As Part of the Illuminate Your Spirit Series, Cambridge author Jessica Lander spent a literary evening with residents at Youville Place in Lexington. Lander dined with a group of residents prior to her evening presentation. She read from her recently published work of nonfiction, Driving Backwards. Below, Ildiko Szabo, Director of Community Life at Youville, describes the evening.
The dinner group was perfectly chosen; it became lively and chatty in no time. Jessica was a delight when she arrived after battling rush hour traffic. Her youth was eagerly received and added much to the mix.
The presentation in the community room was fast paced and of interest to all to the point that I delighted in watching the residents’ faces. You could see their “minds illuminating” with experiences from long ago. Several residents even thanked Jessica for bringing back these memories and leading them to these happy times in their past. Driving Backwards is Jessica’s recently published book about Gilmanton, NH, the most famous town in the US in the 1950s when the popularity of Peyton Place led many to seek out the town where the action in the book and the TV series took place.
In her book, Jessica explores the stories of a 99 year old gentleman who recalls events from the past. To understand fully the stories that she weaves, Jessica apprentices with the blueberry farmer and the miniature horse farm owner. Telling the residents about these often common experiences brought the group together. But it was the magic of the star lit sky in a setting unencumbered by city lights and flares that bonded the group. We remembered times when we lay in fields, whether in Minnesota, Canada, or Maine and watched in awe as fireflies and stars produced fireworks that still illuminate the circuits of our minds.
Jessica set the mood for sharing. The group opened up and stories flowed. Some lingered and did not want to leave. We held unto the feelings as one by one the residents retreated to their apartments and the magic lingered in the community room even after the last participants had left.
-Ildiko Szabo, Director of Community Life