Mrs. Pierce, My New England Mom

Dear Mrs. Pierce,

You & Eric were scheduled to leave my place on Prospect Avenue at least an hour ago. Instead, the sun is setting and I’m waking up while lying on the glossy hardwood floor. Looking up, I see you and Eric on opposite ends of the blue couch, both asleep.

In fact, we all dozed off simultaneously while in conversation. You all were not in any hurry to drive back to Mass. and I loved that about you. You were always game for anything and we had so many wonderful (vegan) adventures!

Eric and I met on August 25th, 2000. You and I probably met in early-mid 2001. Had to be before the year’s end because around November ’01 you & Dr. Pierce–you all both in your mid-70’s–helped Eric & I move into our Summer Street apartment.

I apologize for this, Mrs. Pierce. You all didn’t just carry up a few boxes and bags, but, rather, were holding up the ends of heavy couches and bed frames. Right up those steeply curving steps. How in the heck did we even round those corners??

And what is wrong with Eric and I?! Why didn’t we have young animal rights activists helping us with the furniture??

To add insult to injury, we all went out to eat at that Indian place afterwards and you all so graciously footed the bill.

Again, my apologies. And thanks.

We had so many wonderful vegan dining experiences together, didn’t we? One of the best times was this past summer when Eric drove us all, my biological Mom included, up to New Hampshire to eat the buffet at Country Life–Keene.

You were never shy about eating and put away as much as ever. Sometimes I would hope you may not be able to finish something so I could eat your leftovers; but, alas, you often cleaned your plate. However, you typically always asked me if I wanted to try something you had ordered. You generously ordered multiple delicious appetizers for us all at Walnut Grill in summer of ’18…then surprised Mom & I by paying the check for all of us. And that was a LARGE meal.

You were always so generous.

Thanksgiving 2003 was one of the best ever in my life. I brought a stack of papers from student teaching to Neshobe Road, my running shoes, a few outfits, and settled in for a relaxed long weekend.

Neshobe was at its peak: fall leaves falling; squirrels stealing bird feed out back; Eric’s recyclables piling up in the garage; Angie’s Rebel Bars in the fridge; sunshine piercing down through the skylight over the kitchen table.

Walking into the dining area, I would see Dr. Pierce reading the Boston Globe paper. Your Kenyan artifacts curated strategically in the family room, adjacent to the dining area. You were in the kitchen making pancakes for all of us. You opened up the stockpile of May Wah products and threw some bacon in the skillet.

The atmosphere exuded warmth. I was not in Kentucky, but it felt like home.

Perhaps it was the same weekend, I’m not sure, when Eric was working and you all brought me out to dinner at a Japanese place somewhere in or near Mashpee.

I loved visiting you on the Cape. I always wanted to stay more often at Neshobe. Running past the bay where Dr. Pierce kept his boat, then around the tree filled neighborhood and onto the dirt road through the forest, ending up on the beach. It was sublime.

Seeing you all after the run, showering, relaxing at the dining table reading the Globe. WBZ news on the radio. It was perfect.

Perfect as those golden summer days just a few months back…Stopping off at the park in Natick, you showing us the place across the street where Eric went to nursery school. Your memory still sharp, you looked through any changes having occurred over the years and saw just where the school was, and still is.

Both my Moms onboard, Eric at the wheel, cruising around your all’s neighborhood where Douglas, Jeffrey & Eric spent most of their childhood. We stopped for a while in front of the old house, and I surreptitiously snapped a shot of you looking ahead with the house to your right side. I will always remember this moment.

Around the corner, Eric & I walked down the old hiking trail as you & my Mom waited at the car. Sunshine carved through the green forest as we drove off toward Boston. Alongside the highway, you pointed out to us where Dr. Pierce’s medical office used to be. You remembered.

Later, we ate at Fomu. Perhaps this was just after our Grasshopper dinner. All of these vegan spots and their employees and owners are going to miss you, Mrs. Pierce. You were a regular for so long. Everyone was always happy to invite you in.

It will be so trying to revisit Veggie Galaxy without you at our side. I know you always told us you didn’t want to trouble us, as we pushed your wheelchair, but–truly–it was an honor, Mrs. Pierce. No trouble at all.

