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I get homesick. While family is a home, I ache for the safety of my own walls. At 5 or 6 I went to a neighbor’s softball game a mere 3 miles from my house. The idea of going had been exciting but once there my head strained and throbbed, my stomach churned. The images flash like a seizure: my parents, slate floor of the laundry room, the kitchen table. The game lasted forever. Once home, I walked through every room of the house touching each wall, and spent hours on the kitchen floor breathing in the smell of linoleum.
After nearly two years of renovations and repairs, I can say that I finally like my house. Sort of. It’s not the type of house I ever wanted to live in, and it’s not in the type of neighborhood I ever wanted to be in. But it’s growing on me. I would like it better if the termites were not included. Or if the driveway didn’t get frost heaves. Or if we didn’t have to redo the roof last July. If I could take a bath, or just a steamy hot shower. But it’s getting there. Slowly. Slowly, it’s mine.
The first house I lived in will always be my home. Even if I walked into it now, nearly 25 years after moving out, I would be able to tell you where each piece of furniture was, the color of the walls, and the memory that occurred in each room. Hiding in the linen closet, spilling yellow paint on the rug, the day the fireplace was put in. I’ve looked on Google maps for its small shape, and have studied the fuzzy fenced outline. Each holiday I celebrate, and every tradition I follow was ingrained in me within those walls.
My mom tries to tell us that it’s our home. We should think of it like home. Each time they shuffle into a smaller house, assurances come out that we would always be welcome. Looking around the smaller and smaller houses, I’m not so sure. But it’s true. I’ve slept in the loft at the top of the stairs after long holiday dinners and napped on the aging couches. They have a pull out in the living room that is like a safety blanket stored away from childhood. But it’s a light sleep, as my body doesn’t recognize their home.
The first time I ever lived alone was the summer between junior and senior year of college. In the small dorm room with two beds and a sink I tried to find my decorating taste. My mini apartment. My decorations consisted of a few candles, my comforter, a blue moon beaded curtain. The essence of college décor. With the earnings from my summer internship and some shifts at the coffee shop, I bought a tiny TV, a navy corduroy floor pillow, and a potted flowering jasmine plant. The scent made me feel like I was in a tiny Parisian flat.
The hearth of both of my fireplaces are cracked. I once read that split hearths were bad signs. While fixing them isn’t even on the top of the to-do list, it bothers me. The previous owners put in the second fireplace, and I’m not sure if the marble slab was laid down in one piece. The main fireplace was built with the house, and has missing bricks in the back as well. I watched our first fireplace being built, the hole in the back of the house covered with clear plastic and the finished product: an entire wall of brick.
The houses in my neighborhood are the same. One story ranch houses. Only minor differences between them. Three bedrooms versus two bedrooms. One car garage or single driveway. Cream with burgundy shutters or white with red shutters. It truly is a land of little boxes. I suppose I should say it’s the people that makes each place unique, but they don’t. Uniqueness doesn’t exist out here. Each family is the same, except for us. We are the visitors to this suburban realm, here because we think we should be. Peering out windows at the idyllic sights, we shrug and sigh.
Responsibility on a plane should belong to the captain and the crew. Us passengers are just there for the ride. I use to opt to sit in the emergency row, before you had to pay for that terrifying luxury. Being responsible for opening the doors, helping people is a heavy task, especially if the situation is one where the plane lands in the ocean, or even if it catches on fire. Thankfully in my exit row years I never encountered any mishaps where the doors needed to be thrown open and I had to lead a procession down the wing.
Life on a wing. It never fails, whenever I’m on a plane I get seated over the wing and have a great view of metal, air trails, and flaps. I suppose it is better than the back of the plane where you have to wait at the end forever before exiting, but at least back there you have a view of what you are flying over. And the front of the plane, well I’ve only experienced it once. I’m just not a front of the plane gal I suppose. Wing girl, that’s me. In the center, sitting, watching the sky.
Growing up my family flew a lot. We went to Florida, England, and Ireland every year, so we knew what to expect on flights: crying babies, cramped spaces, bad food. Sometimes we even had the same flight attendants. One particular woman worked for the now defunct Pan Am in the early 80s. It was hard not to notice her. Heavy turquoise eye shadow, scarlet lips, and foundation so thick I noticed it as a 6 year old. She was like a doll. I watched her on the overnight flight to London one spring, half scared of her clown like features…
Her face was burned into my head; I had never seen a woman wear so much make up. Two years later we were headed over to England for Easter on Northwest Orient, our preferred airline to London after Pan Am went under. (Aer Lingus was the only way we flew to Ireland). My mother was leading us to our seats, and in the second aisle across the plane I saw her. The doll. Same pattern of make-up, same blonde bob. I stopped, following her with my eyes until my sister kicked me to move. I caught up with my mother...
