Yesterday, Shannon and I went to Boston to reunite with Saranya, whom we haven’t seen for seventeen years. (In previous posts, I have written about Saranya—an AFS student—and how she stayed with us for a year when she was a teenager.) We had such a wonderful day in Boston that I hardly know how to describe it.
First, there was the bus ride, which doesn’t sound like much of a thrill, but it was a treat to be with Shannon for the trip—two hours from Portland and then back again—and to chit-chat about this and that. We see each other often, but usually there is a flurry of food, husbands, dogs, and friends involved. We seldom have two peaceful hours—four actually—to just talk.
At South Station, we met Saranya, her sister Eve, and Eve’s friend Anan, and although Saranya was the only one Shannon and I knew, we all came together as naturally as if we had known each other for years and were in the habit of getting together. After hugging and greeting each other, we walked from South Station to Union Oyster House, less than a mile away.
Saranya wanted boiled lobster—from Maine, of course—and that was one of the reasons why we chose the Union Oyster House. Saranya insisted that Eve and Anan have lobster, too, and the dinners were a big hit. The service at Union Oyster House was what you might call leisurely, but that suited us just fine. Basically, all we wanted was to be together and to talk.
And talk we did, as we walked the streets of Boston. The skies were gray, and a fine sprinkle of snow fell on us. We wandered around Faneuil Hall Marketplace, admiring the big Christmas tree and all the lights on the other trees. We had drinks and dessert at a Starbucks—alas, we couldn’t find a local shop that was open—then it was back to Faneuil Hall just in time for an outside light and music show.
To the thundering strains of Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus, the lights on the trees flashed and alternated colors. It was completely over-the-top and utterly enjoyable.
All too soon, it seemed, it was time to return to South Station, where Saranya, Eve, and Anan would take the train back to New York City, and Shannon and I would take the bus back to Maine. Before we parted, Saranya told us how much her time in Maine as an exchange student had affected her. It not only broadened her outlook, but it also made her more independent. I suspect this is true for most exchange students. After all, to live in another culture for any length of time is bound to stretch and change a person, especially one who is on the cusp of becoming an adult. We saw a similar change with our daughter Dee when she spent time in France.
Still it was lovely to hear Saranya mention this and to know we played a major role in her life. Actually, it was a great feeling. All too often we just blunder through our days, not thinking of the ways we affect people.
“Seventeen years is too long,” Saranya said before she left. “Could I come and stay at your house sometime?”
“Of course, of course!” came the immediate reply. “You are always welcome, along with your husband or your sister or anyone else you want to travel with.”
“When is the best time to come?”
I told her to come in August or September, when the weather is fine, and we could spend a lot of time on the patio. Clif could grill chicken and bread, and I could make homemade ice cream. Or maybe we’d have a fire in the fire pit and make s’mores. As dusk settled over the backyard, we could listen to the crickets sing, and then as the sky became really dark, we could look at the stars. Late summer is one of Maine’s most beautiful times.
So come to Maine in August or September, Saranya, and don’t wait seventeen years.