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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.

 

Elisia and me at the airport before her return home to Massachusetts.

My dear friend Elisia, who lives in Leominster (40 miles from Boston), was able to come to Portland for the weekend, to meet with a group of women all working with a local life coach. Elisia flexed her plans to include a short stay with Tara and me.

Tara followed us all around Mt. Tabor one afternoon, taking many butt shots.

It was delicious to see her again, after years apart. Lissy and I met in 2004 because we saw each other every day on the train. We both got on at the same time in the mornings at the end of the Fitchburg Line of the Massacusetts Bay Transit Authority commuter train, and shared an hour and 10 minute ride. We also left the train at the same Brandeis/Roberts stop in Waltham. Me, up the hill to school. She across the road to work. We returned to the train at the same time every evening to share the ride home.

Getting dolled up in the living room cuz the bathroom was full.

There’s something about seeing people every single day, day in and day out, that makes them less strangers. In fact, I was so intrigued by the idea that I based my entire Master’s Thesis on data collected about relationships on commuter rail trains.

Lissy is quoted in the thesis. Our relationship went from strangers, to acquaintances, to friends, as we began speaking to each other more and more often in the safety borne of familiarity. The relationship moved off the train and began a life of its own. I got to meet her enthusiastic and funny husband, and later, their first child. And later…their second! I cried my heart out to her during a breakup. On a trip back East after I had moved to Oregon, I was in the area when I realized it was almost time for the train. I asked my friend to drive me to the Brandeis/Roberts train station, and went running down the tracks to meet Elisia as she walked to the platform to wait for the train.

What a view! (No, I’m not referring to the butts.)

I can’t explain the magic of friends. I don’t open up to girlfriends easily. I am an extremely friendly person so you’d never guess this about me, but I remain very tightly guarded against sharing my deepest feelings with others. But Lissy got through, and for that I am so grateful to her. There is an insecure 7th grader inside of me that is delighted and relieved when I spend time with a girlfriend who loves me as much as I love her back.

How adorable is this?

 

The view is worth the long drive it takes to get here

We managed to get on the road sooner than I had planned, and that is entirely out of character for me! Ms Perpetually Late, I am. But into the grey, rainy morning we went. Poor Miss T is very sick and spent most of the entire day trying to sleep while I drove. Poor kid. I hope she feels better soon and can enjoy her Spring Break week with her dad.

I-5 through Oregon was coming to life as Spring made her way into the valleys. Thousands of daffodils grow wild alongside the highway and in the medians, and trees are bursting into white and pink blossoms before the terrain slopes up into grassy mountains capped with evergreens. Sheep were everywhere, enjoying grass becoming lush for the season.

The famous North Coast swell. Ah, just seeing it makes me yearn for a surfboard.

I had hoped to use my camera somewhere along the route, but it was so cold and POURING down rain most of the day that I didn’t use it much. From Cave Junction, OR to Gasquet, CA, there was snow on the ground and more falling from the sky. Wet sloppy stuff, so the roads were ok, but pretty much the opposite of vacation weather. I wanted to take photos of the redwoods, but the rain was coming down in sheets. I finally pulled over south of Crescent City, when the clouds broke and gave us a view of the Pacific ocean.

A cow elk and her young one eye me suspiciously

I miss the sea. I lived here for only seven years, but now I have a loss in my heart whenever I am separated from the sea. The Roosevelt Elk were out munching spring sprouts in the rain, so I was able to test my new zoom lens. I love the zoom. It looks like I could reach out and pet these huge beasts, though of course, I could not.

I found Tara’s dad’s house without any trouble at all, and dropped her poor little sick self off. I called Miss Ophelia and made plans to meet her after work. I vacuumed my car in the meantime. Since I’m going to be practically living in the car this week, I couldn’t handle the mess anymore. Hung out with Ophelia and her daughter, got to see their new house, went and had a beer on the Arcata Plaza. It was good to attempt to catch up with such a longtime friend. We’ve gone way way too long without talking and there was too much ground to cover in one night, but we reconnected and that’s the main thing.

Weird. I only ever went out to those bars when I was totally hammered, or aiming to be. Brought on some very fuzzy flashbacks. Heh.

When she had to go off for a dinner engagement, I headed south to Fortuna to visit my other girlfriend who was out at a party. I have known M only a few months longer than Ophelia, and both of them for 14 years. She left the house unlocked for me and I gratefully made myself at home. It is a pleasure to visit her in the same house that I have visited for so many years. To burrow under the covers on the same bed in the same familiar room. Brush my teeth in the bathroom I know so well. I feel like I belong here. It is truly a gift from her that she has created this sanctuary for me.

At 1:30am, M arrived home and pounced on me! She literally climbed onto the bed and gave me a hug and said, “Get up! I am going to bake you some Gorgonzola cheese wedges and serve them with crackers!”

I sleepily mumbled, “Right now?”

“Yes, you must be hungry! Have you had wine tonight?” she asked as she extricated herself from the hug. “We will have wine with the cheese.”

So… my silly friend and I caught up on life from 1:30 to 3:30am before we returned to our lovely rooms in her astonishingly lovely and comfortable home.

One of my many guises

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