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I know there's hype about New England foliage, but it's for real. There's nothing like the autumn colours in the northeast.

I know there’s hype about New England foliage, but it’s for real. There’s nothing like the autumn colours in the northeast.

The first day of November in Fitchburg, Massachusetts was pretty wet, but everybody (particularly Tetley the dog) wanted to go out for a walk anyway. The family lives in a beautiful spot in the hills, next door to forests, and we headed out. It turned out to be colder than expected, so it was just a short walk, but fun for me to soak up New England and remember the things I love about it. If you’ve ever spent time in these parts, you’ll know that in the forest there are ubiquitous stone walls that served as ancient property boundaries. I have seen them in New York, Vermont, and Massachusetts.

The boys lead the way through the forest.

The boys lead the way through the forest.

Old stone wall in a Massachusetts forest.

Old stone wall in a Massachusetts forest.

Fire Engine Red

Fire Engine Red

K had created an enormous pile of pancakes for us all to eat that morning, and then went off to the school to work on student progress reports. E and I chatted while we dried off and waited for our ride back to the city. Finally we had to say our goodbyes. E had purchased Vermont Cabot cheese for me as my specially requested New England delicacy (it’s about $15/lb here), and I predictably forgot it in her fridge. Luckily she likes it too!

Reunited with loved ones.

Reunited with loved ones.

Once we were back in the city, our friends took us to Brazilian barbecue restaurant in Cambridge called Midwest Grill, where the waiters brought large hunks of meat to the table and carved it for us. I tried enough meat dishes to last me till Christmas and they practically had to carry me out I was so stuffed. I’d say it’s a good plug for a restaurant when a meal becomes a highlight of a trip! They all went to eat ice cream afterward and I couldn’t order a thing.

Next it was time to visit Fenway. Sadly, though only early evening, the season brought early darkness, hastened even more by the thick clouds and rain. The ballpark was closed, and raindrops splashed my lens, but I was thrilled to be there anyway. R and Tara stayed warm in the car while M and I ran around in the rain.

Ahh, my heart warms just to stand here on the sidewalk.

Ahh, my heart warms just to stand here on the sidewalk.

M and me, snapped by some stranger walking past. I happily handed over my camera. "In another city," says M, "your camera would be gone."

M and me, snapped by some stranger walking past. I happily handed over my camera. “In another city,” says M, “your camera would be gone.”

Yawkey Way. Is there a more Boston-sounding street?

Yawkey Way. Is there a more Boston-sounding street? There’s the big green stadium on the right.

Maybe I'm silly, but this is as much Boston to me as anything else.

Maybe I’m silly, but this is as much Boston to me as anything else.

There was one last friend I was able to visit, and T and I dropped by for a couple hours, till we were all wiped out for the day. My T opened up and talked a blue streak. It’s nice to see when trust develops between a friend and my kid. Yawning, we hugged goodbye and took photos.

Next fun adventure: we walked a few blocks, bought our Charlie Cards, and hopped onto the green line. Then we switched to the red line and headed out towards M’s place again for the night. It was 10:30 at night and though it was November 1, it was also the day after Halloween and a Saturday, so several of our fellow passengers were costumed and heading for parties. It has been a decade since I rode a Boston subway (back then we used token coins, and I’ve still got one in my purse as a memento), and I thought it could be scary, but it wasn’t.

Sleepy friends

Sleepy friends at 10:00pm

Sunday morning M had to jump on a plane, so R made himself available to us once more, between his morning and evening sermons. The weather really had not cooperated during our visit, and had been rainy and cold the whole time. It perfectly suited Tara’s next request: a visit to the Boston Museum of Science. It’s another place filled with memories. We watched a 4-D movie. Have you done one of those before? It introduces sensations like touch and smell. This movie was not as good as the last one we saw: Polar Express, which blew snow into our faces, bursts of wind blew our hair, the chair shook when the train crashed, and the smell of hot cocoa wafted through when was served on the train.

An enormous grasshopper greets us from the second story of the museum.

An enormous grasshopper greets us from the second story of the museum.

We did like this exhibit. The photography of modernist cuisine. Where things were sliced in half and photographed.

We did like this exhibit: photography of modernist cuisine. Where things were sliced in half and photographed.

The main exhibit was the Maya: Hidden Worlds Revealed and I was eager to see it. I could have spent 4 hours in that exhibit alone. It was huge and fascinating, but we simply did not have the time to see everything. My favourite part was when some of the museum staff helped me learn to interpret some of the signs on the tall columns. I learned how ancient Mayans wrote numbers! Just to learn one small thing was very exciting to me. I can read Mayan numbers. Hee.

Reproduction of a Mayan tower. The lights flashed on the side are to help visitors learn to read the petroglyphs.

Reproduction of a Mayan tower. The lights flashed on the side help visitors learn to read the hieroglyphs.

I stood here until I learned to read some of it.

I stood here until I learned to read some of it. The numbers are the places with dots on top of/beside parallel lines.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tara's birthday was converted to glyphs.

