Friday, July 11, 2014





The country mouse vacations in the big city


August 22. 2013 7:54PM
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The dictionary defines a vacation as a recess away from work. That’s what the doctor ordered, (by doctor, I mean me.) So I took advantage of cheap airfare and combined it with my love of history and took myself to Boston.I’ve taken vacations that were more exhausting than the job I sought a reprieve from, but I was determined this wouldn’t be one of them. I still managed to do my usual though. I took stunning pictures of my index finger, lost my itinerary, and dressed wrong for the weather.Other than the Arctic wind whipping off the harbor penetrating my underdressed body, I found Boston to be a beautiful city. I likened myself to the children’s book where the country mouse visits the city mouse. It’s funny how in our everyday rural lives we forget about the hustle and bustle of big city life. How it never stops, it never slows, and it never makes eye contact.I loved the endless assortment of lifestyles and thrived on the inescapable city energy. I enjoyed my anonymity among the crowds and smirked when I thought how these people would react if they encountered my lifestyle. They would freak out if they met a combine on a country road and had to negotiate the side ditch while dodging mailboxes.I stood in awe of the architecture and knew the people inside wouldn’t have a clue how empty hopper wagons rumble like thunder when they run over potholes in the road. Nor would they know you can’t declare it to be real thunder or just wagons until you look and see if it’s banking up in the west. They don’t realize it’s possible to know the color of your mailman’s car or the name of your neighbor’s dog.All of this and more ran through my head one morning as my counterparts and I stood shivering on the subway platform waiting to be transported to downtown Boston. The strange concoction of connected tin cans came to a screeching halt and swallowed every last one of us. It reminded me of loading cattle into a stock trailer and slamming the gate shut. It was obvious I was the visiting country mouse here because I waited my turn and threw in an occasional thank you.As we settled in our seats I reached for the metal pole to steady myself but my hand met with a little hand that belonged to a wisp of a girl with brown hair, wearing a dirty coat. She sat on the lap of who I assumed was her mother. I smiled and moved my hand so hers would fit.I looked into the mother’s face but it registered only fatigue as she stared out the window. She was very young and had a streak of pink in her hair. I knew without looking the little girl hadn’t taken her eyes off me.Finally she said in my direction, “My mom has a tattoo.”I smiled and hesitantly looked again at the mother. I couldn’t imagine she would want her child talking to a stranger, but she continued to stare out the window. So I said, “Oh, really.”Squirming so as to eyeball me better she continued, “Do you?”Waiting for the public-address system to finish its garbled announcement, I answered, “No, I don’t.”Barely waiting for me to finish, the little girl shot back, “Why not?”I looked into her beautiful hazel eyes and wanted to ask, “Why are you talking to a stranger?” “Why aren’t you in school?” “Have you had breakfast?” “Why is your coat dirty?” But instead I answered, “Because I don’t want one.”She giggled, slapping her palm to her forehead and leaned back to rest against her mother’s chest. With what seemed like an automatic reflex, her mother rested her hand on her daughter’s leg and then touched her cheek to the top of her head.I heard the public-address system again and knew I had two more stops till my destination; however, my new friend was standing to join in this mass exodus. The mother never changed her expression and never met my gaze. My little friend was soon lost in the sea of winter coats.I studied the throng of people and suddenly I wanted another chance at our conversation. I wanted to tell her that in my own way I do have tattoos. I’ve actually collected them all my life. I have tattoos on my heart from mean people, I have tattoos on my knees from growing up with brothers, I have one on my foot from camp, and a moon-shaped one on my head from a fly ball. I wanted her to know I had them but I paid for them in a very different way than her mother.I also wanted to tell her, “Don’t talk to strangers, and someday when you hear thunder, don’t be afraid — it may only be a wagon.”





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