Friday, March 16, 2007

Children’s Memorial Letterbox

***Bring your own markers or inkpad, there is no ink provided in the box***

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Distance: A minimum of 2.3 miles, you may choose a longer hike
Terrain: Moderate at times (hilly)

Time: You can probably complete the whole thing in about 1-1/2 hours, if you are hustling. I encourage you to plan for 2-3 hours, however, so you can enjoy the location of your hike.

The “Children’s Memorial” letterbox was inspired by the loss of four children who should be in my life. My first baby, Haylee Theresa, was stillborn in 1999. My best friend lost her first baby, Beck Postel, in December 2006, three days after he was prematurely born. Another friend lost Daniel a few years ago, and still another friend lost Gus (June, 2007). The helplessness and despair you feel in the midst of such tragedies is immeasurable. You want to DO something to soothe your soul a bit, and the souls of the others touched by this grief. Some soothing comes from sharing sorrow with others; there is comfort in that. Some soothing also comes from taking stock of life’s blessings. Although difficult to deal with, the sorrow we feel in the face of such a devastating loss is the reflection of something beautiful. Ironically, that which provides us with our greatest joy, which inspires and elevates us to become better than we otherwise would be, is also the source of our greatest sorrow. The greater the love, the greater the grief. We can be grateful that we have a love that can produce this kind of grief. How meaningless our lives would be without it.

This box is my way, right now, to soothe my soul a bit by memorializing my lost babies and all children who have died. It’s also a celebration of our capacity to love, in all its exhilaration and recklessness. I’ve chosen a location for the letterbox that should be conducive to a relaxed and unhurried opportunity for reflection.

The idea to plant a box like this came from Spastic Reader’s “Father of the Bride Letterbox” in Framingham, MA. It’s a lovely tribute to her father, and how amazing that so many people who never knew him in life, stop by now to say hello. Say hi to Haylee & Beck & Daniel & Gus for me, will you?


This is a two-part letterbox. Part 1 is a drive-by; Part 2 is a hike. For Part 1, you need to visit the “Children’s Memorial” in Northborough, MA. Here you will find out where your “starting point” is for Part 2, which is also in Northborough. Part 2 is about a 10 minute drive from Part 1, and the “starting point” is NOT the trailhead.

There are two options in Part 1 to get the needed information. Option 1: Decrypt words from the inscription on the memorial (see below). This option is helpful if you cannot find the LB in Option 2, if the muggles are swarming, or if there are no maps left in the box. Option 2: Find the LB in the woods behind the memorial; there are maps in there that will reveal the starting point. The trailhead kiosk has a map, and there is almost always a pile of maps there to take along (it is regularly re-stocked). Maps for all Northborough trails can also be downloaded from the website: Northborough Trails Committee

Part 1: Children’s Memorial

The Children’s Memorial is in Assabet Park, which is at the corner of Gale Street and South Street (Rt. 135) in Northborough. From Rt. 20 (coming from either direction), turn East onto Rt. 135 (it’s actually your only option). A block down the road on Rt. 135 you will see a playground on the right. Turn into the road just before this playground (Gale Street), then turn left to get up to the parking lot. The lot is divided into two sections, lower & upper. Park in the upper lot, and start walking toward the playground. You will NOT be walking down the hill. Rather, step over the little fence lining the grass, and the monument is in the corner here at the top of the grassy hill.

NOTE: This is a nice playground for kids aged 3-6.

Option 1: Decryption

For each letter you take off the memorial, you will use an associated math statement to determine the “true” letter. The math statement tells you how far forward or backward in the alphabet you need to go to arrive at the target letter e.g., (A+1 = B); (A+4 = E); (L–2 = J); (T–5 = O).

For example:
Inscription = “a-p-p-l-e”
Math = (+5) (+2) (+5) (-3) (+15)
Solution = “f-r-u-i-t” (a+5=f; p+2=r; p+5=u; l-3=I; e+15=t)

The top of the plaque says, “Children’s Memorial.” Below these words you’ll find a short inscription, printed out in four lines. Write down the first four (4) words on the third (3rd) line. (So you can confirm that you have the correct words, the surrounding text is “...they and…”). Use the following math statements to reveal the starting point for Part 2.

