafe

On the back deck at the Back Porch (Creative Commons photo by Susan Sharpless Smith)

Most days, he would let me write out the day’s lunch and dinner menu, which was always posted for people walking by on Rehoboth Avenue to see. When I started doing this I was 17 and I had decent handwriting, but was inordinately prone to stars and swoopy flourishes. He never criticized my style, but over time he taught me how to make it simpler, cleaner, and more elegant. (Years later when the Back Porch catered my wedding, he declared my look “simple elegance” which, coming from him, felt like the highest possible praise.)

Whenever I walked past the Porch, I always stopped to read the day’s menu — not just to contemplate the inventive offerings but to appreciate Leo’s round, stylish handwriting. Would it have been faster to just print the menus? Of course. But to me, those handwritten menus were always a soulful reminder that good things take time — quintessential Back Porch.

It also has to be said that Leo inspired me to love food and to cook. When I started working at the shop, it was like learning a foreign language. Mascarpone. Shirred eggs. Terrine. I can still remember exactly how some of the dishes tasted, and I still try to recreate them — roasted green bean salad with walnuts and lemon zest, the absurdly tasty Thai chicken curry (inspired by collaborator Siri Svasti who, I learned from reading Leo’s obituary, has since become a celebrity chef in Thailand). I also learned that Leo wasn’t a trained chef. This surprised me, but it made me appreciate him even more (not least because I have taken a decidedly nontraditional career path in my own field). Passion counts.

Tribute to Leo Medisch of the Back Porch Cafe

Brunch at the Back Porch (Creative Commons photo by grrlie)

In the big scheme of things, my summers with Leo and the Back Porch crew were a tiny slice of my life, but an incredibly vivid and formative one. They taught me about care and craft and authenticity and community. Leo, I’ll miss you, but I’ll never forget you. I hope you’re knockin’ on heaven’s door.

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Five Lovable Local Businesses in Rehoboth Beach

Rehoboth Beach boardwalk

View from the boardwalk, Rehoboth Beach

Each summer I spend a month or so visiting my parents in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, and really the only thing I don’t absolutely love about it is the lack of a proper coffee shop. I’ve sampled just about every latte in town and even tried giving them up for the trip, but have finally resigned myself to the chronically understaffed Starbucks on Rehoboth Avenue, which has the longest, slowest lines I have ever encountered.

Recently a friend responded to one of my (admittedly) whiny tweets about the Rehoboth Starbucks, wondering why I hadn’t been able to find a good indie coffee shop. He speculated that maybe it was too hard for small businesses to compete against Starbucks. I didn’t think that was the issue, since Rehoboth Beach is almost all local businesses. His reply: “Take pictures of them, while they’re still there.”

Rehoboth’s small business scene is unique and vibrant, and it’s impossible for me to imagine it without the bookstores and ice cream parlors and pizza places I loved when I was growing up here. But–all the same–I’m taking pictures.

Here are five of my favorite Rehoboth Beach businesses, and what I especially love about each one.

Browseabout Books Rehoboth bookstores

Browseabout Books, Rehoboth Avenue

1. Browseabout Books: This is the absolute best kind of bookstore, packed with tables of thoughtful staff picks, a maze of aisles to get lost in, and a choice selection of cool games and toys. Browseabout completely gets the importance of offline events for building community, and on most summer days you can enjoy a kids’ story time or an author book signing. Giving my kids a few dollars to spend here can keep them happily flip-flopping around, spinning racks of paperbacks and playing with Schleich animal figures, for at least an hour.

Signature touch: Rainbow-hued murals commemorating local best sellers since 1975.

Browseabout Books bookstores Rehoboth Beach bestsellers mural

One of Browseabout’s signature murals

What could be better: Coffee worthy of the Browseabout experience–though they claim the best lattes in town, trust me that there’s plenty of room for improvement.

