Dispatches from the Road, Entry #1

Our Trip to Newburyport, February 2017

On February 1, BRK and I set out on our first solo trip, to visit my mom (Grammie) in Newburyport, MA.  We had taken a short just-the-two-of-us trip — a 40-minute train ride to have lunch with my brother and then back — nearly a year ago.  That was not what I would call Fun.  If it hadn’t been for processed starch I may have returned with a concussion from pounding my head into the train walls.

So, I didn’t have the highest of hopes for this trip.  However, after recently journeying in a car as a new family of 4, somehow a trip on public transportation as a duo sounded easier.  On the train you can walk around, eat, and relax, and buses are less likely to make small people carsick.  Our itinerary was as follows:  Train from New York City to Boston, Bus from Boston to the Newburyport Bus Station, and Grammie’s Car (complete with my Carseat Installation Practical Exam) from the Bus Station to Grammie’s House.  We traveled light — 2 backpacks and a fold-up stroller for the 36-hour trip.

The train experience was exceptionally smooth, other than a constant refresher course on Newton’s First Law every time BRK would attempt a sip of water.

Some highlights of our travel day, transcribed from my journal:

7:52 AM: BRK’s first escalator ride, without being carried!  I asked the stranger behind me to please hold my coffee so I could hold the railing with one hand, and BRK’s hand with the other.  I was struck by how meaningful and anxiety-inducing it was to watch her take her first step onto an escalator, nearly leaving the other foot behind in trepidation.

8:18 AM: (on the train)

BRK: “I want some water.”

Me: “I don’t have any water.  When the Cafe Car opens, we can go buy some water.” Eyes glaze over, marveling that I forgot to pack water and snacks, and the sky hasn’t fallen.  

BRK: “I want some of your water.”

Me: “I’m drinking coffee, not water.  Coffee isn’t for children.”

20-second pause.

Me: “Well, you can have a small sip.  After all, it’s decaf!”  (Yes, I get a buzz from decaf)

BRK takes a sip and a huge grin spreads over her face.  “Yummy!”

10:17 AM: a bit more than halfway to Boston.  So far we’ve made two Cafe Car trips (water, more decaf for me, pretzels for BRK) and one bathroom trip.  BRK eats snacks as if she were underwater, so that helps.  She played with her new sticker book for a grand total of 12 minutes.  Currently entertained by the pretzels.  I’m saving the iPad for Emergency Use.

11:06 AM: BRK eats a pretzel that was dropped on the floor an hour ago.  I wonder if the truly alarming germs come out around 5 – 7 hours.  Her sneakers make their way to the window.  I tell her No.  She tells me she doesn’t like it when I say No.  That makes two of us. Turns out this interaction was as close to a meltdown as we got.  Lucky.  

11:20:  I try to teach her tic tac toe.

11:23 AM:  The female half of the Japanese couple sitting across the aisle from us hands June an origami rattle, and then crafts an origami boat for her out of a napkin.  I am moved; BRK is entertained.  We are nearly there! Twenty more minutes on the train.


12 noon, on the bus: “I think I’m going to a little bit carsick.”  — BRK.  No verb needed for full comprehension.  I hope no one else on the bus heard that, I think, as I line small garbage bags with paper towels I had the foresight to pack!

At this point I stopped taking notes.  She did not get sick — dream come true — and other than a wrestling match with the Immigo carseat in Grammie’s Honda, the rest of the day proceeded without a hitch.  We had a lovely visit except for one brief Grammie vs BRK standoff when I went out for a jog the next day.  Apparently there had been an argument about holding hands when going down the stairs.  These moments are so gratifying — when a doting relative gets a glimpse of the wrath of your toddler.

Daniel Tiger on the iPad did play a starring role on the way back — on the bus and on the train.  At South Station, BRK got to use the Penny Press machine (she selected an image of the Boston Tea Party), have a ride on the luggage cart, receive a variety of special snacks and a hug from the Red Cap, and sport a special Amtrak Junior Police Officer sticker.


Is it just me or are people so much nicer when a child is accompanied by only one adult?

All in all it was a fantastic trip.  BRK and I grew closer.  We were a team.  And I grew more confident as a parent.  In fact, a friend saw us as we walked home from Penn train station Friday afternoon.  She was in disbelief at our minimal luggage and breezy dispositions and called me “Mom 2.0”.  I’ll take it!

Very Important Post-Script:  I wrote this post a while ago and was waiting for the “right time” to post it.  No day better than today, the day of our second solo trip to Newburyport, when things literally could not have been more different.  Tantrums, constant demands, whining, time-outs, ill-timed potty breaks, late connections, car sickness, rude fellow travelers, you name it.  That first time was beginner’s luck!

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