Hey, Boston! Have we met before?
For our second wedding anniversary the husband and I decided go to away for a few days. We couldn’t afford an international vacation so we went to Boston. I’ve been dying to see Boston. Don’t ask me why. I knew virtually nothing about Boston, but my fascination with the city was nonetheless eerily fanatical. So, I suggested Boston and the husband agreed. But, since we were already driving that-a-way, we couldn’t not stop by to see my uncle who lives in Connecticut. And, then, someone told us we just had to stop by Newport, Rhode Island. So, our trip to Boston turned into a mini-road trip. Hey, why not, right?
We rent a car and drive into the sunrise. Ah, man, the New England air is so much better than our stuffy-poor-excuse-for-air air. Have you actually realized how terrible our air in Philly is? If not, go somewhere else (somewhere far and a bit less humid) and breathe in. Enjoy that breath of fresh air because once you are back in Philly (and the surrounding areas) “fresh” is no longer an option.
New London! Do you remember me?
Driving through Connecticut awakened my early childhood and my much younger life as a fresh new immigrant. How vividly I remember that time. (Background information: When my family emigrated here, we were “sent” to New London, CT, and we lived there for a little over a year. But, that story is for another post.)
When the husband and I drive down the highway, and the windows are down, and we’re listening to some very chill trip-hop, and the trees outside pass in a glance, and the sky is blue, and the road is empty, and it’s just us, and the road, and the car, and the music, and the trees: life is good. And, when the husband turns to me and smiles — a kind smile only he has — I am happy. Really happy.
Our first stop is at the Gull Harbor Condominiums; my first American home. I came for the nostalgia; I left with a lump in my throat and melancholy in my heart.
From there we drive straight to the beach where I spent my first American summer. We do what anyone visiting the beach in May does: we sit on some rocks, we take a few pictures, and we embrace the fresh air. We hug the breeze and it holds us close.
To most people, elementary school is an insignificant memory, a place where some friends were made, some things were learned, and some games were played. But to an immigrant kid elementary school is your first social American experience. It’s terrifying and exciting and heartbreaking. I remember so desperately wanting to fit in and to be liked, but that was so hard to do without knowing the language. That said, I still think it’s silly I made us drive to the school so I can take a picture. Sometimes I am annoyingly sentimental. Trust me, I annoy myself, too.
After a long morning and afternoon we finally make it to my uncle’s house. My uncle is one of my favorite people. He is super intelligent, super kind, and I’m his favorite niece (obviously). During our stay, my aunt tells me about some creams, moisturizers, and lotions she is currently selling. She is always into something like that. She also attempts to teach me how to properly breathe so I don’t ever have wrinkles. At the time I dismiss her “advice” as ridiculous, but 7 years later I am starting to wonder if I should have actually paid attention.
We spend our evening at the Foxwoods Casino. I am finally old enough to go in! (I was 12 when we left CT.) We walk around, have a few drinks, inhale a massive amount of second hand smoke, lose $5 dollars, eat some rather terrible food, and go home. See, I don’t gamble. I, mean, I have gambled (isn’t life a gamble…) but I learned I don’t like losing money. So, after I lost $5, my gambling days were numbered. (The number was 1, to be exact. I gambled my money one more time after this trip.)
The next morning we make our way to Newport, Rhode Island. Now, I haven’t traveled much (at all, really), so I may not have the best measure of “beautiful” in terms of cities, but if you haven’t been to Newport, go. It’s so pretty.
I have a love-hate relationship with bridges. They are structurally mind-blowing and painstakingly frightening. I usually hold my breath when I drive over a bridge (you, know: in case it collapses and I fall into the water and have to hold my breath so I don’t drown). Yes, I always think the bridge will collapse. Or, that someone will crash into us and push us off the bridge. I have many irrational fears: lightning, house fires, carbon monoxide poisoning. To name a few. I have many more, but I’d rather not scare you off with my many neuroses. Yet.
Newport! Are you even real?