2. Royal Treat: There are probably dozens of places to get ice cream in Rehoboth, but Royal Treat is by far my favorite. It feels like stepping back in time when you climb the steps of an old beach house and relax on the porch with a hand-dipped milkshake while fancy ceiling fans keep you gently cool. In the mornings the fare shifts to breakfast, with local teenagers serving up platters of french toast and bacon.

Royal Treat rehoboth beach ice cream parlor

Royal Treat, Wilmington Avenue

Rehoboth Beach Royal Treat ice cream parlor

Milkshake on the porch, Royal Treat

Signature touch: A big ceramic crock of ice water that my friend calls….

Royal Treat Rehoboth Beach ice cream parlors

….”the best water in the world.”

What could be better: “Cash only” also feels like stepping back in time.

3. Dogfish Head Brewings and Eats: This outstanding craft brewery founded by the charismatic and visionary Sam Calagione is garnering increasing fame–for good reason–but it all started here, and it remains a decidedly local (if no longer exactly small) business. More than 15 years ago, we took a chance on their recently opened brewpub at the northern tip of Rehoboth Avenue to host our rehearsal dinner, and it turned out to be the ideal spot for a laid-back, memorable gathering. Dogfish Head is one of my gold standards for amazing word-of-mouth marketing (led by my childhood friend Mariah Draper Calagione), and it deserves a post of its own, but this place is the real deal, with a rotating selection of handcrafted brews on tap, live music, and a walk-up window where you can pick up cool t-shirts or a growler of 90-Minute IPA or Festina Peche (my favorite).

Dogfish Head Rehoboth Beach brewpubs

Dogfish Head Brewpub, Rehoboth Avenue (by Bernt Rostad)

Signature touch: Creative, conceptual concoctions like Raison d’Etre and Palo Santo Marron.

Dogfish Head Rehoboth Beach brewpubs beer

Flight of Dogfish Head beers (by Bernt Rostad)

What could be better: I might be spoiled by Georgetown Brewery in Seattle, but the growlers seem on the pricey side compared to the bottled beer.

4. Funland: A trip to Rehoboth Beach without a visit to Funland would be inconceivable. A handful of tickets can score you a ride on the classic bumper cars, the whirling teacups, or the Ferris-wheel-like Paratrooper, which offers a peek at the ocean at the top. A true rite of passage is to strap your tiny ones into the floating toy boats–the very same ones my dad rode when he was small–and take about a hundred pictures as they circle around, pulling on little ropes to ring the bells that crown the bow of each boat. You can squeeze into an old-school photo booth or plunk down some coins for a game of Whac-a-Mole or Skeeball. It’s a happy din of pure, perfect boardwalk magic.

Funland Rehoboth Beach

Funland, Rehoboth Beach boardwalk

Funland Rehoboth Beach boardwalk Paratrooper

Up high on the Paratrooper, Funland

Signature touches: The iconic green tickets, still a bargain.

Rehoboth Beach Funland Toy Boats

Riding the boats, Funland

What could be better: Some of the rides and games could use a (gentle) facelift, though I appreciate that so many of the originals remain intact.

5. Grotto Pizza: Anyone who has visited Delaware knows there’s nothing small about this business, but it certainly started out that way. What began as two brothers from Pennsylvania selling slices out of a tiny window has bloomed into a vast empire of shiny family-friendly pizza factories. I have vivid childhood memories of the original Grotto on Rehoboth Avenue–a dimly lit corridor of vinyl booths–and as a teenager l I took a turn in the kitchen as a “pie writer,” hand-writing each order on a clipboard placed carefully in the cooks’ line of vision so they could crank out pizzas without interruption. Now I love sharing “the legendary taste” with my family in the pleasant open-air side patio.

Grotto Pizza Rehoboth Beach

Grotto Pizza, Rehoboth Avenue (by M.V. Jantsen)

Signature touches: The bright-tasting sauce is applied over the cheese in a distinctive spiral pattern. Also, balloons for the kids.

