A Short Brush with Winter

Once again I’ve gone off and left you all for a week and a half while I’m off on vacation. Very sneaky of me, I know. But not only is it difficult to put entries together just before I leave (since I tend to leave my packing and cleaning and such to the last couple of days before leaving) but I don’t like to announce when I go away. Just a little bit of my own Internet paranoia.

This trip was one to Massachusetts to visit our families: My parents, and Debbi’s sisters and their family. Normally we visit in the spring or fall – certainly not during the holidays, since we prefer to avoid the holiday travel crunch – but we had an ulterior motive: Our 20-year high school reunion was the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Debbi and I met through an e-mail list for our 15-year reunion (which ended up not happening), so we were motivated to make it out for this one.

We flew out Friday night on a JetBlue red-eye. Other than a small (and ultimately harmless) hiccup when checking in, the trip went perfectly smoothly. I guess JetBlue’s public image has been colored by the incident when a JetBlue plane was left on the runway for hours waiting for take-off, but their image during a flight is the opposite of that: Their check-in process is nicely streamlined, and on the flight they have a selection of drinks and snacks of which you may have as much as you want. Each seat also has its own television screen with satellite television, which meant Debbi could watch movies while I watched poker. Our flight took off and landed on time, and though neither of us were able to sleep much, it was about as easy as we could have hoped for.

Debbi’s sister picked us up at Logan Airport at 6 am (oof) Saturday and we drove down to visit her family for the day. We made a Dunkin Donuts run (Debbi lo-o-oves Dunkin Donuts) and met her other sister and her family for breakfast. The kids are all growing up awfully fast, and were happy to see us (more adults to run around and tire out!). As usual I ran out of gas around 10 am and fell asleep on their couch, and as usual I woke up an hour and a half later covered in pillows from the different couches, with three kids climbing on top of me! Fun. I fell asleep again in the afternoon, I think to Debbi’s consternation, but I was exhausted. Debbi’s sister drove me to my Mom’s house before dinner, and my Dad drove out to meet me and we sat around talking and eating See’s truffles.

I crumped out early and slept over 13 hours Saturday night. I think I was not only catching up on the sleep I missed Friday night, but also releasing some of the stress of the work-week and packing. It’s been a while since I’ve slept that long, and I slept hard.

Sunday started late as a result, of course, but it was a laid-back day. We made a trip to the New England Mobile Book Fair, which, although not mobile, is still a good deal for book lovers. In the evening I drove in to meet Dad for dinner. We went to a nice, upscale restaurant, about which I said I knew it must be good because at those prices if it weren’t good it wouldn’t have lasted more than a couple of weeks. But indeed the food was quite yummy and filled us up, and we had a couple of tasty mixed drinks too (I had an espresso martini – with real espresso! You can’t beat being tipsy and wired at the same time).

Monday Dad and I made our annual pilgrimage up to Wakefield to go to Web Head Enterprises, which might be the best all-around comic book store around Boston, between their selection of new and back issue comics, plus paperbacks. Unfortunately I struck out looking for items for my want list: The condition of many of their back issues was not up to my (admittedly stringent) standards, and their selection didn’t seem quite as good as in years past. Plus they closed their nifty downstairs used book section, which was disappointing. So I may have to re-think whether I want to keep making that trip every visit. (To be fair, my want list is getting pretty short and specialized, so I think the days of walking way from a comic store with a big stack of back issues are in my past.)

On the way back, on impulse, I took us to Waltham to visit The Outer Limits (where I also struck out), but we made a detour to stop at the house we’d lived in for two years when I was a kid – specifically from 1970 to 1972, when I was under 4 years old. I took some photos of it, and now I know where it is, for future reference. I only have two memories from that house, but one of them is of walking Dad to the train station one morning, so we walked off in search of the station.

After a couple of blocks we stopped at an intersection and I said, “I don’t see a rail line down here.” Dad was pretty sure it was quite close, closer than the existing MBTA commuter rail, so we turned down the cross street at the intersection and climbed up a shallow hill a couple more blocks. We stopped at another intersection and I said, “I don’t see a rail line down here, either.” We scratched our heads and looked around and Dad said, “This looks familiar.” We were standing next to a long, thin building sandwiched between the side street and a line of trees, so we walked over and realized that it must be the old train station – heavily renovated! And walking past it we found the railroad tracks – long unused and overgrown – running along side it. I took a few pictures, and then followed Dad inside the building.


Restored Train Station
(The white edging along the lawn is a railroad track!)

It turns out that the building had been bought back in the 1960s and it had been renovated into an insurance office – with an extension with a basement and second story added on – and the son of the man who bought it ran the officeand we talked with him and the two employees for a while. They had photos and a large painting of the station dating back to the 1800s – it was a leg of the Boston & Maine railroad for quite a while – and they gave us postcards they use for their business with a picture of the station from the 1920s. The owner was interested in knowing when Dad rode the train – it sounds like the rail line was reaching the end by then. They had a photo of the station from 1976, but it was impossible to be sure whether the rail line was still being used by then. It sounds like the line will be turned into a bike trail in the near future. All-in-all this was a fun little side-trip into the past.