I hate that you could not walk around these past few years. I hate that your balance was thrown off and you needed the wheelchair. But you never let it stop you. You still went everywhere–at all hours of the night. You were up for anything. Even picking up random guys at the train station.

Yes. That fateful night as you & Eric dropped me off at the South Station bus terminal and I realized my bus was seriously delayed. I needed to be back in the classroom early the following morning. Eric asked you if it was okay to drive me home and you quickly agreed. Home to The Bronx, that is. About a 4 hour drive.

It was already at least 9 p.m. After all, we were NEVER rushing when together. A tall 20-something young man nearby the ticket counter also needed to get back to NYC. Out of nowhere, Eric offered him a ride, too, glancing in your direction for affirmation.

Concern was my first thought. But soon we were all off to the car together. Riding down the escalator, inviting the stranger into the car, I remember watching his every move…just in case.

However., he was a lovely gent and later e mailed you all a “thank you,” via myself, as he said he would.

You agreed with Eric’s scheme then but not always. At times when I’d told him I really needed to go and he would begin a new topic of conversation, you would really scold him: “Ohhhh, ERIC! Kyle needs to go!” you would tell him.

Your interjections were so funny, especially during phone calls when I’d hear you in the background, scolding.

It is always tragic when the world loses a truly good person. Someone who stands against injustice. Someone who saves over 100 animal lives each year, protects the earth, supports animal-earth-human rights organizations. Even when one animal friendly shoe company you supported made a pair of shoes that literally dissolved the first time you wore them, you never ceased promoting the cause.

Eric’s shoes fell apart the very same day. You waited in the car in Central Square as Eric & I marched down the sidewalk towards Payless to pick up a temporary pair for you. Metal tacks in his fast dissolving shoe sole clacking the whole way.

I couldn’t stop laughing.


You persuaded Dr. Pierce to eat predominantly vegan, not a small feat for many meat eaters. “Flesh eaters,” I hear you saying. I remember us all together eating at Country for either a Thanksgiving or Christmas meal one year. Could’ve been Thanksgiving; although I don’t think I ever ate at the restaurant on Thanksgiving. Probably ’02 or ’03. It was packed so we sat together at an extra table in the High Street office tower’s vestibule. You, Dr. Pierce, Eric & I. So many other friends were all around us: Lorraine, Steve Baer, Bro, Craig & Avis and family, of course.

It was a golden age for Country Life, our activist community, for my entire life in Boston & the metro area. It was one of those times not forgotten because even in the moment you do not want it to end. Like our day in your old Natick neighborhood this past summer. It was so perfect I wanted to bottle those times and hold them forever.

June of 2004. I walked into the Neshobe home with my parents and felt like something special was happening. Upon entering the house, I was greeted with a giant “Surprise!” Definitely surprised to see classmate Nicole transported out to the Cape, as well as Bro. Was even more surprised to find a table and counter full of some of my all-time favorite delectables.

Country Life had tragically closed its doors in February so this was a real shocker.

Fish sticks, pizza, some of our old favorites were back. And at home no less! Eric rang up Craig & Avis in Upton during the party and they wished me well. Eric had not only driven out to the Ashton estate in Upton, he’d also driven way up north to Hippie Chick’s to retrieve a large cake, which was an additional surprise. It was all coordinated with you all behind the scenes. Thank you again for your generosity and thoughtfulness. And for putting up with Eric’s schemes.

Our sojourn to Country Life Keene this past summer was equally resplendent. Our closest surviving connection to Country Life Boston, even several menu items–Russian soup, fish sticks, pizza–are from the same cookbook. The original banner from the facade of Country Life Boston is now neatly folded in the basement. A crucial artifact of vegan history. Both Moms around us. Eric and I in seventh heaven as we ate the buffet to our heart’s content.

It was perfect.


Gosh, was that the last time I was at Food Fest? Just before Hurricane Sandy hit? You, Eric, Dayanna & I meandered around eating Gardein samples, talking with Adam from Veggie Galaxy/Veggie Planet, drinking free chocolate hemp milk and trying our best, generally, to walk through the legions of Fest goers.

