Initially, probably mistaking me for a local, she informed me of a pressing local issue. At first, I thought little of it. After all, I’ve lived in the South for well over a decade; long conversations with strangers are basically a sign of good breeding here.
The conversation kept going, however, by which I mean she talked and I listened while trying not to look out the window. I didn’t mind listening, but I did want to see the different towns along the way to Salem, and I could tell my kids wanted to talk about some of the things they were seeing. She continued talking, stop after stop, and I was torn. As she talked, however, something started to dawn on me. While her behavior fell “outside of center,” so did her intellect. Her ramblings, seemingly tangential at first, were nevertheless working their way around all the bases of an argument. As she spoke, moving on to her education and her work, all done at top colleges and universities, I began to think of her as the brilliant, metaphorical “cat lady”; many probably miss her intelligence because the cats are distracting and seeing beyond all those cats just takes time.
When we approached our stop, I signaled that we had to go, and we all stood up. She handed me a brochure of some summer camps MIT (one of her schools) was offering for students. I thanked her and took my leave, my mind already shifting to the task of getting all four of us off the train on time.
What I found out later was this: As Baby-Girl past her on the train, the lady asked her what my name was. Baby-Girl, not wanting to be impolite but not wanting to share information with a “stranger,” mumbled it in a jumbled, unintelligible sort of way. I thought about it later that night as LCB and sat out on our hotel patio, watching small waves and large stars, wine in hand. I tend to be a private person about many things, (that I’m a blogger is paradoxical) but in this case, I wish I had known she wanted to know and had introduced myself. I think it was a kindness, her wanting to know.
At any rate, we left the station and headed south toward our first stop, the Salem Witch Trials Memorial.
The kids walked around and looked at each stone, which also told how each individual was killed. (Most were hanged, but the famous and infamous Giles Corey faced the most gruesome death; he was crushed by increasing stones while authorities unsuccessfully tried to extract a confession.)
At the entrance to the memorial, this lovely bucket provided great confusion and laughs. Baby-Girl read it and couldn’t figure it out, but at last concluded that it must mean butts. She was only aware of the derriere kind, however, so for the little life of her she could not figure why anyone would need a red plastic pail (a community one, mind you) for butts and only for butts. You could see her mind trying to process this one, all while her mother stood laughing so hard she couldn’t even explain it to her until she’d composed herself by staring hard and long at a nearby graveyard for a portion of time.
Afterward, we headed just down the road to the Custom House, where Hawthorne worked for a time, and then across the street to the Salem Maritime National Historic Site. Our luck with ships ran thin on this trip; the Friendship of Salem ship, like the Mayflower replica in Plymouth, was away being restored.
LCB met us for dinner, and as we took him by the outside of the House of the Seven Gables afterward, I couldn’t help myself; I had to point out the nearby pilgrim on her cell. It felt like the set of a bad sequel to Somewhere in Time, where this time it’s the cell phone that sends a Christopher Reeves-like character back to the future mentally and thus physically, forever separating him from his newly found Jane Seymouresque soul mate.
We had a wedding to attend in the Midwest that Saturday, but we had to balance it with LCB’s schedule, so we’d booked a flight later that Friday evening. The plan was to land and be in our hotel by midnight, get a decent night’s sleep, and drive to the wedding the next day.
So at our boarding time, just before 9:00 p.m., we showed up at our departure gate, but no one was lined up. There was no signage to indicate flight status, and when we looked out the window, there was also no plane. This was the beginning of over six hours of minimal to no communication with our airline. During this time, the only way to find any information was to attempt communication with an attendant who specialized in being miffed and vague.
It was maddening. We’ve only taken this airline once before, so I don’t know if this is commonplace, but I doubt I’ll ever find out now. In the end, we spent most the night in the airport on hold, arrived at our hotel in time to catch breakfast, crashed for two or three hours, and then drove three hours to the wedding, guzzling coffee all the while.
But we did make the wedding in a barely sort of way,
I secured this cupcake for dessert at the reception, and we took another airline for our trip home, so all’s well that ends well.