(+4) (+0) (-3) (+2) (-8) (-6) (+4) (-6) (+3) (+12) (+3) (+21) (-9) (-15) (+4)

If you know the place, you can go right there and start the hunt. If you do not know the place, look for the LB described in Option 2, where you can find a map. Or, visit the Northborough Trails Committee website.

Option 2: Hidden Maps

This can be a very busy park, so if you are going to find the letterbox, please be very discreet—it is only about 10-15 feet off the parking lot in the woods.

Stand facing the Children’s Memorial so you can read the inscription. As you look straight over the memorial and into the woods, you will see a tall, thin evergreen tree close to the edge of the parking lot. Just beyond this tree is another evergreen—this one much mightier, with four arms heading upward from its large trunk. The back of this mighty tree is hollow. The letterbox (a water bottle wrapped in camo tape) is hidden in the hollow—reach back and to the left. In the bottle is one copy of the map that is laminated. PLEASE do not take this one! This should always stay in the box, in case the paper versions are depleted & I haven’t re-stocked. If a paper map is there, feel free to take it with you. PLEASE let me know if there are only a couple of paper maps left, so I can restock.

Part 2: The Letterbox

When you reach your destination, there is a place where you will want to pause, you’ll know it when you see it. When you’ve finished your pause, turn around and take the first trail to your right (north). At Y intersection, stay to the LEFT. As you start a noticeable incline, you’ll see a VERY large boulder off in the woods on your left. Next you’ll come to a 4-way intersection, and you need to go to the RIGHT. As you walk along, you’ll see two “speed bumps” in the path (parallel roots 2-3 feet apart). Continue on and the trail will cross exposed bedrock (flat) that spreads approximately 8 feet. Further along on the trail you’ll see a notable boulder abutting the trail on the left. Further along still, you’ll see a similar (larger) notable boulder abutting the trail on the right. As you pass this second boulder, stop at the first trail blaze you see.

Look carefully for muggles in both directions of the trail, so nobody sees you heading down to the letterbox site. Also, if there is snow on the ground, please take the time to create distracting footsteps when you finish, to avoid having your steps lead anyone directly to the box.

Go approximately 14 steps at 150 degrees and look down. You’ll see a perfect “bench” on which to stamp in. The “bench” is roughly 20 feet long and 2 feet wide. Go down and stand on the “bench.” Walk to the south end of the “bench” and as you go allow your gaze to look ahead (south) approximately 25 feet or so from the south end of the “bench” (please don’t fall off!) You will see another thing very much like your “bench,” except it wouldn’t be remotely as comfortable to sit upon. Please be very careful as you hop down and approach this new target, because it is quite slippery here with leaves, and probably even more so if wet or snowy.

Approximately half way along the length of your new target is a small tree on the right, with a few rocks sitting between the target and the tree. (These rocks can be used to improve the hide, if need be, and may not be there if they have been used for this purpose by others before you visit.) At the far (south) end of this “pseudo-bench,” on the left (downhill) side, the box rests on the ground below a small ledge & behind some loose rocks.

Return to the comfy “bench” to stamp in. It would require someone to leave the trail and come stand over you to see what you are doing here on this “bench,” so please take your time and enjoy your visit.

In addition to the usual stamp and logbook, we have included a zippered pouch in which we have put some marbles. THIS IS NOT A GEOCACHE. The marbles are meant to be symbolic. If you have someone to memorialize, please feel free to add something small to the pouch (marble, button, bead, stone, etc., but please do not leave food or scented items). If your grief is still burning, please feel free to take something from the pouch (you do NOT need to leave something in its place) to carry with you, so you know that you are not alone, and to remember the beauty and grace of a life filled with love.

When you return the letterbox, please use the utmost care to not be seen, and to hide it well. As you can imagine, this box is very meaningful to us, and it would be unfortunate if it went missing.

If you'd like to join a group of Grateful Letterboxers, click here.

Enjoy the day!


As with all of our letterboxes, we encourage feedback so that letterboxers will enjoy the hunts, and not get frustrated by poorly written clues or unintended hazards.

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