Grotto Pizza Rehoboth Beach

Sacked out after a satisfying meal (by Dom Pulieri, Grotto Pizza founder)

What could be better: Keeping the ever-sprawling menu in control (breakfast pizza?).

Stay tuned for five more favorites…and in the meantime, I’ll keep dreaming about opening the ultimate Rehoboth Beach coffee shop.

Brandcrush: Glassybaby Shines

I remember distinctly when the glassybaby sign first appeared on a corner in Madrona, in 2003. I strolled in one day with my infant daughter, expecting cute onesies and maybe Scandinavian toys, and was surprised to find myself in a tiny gallery lined with shelves of colorful glass candleholders. I’ll confess that my first impression wasn’t overwhelmingly positive; I just couldn’t get my head around a store full of fancy $40 candleholders. But this brand has since grown on me like a cozy, flickering fire, and I’ve discovered that there’s quite a bit more to the story.

Image

Here are five reasons why I admire this exquisite brand.

  1. Powerful story: I believe there is nothing like an authentic, memorable founding story to anchor a brand and give it emotional power and richness. Glassybaby’s is one of the best I’ve come across. Its founder, Lee Rhodes, found peace in the colorful vessels as she battled a rare form of lung cancer while raising three young children. As described on the glassybaby website, “She had endured surgery, countless rounds of chemotherapy, and was searching for a few moments of serenity to escape the fear that encompassed her life. Lee filled [the glassybabys] with tea lights and scattered them throughout her home. She found great hope and healing in their color, light, and love.” One especially lovely thing about glassybaby is that each purchase, each gift, becomes its own story as you select exactly the right shade, and name, for the occasion. On Mother’s Day, I chose baby, a pale peachy hue I know will look perfect in my mom’s beach house, and red, red happiness for my mother-in-law.
  2. Craftsmanship: Each glassybaby is handmade by artisans in the Madrona hotshop–in fact, you can peek in and see them at work on any given day. The high quality is evident in the heft and stunning color of each unique piece. I love that they have been able to continue manufacturing locally even as they’ve scaled up to supply new shops around Seattle and in New York. The obvious care and craft makes each glassybaby feel that much more special.

    glassybaby

    glassybabys by greenplasticamy

  3. Generosity: Since 2003, Glassybaby has donated more than $900,000 to charities dedicated to health, healing, and quality of life. In each collection, several glassybabys are offered to benefit specific organizations that align with the company’s mission. I was surprised to see a prominent glassybaby presence at a recent Seattle Sounders Women match, but it all made sense when I read more about the partnership behind it to “kick cancer.” This deep commitment to worthy causes–in a way that authentically supports the brand’s roots–adds meaning and grounding to what might otherwise be perceived as a style-focused brand. Another generous (and all too rare) detail that stands out is free everyday shipping from their online shop.
  4. Focus: It takes incredible focus and discipline to do one thing and do it well. Pressures from retailers, media, and investors to deliver something new can be intense, but I’ve observed too many brands spin out from their centers as they rush to expand with new products, lines, and categories. There is a compelling purity and simplicity to a glassybaby shop that I believe amplifies the deep power of the brand.

    glassybaby

    glassybaby colors by mariusstrom

  5. Courage: I have a soft spot for companies that play by their own rules, and I love this quote from Lee Rhodes: “Even with my early success, I can’t tell you how many people told me that my product and my company wouldn’t work.  Many doubted that I could hand-make a product in the USA; others doubted that I could be successful with a single product; still others questioned my decision to give a portion of revenue away.  All of these people underestimated the power of color and light.  I knew I had something special because you can’t help but look at a glassybaby and feel something.”

For me, glassybaby is a model for brand cohesion. The powerful story at the core shapes everything, from how the product is made to the causes the company supports, and the effect is a warm, sustaining glow. What memorable details can your brand’s founding story inspire?

Brandcrush: Molly Moon’s Gets the “Offline Event” Badge!

