The end of the beginning

19 Jun

It’s Sunday night and I’m sitting here shaking my head, wondering where the heck the time is going. Did I really leave home a week ago? How is that possible? And how is it possible that as of 7pm yesterday when I pulled into the driveway of the rental cottage in Kennebunkport that I had logged 1,374 northbound miles behind the wheel? It is all going too fast. Too fast for me to even keep up with apparently. Because here I am, three days behind on my blog. And I know this is going to sound utterly ridiculous, but I’m a little sad to have arrived. It’s what I was talking about in the days before I left home. I am looking forward to having this lazy week in Maine. Looking forward to long days on the little beach at our practically private cove. Looking forward to visiting Mecca, er, I mean LLBean in Freeport. Looking forward to possibly taking a little day trip for some light hiking in Acadia. But the fact that we’re here, that we can get started on all of that other fun, means that the northbound leg of the road trip is complete. Our arrival in Maine signals, quite simply, the end of the beginning. And the beginning was so very sweet. Visiting old friends – a huge shout out of thanks to Megan & Jack Deppe and Tina & Joe Tison! Having new adventures – Maymont Park, the Liberty Science Center, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Boston Children’s Museum. Revisiting old memories – Hamilton Park, traversing the streets of Manhattan, Stepping Stones. It has been such a wonderful adventure thus far that I wish it would last, like how I felt sitting outside in the cool Connecticut air by the Tisons’ fire pit – I want to linger and savor and hold on so tight to the feeling that it never leaves me. But time marches on, and it’s not like I’m marching into hell or anything, so I don’t want to seem like I’m complaining about my week on the southern coast of Maine. But I’m already sad to leave behind the first chapter, no matter how excited I am about this one.

When last I left you, we had arrived at the Tisons’ house in Fairfield, CT. That next day (Friday), the hardest working woman I know, actually took a day off to play with us. So after a leisurely morning, which included manna from heaven (otherwise known as a fresh, new box of Lucky Charms) we took off in a caravan – Tina & her two, me and my three – for Norwalk, CT, and the much exalted by my children Stepping Stones Museum for Children. My kids thought it was super fun to have ready made playmates other than their siblings at the museum. And it was nice for me to be able to chat some with Tina and play zone defense while the kids scampered off to play. After meeting Joe for lunch, we then took off with an even better grown-up to child ratio on an adventure that I am still having difficulty processing. If I tell you that we intentionally went to a grocery store with 5 children in tow you’re going to think I’m insane. Or maybe that you heard incorrectly. But that is exactly what we did. We went to a grocery store. But it wasn’t just any grocery store. It was Stew Leonard’s. It is the Disney World/IKEA of supermarkets. There are costumed characters roaming the store, live shows, a vast array of food/drink sampling, a uni-directional set-up that forces you (but not unpleasantly so) to traverse the entire store. It has a rather farmer’s market feel to it, with individual stalls that carry a specific type of item. Yet it is huge. I certainly would not want to do my everyday stock-up shopping there, but it was wildly entertaining for the kids and they had some of the best looking produce I’ve seen. Rarely do I say that grocery shopping with the kids is “fun”, but this time it most certainly was.

After a long day, we headed back to their house and with a thunderstorm rolling in it was time for the kids to have some down time (read: veg out and watch a movie). And I must say, it was a nice respite for the parents as well. A dinner of some delicious delivery pizza chased with sweet treats for the kids and cocktails for the grown-ups was a delightful way to wind down the day. And then sitting by the glow of the fire produced by CT’s finest kiln-dried wood was the ultimate night cap. Was that the elusive Fairfield mountain lion in the back yard? We may never know. It might just have been the Summer Shandy talking.

Because of this dreaded end of the beginning feeling, I was in no rush to get on the road Saturday morning. So it was an even more leisurely morning, with Joe manning the waffle iron and the kids arguing that it was perfectly reasonable to eat Pop Tarts and waffles with syrup at the same meal. But that’s okay, because before shoving the kids in the car for the final leg, we tossed them all in the backyard to play on the bouncy house (I am so going to have to get one of those!) After packing up our stuff and wearing out the kids, we were in the van and ready to roll out to Boston at 10:15am. Not bad, and totally in the wheelhouse of my original plan. My plan when I thought that Boston was only two hours from their house, that is. When I originally looked at the Mapquest routing I had printed out, I saw that the segment from the Tisons’ house in Fairfield, CT, to the Boston Children’s Museum should be approximately 2 hours in duration. I just neglected to notice that 56 minutes after the 2 hours. Oops. Okay, so it’s going to take us a little longer and I’m wickedly sleep deprived, but that’s okay. Here we go. I cut some time by getting lunch to go and having them eat in the car. And I was helped along by listening to a great book on tape. Er, well, on CD, but no matter how much I’m supposed to call them audiobooks or whatever it is I’m supposed to call them, I still want to call them books on tape. And Gabriel Allon better watch out. I may be transferring my affections to a new spy/hero, Mitch Rapp. I’m only halfway through this, the first Vince Flynn book I’ve ever “read”, but I am liking Mitch Rapp immensely. He’s yummy. Anyhoo….

