I've logged quite a few hours on trains in my time, but last weekend was only the second time I made the run from Boston to New York City. I hitched a ride north with a dear friend and his wonderful girlfriend, stayed with them that night, and then made my way into Boston proper Saturday morning.
I spent a sad, wonderful, gorgeous day wandering along Newbury Street and Commonwealth Avenue and the neighborhoods and trails down by the river with my brother and my sister-in-law and my adorably sweet little nephew, who were in town for some appointments at Boston Children's Hospital.
Later our cousin Jenna came to meet us for dinner and yet more wandering in search of the perfect dessert and eventually, because she is quite possibly one of the sweetest women to ever walk this earth, gave me a ride to South Street Station and a loving, sisterly send-off back into the non-familial world.
I spent the five hours on the train reading, knitting, staring out the window, listening to Abigail Washburn and Sam Smith and Daughter, trying not to embarrass myself by crying much. I found myself remembering that last Boston to New York run, back in the fall of 1994.
Like I said, it's been awhile.
My grandmother's brother, my Great-Uncle Jerry, had died that October and I, being the only one left on the east coast, got roped into representing our particular branch of his family tree at a memorial service held for him at MIT. Then, like now, I hitched a ride up to Boston, though I can no longer remember with whom. I stayed with a friend at Tufts, a fellow recent Lakeland High School graduate still trying to get a grip on that whole college thing.
I remember I had a cold, as I often did in those years, and I remember being worried about coughing through the service. I also remember that my dad's cousin Zack, whom I didn't know well and whom I hadn't seen since my dad's memorial service a year and a half earlier, came to pick me up at my friend's dorm at Tufts, drove me to his dad's memorial service at MIT, and then drove me back to Tufts.
I haven't seen him since, nor anyone from my grandmother's family, but won't ever forget the warmth and kindness with which he tried to draw me in to the family that day.
As I recall, I managed to make it through the service without coughing too much, but then later my Tufts friends took me out drinking somewhere, which is always a great idea when one is sick with a nasty cold.
The next morning I caught the train back to my own city and spent the five hours coughing uncontrollably and probably annoying everyone in my car. But I didn't care. I had my headphones on and was playing Ani Difranco, oblivious to pretty much everything other than, not to be too melodramatic, staring out the window contemplating death and loneliness and loss.
God, I'm so glad I never, ever have to be eighteen years old again. I still love this song, though. Also this one. And so many others.