Hat on Top, Coat Below


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Garden, Empire, and Constitution States

June 12, 2006

This past weekend was supposed to continue the annual tradition my mom and I have of going on a quilt show trip, except things didn’t go according to plan. Wednesday night things were on track; my mom called to get my cellphone number (again; I give it to her several times a year and evidently it goes AWOL from wherever she writes it down) and I expected to see her in Newark the next afternoon. Early Thursday morning she called to tell me she wasn’t coming; she was too sick to fly and was going to the emergency room but I should go ahead on the trip. So I went ahead on the trip–Mr. Karen dropped me off at the airport (which isn’t usual but was the plan this time), and I got on a plane and a couple hours later I was in New Jersey for the first time.

At the airport in Newark, I easily saw where I would have gone to meet Mom if she had been able to get on her plane from Chicago. What I didn’t see was where to go to pick up the rental car. I knew Payless wasn’t at the airport–I wasn’t paying enough for that–so I took the monorail to the off-airport rental car shuttles. No Payless. They keep their cars in an undisclosed location that they’ll only reveal if you call them and give the password. Okay, so there isn’t really a password, but I did have to call them to find out that I had to get back on the monorail and go to the hotel shuttle pickup point and get on the Ramada van (which has no sign of Payless on it at all). Of course.

After picking up my rental car, I successfully made it down the New Jersey Turnpike to the hotel. That’s quite something, that turnpike, what with the five or six lanes in each direction and elevated ramps entering and leaving the middle lanes at regular intervals. The hotel was having none of my trying to check in an hour early–evidently they prepare all the rooms between 3 and 4 p.m., because nothing was ready–so I spent an hour checking out the grocery store and sitting in the parking lot making calls on my cell. Not too long after I did get into my room, I talked to my niece, who said Mom had been diagnosed with pneumonia and an irregular heartbeat and she was going to be in the hospital at least overnight. Okay, so my idea that she’d recover in time to come out for at least part of the weekend wasn’t looking like it was going to pan out.

Friday I went ahead and went to the quilt show, which was put on by The State Quilt Guild of NJ. I’d picked this show because 1) I needed to visit NJ and 2) this event was described as “the largest non-juried quilt show on the east coast” so I thought there’d be enough to see to make it worthwhile. It was a good show, with plenty of quilts and vendors but not so many as to be completely overwhelming and a few touches I hadn’t seen before, like the decorations on the bathroom stalls. I did the things I usually do at shows–took lots of pictures and shopped for fabric and notions and jewelry–but I missed Mom. She would have gotten such a kick out of the art bras in one of the special exhibits, and one of the winning quilts had lots of crystals glued to it but somehow managed to not look over the top like some of the ones we saw at the show we went to last year so I know we would have had a good conversation about that. I know we can talk about this stuff later–I took extra pictures just for that reason–but of course I would have rather had her be able to be at the show herself. By the time Mr. Karen called me mid-morning to tell me where he’d left the car at the airport (he was headed off for a kayaking trip, and rather than me parking a car at DTW Thursday and him parking another one there Friday, we decided he’d drop me off and then drop himself off with a car I could take home and that would keep the cost down over the other options we had), I was thinking about coming back to the show next year with Mom.

I could have spent Friday afternoon and evening wandering around out of sorts wondering whether to do the things I would have done with Mom or save them for when we could do them together and trying to decide how often was too often to call for updates on how Mom was doing but instead I had a wonderful diversion courtesy of Amanda, who had mentioned that she and her husband Jeff were going to be in New York City that day. I had only intended to be in NYC on this trip long enough to drive through on my way to Connecticut (which I also needed to see) but when the opportunity to hang out there with Amanda and Jeff came up I went for it even though I was half-convinced I’d get lost on the way from the quilt show to the train station or not be able to find a parking place if I didn’t get lost or screw up when buying the ticket from the machine or get on the wrong train or off at the wrong stop or something (hello, my old friend mr. anxiety). But none of those worries were realized, and Amanda and Jeff were waiting for me as I came off the escalator up from the tracks at Penn Station.

Then we were off into the streets of Manhattan. For me, it was surreal–all these buildings that I’d only seen on tv and movies and as theme park replicas were right there in front of me, real as real could be–Radio City Music Hall, the Chrysler Building, the Empire State Building, Rockefeller Center, Times Square, St. Patrick’s Cathedral and on and on. It was great to have Jeff and Amanda to shepherd me around–they’d point things out I might have missed otherwise and patiently waited while I took picture after picture of all sorts of things, not just the famous sights but things like the buses in the sky at the Port Authority Bus Terminal (I was fascinated by the place–I’ve never seen buses so high up off the street before) and a random storefronts that caught my eye. Too soon it was time for them to head to the show they’d come into the city to see and for me to go back to Penn Station (which I had no trouble finding thanks to the directions Jeff gave me before we parted; they were so good I didn’t even need the map he also gave me). I used the timetable Amanda had gotten for me earlier to check that the train I was getting on was going to stop at the station where I’d parked the car and off I went, feeling tired and happy.

Saturday I stuck to my original plan of going to Connecticut. I really should have brought a good map with me to supplement the ones from the rental car place and the directions off YahooMaps, but even without one I made it to my intended destination, Quilt Essentials in Wilton. I did have to call the shop from the parking lot in front of the strip of stores where I thought they should be based on the address and their name on the sign by the road–it turned out they’re in a courtyard around the back. Somewhere around this time I also talked to my niece again–the doctors had decided what Mom had was not pneumonia but a blood infection and she’d have to stay a while longer at the hospital and get IV antibiotics.

After the quilt shop and lunch at a nearby diner, I had it in my head to go to the shore. The map I had didn’t have any beaches on it, but I figured if I just headed east after I got somewhat south of Newark I’d eventually run into the ocean, which is how I ended up in Sea Bright. I dipped my toes in the Atlantic and got the bottom half of my capris all wet when I failed to notice a bigger than average set of waves roll in. I sat on a plastic bag all the way back to the hotel.

Now I am back home, still dragging from the cold I came down with a week ago and sporting itchy red bumps on my right wrist which I think might mean I’m allergic to the bracelet I bought at the quilt show. Mom is still in the hospital but might get to go home in a day or two. I could use a nice long nap but won’t likely get one because my calendar is crammed full for the next week.

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