In the evening I took the subway downtown and met my friend Bruce for dinner. I realized it’s been nearly 20 years since we first met, back when I joined APA Centauri when I started college, and we still exchange the occasional e-mail (“It wouldn’t be a proper meeting if I didn’t say I’d try to write more often!” I said) and get together whenever I come back to the area. As usual we had Italian food in the North End, and then moved to Cafe Vittorio for coffee and dessert, staying out until nearly midnight. Bruce is working on the project to reprint Terry and the Pirates, the first volume of which I’ll need to pick up when I get back home. And as always it was a good dinner.

Tuesday we got some snow in the morning. Snow! It’s been a long time since I saw snow. It was just around a quarter of an inch, but still, enough to make the ground nearly white. In the afternoon it turned to rain and started to melt away. That afternoon I also drove down to visit Debbi and her family again, making another Dunkin Donuts run and playing with the kids, wrapping up the day with a four-way dominos game after the kids went to bed (Debbi won, pulling ahead of me in the last round). Wednesday was a sedate day, mainly with Mom and I going out to do some shopping, picking up an external hard drive to back up her computer onto, and to buy a shirt for me to wear to the reunion. (My turtlenecks seem to have gone AWOL at some point.)

Thursday of course was Thanksgiving. It also got up near 60 degrees, after a week down in the 30s, which was nice. Mom prepared dinner in the afternoon, and Dad came out for dinner: Turkey, stuffing, and he brought wine and two pies. Other than Mom cooking it was a pretty mellow day, with football and sitting around. Our nutty, crazy Thanksgivings are in the past, I think.

Friday my sister drove up to stay for the weekend, bringing my nephew, Ivan, with her. I hadn’t seen Ivan since we all visited my parents a year and a half ago, which is a long time for a young kid – he’s 3 1/2 now. Katy says he’s very precocious with computers, and especially loves Apple products: Macs, iPods, etc. He was very interested in my iPhone and enjoyed flipping through my photos on it.

He actually reminds me a bit of — me. He seems to be very what my Mom called “self-entertaining”. Mom brought out some old Legos from the sunroom and he was able to entertain himself with them for hours and hours, just playing around with the little Lego spacemen and ships. We also went up with him to the playground at my old elementary school and watched him run around on the play equipment. I think the most fun he and I had up there was sending his toy car down the curvy slide. He also loves to jump into photographs when he sees someone is taking one.


An Ivan in Winter
(I call this one “An Ivan in Winter”)

After dinner I drove down to pick up Debbi, since she’d be spending Friday and Saturday nights with us so we could go to the reunion events on Saturday.

Speaking of which, Saturday was the reunion, with a small gathering at our high school in the morning so we could see the changes they’ve made to it recently, and the reunion proper in the evening. I’m going to write a whole entry on the reunion, so I’ll go into this in more detail soon. Suffice to say for now that it was a fun time, and a very weird time, since most of these people I’d only seen once – if that – in 20 years.

Sunday we took Ivan up to the playground again, and then Debbi and I went to Barry’s Deli for lunch (mmm-mmm!), and then I took Debbi back to her sister’s house. Her brother-in-law Shawn was astoundingly on top of everything and had already cleared away all the Thanksgiving stuff and was well on his way to having the Christmas stuff up. Yowza! He did run out of lights while decorating the tree at the end of the driveway, though, prompting me to ask if he was “a few lights short of a full tree”. See the risks you run when you invite me into your house?

Monday it was time to leave, sad to say. Katy and Ivan headed out around noon, and I left a little before 1, meeting Debbi at the airport for our 4 pm flight. The return trip was long, but went smoothly, and we got home right on time, with our friend Susan giving us a lift home as she had to the airport. It was a long day, the cats were perhaps overly happy to see us, but we made it!

Overall, a nice trip. I was able to relax a lot, but I also got to see friends and family. Can’t complain about that.

4 thoughts on “A Short Brush with Winter”

  1. It’s interesting you should should mention your old house. I drove by the house in which I lived from 1971 to ¿1976? just the other day. I do this a few times a year because it’s only a couple of miles from where I now live, but this time was different because the house was completely demolished. It’s only a hole in the ground now, with a “build to suit” sign.

  2. I’ve been back once to see the house I lived in from about age 2 to 10, where my sister was born, but I just don’t get out to New Jersey anymore. I wonder what it looks like now?

    I’ve got a picture of the house in Ann Arbor (ages 10-18) that I got as a wedding present from our old neighbors – really nice front shot of the house in winter, with snow along the front. It was a really sweet gift.

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