Once a year, my sister and I would spend a day with my Aunt Betty, who lived in Boston. It was Our Day, and we got to do whatever we wanted. With her we went to the Museum of Science, walked the Freedom Trail, shopped at Faneuil Hall and blew kisses to a sea turtle at the New England Aquarium.
I loved visiting her in her Back Bay apartment. I can still see every detail in my mind's eye, even though she's been gone for... dang, it's been 20 years. I can hear her voice, I can smell the stairwell that led to her fourth floor apartment, I can see the tulips I bought her in Boston Common on a precociously warm spring day. I guess in a way she's not gone at all.
Today I took the kids to New England Aquarium. I've been there several times since my trip with Aunt Betty. I love going every chance I get. One of my favorite things, still, is the gigantic sea turtle in the center tank. I mentioned this to the kids' uncle, who works for the aquarium. He told us her name is Myrtle and she's been at the aquarium since it opened, nearly 40 years ago.
I remember standing at the top of the tank, looking down at that turtle with my aunt, and today, I watched the same turtle poke her nose to the surface of the water as if she were blowing kisses. Everything is different, and yet nothing's changed.
We went to the aquarium on our way to the airport, where we were meeting a friend. The friend missed her flight and we were left with the whole day spread out before us. Ever practical, I thought we should head south before rush hour started, just to be on the safe side.
Then I saw signs for Mass Ave and before I knew it, I was heading toward Back Bay. I parked in my super secret spot and led the kids past Aunt Betty's old apartment. Promising them treats, I took them for a walk down Newbury Street.
None of the cafes I remembered were there, so we walked and walked and finally came to Tealux. We had raspberry apricot scones the size of a sea turtle's head, heaped with Devon cream and strawberry jam, with a dollop of whipped cream for luck. When the hot cocoa arrived, the kids were given two glass mugs, half filled with whipped cream and topped with chocolate syrup and dark chocolate shavings. There was barely room for the cocoa. I had tea-buyers remorse.
Lucy and Studley looked at the cocoa and then looked at me in giddy disbelief. We don't do this kind of thing very often. But heck, it was their day. They could do whatever they wanted.
*ironically, this is the song someone is singing in the studio as I type