I did not stick my head in a big bowl of Harry Potter. I did something better. I flew home to New England where the trees are turning red, orange, yellow, copper. I hung out with my favorite older man in the world, my father, whose sweetness is like the sky in October, delft-blue and spacious, and who never met a carbohydrate he didn't like.
We ate breakfast at Mad Martha's, a wonderful hole-in-the-wall diner in Newburyport, walked on the beach where we scattered my mother's ashes seven years ago, went clothes shopping at a consignment store and bought me a sexy slinky midnight blue blouse with a bit of decolletage, and in a bookstore where I bought books for the nephews and nieces.
Boston in October can be anything; this week it's been balmy, clear skies, warm temperatures. I basked in being an indulged daughter--how many more years will I be able to enjoy this great status. Some people don't get it at all. My Little Sister has never really had it in her short seven year old life.
We drove to Watertown to see the little red brick houses where our family lived from 1960 until 1965. I remember riding my tricycle busily around the tiny development, visiting neighbors. I was a chatty social little curly-head.
I remember pushing a baby buggy and eating a tiny box of Sunmaid raisins.
I remember digging a hole in my sandbox that I planned would go all the way to China. I was quite earnest about the architecture of the voyage--I would take my aprents and my baby brother and sister; we would travel through this tunnel and pop out on the other side of the world. How would we keep upright on the earth when we were upside down? maybe magnets attached to the bottoms of our feet. When we wanted to go home, we'd just go back through the tunnel, same way we came.
It was a tiny place we lived in--two small bedrooms. God knows how my mother fit two children's beds and a baby crib into one of them. You could stand in the middle of the room and touch both walls with your fingers.
Things were different then. One car per family. Dad and I both noticed more parking spaces that had been made since we left, now that every family has two cars. I wondered about the interior of the homes. Are they still as small as they were? I wished we could go up to the door and knock and ask to look around but my father didn't want to.
And I couldn't find the sandbox. It's probably been ploughed under, long ago, to make room for all the new parking. I couldn't find the swingset where I used to shimmy up the long poles. But we did stumble on something new--a pool! A good-sized outdorr pool that someone had put in. Of course it's all closed over now. No more swimming until May.
Then we visited my stepmother who was babysitting for Chris and Moire, my stepbrother and his wife, and their new baby Liam, who is gorgeous and talkative, although his language is incomprehensive to everyone but him. It's just three-month-old babble babble babble--but quite a lot of it.
Then I got in my rental car with my Dad's borrowed GPS thing-y to go visit my sister in Western Mass--and here my troubles began.
Dad loves his GPS--whom he has named Aggie, short for Agnes, because she has a soothing feminine voice. She understands him. When he makes a wrong move she doesn't yell or criticise, she just says "Recalculating," and then continues to give directions. In his mind Aggie can do no wrong.
Let me tell you something: Aggie is evil. Aggie is possessed. Aggie should star in the next Steven King novel.
Or maybe Aggie just doesn't like me. Maybe she doesn't like women. Maybe she's jealous.
At any rate, the directions called for me to go around a rotary with about a dozen roads leading into and out of it and get off at "the third exit." I panicked, slightly, because how do you count third? Do you mean third exit or just third road? It was dark by now and I have no night vision. None. I am Mister Magoo (now that really dates me) driving through a New England back roads rotary, constructed out of meandering cow paths three centuries old and I am lost. I take the wrong exit. No problem. Aggie says "Recalculating." Naively, I trust her. Surely Aggie will not lead me astray. Surely my father wouldn't let her.
Aggie tells me to go right, then left, then right again. I do what she says. I am traveling over back roads, unfamiliar roads, in the dark, but I think I will somehow magically end up on Route 2 going West again. I still have over an hour's drive to reach my sister's house and the kids are waiting impatiently for me to get there. After half an hour of this I find myself back at 36 Duff St., my ancestral home. In Watertown. I don't want to be in watertown. I want to be halfway down Rte 2 by now, on my way to Emily's house.
I call her, and re-punch in her address and start back. This time I get all the way down Rte 2 and start feeling insecure, when Aggie telepathically icks up my vibes and starts acting up again. She has me turn around and wants me to drive 32 miles back East, but I won't have it. I wrestle control from this evil machine, pull over and punch in Emily's address again, grimly. I can't get a signal out here, there's not much moonlight and the road is unlit. I can hardly see a thing.
On my way through Emily's town, an hour and a half late, I get a speeding ticket, for going 51 in a 35 mile an hour zone. The icing on the cake. By the time I crash through her door I am a nervous wreck.
...to be continued...