We made it to Boston by about 1:30 or so. And I’m just wondering, does Boston have a hockey team or something? Just kidding. Wow. There must have been some kind of Stanley Cup celebration downtown on Friday because the streets around the Boston Children’s Museum were jammed with people wearing their black & gold Bruins garb. But I have to admit that I am almost totally ignorant when it comes to hockey and my first thought when I saw all the fans was, is there a game today? Then an inkling at the back of my brain said, no, the Stanley Cup was just played. And finally it clicked together that, oh, maybe it was the Bruins who won it. Ignorance + sleep deprivation = slow on the uptake.

Once again Erin would be accusing me of making sacrifices to the parking gods because I scored another sweet on-street parking spot less than half a block away from the entrance of the museum. The good thing, only cost a couple of quarters in the meter. The potentially bad thing, the 2 hour limit. Hmmm. But I just couldn’t see us staying longer than that, so we fed the meter and went on in. I mentioned in an earlier post that we are members of the Boston Children’s Museum. I’m going to assume that seems strange to all of you who know that I live in Florida and have no family in the Boston area. We don’t travel to Boston, well, ever, except to pass through on our annual CMRT. So here’s the explanation. I found a loophole in the system. Well, not technically a loophole. Maybe it’s more accurate to say I’m just an outlier in the expected participant pool. The Boston Children’s Museum is one of over a hundred children’s museums that participates in an ACM (Association of Children’s Museums) reciprocal program. What this means is that members of the BCM receive free admission at over a hundred other children’s museums throughout the country. Of course you may be wondering why I didn’t become a member of a children’s museum closer to home to receive these same benefits. Well, first off, because Jacksonville, despite being a major metropolitan city, does not have a children’s museum. Secondly, the closest children’s museum I’m even aware of is the wonderful Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry in Charleston. It is a great museum, and I considered joining there just because I wouldn’t mind giving them the money and I may be able to get back up there with the kids sometime in the next year. But to me, it didn’t really matter where I joined. I was really just in it for the reciprocal benefits. And the agenda for the entire CMRT includes no less than 9 children’s and science museums. So, no matter what children’s museum I joined (with the exception of the museums in the NYC area which placed some restrictions on reciprocal benefits) I could get in free to all the children’s museums we visited along the way. But, notice that I also mentioned some science museums. Well, after a little research I discovered that the Boston CM also participated in the ASTC (Association of Science and Technology Centers) travel passport program. So, by joining the BCM I would get free admission to not only over 100 children’s museums across the country, but until the end of October I would also get free admission to over 200 science museums across the country. So, let’s figure out the math on this one. No, really. Let’s do the math. By purchasing the $125 family membership I would have covered all admissions to the following museums (with the cost of admission for 1 adult + 3 children listed in parentheses): Liberty Science Center ($50.25), Children’s Museum of Manhattan ($44), Stepping Stones ($48), Boston Children’s Museum ($48), Portland Children’s Museum ($36), the Franklin Institute ($51.50) and the Please Touch Museum ($60) in Philadelphia, Discovery Place ($42) in Charlotte, and Fernbank ($64) in Atlanta. Um, so $125 up-front investment = $270.75 in savings. Seemed like a no-brainer to me. Especially since those savings figures are based on this trip alone and the reciprocal membership to the children’s museums lasts an entire calendar year and the reciprocals for science museums lasts until the end of October. So, me and my suburban Florida kids, the ones who have no reason or occasion to be in Boston at any time other than CMRT, are now members of the Boston Children’s Museum. And oh how I wished we lived near it! The BCM is awesome. Filled with great active and imaginative play spaces and enough science of the kind accessible to small children. I really loved it. And so did my kids. They did not want to leave, and frankly I didn’t either. Metered parking space be damned, it was worth the risk of a ticket. We stayed at least 2 hours and 45 minutes, and could have happily stayed longer, except that whole I still have almost 2 hours of driving to get to the Maine cottage nervousness that was sneaking in. But it was a hit and I will quite happily keep it on the agenda for next year.

Back on the road for the final stretch. Those miles flew by. A quick stop for gas and Coca-cola. Another quick (and oh so classy!) stop at the New Hampshire Liquor Store. Nothing quite says classy like a single mom taking 3 small children into the liquor store to pick up a bottle of whiskey. (Perhaps the C in CMRT can also represent Classy.) Before we knew it we were crossing the Piscataqua River and into the state of Maine. My reaction to crossing that state line is a visceral one. I experience physiological changes. My shoulders relax, my heart rate slows, I involuntarily grin. And when I see that sign that says: “Maine, The Way Life Should Be” it makes my smile even bigger. (My brother, who is back home in Florida, dealing with ash from a far away forest fire falling from the sky suggested that Florida’s state motto might be: Have a beer, things might get better. This made me laugh.) Once we got to the house in Kennebunkport we immediately went out onto the mud flats that are left behind in the Turbat’s Creek cove at low tide. Climbing the rocks, squishing through the mud, running about – happy kids. Happy Momma and happy kids.

I am sad for the first segment of road trip to be over. Do I really have to wait another year to try it again?  As much fun as we had, we have finally arrived. A mere 1,374 miles logged. Holy crap. That seems like a lot. And now, it’s time for the rest of the fun to be had. And I’m going to get right to that. Right after I get some sleep…


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© 2010 Krista Lindsey Willim