Memories are odd things…

Memories are odd things.

I went out last night, to look at the Christmas lights at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens. The night was chilly-not more than the mid 30’s. There was no snow (This IS Virginia), but we were bundled up in the appropriate winter-like fashion-scarves, gloves, hats and even a blanket for Evelyn’s wheelchair, so it FELT wintry. I meandered ahead and behind Timmy and his mom, taking photos (BIG surprise, right?)

So, there we are outside, in the dark, in the cold, and the lights are bright and festive. My mind traveled back to a trip I took in 1989 with my girlfriends. (No one do the math… I do not want to believe it was that long ago, ok? There is a reason I am NOT attaching any of the photos I just discovered of us back then. We were Young, and Thin, and Rene still had hair…) The five of us met up under the Kodak sign in Grand Central (I DID say it was a long time ago, right??), and there began a happy tradition of girls vacations, that last to this day in varying incarnations.

I think it was one of my best vacations ever. We traveled to Quebec City, via Amtrak and an overnight stay at a friend’s home in Montreal. And then crashed again at Rene’s a few days later when we missed the sole train home. (Were the helium-filled heart balloons the first or the last night of vacation? Who gave them to us anyway, was it Rene or Daniel? And WHY were they so nice, allowing 5 virtual strangers to crash, penniless and ill, on their doorstep??) We wandered the streets of Old Quebec, we enjoyed Bon Homme and the Winter Carnival, we marveled at the snow sculptures, and generally had a blast.

I can close my eyes and conjure Rue Petite Champlain, and the piles of snow everywhere. I can see the funicular, and recall the alleyways where art was being sold in the deep cold of February in Canada. And I understood mind over matter, because we wandered around in cold we weren’t used to, for all that we stood on the streets of New York waiting for buses in the snow all our lives. On the radio in Quebec the temperature was announced, I am sure. But as it was spoken in French, and it was calculated in Celsius, we had no clue.

And so we spent day after day outside, and warmed up at little café’s and restaurants like Au Petit Coin Breton; and settled down at night in our hostel exhausted. (And that memory is the only bad one…not the hostel itself, but the traveler from Sweden (I think)  who infected us all with a nasty foreign influenza)

Last night, we wandered into the conservatory to toast our toes and noses a bit, and the heavy moist air of the greenhouse, the tropical plants and colors spurred another memory of Canada, at the Botanical Gardens in Montreal years before our winter visit! And so summer and winter, two trips from another lifetime, flit through my brain, and imbued the lights at the garden with wonder and nostalgia.

All these years later, our vacations together still bring us to tears when we laugh about those good times. Each year we try to continue the tradition in some small way, and while the location hasn’t ever been as magical and romantic a location as Old Quebec City, the fun continues unabated, and the memories continue to be collected.

My quick trip into town the other day..

(Town…can you tell I’ve been in Virginia too long??!! LOL) I took the 6:00 AM Amtrak into THE CITY (is that better??) on Thursday to go see RENT again before it closes for good after an astonishing twelve year run!


….yeah, it was a fast trip—now you see me, now you don’t—and those friends that I called to try and connect with were unavailable—C’est la vie…


I traveled sans camera. It was a near thing; but when I opened up the computer to check the weather forecast and they promised 100% chance of precipitation. it seemed a lost cause to carry around a digi SLR and zoom lens through Manhattan, and not be able to shoot anything. There isn’t much that’s less exciting than parading around the streets of the city dodging umbrellas, and trying to keep a camera dry. Instead I carried a raincoat and tossed an umbrella into my backpack.


So, of course, it didn’t rain. I need to go back again! Roaming through Chinatown for the afternoon with Arlie, my eyes were frantic with looking, my fingers twitchy with nothing to shoot.


Dinner was of course, New York style pizza. And then we headed for the show. The idea was, TICKETS to RENT one more time, for Arlie’s college graduation gift. (There’s a post back in April about the idea.) The show was awesome. Fabulous. Go see it if you have a chance in the next 6-odd weeks, before it’s over. Sadness, really. Because all the biggies are gone, excepting Phantom. I shouldn’t say that–after all, I am not in NY any longer; don’t really know what’s around. But it seems an end of an era is approaching…..


It was interesting watching it, because as I did, it occurred to me, that RENT has become something of a period piece. Frozen in time. Dated, almost, but not in a bad way. But so perfectly identifiable with a moment past.


I said this to my cousin, who was awesome and took us on a backstage tour after the show…. Apparently I am not the only one with that view; she said there was an article in the NY Times recently about it…. Pity I don’t get the Times!


So Arlie and I got to stand on stage, looking out onto the empty seats, shocked at how small the Nederlander really is, and poke about and look around, and meet some of the actors, and sign the wall out back! Crystal gave Arlie a signed poster and some other goodies from the show as well…


….and our trip into the city was complete, because as is tradition, we had to haul freight at the end of the night to catch the midnight ferry…not so used anymore to chasing ferryboats, we both refused to run up the many stairs to watch the gates close in our faces, but as soon as we saw they were open, we dug into it with gusto and the great memories of so many nights ending with a sprint, determined to not linger in the ferry terminal in the middle of the night waiting an hour for a boat… it all felt ‘right’…


Catherine and her family graciously allowed us to crash at 1AM–didn’t get to do so much as wave at anyone other except Grandma Johnson and Maggie May…then home again, home again, jiggity-jig, I stopped and grabbed a dozen bagels and was summarily tortured by the smell for the 6 hour train ride back to Richmond!! BUT. Now I have bagels for breakfast!