Tara’s birthday was converted to glyphs.

Artwork and tools. This one was very exciting to me, because I guessed the use of the shell sliced in half. Can you guess it?

Artwork and tools. This one was very exciting to me, because I correctly guessed the use of the shell sliced in half. Can you guess it?

A painted vessel

A painted vessel

A gorgeous carving

A gorgeous carving

 

 

 

 

 

Then we hurried off to the airport and in no time were boarding our plane. It was an uncomfortable night flight (I can never sleep while sitting upright), but the reward at the end was being home! We live about 8 minutes drive from the airport, so touching down is synonymous with being home. We snapped the obligatory Portlander-coming-home snapshot of the airport carpet. The Portland Airport Carpet has its own facebook page, can you believe it? Yes, we are a weird city, and we love it. 🙂

Our feet and shadows on the PDX carpet.

Our feet and shadows on the PDX carpet.

Plane banks as we head toward the Boston bay. Crepuscular rays light up the shoreline like an invitation.

Plane banks as we head toward the Boston bay. Crepuscular rays light up the shoreline like an invitation.

This kind of scene would warm a teacher's heart.

This scene would warm a teacher’s heart.

I graduated from Brandeis University in 2007. I attended in my thirties, and clearly stood out from most of my classmates because of it. Despite the differences, I made some pretty tight friendships with other students, and the people whose lives intersected with mine. Interestingly (or perhaps predictably) the people I connected with were others who stood out from the crowd. They’ve been begging Tara and me for visits since my last trip to Massachusetts in 2008.

Finally! We made it back for one whirlwind friendship weekend.

R picked us up from the airport and took us to the UMass Boston campus to get our friend M.

Looking across the bay from University of Massachusetts Boston, while we waited for Mads to get off work.

Looking across the bay from University of Massachusetts Boston, while we waited for M to get off work.

New England homes and foliage across the bay.

New England homes and foliage across the bay.

Snapping photos from the back seat as we leave the airport.

Snapping photos from the back seat as we leave the airport.

This city looks beautiful even when photographed from a moving vehicle.

This city looks beautiful even when photographed from a moving vehicle.

Illuminated white tower at sunset and brilliant foliage reflected in the water. Some scenes are inescapably New England.

Illuminated white tower at sunset and brilliant foliage reflected in the water. Some scenes are inescapably New England.

Since the three of us were Brandeis graduates, and since there were a couple of hours left in Thursday, we hit the campus next. Tara is a senior and we are all about colleges these days. Applications, scholarships, and of course: pleading Mom for visits to campuses. Though T is not interested in East Coast schools, I assumed it couldn’t hurt to explore a few of them. We hit the bookstore before they closed and updated our Brandeis gear. I’m sure after everything we spent, the school was very glad they were still open that night.

Tara, R, and me in the Brandeis Admissions parking lot

Tara, R, and me in the Brandeis Admissions parking lot

The school's namesake: Justice Louis Brandeis

The school’s namesake: Justice Louis Brandeis on our photogenic campus.

We walked around, pointing out different things we all remembered. Tara, too, had childhood memories of it, like watching movies at the library while I was in class. What a trip down memory lane. To my delight, we caught the Brandeis Quidditch team at practice. You know, from the Harry Potter books? Well apparently it’s caught on in our world as well. The sticks between their legs are the brooms. Because of the angle, you can’t see it, but the “posts” on the end are three hoops at different heights through which the team is trying to lob the quaffle.

We walked through a great display in front of the Rose Art Museum from artist Chris Burden, called Light Of Reason. The work’s title borrows a quote by the university’s namesake, Supreme Court Justice Louis Dembitz Brandeis: “If we would guide by the light of reason, we must let our minds be bold.”

Light of Reason

Light of Reason

The lampposts are recycled antiques.

The lampposts are recycled antiques.

Best of all was when we decided to walk inside and down the stairs of the Mandel Center, the place where it all began. Where eight years ago I wandered into a classroom for International Peace and Conflict studies, and I think I was the only student who claimed to be from the United States. To you, it will look like a classroom that is remarkable only in its total lack of interesting qualities. M, R, and I stepped through the door and were hit with memories like an almost physical force. We sat in our old seats and remembered who sat where, and what countries they were from. We talked about our professors, our assignments, and how M’s final project regarding Sri Lankan conflict for Professor Johnson’s class is now cited in publications around the globe. We mentioned how small the classroom was in comparison to our memories of it (why do places always seem smaller when you go back?).

How did we all fit into this small space?

How did we all fit into this small space?

Reliving the old days.

Reliving the old days.

Finally we went for dinner and the guys became fans of my Tara. All that kid has to do is loosen up and start talking, and the fan base grows. I am so proud to be the parent of this awesome human being. We said goodbye to R, then M slept on the floor and gave us his bed. There is something pretty great about being spoiled by a friend. Maybe it’s the knowledge that one day I’ll get a chance to pay it back.

M and R at dinner. I love them so very much.

M and R at dinner. I love them so very much.

 

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