It is a wonder, I think, how just being in certain states of the Union has the power to alter my state of mind.
Without fail, a daytrip to New York snaps me out of my sleepy, suburban New Jersey existence; the throbbing pulse of Manhattan (when I say New York State, I really mean just the city) brings my listless bits back to life. Pennsylvania, where we go exploring when we can, gives me that warm and fuzzy feeling about family and memory, as if we’ve taken the greeting card exit off of I-95.
But traveling to Connecticut to visit our Aunt Bea offers something subtler, though no less transformative. Crossing the border, my inner edges immediately soften. My worries and tautly stretched nerves give way to renewed equilibrium. We connect with one another, yet also find the time to reconnect with ourselves, and it does wonders for my soul.
In need of some of that CT gestalt, my son and I recently capitalized on his full week of fall school recess. As we drove up the Thruway, I knew – without so much as sneaking a peak in the rear view mirror – that his shoulders had relaxed. The tone of his voice, too, had calmed. He even lifted his eyes from his DS long enough to become entranced by the almost imaginary majesty of the view.
Still, it is the realness of these visits that work their most powerful magic; the Constitution State indeed has the ability to cast a spell on my constitution. We settle in, and then take each moment as it comes, making few if any plans, but no one complains of boredom. Our outings range from the Redbox machine at the Walgreens down the road to genuine tourist attractions, depending upon our mood. We sleep until we wake (though still too early) and I linger over my morning coffee, but I don’t give my to-do lists but a hollow thought.
This visit was no exception. On our first night, I crocheted for the first time since my husband enacted an afghan moratorium during my hand-made blanket mania a few years ago. Aunt Bea worked on a word jumble. My son watched an action movie that made our stomachs lurch, but we obliged him and caught an occasional glimpse of Will Smith on an intergalactic mission.
It felt great.
In the morning, we set off for the New England Museum of Aviation, stopping for coffee – medium hot regular with skim milk and two Splendas -- at Dunkin Donuts en route. The woman behind the counter asked me how many skim milks I needed in my coffee. I asked how much milk a skim milk was. She clarified by asking me if I wanted one or two. Befuddled yet delighted by the encounter, I guessed two, laughing as I sipped a perfectly prepared beverage and we headed further down the road.
At the museum, Aunt Bea and I checked out retired military and civilian aircraft while my son sat at the simulator computer trying to safely land a jet, a prop plane, and a helicopter in turn at Newark Airport. The zero-gravity toilet exhibit came in a close second on his list of favorites. “I guess they can’t hold it in the whole time they are up there,” he mused.
Inspired by a video loop of “Apollo 13” at the museum, we checked out the DVD from Aunt Bea’s local library, along with the first “Star Wars” film. There were bins of cards from the old card catalog that encouraged upcycling. Always game, I randomly chose one for a biography of John Marshall, the namesake of my son’s elementary school, and a text book on child psychology. I laughed out loud again at the irony of these choices, though quietly this time as we were in the library.
Other CT adventures included the Connecticut Science Center in Hartford, where we stayed so long that a staff member suggested we consider one of the museum’s sleepover programs. At the PEZ factory, my son remarked that it was a shame we wouldn’t be able to eat any of the samples. And in fact, he politely declined when the woman who sold us our tickets offered him a pack of candy to eat while he made his way around the center.
But she saw his yarmulke as he turned away from the desk and she called out to us, asking if kosher PEZ would help us out. You should have seen my son beam! She proceeded to tell us how the rabbi comes down for a week to supervise a batch for …she stumbled on the company name … Paskesz. Laughing out loud yet again (it was becoming a habit), I assured her not to worry since I wasn’t sure I pronounce it correctly either.
Slow making our way through the exhibit, I confess that I began to feel a little giddy. Everything has a history, even candy. PEZ, in fact, created the candies in Vienna in the 1920s as a minty alternative to smoking. But what struck me as most poignant was the way in which PEZ candies make their way out of those fun plastic dispensers.
The sweetness is delivered in small doses, one brick and then another, giving you time to appreciate each and every bite….no matter which state you might find yourself in when you eat them. Not a bad thought to keep in mind, I reckoned, when we made our way back home later that afternoon.