When we drive through Newport, I am in awe of its splendor. Newport glows; its tonic is revitalizing. In case you don’t know, Newport is by the seaside and is home to some of the most gorgeous, luxurious mansions. If I ever get to retire, I am retiring in Newport. Not Florida. Never Florida.
Whenever I actually pay attention and notice a random house, I always try to imagine what kind of life the owner of that particular house leads. When I look at these grandiose mansions I can’t even fathom. My imagination is wildly underdeveloped. But, if I were to guess I’d say that life is either ostentatiously fabulous or tragically disastrous (think James Gatz).
When I’m far from home, my mind temporarily forgets my sometimes mundane life and accepts my new surroundings as my new reality. So, as I walk around Newport, I am actually here. I hold my husband’s hand. I smile. I laugh at inside jokes and my husband’s (often “inappropriate”) humor. I allow the wind and the sun to infiltrate my being. Life seems grand and free and open. I feel less suffocated and less constricted. I let go of everyday worry and easily adapt to any situation. And embrace it.
New England air is especially liberating. (You guys, I know I talk about air a lot. Sorry. I like breathing, I guess.) The blinding reflection of the sun in the water awakens the need to squint. Easily solved by the addition of sunglasses, I continue to stare into the water. I sneak a glance at the husband and he is right there with me.
The Bellview Avenue Historic District houses summer vacation homes for the preposterously wealthy (and one day, me). Some have been designated as historical landmark, others are still in use by some very lucky folks. Fun (?) fact: Eisenhower and Kennedy vacationed here: “Summer White House.”
We eat shark bites and clam chowder for lunch in a quaint little restaurant, and we move on to our final destination.
Hey, Boston! Have we met before?
I have never felt more at home than I did in Boston. In my past life I must have been a Bostonian. Maybe I am the reincarnated William Blaxton. Or, a Puritan colonist. Or, a witch (although unlikely, because if that were the case I’d probably want to stay far away from Massachusetts). If I had to choose who I was, I would have been an abolitionist. Oooh! Maybe I’m William Lloyd Garrison. That would be kind of awesome. But, according to some very legitimate online quizez, I used to be a Greek philosopher (or, Emily Dickinson, depending on the quiz). So, there’s that.
We stay at the John Jeffries House B&B which is a renovated nurses’ house and stands in Boston’s Beacon Hill district. I booked it due to its location, price, and charm. The common area, where breakfast is served, is quaint and warm. Maroon armchairs live peacefully among floral loveseats and cherry veneered coffee and end tables. A few dim chandeliers scarcely light the room. In the center, an unused fireplace patiently awaits the arrival of new guests, and wistfully reminisces about cold winter evenings. We don’t spend too much time in the inn; we walk and ride around Boston for the next two days.
Boston is magical. The architecture is stunning (and, no, I don’t “understand” architecture, but beautiful is beautiful). The colonial-era architecture is often juxtaposed with modern day design. We stroll down the cobblestone streets. We walk our own modified version of The Freedom Trail. We watch street performers. We visit historical landmarks, but quickly forget what is what. We shop on Newbury Street (I buy makeup, obviously). We ride the ferry. We explore museums. We laugh, we enjoy, we devour the culture. We inhale lobster sandwiches and slurp lobster bisque. We indulge in sweets and in ourselves.
We kiss on a bench, under a Weeping Willow, in The Boston Public garden. We cuddle on our way to Charleston. We hold hands. We talk. We embrace.
When we grow tired we stop to sit on a bench. We munch on some salt water taffy and my flip flop falls to the ground. It lays there, abandoned. All by itself. It needs a break. As do my feet.
We eventually grab some ice cream and retreat to our room. The next morning we say our farewell and depart.
Sometimes a city calls your name. And, honestly you should listen. If there is somewhere you want to go, no matter how weird the attraction, just do it. Do it and live it and enjoy it.
When I try to remember all of the details of the trip, I get frustrated because I can’t piece it all together. I can’t remember every detail, or most details, really. What I do remember are the feelings, the emotions associated with the trip. That, I remember. I remember the sheer excitement, the love, the peace, the pensiveness. And Boston. I remember Boston.
Cherish those memories: they are transient and fragile.
‘Till next time.