Molly Moon's Homemade Ice Cream, Seattle

I could make a list of 100 things Molly Moon’s Homemade Ice Cream has done right in terms of word-of-mouth marketing, really from the moment they opened. Their stylish scoop shops are loaded with talkable details like the irresistible smell of fresh waffle cones baking, a strategically placed low window where toddlers can peek in to see the ice cream being made, and smartly designed posters showing all the wholesome, local sources of their ingredients.

Molly Moon's Ice Cream Trade Map Local

Molly Moon's Trade Map

Of course, Molly Moon’s also makes seriously kick-ass ice cream with inventive, memorable flavors like Salted Caramel and Honey Lavender that get people literally lining up around the block on Seattle summer days — which, of course, drives interest and gets even more people lining up — you get the picture.

Today I saw a Tweet that Molly Moon’s was offering free scoops of one of their signature flavors, Scout Mint, in honor of the 100th Anniversary of the Girl Scouts. It happens to be about 40 degrees and pouring — certainly not a day that would normally make me think “ice cream.” But this sounded so fun and compelling that I surprised the kids with an after-school stop. Here are five things I loved about this inspired event.

Molly Moon's honors Girl Scout Anniversary

Happy 100th Anniversary, Girl Scouts!

  1. It was generous. Not 20% off Scout Mint. Not buy one get one free. Not free scoops for Girls Scouts in uniform (which would have been perfectly awesome). Free scoops of Scout Mint. Period. No questions asked.
  2. No huh? moment. You know what I mean. You hear about a special promotion, you go into the store, and the person at the counter has no idea what you are talking about. Or you bring in a coupon and you have to wait hopefully while the manager scrutinizes it to make sure you’re not trying to rip them off. The guy serving up the free scoops at Molly Moon’s was just straight-up awesome. He patiently gave out tastes and served up dozens of free scoops with gusto. He made the whole event feel fun, which, of course, is exactly how it should feel.
  3. It felt celebratory. There was a seriously festive vibe going on. The whole store was decked out with artful arrangements of Thin Mints boxes. A local Girl Scout troop was camped out at the entrance gamely selling boxes of cookies in the rain. Another troop had come in for scoops in full regalia. As they left, they called out, “Thank you, Molly Moon’s,” and the cool scoop guy called back cheerfully, “Thank you, Girl Scouts!”  It made me love my neighborhood and, of course, love Molly Moon’s for being part of it.
  4. It was disruptive (in a good way). When was the last time I took my kids spontaneously for ice cream on a Monday afternoon? Hmm. Maybe never. There was something about going at an unusual time that made it feel extraordinarily fun and memorable. Will I do it again? Probably. Where will I take them? That’s pretty easy.
  5. It was authentic. For me, this is a big one. Molly Moon herself was a Girl Scout, and she has honored that with her unique Scout Mint flavor. There is a real reason for Molly Moon’s to be celebrating Girl Scout Day; it wasn’t forced or opportunistic. It was from the heart.
Artful Thin Mint display on Girl Scout Day at Molly Moons

Those who follow word-of-mouth marketing best practices know well how important it is to have offline events in the mix, but I think Molly Moon’s gets a badge for this one: a sweet, simple, smart concept, perfectly executed. Thanks for those free scoops, Molly Moon’s! We’ll be back.

Brandcrush: PEMCO Gets It!

Over the past year I have had the excellent good fortune to get to know Rod Brooks, VP and CMO of PEMCO, through various word-of-mouth marketing events. It’s difficult to imagine a warmer, more authentic, more visionary leader for such a warm, authentic, visionary brand. I have heard Rod speak 3 or 4 times now, and each time, I feel more compelled to stand up and cheer and clap and say “YES! This is how it should BE!” I am continually inspired by the bold, consumer-focused marketing he and his team are doing at PEMCO.

Rod Brooks, CMO of PEMCO

Rod Brooks, PEMCO CMO and Sounders Fan

Here are five things that PEMCO has nailed, from my perspective.

