Double take: Twins take on PEM

If you have ever wondered what it is like to be the child of a celebrity parent, just ask my eight-year-old twins.  Although I am most certainly no Angelina Jolie, I was recently lifted to the equivalent of similar celebrity status in the minds of second-graders when their teacher announced that I was making it possible for their class to visit the Peabody Essex Museum.

The announcement was apparently met with loud cheers and ecstatic proclamations of  “You have the coolest Mom ever!”  My kids came home beaming and excited to show their classmates “our museum.”

My twins really do believe that PEM is their museum because they basically grew up here.  Even before working at the museum, I was a member here and a Salem resident, so we were always frequent museum-goers.

I absolutely love it that some of their first memorable experiences were formed here at the museum.  They remember weekly PEM Pals stories read to them as pre-schoolers and countless weekend festivals, full of performances, crafts and activities.  They have never traveled the world, but the world has most certainly come to them right here in Salem in the form of Chinese, Japanese, Indian and Native American performances and demonstrations. I am certain that they look forward to the Chinese New Year festival at PEM annually more than January 1st.

Kids at Chinese New Year

The twins in 2010, (age 4) watching the performers in the Atrium with some friends. Courtesy photo

Chinese New Year

The twins in 2013, (age 7) waiting to try on a Chinese lion dancer head. Courtesy photo

As a mother, I love it that PEM has not only succeeded in creating amazing educational and cultural experiences, but that this museum is often just an awesome and fun place to be. Below are some of the most memorable:

Surreal Festival Weekend

Dancing with weird creatures at the Surreal and Strange Festival Weekend in 2011 (Yes, that’s the author in the back who sometimes participates right along with her kids). Courtesy photo.

Alex inside a bubble

The author’s son, Alex, getting placed inside of a bubble during a demonstration in the East India Marine Hall in 2012. Courtesy photo

Soundsuit love

Her daughter — just a few months ago — giving hugs to a Nick Cave Soundsuit dancer. Courtesy photo

But what has always fascinated me, beyond all of the fun festivals and kid-focused activities that our brilliant Education Department provides them, is that my kids also really love many aspects of the permanent collection and special exhibitions. In fact, my son is so in-tune to our changing exhibition schedule that he immediately memorizes opening and closing dates so that we are sure to be among the first to visit and last to say good-bye.

One day last fall we were roaming through the galleries and stopped at the “Art Cart” in the Native American gallery. There was a paper etching activity where kids could create their own “scratch” art similar to what Native American kids did on birch bark long ago.  My daughter Maria did a quick collage of some of her favorite things about PEM. Her simple renderings of the wedding shell dress, Mr. Nobody, a Native American, a hat and the Yin Yu Tang Chinese house are quite amusing.

A 7 yr old's love of PEM

A seven-year-old’s love of PEM. Courtesy photo

Oh yes! And the visit with their second-grade class was a big success. Just this past week I received a stack of thank you letters. My favorite was from a kid who had never visited PEM before.  He said “Thank you! It was awesome. I wish my Mom worked somewhere cool too.”


  1. Bill and Tereza says:

    We are enjoying reading this in Bucharest Romania. where we are on the final day of our Eastern European vacation. It was nice seeing the photos of our grandchildren and the news from our “famous” daughter!
    We love PEM also.

  2. Marianne says:

    I’m also enjoying this PEM blog and as a frequent visitor I almost feel like it’s my Museum too. So nice to see my grandchildren having fun there.Such a wonderful community contributor. Thanks Leanne for your Post.

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