Well, I’ve been in Boston this weekend on a solo trip with my friend Julie and her husband and 3-month-old daughter (her fifth child) who were in town from Kansas City. I meant to get online while I was there, but somehow it only happened at the airport on the way home! So here you have a delayed Fridays with Teddy post. Monday dreaming (of Boston, where else?) will come along Monday evening and later this week I’ll write some more about my trip. In the meantime, please enjoy the post below. And to get a Monday dreaming fix earlier in the day, please visit WanderMom’s post about losing her camera in Venice- it made me more than a little sad for her!
As I mentioned last week, the last time I was in Boston was when Tommy was 13 months old. It was our first stop on our year-long odyssey and it was a disastrous one. The apartment we rented turned out to be in a building that was full of students, including an upstairs neighbor (nicknamed Stompy) who had parties almost every night. Neither Matt nor I had any clue what we were doing and it showed. I can only smile now and shake my head at our ineptitude. So lest you think that I was always the master mommy traveler, please read Tommy’s Not-Quite-Maritime Adventure (an excerpt of course from the as-yet-unpublished memoir The Mother of All Trips):
From the search for the Northwest Passage to the exploration of the South Pole, the annals of history are full of expeditions headed by explorers whose false sense of confidence led them cheerfully into peril. So it was that on our first Saturday in Boston, determined not to waste any time on the days when Matt was available to help, I marshaled the three of us for a trip to Cape Ann.
Tommy fell asleep on the ride out of the city, which was mostly interstate. This was fine, as we planned for him to have his morning nap in the car. Unfortunately, the trip wasn’t quite as long as I thought it would be; after about a half hour, we got off the highway. Tommy awoke the minute we did so, aided by an electronic giggle from his Elmo steering console, one of the many car-themed birthday gifts our bewildered friends and family had sent in an effort to give Tommy something he could bring with him.
For people who planned to travel all year, Matt and I were ridiculously rigid when it came to Tommy’s sleep schedule. Instead of shrugging our shoulders, parking the car, and going for a walk during what turned out to be the nicest part of the day, we tried to make him sleep some more by driving up Route 1A through Essex to Ipswich and beyond. This is a beautiful drive lined with old shingled houses and smooth fields stretching out to the barely visible ocean. But it is also a typical New England cow path that twists and turns so as to induce nausea rather than slumber. Tommy was unimpressed by the scenery, and soon started protesting being in the car so loudly that we headed back to Essex. By now, it was chilly and starting to sprinkle.
I had neglected to pack a sweater or long pants for Tommy or us. We had one small umbrella and no real rain gear. It was only 11 a.m., but when is it ever to early to enjoy a friend clam?
Woodman’s is a sturdier version of clam shacks you find all over the beaches of New England. The floor is cement and filled with utilitarian wooden benches. The bathrooms boast signs reading “Gulls” and “Buoys.” Big cylinders full of salt sit on every table, and vinegar, lemon juice, and tartar sauce are all on offer at the condiment counter against the wall. We ordered fries, onion rings, chowder, and a quart of fried clams, which were just heavenly. There is nothing like the texture of a creamy clam belly, tartar sauce, and salty batter. The only thing missing was beer. Although part of my coping strategy thus far had been to consume a fair portion of wine every evening, drinking before noon seemed like the first step down a slippery slope that led me to guzzling vodka in my bathrobe. I was later to regret my restraint.
Tommy, as usual, was having a jolly time, gleefully dipping French fries in ketchup and chowder. The second he was done eating, he demanded to get out of his chair and proceeded to crawl around every inch of the place until he was covered in grit, laughing and jabbering all the while. The four older women sitting next to us admired his size, his appetite, his general sunnyness, and the speed with which he crawled. King Tommy assumed that he could go everywhere, that he was master of every domain, and that everyone would smile at him, which they invariably did.
When we finished, a cool rain began in earnest. After quickly posing for some photos in front of the Woodman’s sign, we decided to pass up the chance to walk around Essex. It’s not that there’s nothing to do in Essex in the rain. Theoretically, we could have gone into the many antique stores that line the main street. I don’t think I need to explain why this was not a possibility.
Unfortunately, the drive to Marblehead was continuous stop-and-go on busy commercial streets. Instead of sleeping like we had hoped, Tommy dozed when we moved, yelled when we didn’t, and fell truly asleep only minutes before we drove into downtown Marblehead. We didn’t know what to do, so we simply parked the car and let him snooze. Matt went off to find a walking map. As if napping in the car were something I did every day, I dozed too, and was cross to see the rain streaming down the windows when Matt woke me up. It was even colder and nastier now, and I wanted to head back to the city, but Matt insisted that Tommy needed a break from his car seat, where he had now spent the majority of the day.
Off we went, Tommy’s legs wrapped against the cold in Matt’s denim shirt, Matt, now in a t-shirt, shorts, and sandals, with nothing covering his head, and me carrying the miniscule umbrella, which merely mocked my attempts to stay dry. We immediately headed the wrong way and ended up at a dead end street nowhere near the harbor. My disappointment made me incoherent. Matt shuffled us into a coffee shop, which was empty enough that Tommy could tear around and where we purchased burnt and bitter cups of coffee. After a while, we went back out into the wet and tried to follow the map. Tired of struggling with the umbrella, I just let myself get wet, insisting much to Matt’s annoyance that we head back to Boston.
And so it was that we left Marblehead—one of the early ship-making and trading ports in the country, home of fishing fleets and whale watching tours, called “the birthplace of America’s Navy” by some and “America’s Yachting Capital” by others—without seeing the ocean.