Sunday, September 2, 2012
Because of the luxury of time we’ve had on this trip – two weeks – we’ve traveled far and wide throughout New England, while based mostly at the family farm. We visited some of the places where Alexi went to school– Eaglebrook and Exeter and Williams College. The boys enjoyed the glimpse into the life of their dad’s younger self, and it was interesting for Alexi to see what had changed, and what remains the same. The last time we made those same visits, Abbott was a baby and Cal wasn’t yet born. And now we look at schools from the perspective of parents of school-aged children. We saw a fox on the football field at Williams, and another on the way out of town; Alexi never saw a single fox in the four years he lived in Williamstown. The day we went to Exeter, we met up with a cousin of Alexi’s who lives in a neighboring town; we ate sandwiches and discussed local politics. New Hampshire’s motto is Live Free or Die. We stopped in Portsmouth for dinner, and ate lobster and corn on the cob on the docks overlooking the bridge to Maine.
Alexi’s mother is in the portion of New Hampshire that borders Vermont. We spent an afternoon in the Woodstock area before meeting my friend Shari and her husband for dinner. Of all the places I’ve visited outside Seattle, this is one of the few in which I could imagine living. I could never get tired of looking at the local architecture, and I love that the towns truly feel like small towns; full of charm without feeling too touristy. Woodstock has a chalkboard – the “Town Crier” – on which anyone can post announcements or notices of any kind. We could’ve spent an entire day browsing the general store. At an intersection in Hartland Four Corners, a neighboring town, there is a board that gets updated daily with local news and happenings. At dinner that night, Shari recounted a story about the fax machine in her office. It had completely stopped working, and, aside from getting a new one, the only possible solution was to try something called a hard reset. In theory, a hard reset will likely ruin the machine, or so she was told. She did it, held her breath, and the machine, miraculously, reverted back to normal. The past twelve days have been like that for me. I haven’t had wireless access most of the time, or even a reliable cell signal, and I feel like I’ve re-calibrated my inner workings.
We left the kids with Alexi’s mother and stepfather for a couple of days, and traveled to Portland, Maine. We stayed in a stately old hotel right in the center of town, and walked for miles on those streets perfumed with the scent of the sea and soundtracked by the call of gulls. The number of restaurants and shops seems to have quadrupled since we were last there a decade or so ago. As we explored the streets, we stopped to eat or drink every hour or two. Drinks at Sonny’s, duck fat fried French fries and peach buttermilk milkshakes at Duck Fat, some of the best French food we’ve ever had at Bistro Jacqueline. We ate robust salads and sandwiches from Scratch Bakery on a beach with another cousin of Alexi’s. We sampled Mead. I bought a baby blanket for a pregnant friend. On the way home, we stopped for another meal in Portsmouth – tapas at Cava – and sat outside until the stars were out, then sat some more. Finally, under the light of the moon, we walked the still-active streets of Portsmouth to our car and returned to the farm.
I spent one day alone in Cambridge visiting my friend Jess and her family, and my friends Molly and Stephanie. Jess and Molly planned a menu for us the weekend prior, and studying the illustrated dinner map Jess made, especially for my visit, filled me with joy. It was a summer feast: spaghetti with August tomatoes, bright flavored arugula and red onion, seasoned with olive oil and pepper and parmesan. Grilled eggplant studded with currants, and luscious baked peaches. We sat around their table overlooking the streets of Cambridge and talked and talked while Jess’ baby slept. I stayed later than I planned to – I hated to leave. The pictures above are of that day in Cambridge. I couldn’t stop studying these friends I’ve known and admired for their intellect, their creativity, the way they see the world.
On the way home from Cambridge, I worried – with good reason – that I’d run out of gas. I had no sense of how few and far between the gas stations would be. I found a place by following a sign on the highway, after looking for one for many miles. The gas station ended up being three miles off the highway, a closed station that, fortunately, worked by credit card without an attendant. Unfortunately, there was no restroom, but at least I got back to the farm. I drove with my bright headlight setting most of the way, seldom seeing another vehicle from the moment I left the Boston area. I sang, loudly, to stay awake. The next morning we headed to Connecticut to visit my sister and brother-in-law. Now we’re in their comfortable, sprawling home, with a pool, in the country, enjoying the waning hours of summer.