Monday, August 09, 2010

The Land of Phish, Ben and Jerry

Burlington, VT is a little city on the shore of Lake Champlain. It’s filled with funky little shops, and is in close proximity to the University of Vermont. It’s where Phish got their start, as did Ben and Jerry’s ice cream for that matter.

It’s a clean city, its shops and restaurants thriving with tourists in the summer. I’ve never been to Burlington in the winter, but I remember the first time I’d ever been there. It was a few months after Todd and I started going out in 1997. He’d just finished his stint as the waterfront director at a boy scout camp in Benson, Vermont—about an hour’s drive south of Burlington. He’d moved back home to Rutland after camp closed, and I met him there on a Friday night after work. On Saturday we drove to Burlington and shacked up in a room in the Holiday Inn just outside the city limits and explored the city the next day.

The next time I was there was on the great 1999 sailing trip aboard Sugar Mag. We picked up a slip at the Community Boat House, and I reveled in the hot shower on land. We walked up the hill to explore the city.

This time around we picked up a Community Boat House mooring, which are first come first serve each day. We easily grabbed one, and then set about preparing for the trip ashore. The dogs were fed, but couldn’t wait until they got to shore to take care of business. We casually pooper-scooped the decks into the lake while other boaters moored nearby weren’t looking.

The skies threatened rain. The day before a storm raged through while we were in Westport. The rain fell perfectly perpendicular to the ground for a good 15 minutes. Luckily Todd was going out to the boat to take a nap anyway, so he managed to close up the cockpit curtains and windows. I sat in the restaurant with Maggie, Krys and Hali and watched the rain slam the windows. “I am sure Uncle Todd would like the help out there,” I nodded to where I remembered we’d docked the boat. The rain was so thick we couldn’t see it anymore, “But we’d just get drenched. Who wants ice cream?”

We closed the cockpit and windows and piled into the dinghy. We piled into a taxi to take us up the hill to Church Street. Normally it’s a 10 minute walk, but the air was heavy with the heat and humidity that Todd said “I don’t want to walk in this, it’s gross. Taxi!”

First stop, Ben and Jerry’s!

We browsed the shops. Todd bought me my “vacation bling” which is a beautiful handmade silver necklace. I instantly put it on and it glowed against my tan skin. The rain fell intermittently, and it didn’t stop us. We walked in the rain. We ate Mexican food for dinner. Eventually I got cold, so Maggie and I stopped in a shop called Common Threads to look for a sweater for me to throw on. Nothing fancy. Just something to keep me warm for the rest of the day.

I spotted a lime green cardigan on the rack and glanced at the price tag. It read some obnoxious amount of money, I think it was $95 for a thin little cotton cardigan. Sure it was cute. But not $95 cute. Maggie glanced at the tag and raised her eyebrows. Her mom raised her right, and she knew $95 was too much to spend.

We left the store straight away, and she gestured to the sign outside, “Common Threads? Yeah, Common Bullshit.” And we laughed conspiratorially. We were two women exploring a city together, not just aunt and niece. And I know that in a few quick years we’ll both be two women navigating our lives, careers, marriages, and whatever else we both end up doing. But it still doesn’t feel like that long ago that I first saw her on the day I’d returned home from Sydney. She was 10 months old by then, born two months after I’d left the US. Someday she’ll just call me “Beej” instead of “Aunt Beej” and that will likely mark the moment when we are both on the same life level.

Todd and Krys went back to the boat while Maggie, Hali and I continued to walk around Burlington. Eventually Krys expertly steered the dinghy ashore to pick us up. I smiled at my 14 year old nephew. He’s my Godson, and he was cruising along with his hand on the outboard tiller like he’d done it all his life. I oozed with pride.

“Wanna drive?” he asked after I sat down.

“Nah, you’re doing a good job,” I replied. And I knew he was glad I said no.

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