“It’s her! She used to work for Pan Am!” I whispered to my family. I sat on the end, not bothering to fight for the window.
My mother looked over at her and nodded, “You remember her?”
“Yeah, look at her.” How could anyone forget that look? I later learned that clowns have a way of patenting their look, and wondered if any had stolen hers. After take off I had to talk to her. I found her in the back of the plane with the other stewardesses, pulled on her red jumper.
“You used to work for Pan Am.”
Her eyebrows—painted of course—shot up and she bent to talk to me.
. “How did you know that?”
. “I remember you. Two years ago you were our stewardess from JFK to Heathrow.”
. “How old are you?”
. “I’m 8 now.”
. “Oh my God,” she said turning to the others, “she remembers me!.”
. “You gave us a pack of cards to play with,” I stammered. I didn’t know where to go next. I knew not to comment on her face. Up close the blue wasn’t a blue as I remembered. It was more powdery too.
. I smiled and turned to leave…
“Wait,” she said reaching into her apron pockets. She handed me a pack of cards, “That’s great that you remembered me.”
I stared at the cards, not wanting to take them. Our steward had already given us two packs. (I miss those days when the airlines gave out distractions.) But I took them.
“Thanks. We fly a lot.” I headed back to my seat, hearing her retell the story to another stewardess.
Getting off the plane I waved goodbye. I took in her face, the smile lines in her eye shadow from staying awake all night. Enjoying her job.
We were in Hawaii for our last true family vacation, even though we were missing two family members. They were too old to be included. I was 22 and graduating from college in 4 months. My older sister was with us, included because she wasn’t married yet. My parents were in charge—it was their timeshare—and booked adventures throughout eek. Tour of the Big Island, the opera, horseback riding, etc. Then they booked the Hawaiian Adventure tour. It’s the only adventure I’ve been on that had the word “adventure” in it. I knew it was for me. My day.
It couldn’t have been for anyone else. We started with a hike through a rainforest at 8 in the morning to a beautiful waterfall. Hike is being kind though. Our guide showed us how to run fast without making noise through the forest. My family hung back to look at the flora and fauna, and I suspect that most people did, following slowly. I kept right up, and must have succeeded at being quiet because when we got to the waterfall the guide turned and nearly fell back at the sight of me.
“You kept up well.” We waited.
The pool under the waterfall was cold, especially in the shadow of the forest. I jumped in alone, relishing the water. My sister stuck one toe in and shuddered, while my parents rested under a large leafed tree. “We’re not running back down,” our guide said to a relieved tour. I ran ahead anyway.
From there we went to the beach and were given snorkeling equipment. I swam out with my mother to examine a reef while my sister and father stayed on the beach. Free diving down to the mid-part of the reef, I watched colorful fish swim by.
We set out for a beach on the north side of the island, close to the surfing beaches. Our guide handed out boogie boards; my sister and mother promptly threw theirs down. We’re sunbathing, they protested. My father and I waded into the surf, ready for our lesson. We were both tossed repeatedly into the sand. I finally got one, and glided in, intoxicated with the flying feeling. The tour ended and I spent the afternoon boogie boarding with my father. We were pros by the end, catching each wave with ease, both cruising into the beach like true boarders.
One of my favorite stories growing up was Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland. My mother used to say I looked like Alice, and with my long blonde hair, blue headband, and a similar dress to the one she wore in the cartoon, my mother was probably right. I remember reading many versions of Alice, and never read the full version until college. The numerous characters that I missed in my childhood books came to life under analysis. Took a little fun out of it really. This past Christmas I gave my niece a giant pop up book of Alice’s Adventure—unabridged.
I am always up for adventure. Too much so really. If I had the chance I would drop whatever I was doing to jump in my car (or on my bike) to see what the world would bring. It doesn’t bode well for focus, but is a great way to procrastinate. As an adult, I have more responsibilities to deal with, and consequences of such immediate adventure would basically wreck my life. Fired, divorce, loss of home. While I miss the spontaneous adventures, I try to imagine them in my head. I run out of work and climb a mountain.
