My last post left off with my collecting a hire car at Logan airport in Boston, Massachusetts. I was running on almost no sleep and now had to drive an hour. On the wrong side of the road. In the dark. I was a little apprehensive. Nonetheless, it worked out fairly well. The GPS steered me well and I only missed one turn. I kept on the correct side of the road. I did hit the windscreen wipers instead of the indicator a number of times. (I did so at least twice a day while I was in Massachusetts).
After a solid 8 hours of sleep I felt much better, if not 100%, and not really jet lagged. I guess being kept up until a decent bedtime when I was super exhausted meant a normal sleep at a normal time and got me quickly onto a local time schedule. This was helpful, as the next five days were very full with wedding preparations and celebrations (I’ll write about the wedding itself in another post). There were lots of errands and a LOT of driving. In five days I drove 1,000km. On the wrong side of the road. In miles, not kilometres. After two days I was quite comfortable and even enjoyed playing taxi for everyone.
A lot of the driving I did was in very pretty areas. I spent most of the week driving in and between small towns – Wilmington (pop. 22,000), Tekwsbury (29,000), Stoneham (21,000), Groton (10,000), Townsend (9,000), and Ashby (3,000). It’s not like small towns in Australia, where there is empty space between each one. Here, I wouldn’t know one town was ending and another beginning unless there were signs telling me. Even then I sometimes missed the change.
This was my first trip to the East Coast of the US in 18 years – since my family lived in Connecticut in 1996-1997. There were so many memory triggers! Tall oak trees; wood-clad houses; tall, sloping rooves with attic windows; squirrels bouncing around; lakes and ponds with frozen tops; the strange beauty of bare trees; the different colour and feel of the winter sky. Lots of things I associate with that place, and that period in my life. There was also food I remembered, like bagels with cream cheese and dunkin donuts munchkins.
One morning I was able to drive to Gordon College to meet up with two girls I knew in Beijing. They were a good year older than I’d realised – one graduates in a semester! I’ve known them since they were in about 7th grade, and it’s such a delight to watch them growing into such wonderful young women. These kinds of reunions are what this trip is all about – they fill my heart. The campus was also very beautiful. I just wish I’d had more time with them! When I did leave Gordon, it was to go to the airport – to pick up two other bridesmaids who are China friends. It was both surreal and so normal to be together again!
I spent the last two nights staying with a really lovely couple in Ashby. Their house was amazing – especially its history. There is a connection to Prince Estabrook, a freed slave who fought (and was wounded) in the revolutionary war. If I remember my host’s story correctly, Prince Estabrook lived in the house at one point, and he was buried in Ashby. The original house dates to 1760, making it over 250 years old. There have been additions over the years but it has been carefully maintained and is really beautiful. It is set in forest, away from any lights, so the starry sky was incredible. While their house was wonderful, their hospitality was what really made it an amazing place to stay. They were so kind to us! The night after the wedding they housed four bridesmaids, two groomsmen (one being their son) and the mother of the groom. Ashby itself was a gorgeous little town; driving through we enjoyed the lovely houses, including the local library.
Something I really enjoyed about the towns around there (Groton, Townsend, Ashby) was that many houses had candles lit in every window – electric ones, although I assume traditionally they would have lit regular wax candles. It was so beautiful to drive through the area at night. I was told it was a traditional way to decorate for Christmas, and some people were surprised it wasn’t done everywhere. Even the local school had red paper and cellophane candles in all their windows!
In my next post I’ll share a little about the lovely wedding which was the reason for all the activity.