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Day Five: Didn’t I go to college with you?

27 Jun

You people know that I rarely have much to say on Thursday nights because this is not only NYC day, but also our arrival at Chez Tison, the Connecticut home of my dear friends, Tina & Joe. But, despite the late hour, since you are kind enough to follow along, I’ll bang out the quickest of summaries of the day’s events.

For the first time in our four year tradition, I did *not* take the kids into Manhattan today. Mostly I think because I was kind of out of ideas of what to do with them there. Last year touring the Intrepid was absolutely amazing! And I adore watching them ride the subway, or in taxis, like little urban kids. But usually the thing they ask to do most often in NYC is “go to that big toy store in Times Square.” Um, you mean Toys’r'Us? Like the same exact toy store we have at our local mall? Sigh. Someone please tell me that my love for architecture, that my appreciation of people-watching and the pulse of the city, are genetic. That at least one of my children will one day feel the same swirling mix of emotions as I do just walking down the city sidewalk in Manhattan. Even if it’s just one of them, it would be nice to share a city, in particular, this city, with one of my children. But this year we took a different approach to our NYC day, and headed out from our Secaucus hotel (same one every year!) for a different borough. This year, the Willim 3 took the Bronx! Yep, headed out to a place I’ve heard about my entire life, but never visited – The Bronx Zoo. And let me tell you, it does not disappoint. Wow. Wow! It is huge. HUGE! And so very, very beautiful. As we exited the George Washington Bridge I said to my kids, “Welcome to the Bronx.” Beau, looking out the window, paused for just a poignant second before responding, “It’s not exactly what I expected.” I laughed, assuring him that the zoo would be much different. But I think I was wholly unprepared for how different. What an amazing piece of property, tucked away in such an unassuming manner. It was a bit pricey, but worth it. The habitats were cleverly designed and well-maintained. The assortment of wildlife was impressive. And with all the shady walks, it was very spread out, but nice to get around (though I will comment that the paths could be a little better marked). We could have easily stayed well more than the 4.5 hours we ended up having there (stupid traffic coming in from NJ.) I think I could have easily stayed more than 4.5 hours in the gorilla exhibit alone. The Bronx Zoo definitely gets a CMRT thumbs up. Plus, the prices in the gift shop were reasonable, and while I could have done without spending $3 for a bottle of water, it was easy to refill it at one of the many water fountains. Plus I brought in from snacks from home, so I can’t comment on the prices or quality of other food/beverages. Once we took off from the zoo, exactly on my designated departure time of 3:30pm, I was expecting a smooth ride up 95 to Fairfield, CT. Wow did I ever get that one wrong. Stop and go traffic the entire time. Which turned that 44 mile jaunt into a 2 hour slow burn. And by slow burn I mean the pain in my right knee from driving in stop and go traffic for so long.

But we finally arrived at Chez Tison, the kids bounding eagerly out of the car to see the young Tisons, and despite the aggravation of traffic, I couldn’t help but smile and forget all my troubles. We were at Chez Tison! Which has become one of the ultimate highlights of CMRT. I don’t want to make Maine jealous, but this two night visit with Tina & Joe has come to be something I look forward to every bit as much as my time in The Pine Tree State. Tina truly is the consummate hostess. I was taught never to arrive at someone’s house empty-handed, but Tina greeted us at the door with a basket full of goodies. And oh what lovely, thoughtful things they are! One of which honest-to-god made me tear up. Because nestled there in the basket with its lovely handmade “Welcome CMRT” sign (depicting me sporting a side ponytail & a rocking minivan) was a Tervis tumbler, an exact replacement of my beloved goldfish Tervis that was lost when left behind at the hotel the morning of Day Two. Tina Tison has to be one of the most thoughtful women on the face of the planet. And it very nearly made me cry right there in her entryway. Of course, also appreciated was the fact that we immediately sent the children off to play, and cracked open a shandy. Ahhhhh…. The very taste of summer!

After a bit we rounded everyone up again, and set out for dinner at their local Japanese steakhouse. I happen to love the teppan/hibachi/I’m never sure what I’m supposed to call it style cooking. I gorge myself every time on salty yumminess fresh off the grill/table. But this was a first-time experience for my picky-eating, food-allergic children. Egg allergy resolved by having them cook the fried rice not on the table, but in the kitchen instead. (Like I was going to go without fried rice!) Picky-eating vaguely resolved by my threatening the loss of dessert. And my kids are conditioned enough to remember that Mrs. Tison always has the best dessert treats planned. So they managed to choke down just enough to make me happy, and after dinner we walked across the street to the fro-yo shop, 16 Handles. This has become a bit of an obsession for my kids – the frozen yogurt places that offer many flavors of yogurts, tons of toppings, and then sell you this addiction by the ounce. Some of their combinations are too disgusting to even contemplate. Beau’s tonight ranks pretty high – mango sorbet with gummy bears and Captain Crunch. Ewww. But I digress, I was discussing the Japanese steakhouse experience. Let’s just say that Avery was less enthused about the “lighting the table on fire” aspect than the others. She soldiered on bravely, but mostly pressed to my side with her hands ready to cover her eyes. And every time the chef poured something on the table, like even the water to clean with at the end, she flinched and drew back. But Beau was especially excited but the pyrotechnics, and Harper, who chose to scoot back way, way, way from the table, was still excited and watching with rapt attention.

But really, aside from being happy that our kids get along so well and play so nicely together, these visits for me are about the after-bedtime-hours. The long conversations and remember whens. The time when Joe Tison mixes the perfect (and I do mean perfect) bourbon and Coke. I shouldn’t have to tell you what kind of bourbon. But I suppose some of you might not have gone to Washington & Lee University. If you had, if you have any connection to W&L at all, you know that bourbon = Jim Beam. And standing in the Tison’s kitchen, sipping a Beam & Coke, laughing so hard I cry, well, that’s like the mental equivalent of slipping into a warm bath after the most stressful day of your life. I just feel good. And if the rain holds off tomorrow night, allowing us to gather ’round the firepit, Beam or shandy in hand, then I will be in one of my ultimate happy spots. Because nothing says New England summer like sitting around a fire wearing a sweatshirt, drinking, reminiscing with dear friends. And nothing says happiness like laughing with dear friends when they are the kind of friends who knew you then, and still love you now.

With that, I’m off to bed. Hopefully to sleep a few hours before my early-rising children terrorize the entire house. Tomorrow (er, later this morning) I’ll take my three, plus the Tison’s 7 year old daughter, to a local science museum (The theme you’re recognizing here, Kevin, is that I get into science museums free with a reciprocal agreement with my Boston Chidlrens’ Museum membership!) So at least a few hours sleep would probably be a worthwhile goal.

 

Total miles on the trip odometer: Aw, man, I wrote it down, but then left my notebook in the car. I think it was something like 1,081. Whatever. We’ll just call it a whole bunch of driving.

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© 2010 Krista Lindsey Willim