Upstairs, I called Vargas to check in on Charlie. She was bringing him over to her place to be with Kiwi, his good dog friend. The storm was enroute. In Boston, it grew dark and windy. But we remained in a happy place, a fully veganized atmosphere.

That was at least the second Food Fest I attended with you. I’d been with Eric several other times, but in 2007 Rachael & I were there with you all. Memorably, Douglas & Danielle rendezvoused with us. It was Danielle’s birthday and we were all going to Grasshopper afterwards. Eric is as Eric does, so it took more than a few minutes–or even an hour–to pry him away from folks and be off to dinner.

In your gently scolding way, you questioned Eric, pushed him to begin getting out the door, and finally succeeded in getting him to the car so we could go eat a late dinner. We had a cake for Danielle and all celebrated her birthday in Grasshopper, Dr. Pierce included.

You were always up for the fun of hitting vegan spots–day or night. (Hurricanes be darned) Or, even, late late night.

Besides the all night drive from Boston to The Bronx and back to Boston (!) [Eric’s second time dropping me off at home in such fashion], you were commonly up till 01:00, 02:00, maybe even 03:00am. You put me to shame with my usual 10 pm bedtime routine!

I’ve never been sure how often you originally planned to stay up into the night, but you went along with your son’s wacky late night drive arounds and that is further testament to your love for him.

One of our best drives, but not nearly our latest, was this past summer when you, Eric, Mom & I are traveled to Rhode Island. Entering Plant City, our senses were assailed by the multitude of vegan food court offerings. I escorted you past the little grocery and coffee shop areas to the bowls section. There I helped explain the day’s offerings to you, both of us so confused about whether to eat there or elsewhere. Pizza, Mexican, where should we go??

We all spent a full two hours or more inside Plant City, with some quality time conversing with staff. Then we crossed the street and traveled riverside just before sunset. You & Mom waited on the main path as Eric and I snuck into the construction zone, along with a bunch of other folks, then reported back. Eric was really peeved that skateboarders were already laying claim to the brand new spot, leaving scars along the way.

We traveled toward the silver ring sculpture and Mom took a nice photo of us–you in front, Eric and I shoulder you shoulder behind you wearing our black Chinese character t shirts.

Magenta sun descended slowly over Providence.

Charlie was relaxing back at Red Roof, but the summer before, in ’18, we carted him out to Pawtucket with us. That was so wonderful…FIVE of us together. Charlie was such a good boy in his kennel on Garden Grill’s outdoor patio as we ate dinner. Such a lovely lad.

Afterwards, the gracious staff at Sunflower welcomed Charlie in for his first ever vegan bakery experience. Unlike most cats, he always loved exploring new places, meeting new humans, even eating the occasional vegan treat (I don’t think he ever knew–or cared–that his hickory smoked turkey was actually Tofurky).

He began wandering around in Sunflower, to the delight of the ladies. As usual, they were all saying how handsome he is. The whole experience of the 5 of us all there together, warm summer evening, surrounded by vegan desserts…it was yet another moment I wanted to hold with you forever.


I had a similar feeling while eating a variety of tofus after closing time at Tofu Palace, a tofu cooperative next to Inle Lake, Burma. Whenever I’d ask you about your favorite places visited in all of your travels, you usually returned back to two key places: Kenya, where you went 5 (or was it 7?) times and Burma.

Your tales of how friendly the people are, how unique the culture is, how good the food is, they inspired me to visit. It was on my list since you first told me about Burma, probably around the time I was graduating from Divinity School. Finally, at Christmas of 2017, my first ever Christmas outside the USA and away from my family, I found myself in Burma.

Then I found myself with my girlfriend Guilin again in Burma in October of 2018. I just had to go back. And you helped inspire me to gather a whole new collection of memories in a land of ancient Buddhist temples, incredible vegan eating and drinking at The Moon–Be Kind to Animals, and beautiful, khat chewing-spitting people who are still more interested in getting to know foreigners than they are in making money off them,

So full of life were your tales of watching the mass animal migrations traverse the Serengeti and jaunting off into Southeast Asia as Dr. Pierce traveled to Germany. Your memory was long. Your love of travel was immense.

