After heading back to Massachusetts, we spent the first night in a nice but nondescript hotel in the suburbs of Boston. LCB had scheduled business in the area for the next few days, but we were hoping to squeeze in a few touristy things as well.
This led us, the next day, to Rockport, a coastal town north of Boston, with a gorgeous, kid-explorable coastline, lots of history, walkable streets, and easy access to the train.
One of the best parts about braving the peninsulas is the conversations you can’t help but hear along the way. It’s a fascinating study in human nature. For instance, there are the ceaseless narrators (in a strange fate-twist, usually also loud-talkers): “Whoa, that rock’s got quite the slant. Maybe we should find a way around it. Hold on, I think I have something in my shoe. Oh, wait, no, I think my sock just got bunched up. It’s this new pair I got from the outlet last week and I’ve never worn them before. Oh, watch that hole, Burt. I’m not sure if you saw that one since you forgot your glasses. Yeah, maybe I shouldn’t have tried out the new socks today. Oh, is that moisture on the rock ahead? It looks like it. I’m going to step very carefully there. I’d hate to slip this far out. By the way, did you read the historical plaque by the road? It says, ‘In (insert verbose rewording of the plaque’s contents here).’ Now what do you think that red thing is out in the ocean? It just sits there, and I don’t think it’s manned.”
You can’t escape the busybodies here: “Martha, look at all those crazy people walking out on those rocks! Can you believe it? Somebody should be taking care of this madness. Do you think they know what they’re doing? That looks frightening and scary! I can’t believe I don’t see any signage warning people of the dangers. Did you see that lady’s shoes? Those are clearly not shoes meant for rock climbing. Really, Martha, this makes me uncomfortable. There are children walking out there. Somebody should do something about this. Did anyone warn about this on Trip Advisor? Pull it up a minute on your phone, Martha.”
Blessings to Martha.
Then there are the children and the childlike, their every step wonder-filled. There’s that moment when they stop stepping, at some point on the peninsula, and they take in all that blue, everywhere around them. They’re the ones to watch.
And, of course, there are the contemplators, the ones that sit quietly, absorbing everything. They don’t critique, they don’t speak at rapid-fire high pitch; in fact, they say little, or nothing at all. For that I say, “God bless you. You are a credit to your people, whoever they are.”
The next morning, the womenfolk ventured out early, towing a suitcase filled with dirty laundry up hill and down dale, and found a laundromat near the train station. I cannot overstate how much I don’t enjoy laundering in public, but the woman working there was friendly and helpful, and all in all, it was probably the best public laundering experience I’ve had to date. We spent the rest of the afternoon doing more exploring, and in the evening, we grabbed a quick dinner and headed to Cambridge to check out schools.
We hit MIT first and hopped out of the car to begin our self-tour. By self-tour, I mean that I gave the tour, without assistance, in an “as the spirit moves” fashion since A.) I left my carefully blown-up tour guide printouts at the hotel, and B.) we were a bit tight on time. This went much as you might imagine. I’m sure many of the students laughed at a woman with more of a…humanities bent, roaming the campus, three wide-eyed kids in tow, all while keeping an eye out for LCB, who drove in circles around the campus pursing parking.
MIT borders the Charles River, with beautiful views of Boston on the other side. Despite my tour, MIT, long on my sons’ dream school lists, may have secured permanent status there that night. The campus was impressive, and I saw (what I assume was) science everywhere.
Next, as the light waned, we headed to Harvard, which has that traditional Ivy League aura about the campus.
During a quick family meeting in the Harvard Yard, we figured out which school each child will attend and established a surefire plan for securing three admissions and an inexpensive condo for the parents for weekend visits. It’s a great relief knowing this plan is now pretty much in the bag.
The next day, the kids and I hopped on a train bound for Salem, Massachusetts. At the next stop, as the conductor came around for tickets, a nearby passenger requested a ticket to Manchester-by-the-Ocean.
He meant, I presume, Manchester-by-the-Sea.
I smiled and looked up, and caught the eye of a passenger sitting across the aisle, facing me. She laughed aloud, and said, “Well, close enough.”
This made me laugh.
She took this as an invitation to talk. And talk. And… talk some more.