Sunday, August 2, 2015

A Daughter’s Journey, part one


At the last minute I decided to take the bus to Boston instead of the train.  The DownEaster, which runs between North Station in Boston and Brunswick, Maine, had become unreliable this spring and summer, prone to long delays as the old weathered tracks are in desperate need of repair and upgrade.  My ex had offered to drive me to the station so I wouldn’t have to leave my car in the parking lot for the week while I was away.  The night before, we had diner and drinks together at her place, which is just down the street, to say farewell to my face. As we sat on her front steps bathing in the warmth of July’s setting sun we of course took the now obligatory selfie, forgetting the frigid temperatures and more than eight feet of snow that had piled up against her front door just a few months earlier.  She made a funny surprised expression and I just smirked in disbelief.  I added the words “best friends” before posting the photo on Instagram.

The bus to Logan Airport and South Station in Boston leaves Portsmouth, New Hampshire on the hour.  As promised, my ex picked me and my over stuffed purple suitcase up promptly at 9:45am the next day and delivered me to the bus station in plenty of time to catch the 11 o’clock bus which would shuttle me to Boston and my waiting surgery the following morning. We hugged goodbye and of course I cried.

Before letting go, she said, “it’s going to be okay kitty”.  It’s a phrase she’s used for years to reassure me when I’m scared.

“I know, thanks” I replied.

I turned away and found a bench to sit on with my back to the other waiting travelers hiding my tears.  I had been planning this trip and surgery for months, and thinking about for years. 


The bus was nearly full, but I found an empty seat next a window about half way back. I slid my bag slightly under the seat in front of me, which was occupied by two young children, probably two and four years old, as well as, I presume, their mom.  Across the aisle from them was another child, who looked to be more like six or seven.  Unlike the other two, he seemed very content, quietly reading a book. The seat next me remained empty only briefly.  At the first stop in Newburyport, a middle age man, dressed in a navy blue uniform sat down.  Pilot. We politely smiled at each other and then I returned to my ipad, trying to follow up with some last minute work that needed my attention.  The boy in the seat in front of me, who had been squirming like a worm since we left the station annoying his mom and many others, turned his attention from, kicking, licking and looking out the window, back to me. His small dirty face squeezed between the glass and polyester seat cushion.

“What ya doin ?” he asked with his tongue slightly dangling out of his mouth touching the fabric.

I smiled, amused he was curious and happy I wasn’t in the seat he’d been kicking. “I’m working”, I whispered and looked back to my screen.

The bus arrived at Logan Airport right on time, depositing travelers and the pilot, one terminal after the other.  Next stop, South Station. The few of us that remained, including the family in front of me, grabbed our waiting luggage and dispersed into the crowd of others at the station. I called my mom to let her know I had arrived.  She was still home,  “it should take a only ten to fifteen minutes”, she informed in a slightly surprised tone, like she had lost track of time.  I let her know, I’d be sitting outside, waiting for her on Atlantic Avenue.  To many people I meet for the first time, I tell them I’m from Boston.  And while I was actually born there and worked in the city during and after college, I really grew up in a neighboring town.  But walking out into the daylight and buzz of the city, I felt like I was home.


As promised my mom pulled up fifteen minutes later. She maneuvered her silver Nissan through the traffic like a pro.  I opened the back door and slid my heavy suitcase in, slamming the door shut before jumping in the front passenger seat.

My mom and I spent the rest of the afternoon together. I had asked her a week earlier, when I was discussing my travel plans for coming to Boston for my plastic surgery, if she wanted to go to the museum with me. It had popped into my head as a peaceful and meaningful experience that my mom and I could share as well as distract me from the next day’s procedures. There were also a few exhibitions featuring artists I appreciated, Hokusai, Gordon Parks, and Herb Ritts. But before that could happen, I needed food. I asked if she likes burritos.

“I’ve never had one” she replied. 

“Really?”  I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised.  “wanna try one? 

She agreed and after finding a meter spot in view of the museum we walked back a few blocks to the campus of Northeastern University and found a place to eat. Of course my mom confessed to the cashier that this was a new experience for her. I don’t think the girl was impressed.  We sat in a both facing each eating our small wraps. She didn’t even get a traditional burrito; instead she ordered the chicken teriyaki.  


We made our way back through the ally and walked to our car on Hemengway Street to deposit a few more quarters in the meter. We had two hours for the museum. As we headed to the original entrance, my mom started talking about the famous statue, Appeal to the Great Spirit, which has been welcoming Museum visitors since it’s acquisition in 1913.  Apparently, the well-known sculptor, Cyrus Dallin lived in my mom’s hometown and when she was a girl she met the local celebrity before he passed away in 1944. The large bronze statue features a Sioux chief on horseback with his arms spread wide appearing to be welcoming spiritual assistance.  The artist was born to white settlers and was raised among the Ute tribe in Utah before moving east to Boston and studying art in Paris.

After an attempt at a selfie with my mom and the twelve-foot tall sculpture in the background, we entered the museum.  I’ve been visiting the Boston Museum of Fine Arts since I was a child, often accompanied by my parents and six siblings. Later with my high school art class with my mom as chaperone, and eventually as an aspiring artist and high school art teacher myself with my own students in tow. While I hadn’t visited since the Edward Hopper exhibition in the summer of 2007, the large granite building, which exists surrounded by the rush of life, but resembles stillness, pulls me in every few years like a comet circling the sun, reminding me of the danger and beauty of the visual world and bravery of artists.  

To be continued -