My Friday Field Trip Report is about coming home last night after a short (4 day) jaunt to Maine, a new family tradition you might recall us starting last year. Like last year, everything kind of fell into place at the last minute, reuniting the same group for a second go round of food, festivities, and family time. And again, a good, warm time was had by all.
I said last year... families are weird. This year wasn't so much about how different we were, but, for me anyway, how similar. This year we found more time to spend together as cousins - me, my cousin Christine, and cousin (if not exectly blood related) Jamila. It's complicated... but only on paper.
In person, we make quite a team - we managed a half day road trip to Brunswick to help Christine renew her international Driver's License (she's off again to Mozambique next Monday), shop for shoes, and do a quick tour of Old Navy. Christine and I played hosts of What Not To Wear with Jamila, suggesting new outfits - which was fun, but also depressed me, because I can't stand the show's hosts and the way they try to make their makeover recipients feel bad about themselves.
LIke much of this past year, the trip to Maine was ultimately sort of bittersweet, more good than bad, but something of a mixed bag, at least for me. Which is not to say I didn't love the company of family; to a person, it was wonderful to see them and reconnect (and typical of our stays in Maine, Mom and I actually see less of each other there than at home, even staying in adjoining rooms).
The bittersweet was more about places and memories - thinking of my father's side of the family and how estranged we are, for instance. And the increasing sense that so many bad memories I have lately are associated with Boston - from leaving my old jobs, to having to move, to the collapse of one of my close friendships. Driving home, we listened to a local NPR discussion program about problems with the "T" subway system in Boston, which reminded me how frustrating the commute was, for no comprehensible reason. And it's winter. And it's dark. And it's cold. My family isn't weird. But I am.
(There's also the part about the dreadful decision - which was entirely me - to stop and spend a night at a Motel 6 on the way up. Inexpensive to the point of being depressing.)
But in the end, the pluses outweighed the minuses. Mom and I stopped at a little German market that her sister recommended, stocking up on yet more German and Swedish specialty foods, always enjoyable, and we even tried their little cafe, which had delicious foods and an especially magnificent hot chocolate. We also stopped, as always, in Freeport, where we both found some bargains at the outlet stores. And we made it home in plenty of time for me to restart my viewing of The Vampire Diaries, cause I'm a teenage girl - with TV plans - at heart.
The best, and brightest moments, in Maine, were those quiet ones spent close to the fire, talking with family about times past and present, our hopes for the future, our views of the world at hand. My Uncle makes a mean fire, with all the seriousness and dedication required, as he does most things (and, my Aunt reports, he now approaches vacuuming and ironing with this same precision and seriousness, leaving her free to go out and about). That, plus his encyclopedic knowledge and love of jazz makes for some pretty comforting evenings of warm conversation to a relaxed beat. Keep the home fires burning... and maybe some of that bittersweet will get smoked out. Or something. Now it's back home, and soon it's back to work. And, right now... that's okay.