My friend John Marion from Common Cause is collecting photos of ballot drop boxes from each town hall around the state. He needed four more, so I drove around today to get them, with Jaro. As I was driving, I saw parts of Rhode Island that I’d never seen before. I went through Smithfield, North Smithfield, through Burrillville, to Glocester and eventually Foster. As I was driving, it hit me multiple times how much fun that trip would have been with Erika and it’s exactly the type of trip that we’d do, often on the spur of the moment. On Friday wine night, I might blurt out, let’s go take those pictures for John tomorrow! And Erika would assuredly say “Ok!” and off we’d go, driving around on a Saturday morning.
The other thing that hit me about this trip is that Erika told me about how driving was stress therapy for her. She told me that when she first moved to Rhode Island back in 2012, she did a lot of it. She’d drive to all corners of the state, discovering her new home, but also doing it to clear her mind or to think about things like “What’s next?” That’s where I was today. I was wishing so hard she could have been there with me. She should have been there with me. It would have been fun together and probably another of those little things that we did that someday would be a “Remember that time we drove around taking pictures of ballot boxes for John?” Because we did that a lot. It didn’t have to be any big, momentous event for us to “Remember that time…?” It was always just more about the time we spent together and how it made us happy. It was so often the little things that made Erika, and me, happy.
Some might think the gifts that she liked best were a little bit odd, but I had a pretty good idea of what things she’d like best. This was also one of the things that I loved most about Erika is she was atypical in this way. She didn’t wear jewelry, she didn’t like fancy clothes (actually she hated them), didn’t like anything flashy. One of the best things I gave her recently that made her so happy and got her excited is just so typical. She loves the outdoors, she loves nature and all of its oddities. We’d joke that she wanted to quit her job and just be an “Outdoors-ologist.” Yeah, we made that up. She read a book about how trees can communicate with each other and then wanted to study trees. She was just starting to get into beekeeping with her little hive of Mason bees. So when I saw this thing during a recent walk in the woods with McKenna, I just knew Erika would love it. And I was right, she talked about it for days and how awesome it was. Here it is:
If you can’t tell what that is, it’s ants working. They’re hollowing out a log and there’s a pile of sawdust. That is the kind of thing that Erika just loved to see, and loved to get. It’s just another thing that made being with her so much fun.