A Rough Ride

Amtrak, motion sicknessI take the train from Boston to Delaware to visit my mom. Anything is better than flying, I figure. Plus, I can watch the pastoral East Coast scenery whiz by, in my romanticized notion of riding the rails.

I pack five books, my laptop, and three short story rough drafts. After all, I have more than six hours to write or read with no interruption.


When was the last time you rode a train? Do you remember the bouncing and jouncing, the rolling and jerking one mile to the next to the next…? 

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Family Reunion

family, reunion, airportI race to the baggage area for the usual “hurry up and wait” routine, but the carousel begins its screeching circular belch of bags almost immediately. My cell phone rings when the ‘beep beep beep’ begins and 150 newly arrived passengers swoop in to retrieve their bags before anyone else.

“Hello,” I chirp cheerily on my cell while scanning each bag on the merry-go-round.

“We’re here to pick you up,” daughter welcomes me, in a stressed tone with a capital S. “Come out the doors as quickly as you can. Security guys are watching.”

“Bag’s just about here!” I trill. “Can’t wait to see you!”

But she’s already shut off her phone.baggage claim, airport, stress

As the suitcases circle I wonder about daughter’s use of the word “we.” Our plan had been for her to leave the two kids at home with her husband so we could have some blessed “just mom/daughter” time before the madhouse of a family reunion. We rarely have time to finish a sentence these days – a one-hour car ride with just the two of us sounded like heaven.

Just as my large once-forest green, now cooked-artichoke brown bag sails by, my cell rings.

I pick up the duffel with a yank as I answer.

“Where are you?” sweet daughter shouts.

“Got it!” I reply.

“We’re right at the doors!!”

I begin to run to the right side of the baggage area but stop in confusion. A similar set of doors are also located on the left side. And they each display a sign that says, “Pick-Up: Taxi, Bus, Car.”

directions, which way to go?Which doors should I go through?

I stand in the middle of the large noisy room, vacillating. My cell rings again. Damn.

I shove my hand into my cavernous purse, the one that reminds me of Hermione’s magic bag in Harry Potter, where she pulls out books, clothes, a tent, and a shovel. My fingers search for my phone with no luck. My ring tone blares to the Beatles tune of ‘HELP!,” but I can’t find it anywhere.

So, I bend down in the middle of 100 bustling people and pull out my wallet, make-up bag, roll of Mentos, pack of red licorice sticks, favorite pink pen, hairbrush, and then finally, my phone.

A voice mail awaits me:


I hit Reply back and scream, “Which set of doors?”

Daughter shouts back, “What? THE doors. We’re by the red car. Quick!”directions, lost, stress

I throw everything back in my witching bag and take a wild guess, going for the left-hand side doors.

But then I remember, she just bought a new car, and I’ve never seen it. I peer up and down and don’t see anyone I recognize. I open the g.d. phone again and, while standing in the middle of the airport car lane yell, “Can you see me? I can’t see you!”

“We can’t see you! A black van just passed us, did you see it?”

At this point I’m hoping to get run over by it. But then I view a brown hybrid five cars ahead, underneath the overhang. Heart pounding I run toward it with my 50-pound duffel bag, my book bag, my witch purse, and my cell phone at my ear.

Eureka ! My daughter is sitting at the driver’s side! I open the passenger door and almost sit on my mother, who along with 3-year-old granddaughter and 2-year-old grandson is grimacing at me as if I’ve been a very bad girl.

“Find a seat in the back,” they all yell.

Ahhh, family reunions!

famly reunion

Calm DOWN!

calm down, Calvin Hobbes, stay calmI haven’t seen my East Coat grandchildren in three months. Maybe, at the ages of 2 and 3, they won’t remember me.

So, like any self-respecting, upright, honest and upstanding woman, on this visit I bring 2 singing stuffed animals, 2 books, 2 lollipops, and a bag of my famous chocolate chip oatmeal bars.

They may not remember me, but by God, they will like me!

I arrive at their 1-week vacation cottage, a place where they’ve never seen me, so they could be even more confused about who I am and how I fit into the scheme of things. But as soon as I enter the front door, I’m greeted with “Madre! Come see my room!” “Madre, look at my car!” “Madre, can I have my pop now?” “Madre, let’s play outside!”

I breathe a sigh of relief as they cuddle with me, sit on my lap while I read stories, play with my sparkling earrings, and stroke my face like a blind person making sure my lips, eyes, nose have remained in place.



I want to be the good Madre, because after this week, I won’t see them again for at least three more months.

So when they jump on the couch, I bite my lip.

When they eat their lollipops and touch the doorknobs with their sticky fingers, I only let an ‘ugh’ escape.

When Sophie brushes my hair and pulls too hard on a curl, I just laugh.

Until bed time.

The three of us are sharing the room – Sophie and I are in the double, Clark in his own little futon. The clock is pushing 10 and I’m exhausted, but Clark is yet again sneaking out of the room like a little munchkin looking for Oz.

“Clark!” I yell, scaring the poor kid into scampering back to his bed like a bird into his cage.

“That’s enough!” I continue. “Bed! Time!”

Sophie jumps out of her side of the bed and stands in front of me, chest puffed, hands held above her head.

“Madre, Madre!” she exclaims dramatically, moving her arms from the up position to below her waist. “C a l m  D O W N!  Just C A L M  d o w n.”

“But…!” I begin to protest. But then I realize, what the hell, she’s right!

And I laugh.

And continue to be the good Madre the rest of the week.

calm down, babies sleeping, relaxation

Calming Down