For the first time since July 2005, Jill and Bob and the girls came to Boston for a Thanksgiving visit this past week. I’ve been badgering them to come out for the last few years, particularly when I’m entertained with descriptions of their frequent trips to southern California and now Florida to visit other various brothers. So when Jill was telling me this June about impending trips to both places within a couple of months, before I could even jump on this inequity with an “Aha! And what about coming to Boston?” she countered with their plans to visit here in November.
And thus it came to pass. They found there way to the house by Monday mid-afternoon, while I was still at work. I tried to get out of there early but ended up reaching home maybe half an hour sooner than I would have on a normal day, but I had the rest of the week off to either entertain, chauffeur, or watch sports, or some combination thereof. Beth made dinner and Ashley studiously practiced her Christmas music on the piano, which she did every day during their stay. The kids teamed up on the bedrooms with the trundle bed and air mattress, that all seemed to work just fine. The biggest challenge, as expected, was eight people using one bathroom, but once the girls got the knack of using the bathroom when it was available, rather than the last minute when they absolutely needed it (much like driving through Wyoming) then they were fine.
Tuesday our kids were still in school, and Chloe had requested we use that day if we had the notion to “do something historical”. The weather was overcast but not rainy, so we drove up to Concord and toured Orchard House, the home of Louisa May Alcott, which I have driven by many times but never been inside. I remember calling them 20+ years ago when we were looking for a wedding venue to see if they did weddings, which they didn’t, but that’s about it. Ashley and Alexa had seen the movie with Winona Ryder so they had some passing connection to the place, plus I thought it would be good for them to see a house that was even older and draftier than ours.
The tour was pretty full for a dreary Tuesday afternoon, most everyone else there, including a few families, were from out of state. By pure chance we got there three minutes before the next tour was about to start, so we didn’t see the video, but the tour guide was very good and answered a lot of questions, particularly from other people’s kids who had just watched the movie on the way there. Several of the downstairs rooms had been emptied of furniture in anticipation of some holiday thing going on in December, so it made it easier to get around with a large group. The house doesn’t look that big from outside, but there was a fair amount of space inside.
Alcott’s best known book, Little Women, takes place in Orchard House, according to the tour guide. But while its based on the story of her childhood, that story didn’t happen in this particular house, since they didn’t move there until 1858 when she was 26. She did write the book at the house, however, transplanting the action from the real location up the street at a previous residence, now known as Wayside and run by the park service.
Anyway, after the tour everyone was hungry so we drove into Concord center and had lunch at a recommended diner-type place called Helen’s, which was very good, Jill got her lobster roll (lobster being one of only two must-haves on their agenda) but Bob held out for getting an actual lobster later on. Did a little shopping at the toy store down the street then headed back to our house (which we could call Leaf House based on what’s all over our backyard now, in the summer maybe Skunk House would be a better name but that’s more the whole neighborhood, not just us). Besides lobster, Jill & Bob’s only other agenda item was to get Bertucci’s pizza, so we ordered that out for dinner, although now that its been probably 10 years since the chain left the Chicago area, it would seem the nostalgia factor has faded somewhat, and the menu has changed quite a bit also.
Wednesday we had talked about driving to Plymouth to check out the rock and the Mayflower and whatever else was going on down there. It was another dreary day, more rain this time. Everyone was moving kind of slow, Bob and I went to the gym in the morning, then we all went off for a somewhat late lunch at Uno’s in Westborough, by the time that was over it was already 2pm, so I pointed out that we could still go to Plymouth, but we wouldn’t get there until 3:15 and it would be dark at 4:30. So we decided to go with Plan B and drove down to Webster for some indoor mini golf at Monster Golf (which is kind of like Plymouth, although I can’t exactly say how). It’s a fun place to kill an hour or so, it wasn’t very busy, and there are enough arcade type games there to keep the kids occupied until they rack up enough tickets to buy some cheap crap. Ashley got a little plastic lizard in a bottle of colored goo, it doesn’t appear to do anything other than exist, but she seemed happy. We drove home in the rain, trying to avoid holiday traffic.
Thanksgiving day for me was just a run-up to dinner, as I spent the better part of the day in the kitchen. Everyone else pitched in with one thing or another, making it actually a pretty easy meal to prepare, just a lot of different things to keep track of. By using a store-bought pumpkin pie and making the boring versions of green beans and sweet potatoes, that limited the number of dishes and the complexity to a certain extent, plus the cranberry sauce had already been made on Tuesday and the stuffing and pear cobbler topping prepared on Wednesday. So by 5:30 or so everything was ready and it came out rather well if I do say so myself. Chloe and Alexa entertained themselves watching various tv marathons, plus about half the Macy’s parade, there was hardly any time or opportunity for watching the NFL games.
Friday Bob and I were back to the gym in the morning, while Beth and Jill went shopping for most of the day. Since us guys were in charge we ordered out subs from Family House for lunch and watched the Illini get thrashed by Cincinnati during the afternoon. Bob had bought a 1000-piece puzzle at the Concord toy shop that depicted some Christmas village scene, so we had set up a table in the living room next to the tv and the grown-ups with some help from Justin spent hours and hours working on it over the course of several days. The day was dreary and rainy yet again, so there wasn’t much point in scheduling anything more ambitious (Thanksgiving day, on the other hand, was reasonably clear and sunny, but everything was closed and there was nowhere to go). Justin and Ashley played Monopoly for hours on in, Justin occasionally lending her money when Ashley got dangerously short of cash, with no expectation of being paid back (isn’t that how the recession happened?). Once the womenfolk were back from shopping, we headed over to Coral Seafood for dinner, since Bob was determined to get his lobster, and it sounded pretty good to Jill and me, too. The kids I think all had non-seafood items, and since there were still plenty of leftovers in the fridge we didn’t get dessert at the restaurant. At the end of the meal, the waitress must have been nearby while we were talking about walking next door to Starbucks, because we hadn’t been in there two minutes looking for cookies for the kids when she walked in to hand Bob back his credit card which he’d left on the table.
Saturday the sun was trying to come out but there were 25mph wind gusts too. The Lemkes flight wasn’t until 8pm, so there had still been talk of taking in Plymouth on the way there, which would’ve involved three cars because I was driving into the city that evening to play at the BSO Café. But once again no one was moving very fast that morning, and packing took a while, so lunch came and went and everyone preferred to stay local. We brought back sandwiches from the place up the street, then did a little shopping at the Wayside Country Store and the Paper Store since Ashley in particular had some money to burn. I had to leave shortly before they did, so I can only assume they made it back home in a timely fashion. But it was a good visit and hopefully generates good press towards influencing any future plans from that other bunch in Orlando.