1. They had the excellent sense to realize that their customers really don’t want to talk about insurance. After all, as Rod points out, insurance is odd in that you spend a lot of money on something you hope to never use. But when PEMCO invested time in really listening to their customers, they discovered that they *did* want to talk about their homes, their habits, their neighbors, and what makes them unique. This critical insight helped PEMCO carve out both a competitive niche and a creative point of view, celebrating the quirky facets of local life through its Northwest Profiles campaign, which immortalizes local characters like “Ponytailed Software Geek” and “First Snowflake Freakout Lady” and proclaims “We’re a lot like you. A little different.”

2. They have had the courage to stick with this memorable, extensible campaign for several years. They introduce new profiles as needed to keep things fresh and support their expansion into new Northwest markets (most recently, “Flawless Firewood Stacker” and “Portland Food Cartlandian“), but they haven’t succumbed to the temptation to break out some flashy new campaign once or twice a year like so many brands do. As a result, the campaign itself has become a local touchstone with meaningful roots and street cred. PEMCO fans can create their own profiles, suggest new ones, and even make trading cards.

PEMCO Northwest Profiles on Metro buses

Seattle Buses Adorned with PEMCO Northwest Profiles

3. They are truly committed to hearing and being led by the voice of the customer. Rod’s last presentation opened with a quote from a customer that said simply, “PEMCO gets it!” I frequently pull consumer quotes for inspiration in my work, and this one is a gem–crisp, memorable, and broadly applicable. Rod told me that they begin every executive meeting at PEMCO with a real customer story. I can’t think of any business that wouldn’t benefit from such a simple, focusing practice.

4. They have one of the most elegant and inspiring mission statements I’ve ever heard: “We enable and protect the dreams of responsible Northwest people.” Early on, they made the strategic decision to focus on “preferred-risk” policyholders in the Pacific Northwest–and this clarity about both their audience and their offering helps them stand out from the competition with a local angle and a distinctive voice.

5. They don’t just say they are local; they live and breathe it, supporting and participating in the Northwest community in enthusiastic and fun ways. They host a running pre-game foosball tournament at Sounders FC games. They hand out soup and coffee at the Polar Plunge in Eugene and show up at the Northwest Center with their WALLY (short for “We’re A Lot Like You”) van stuffed with 920 pounds of clothing donated by PEMCO employees.

PEMCO hosts the Foos Cup before Sounders FC games

PEMCO Foos Cup at a Sounders FC Game

If PEMCO can make insurance this fun and talkable, really, there’s an angle in for any product, category, or brand.

You can (and should) follow Rod Brooks on Twitter and read more at his personal blog,  as well as the PEMCO blog.

5 Examples of Creative Tweeting

I’ve always found that constraints lead to creativity, and Twitter is no exception. With only 140 characters to play with, I frequently have to do some creative editing and thinking to say what I want to say. And as a habitual writer of far-too-long long emails, I enjoy tweeting because it challenges me to be crisp and nimble with language.

I also enjoy seeing some of the creative things people do with the format. Here are a few.

1. @Sockington: Sockington, identified in his Twitter bio simply as “Jason Scott’s cat” from Waltham, MA, has a one-of-a-kind voice–and close to a million and half followers. Sample tweets: “SURPRISE NOT A GREY PILLOW it was me SO EASY TO FOOL YOU ARE this is totally why I run things around here” or “awaiting petting THERE WE GO hmmm have had better NO THAT DOESN’T MEAN STOP”

2. @VeryShortStory: So there are short stories, and there are tweet-length stories. For example, “I traced my finger along the map imprinted on your back. Soon I’d seduce your sister. With her map half, your father’s riches would be ours.” Not quite as short as Hemingway’s famous six-word story, but impressive all the same.

