About Nancy Bogin

From: Tom Murphy- Bogin Playscape Project director

This website is new, and so far lacks any information on Nancy Bogin, for whom the project is named. I am hoping this website  can also serve as a place for  gathering of memories and stories about Nancy and the countless people who were helped and guided by her; I offer my own remembrance  as a start.

The Bogin Playscape Project is named in honor of Nancy Bogin (1921-2009) an extraordinary early childhood educator and mentor for many. What follows is edited from a letter I wrote to her family shortly after her death in 2009.

Dear Harold, Kathy, Josh and Ricki,                                     3/15/09

It’s close to the time when I should be putting together a package for Nancy’s birthday. Over the years, there were books, chocolate, jam, maybe some music inside… tokens of my affection, undiminished through the years, and always a note with a variation on “I love you, please live forever”. I took great pleasure in remembering, in holding onto our connection and the countless ways I feel my life was shaped and guided by Nancy’s kind hands and heart and words.

I met Nancy before I met the rest of the family, as a high school volunteer in her Pre-Kindergarten program.  It’s no exaggeration to say that the foundation of my being formed in those days. My eyes were opened to working with young kids, and suddenly there was someone who told me I was good at it, I had a gift. That recognition and encouragement took root, and has stayed with me my whole life.  I’m good with kids, Nancy told me so, and she offered me a job even before I finished high school.  A path was set, and off I went.  And then, of course there’s the family.

Those early days of being enmeshed, taken in, made part of the family, formed another precious piece of my identity. There was so much to learn, so much that was different and exotic and exciting.  I learned the joys of long dinners that went impossibly late. There was food I’d never tasted before, and conversation, always, that opened up an Irish Catholic kid to another world of left leaning thinking;  exactly what I was looking for.

There was  Deer Isle and the start of my love for Maine, and the jumble of beach glass on the window sills and old postcards that wove a web between the past and the present, all familiar and precious and sweet. It took years for me to accept that summer could still happen if I didn’t  walk through the doors of that Deer Isle house, so deep was my idea of  summer connected to that place. I can hear Harold practicing Chopin early in the morning, and dreamy music that seemed as close to heaven as we could go.

If I start to describe how I dated Ricki, and played music with Josh, and tried to learn Spanish from Kathy,  and then got my start designing furniture and equipment for her, and studied piano with Harold; it goes on and on.  It’s enough to say that there was a big wide world inside one family,  and I grabbed hold and held on.

Yet all that was 35 years ago.  I’m just now reaching the age that Nancy was when I met her, and that shocks me, but also gives me comfort. There was so much life she lived from this age forward; some I witnessed,  and much more that went on in circles apart from me. That gene for connecting with people that is so much the Bogin DNA had strands that spread all over; to a whole other life after retirement in New Mexico. Truthfully, you could have put Nancy anywhere; the connections would just happen.

In recent years, I saw Nancy only a few times, and mostly we spoke over the phone. Her voice, high pitched and almost childlike, still held a trace of New York no nonsense toughness.  A rich mix.

She offered advise and consolation when my kids had troubles and suddenly I couldn’t rely on my instincts to figure it all out;  she would bring me back to believing in myself when I was unsure, and always, always believed in me. Helping me trust that kids will come around when the foundation of love has been set;  and of course she was right…

I still feel like that 17 year old kid some days, who has dreams and can’t wait to take on the world. I’ve found my own family and place and work that feels important and connects back to those early days.  I feel stronger and wiser now.  Sometimes I feel myself looking around for another 17 year old who I can take under my wing, the way Nancy did for me. And that’s the greatest gift. I own something extraordinary inside me, that’s partly my own and partly what I was given from my best teachers. It’s mine to give and share as best I can.

I haven’t yet written that novel, or that great song,  or designed 100 more children’s playgrounds;  loads of dreams remain from those early days. But I know that whatever I did,  whatever I accomplished, Nancy would say “ I knew he could do anything”.   Having a person in my life who believes in me like that, it sustains me in times of  great sorrow; it gives me strength to keep going today, even as I weep at losing my dear friend.


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