Bean Town

(Or is it Beantown? And why?)

Harper and I are leaving Sunday afternoon to spend a few days in Boston with my sister, who just moved there. It’ll be sort of a girls weekend, though it’s not really a weekend, and one of us is underage, so I suspect there will be fewer margaritas than your traditional weekend with the girls. I’ve been looking forward to it for awhile, but all of a sudden today I got excited: Yay! Vacation! Time with sister! New city!

Actually, I’ve been to Boston at least three times. The first time was in middle school. My mother and I went, just the two of us (a girls weekend!). I could have gone to Washington, DC instead, on an eighth grade class field trip, but either I didn’t want to go, or my mom didn’t want me to go. I don’t remember much about the trip itself, except that I bought a hot pink hat as a souvenir after spending all afternoon agonizing about what to buy. I was always agonizing over souvenirs in those days. Sometime after that, I stopped buying souvenirs entirely, and now I almost never bring something home from a trip. It saves me all kinds of angst and keeps my cupboards free from Niagara Falls mugs. But I did like that pink hat I bought in Boston. It went nicely with my hot pink fake-Converse high tops.

Which I still have.

The second time I went to Boston, I went to visit my good friend who spent a year there after college. She lived in a tiny apartment with three other girls, one of whom used the living room as a bedroom. It was a freezing cold weekend, and though I really wanted to see the city, it was the kind of cold that you just didn’t go out in if you didn’t have to. We bundled up tight and ran from place to place, not talking until we got inside and thawed out. We ate Indian food at a restaurant downtown, and sat in a basement coffee shop and knitted.

My third trip to Boston was to help that same friend move all her stuff across the country. In a funny twist of fate, we were both moving to Chicago at the same time; she for a change of pace and a return to the midwest, me for grad school. I’d quit my job earlier in the summer, so I had plenty of time to help. I was hardly in Boston for 24 hours, and it was all spent packing and loading the truck. We left town a lot later than we meant to, and ended up driving across upstate New York very late at night, where we were pulled over by a state trooper because one of the truck’s taillights was out. Nobody could fix it that late, so we ended up spending the night at a sketchy motel with nothing to eat except junk food from the gas station next door.

The next day we made the long haul across Canada to her family’s home in Michigan, and then on to Chicago, where we finally unloaded all her stuff into a beautiful apartment across from the Steppenwolf theater. I remember standing at Midway airport, saying goodbye to her as she headed back to Boston to pick up her car and I flew home to St. Louis to pack my own things and move the next weekend. We hugged, awkwardly, because we were both wearing over-stuffed backpacks. That was Saturday, September 8, 2001. By the time we met up again in Chicago later that month, the world had changed.

Now, when Harper and I go to the airport on Sunday, we’ll have to take off our belts and our shoes – even Harper’s little clogs, and I paid a whole lot more for these tickets than the last time I flew to Boston. But it’s not likely to be freezing cold on this trip, and I think I’ve waited long enough that I won’t have to help move any furniture.

In any case, I can’t wait. Maybe I’ll buy a souvenir. I could use a new hat.

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