3. @JQAdams_MHS: The Massachusetts Historical Society regularly tweets excerpts from John Quincy Adams’s diary. Now truthfully, this is not a book I would be inclined to have on my bedside table, but reading a tidbit every day is fascinating. For example, “02/15/1812: Detecting domestic thefts and impositions. Dined at Raimbert’s. Took Charles with me. Montreal gave him a Magic Lantern.”

4. @520_bridge: This is a landmark in my city, Seattle, and somebody has taken to tweeting as the bridge. And, amazingly, people have taken to tweeting to the bridge. For example: “@520_bridge What’s your deal today?! Crossing you for 15 minutes!” To which the bridge responds, “Sun for first time in 5 days = peeps forgot sunglasses!” (For those who don’t live in Seattle, this is actually a completely plausible explanation.)

5. @cookbook: Maureen Evans, from London, tweets entire recipes: (Raisin Cookies: Mix c flr/½c brsug&raisin/t bkgpdr/½t salt&cinn/¼t nutmeg. Beat+egg/⅓c buttr/¼c milk/t vanil. Spoon16t 2″apart; 10-12m@375F.) It’s nothing short of virtuosic. She has even landed a cookbook deal, for eat tweet, a Twitter cookbook.

There are a lot of creative possibilities here, whether you are a content creator game for a unique challenge, an author working to develop voice for a character, or the keeper of some unique intellectual property that might be parceled out over time, tweet by tweet.

What are your favorite creative uses of Twitter?

Bud’s Keys to Good, Long Living (A Remembrance for my Grandfather)

This is the eulogy I gave for my beloved grandfather, Walter Brooks “Bud” Macky (1907-2010).

I want to share some thoughts about Bud, my grandfather, my children’s great-grandfather, and, I think we can all agree, a great, great person. Whenever I tell somebody about Bud, which I do a lot, their usual comment is that I have good genes, which of course I don’t take for granted, but I think there’s more to it than that. His life was not just long, it was rich, and he did a lot of amazing, interesting things, as long as he possibly could.

Walter Brooks Macky and Catherine Carr

Summer afternoon on the porch with my grandfather, July 2010

The truth is that I think Bud had a few things figured out, things that I have learned from him, and that I want to pass on to you, because they are things we can all do in our own lives, starting today, really, and I truly can’t think of a better way to honor him and his incredible, vital, radiant spirit. So let’s call these Bud’s rules for good, long living.

  1. OK, let’s just get this out of the way: There’s a right way and a wrong way to tie a knot. The wrong way, Bud called a granny knot. The right way is a square knot. It’s pretty simple. I can show you later, if you want.
  2. Find a way to express yourself creatively. You don’t need a lot of fancy equipment, or lessons, or any of those things. You just need a willingness to try things, and the discipline to actually do them, even if it’s just a few minutes a day. I believe Bud was very creative and very talented, but what I really admire about him is how much he just did, whether it was carving ducks or building model ships or taking photographs or learning how to make pottery in his 90s or, of course, writing. If you do it from the heart, it has true value, even if you don’t do it perfectly.
  3. Walk. This is not just so you, too, can be a Senior Olympic Racewalking Champion, although perhaps you could–why not?–but Bud was just not one to be sitting around watching TV. He liked to be out in the fresh air, walking, thinking, saying hello to people, observing the changes in the sky and the trees. You don’t have to be in a hurry, and you don’t have to go far. You don’t even have to be going anywhere, actually. But walk when you can.
  4. Cultivate a sense of wonder. I think this is related to the walking, actually, but Bud had a real reverence for the beauty of nature, for the powers and forces that are beyond our ability to measure and comprehend. He appreciated the beauty of things, from tiny bugs and leaves to the vast canvas of constellations and galaxies. We live in a time when it seems to be getting harder and harder to be impressed, but I think Bud would say, there are a lot of things to be impressed about, if you just stop and think about it. Be impressed.
  5. It’s ok to have half and half on your cereal. It tastes really, really good and, I think it’s pretty obvious it won’t kill you.
  6. It doesn’t take a big, fancy house to make you happy. Bud and my grandmother Sally built their house on Kirk Lane just before they were married, and it was humble and creaky and sweet and absolutely packed with love and memories of parties, and music, and laughter, and fires in the fireplace, mint-chocolate-chip parfaits, and card games, and stories. It will always be one of my favorite places in the world. It was warm and loving. It was about family. That’s what matters.
  7. Laugh! I think one of the best things about Bud was his sense of humor. He was a character, right? When we were small he would tie our socks together and tickle our ribs until we could barely stand it. He would spend hours raking leaves and then let us jump around in them, just because it was fun. He always loved jokes, and games, he was always fun, and he had this incredible, beaming smile that I will never forget. Just a few months ago, at his 103rd birthday celebration, my mom had the stroke of genius to rent one of those jitneys with the striped awnings, that all the tourists pedal around Rehoboth, and send Bud out for a spin with four of his grandchildren–my sisters, Julie and Cara, and my cousins, Allen and Annie. I wasn’t there to see it but the report is that he was grinning ear to ear the whole time.