It became a parlor trick for me, then for Eric & I both to be out with you and ask folks we’d encounter: ” How old do you think she is?” This began around ’02-’03, I reckon, so you would’ve been about 75 years old. The vast majority of people honestly thought you were in your 50’s.

That’s how young you looked. Wrinkle-free, clear skin. Even recently at 91-92 years old, Guilin and others honestly thought you were in your 60’s. You were one of the youngest looking elders I’ve ever known. And your verve lasted till the very “end.” But it can’t really be the end, right? Just a new beginning. Somewhere, you are exploring lands we cannot yet fathom. With Dr. Pierce, Jeffrey, Ciao, Charlie, Hercules Belle, surrounding you. With all those loved ones who have passed on before us.

Grasshopper this past summer–just another breezy day carried us through the heat of a Mass summer as we made our rounds. Seeing old friends at the restaurant whom we’ve been seeing for 20 years. Hard to believe it’s been that long. Stopping off at the Allston bulletin board out front to remember the Brigham & Women’s sleep study posting. Ice cream afterwards at FuMu.

Veggie Crust’s owner was great in ’18, opening the door for you and helping you out, then down the sidewalk. Such delicious pizza. This past summer our walk afterwards through the tree lined Brookline streets, looping around the neighborhood park, stopping to stare at the huge home across the street.

Why did it end?

But, it has not.

It is a new beginning.

And yet, a beginning in spirit only.

Your physical presence, Mrs. Pierce, will still be sorely missed. I trust it will be the same–knowing you are always with us–and yet, not seeing you…it’s still too unreal to even believe.

And yet, as Charlie returns to me in dreams, always reminding me he remains with us, I am confident you are as well.

Charlie & you were a perfect team. With Eric, it made a Three Amigo(a)s of sorts. You had Charlie to accompany you all day; likewise, he was hardly ever alone. As I prepared to move to China in August of ’17, the handoff of Charlie to Riquelmi, then to Eric (about a week later), was smooth. Of course, I would miss my son. We’d lived together for a decade. But I knew he was going to be living a good life with you all on the Cape.

It was so ideal. And it reaped rewards for all.

As we’ve spoken about so many times, Charlie brought you joy and companionship beyond belief. In return, he was provided with the absolute best living conditions and medical care for nearly 2.5 years. Regrettably, an ailment unidentified by all had befallen our son–OUR now being the most appropriate way to refer to the lad. On December 15th he passed on, way too soon.

In his time with you all, though, the love he gave was absolutely priceless. Seeing photos of you and Charlie napping together, Charlie napping alone in your wheelchair, Charlie climbing all over Eric as he drove…I knew how happy he was. Clearly, he was greatly loved.

You told me so many times how appreciative you were to have Charlie living with you all. But I was just as appreciative, as was our son. You did more for the little guy than I ever could have asked and I am truly eternally grateful.

I felt bad for you after Charlie passed on because I knew your constant companion-son-friend would be missing from your daily life. Little did any of us know, you would pass on just over a month after Charlie.

I cannot help but ask why the good die young. Yes, you were 92, but still so young at heart, young in spirit.

You & Eric were true night owls, prowling the streets from Pawtucket to the Cape long after most folks were in bed. Eric’s recyclables on the dash, and throughout the backseat, trunk, pretty much everywhere. Picking up vegan foods from little spots all over Mass. I truly hope no restaurants go out of business without you!

Thank you, Mrs. Pierce, for treating Mom & I at Veggie Galaxy. Thanks again for the wonderful Walnut Grill meal in ’18. Thank you for supporting me during my Boston Marathon races, picking me up afterwards in 2010, maybe 2014, too.

I remember us all, including Dr. Pierce & Arnstein, at the vegan spot in Davis Square before Boston 2014. How you supported Douglas when he ran Boston on that scorching day in ’04.

I remember, and then I remember more. We never had enough time together, but I am so thankful for the times we had.

Most of all, I owe you immense thanks for being a wonderful mother for our shared son. We lost him way too soon, but every napping moment, every time he thought your wheelchair was his own, every trip home to find him running towards us–welcoming us back…these were and always will be the priceless moments.

These moments, with you, Charlie, all of us together, these moments I will hold forever.