My friend Nancy has a blog called Adventure Days. From geo caching to checking out art on sides of buildings, she explores. Inspired, last Sunday my husband and I biked to a clearing near our neighborhood that had recently appeared. The woods about 40-feet off the road had been cut to reveal a stone foundation and hearth. It was all that was left of a 1683 house that had burned down in 1924. We noticed a ditch running in front of the house alongside the current road. What we had thought was a drainage ditch was a old wagon trail.
Since I moved back to Boston 9 years ago, I have become a slave to pubic transportation. In high school and most of college I relied on a car to get me to work, internships, boyfriend’s houses. Once living in the city, the car became a hassle. Parking tickets, limited spots, gas money. The B-train stopped right outside my first apartment and dropped me off a mere 4 blocks from my office. The car was sent to live with my parents (it was theirs anyway) and I signed up for my first T-pass. It’s not perfect, but it’s good enough.
I live by time tables. On Wednesday I take nearly every mode of public transportation offered in the Boston area. In the morning I bike to the South Acton commuter rail station and ride it in to North Station. Then I board the Orange Line and take it 5 stops to NEMC. At 3:30 I get back on the Orange Line and take it back north to Sullivan Station, where I board the 89 bus at 3:48 to Powderhouse Square in Somerville. Later, I board the 96 bus to Porter Station to catch the 7:45 commuter rail back to Acton.
As I have moved around Massachusetts, one of my main requirements for location is in relation to my commute. I work downtown. Boston traffic—and drivers—are notorious for being snarly. I refuse to pay through the nose for parking. Therefore, wherever I live has to be close to the train. Allston: train stopped in front of my apartment. Brighton: 2 blocks. Salem: 20 minute walk or 6 minute bike ride. Medford: it was again across from my apartment. Maynard: 2.4 miles on a fairly busy road. Bikable at least. When I leave my job I’ll miss the trains. Maybe.
One night I was returning home from another day at the office. I managed to catch the 4:40 express train, which would get me home in under 45 minutes. Much better than the local which, was an excruciating 70 minutes. I had gotten a seat by the window and was just starting to zone out when a tall man sat beside me. He settled in and opened his paper. Once the train started moving he asked me if I wanted a section.
“No thanks, I already read it.”
“Did you forget your book?”
“No, I just sit sometimes.”
“How can you just sit there?” he continued.
“I dunno, I just do.”
“Oh, sorting through your day?”
I looked at him, thinking of the answer he wanted. A young woman working, she must be planning dinner or thinking of what her boss said!
“No, I just look out the window and sit.”
He shook his head.
“That’s crazy, I could never do that.”
“Well, sometimes I sleep.” I offered.
“Sleep? Aren’t you afraid of missing your stop?”
“It’s happened.” Just once though. You learn to wake up. A $80 cab ride taught me that.
“I just don’t understand you.”
People love asking the question what would you do with one wish (or three…whatever version you choose). I finally found my answer. Teleportation. My life would be so much simpler if I could teleport. Long-distance relationship? No problem! Be right there! Late to work? Never! Need money? Right into the bank vault! (See, it covers the money wish too). But it’s just a wish. Even though science is working on this, they’ve only gotten atoms to do it. Single ones. And I think it’s actually the particles smaller than atoms. By the time they get it I’ll be long gone.
Today I had to drive Jon to the airport. He travels for work, and was off to Tacoma, Washington for the week. As he had an early flight I got downtown an hour early. There was no way I was going into my office an hour early, especially when it was the most beautiful day of the year so far. I sat in the Public Gardens, watching the people walking around. There were lots of men in suits, women in professional dresses (no cleavage showing) all walking with purpose out of the high end apartments off Commonwealth Ave. Lucky them.
I own a 2001 silver Volkswagon Jetta Turbo. I plan on having it until I give it to my unborn son or daughter on their 16th (or 18th) birthday. With black interior, a moon roof, and turbo, I love everything about it. Sadly, there is a gouge in the left back door, a few scratches on the roof, a small dent in the front left fender, and a golf ball sized dent in the front right side. The only thing that bothers me is the mark in the back door. It happened at a commuter rail station one spring. Thugs.
There are days when my commute eats me. I become a zombie boarding trains, walking through the streets, and then I’m at work, blinking under the florescent lights. All week I’ve been a slave to the commute, working late on projects and taking solitary trains home. This morning as I sat in my illegal parking space, I said no more. Instead of standing on the train platform, looking north for the inbound, I stepped off and stood against a blooming cherry tree. The sun glistened on the long dew-dropped grass, and I tried to find my breath. A momentary reprieve.
The Tip Jar