    Walter Brooks Macky, Catherine Carr's great grandfather, sledding

    I will never forget his smile and his laugh!

  8. Stay curious. Bud read and talked and thought and wrote, his whole life. When he said “That’s interesting,” which he did frequently, he actually meant it. He asked questions and debated and reflected and, in recent years, if he wanted to know about something, he and my dad would Google it. He never stopped wanting to know more, learn more, understand more deeply.

    Walter Brooks Macky, Catherine Carr's great grandfather, reading

    Read!

  9. Write it down. To me, this is probably the most important, and the most personal. I’m sure most of you know about his Woodshed Notes, the letters Bud typed and copied and mailed to a growing list of friends and family, every month, for decades. I consider these letters a family and cultural treasure because they tell us what it was like to sing in the Episcopal Boys’ Choir in the early 1900s, and what it was like to have a boxing ring in your back yard–and a boxing nickname (“Bearcat”), and what it was like to ski in the moonlight on wooden skis. I am so glad he wrote all this down.

This summer I discovered another treasure, which was a lovely leatherbound diary kept diligently by Honey, Bud’s mother, who I never got to meet, but who now I feel like I know because she wrote in such beautiful detail about Bud’s baby life: the first foods he ate, his babbling and cooing, when and how he had his bath, all those things that new mothers, myself included for sure, go so nuts about. Honey’s diary even solved one mystery for me, which was how young Walter came to be known as Bud by nearly everybody–it turns out that she started calling him that when he was just a few months old. “It just seems to suit him,” she wrote. I’m so glad she wrote this down.

Walter Brooks Macky, Catherine Carr's great grandfather, as a baby

Baby Bud, 1907

Earlier this year, Bud wrote down a list of all the songs and poems he could remember from his childhood, and I am so grateful that he did, because now I can surround myself with music and words that had meaning for him, that represents my family and my roots. Write it down. This doesn’t mean you have to write a book, or a blog, or a two-page letter every month, but try writing down a few simple things–maybe the song you danced to at your wedding, or your favorite books, or a special holiday memory you have, things that are meaningful to you, and share them with someone you love. Our world runs at a pretty fast pace these days, and I believe capturing and passing on these kinds of simple things has tremendous value, and gives us a sense of connectedness and perspective, and even comfort.

I want to read to you one passage from the November 1993 Woodshed Notes, when Bud was considering the question of human significance. “We have intelligence that can reach from the neuron to the farthest stars,” he wrote. “And we have imagination that transcends all that is material and factual. We have within each of us a spirit that rises above the perishable and the corruptible.” Intelligence, imagination, and imperishable spirit: Bud certainly had all of these things, and I feel indescribably lucky to have known him, to be his granddaughter, and to have all those things he wrote down.

So there you have it, nine things I hope to do to honor Bud’s memory and to keep him present, part of who I am, part of how I live, as long as I can. And I hope that you will do the same.