Hat on Top, Coat Below


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Back East, Part 1

August 11, 2002

I’m back from a long weekend jaunt that turned out much better than I’d feared it might. The omens were bad, for sure. Friday morning, I woke around four a.m., very early for me. It took me a few minutes to realize what had woken me was my body announcing that the feminine protection I had provided was inadequate to meet current flow rates. So I got up and tried to get the situation under control without turning on the too bright bathroom lights. Not a good idea, as the now artfully decorated white tiles attested to when I did flip the switch. After mopping up and replacing the dam materials, I got back in bed and tried to get back to sleep. I had managed to drift off when I woke again around five, this time to find Mr. Karen wandering around in the dark. In the very dark—the power had gone off. Even though we had to get up early to make our plane, we hadn’t even thought about setting the battery-powered alarm clock as a backup, so it’s a good thing Mr. Karen didn’t sleep through the sound of the transformer blowing nearby, as I certainly didn’t hear it. The power was still off when we got up a few minutes later, and it was still dark outside, so I showered and shaved my legs by candlelight. (I cannot recommend this approach to hair removal, romantic as it might sound. Viewing my efforts in the harsh light of the airport later, it was all I could do to keep from whipping out my Venus right there at the gate to go over all the spots I’d missed.) The power was still off when Mr. Karen’s sister Fay arrived, and it hadn’t come back on by the time we all needed to leave for the airport. I had visions of my welcome home present being a fridge and freezer full of spoiled food, but there was nothing for it but to leave it and hope for the best.

Given how the day had started out, I was pleasantly surprised at how well things went once we left the house. We got to the airport and were checked in and through security in short order. A bathroom stop indicated that, while fresh troops were needed, the conventional forces were up to fighting the feminine protection battle to this point. Our flight left on time, and soon I was able to add number 39 to the list of states I’ve been in when we landed in Providence, Rhode Island. We were there for Mr. Karen’s annual family reunion, held this year in a Massachusetts town nearby. Mr. Karen’s parents, Dale and Joan, had driven in the night before. The plan was for us to call them when we landed, and they’d come pick us up. That worked well, until they drove right past us and completely failed to notice their only son running behind their minivan attempting to get their attention. We watched them circle around, and when they got close again, I stepped out in front of their van, which had the desired effect of getting them to stop, rather than the undesired one of having them run me over. Once settled into the vehicle with our luggage, I picked up the voice mail on my cell phone, the last message being my mother-in-law, saying “we’re at the airport, trying to find you— oh, wait, there you are, waving at us; okay, see you soon”.

After a quick stop to get Mr. Karen in the driver’s seat (and get me a snack, the best treatment for cramps next to Advil), the five of us headed off to Boston for the day. Mr. Karen had done a lot of research ahead of time, so we left ourselves in his capable hands. We parked at the Riverside stop on the green line and took the T to the harbor. After buying tickets for a harbor cruise, we had a big lunch at Legal Seafood. (It seemed only right that we eat there, as I’d run in to use their bathroom to change out the troops again, for the fourth time since I’d left my house that morning.) It would not be a reunion weekend without food. Last year, this branch of the family was late to the light supper portion of the reunion activities because we went out to eat dinner between leaving the base camp hotel and heading over to the hosts’ home. Fortified with lobster rolls and chowda, we boarded the boat and took in the sights from the water. One of the sights I saw too much of was a young woman’s butt in my face, as she repeatedly squeezed between my chair and the window to get better pictures. If I were a teenaged boy, that probably would have been the highlight of my day right there.

Post-cruise, we walked to Quincy Market. It having been at least an hour since we ate, we had to have a little snack. Sadly, the crepes stand Mr. Karen and I remembered from our trip last year was no more; still, we did not want for tasty options. On a sugar high, we walked part of the Freedom Trail up to Boston Common. My favorite stop was not in the guidebook: some sparrows had set up a dust bath spa on the other side of a church yard fence, with several hollows where they twisted and turned and flapped their little wings in what looked like delight. I couldn’t resist snapping multiple pictures of their antics. Between the pictures of the sparrows and the pictures of architectural details I thought might make good quilt designs, I did manage to take a few shots of the people I was with, too.

Dale was running out of walking steam by the time we reached the Common, so he sat while the rest of us walked up to the capitol. The dome had been shrouded in scaffolding last year, so it was nice to see it uncovered this time. We rejoined Dale and got back on the T for a trip over to the Prudential Tower. The view was tremendous, with Fenway all lit up for the game being a special treat. Having my tour of the skywalk interrupted by an “uh-oh, are my pants red?” moment was not a special treat. I responded with special forces, also known as three super absorbency o.b. tampons deployed simultaneously. That took care of that problem, and I really wished I’d escalated to that level earlier. We discussed having dinner in the city, but decided it was better to get on the T and get out of town before the line was inundated after the baseball game. Not that we’d had any bad experiences with Red Sox fans; we were just tired and didn’t relish the thought of dealing with a big crowd.

By the time we’d made it back to the van and driven a bit to find a suitable restaurant for dinner, it was 10 o’clock, rather later than any of us are used to eating. Perhaps low blood sugar accounted for the heated discussion we had about driving to the motel, where we were headed after dinner. Dale had been telling us all day about how hard it was to get to the motel (they’d checked in the night before), how they’d tried to find the town and had to stop for directions and still had problems because the sign was hidden by trees and the motel was back in the woods at the end of a long gravel driveway and so on. As it turned out, at least part of the problem was that Dale hadn’t used MapQuest, as Mr. Karen and Joan had both recommended. Dale maintained that he gotten the directions from MapQuest and had them in his briefcase but hadn’t used them; why he hadn’t was not clear. He seemed offended that Mr. Karen and I were asking him about it and said fine, we could just navigate with our directions from MapQuest and he wouldn’t tell us anything about where it was. I am pleased to report that we found it with no trouble, and it was not actually down a long gravel driveway but clearly visible from the road. Behind some trees, yes, but not obscured to the point of invisibility.

Coming up in Part 2, we fail to find the Stop and Shop but do find the family reunion.

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