We were lost in Harvard Square once. Me, my parents, in a Subaru packed high with my things. Seemed a lot at the time: books, clothes, some sentimental scraps here and there, there were shelves (to stay organized!), sheets (had to be “extra long”), a picture frame, my favorite pillow, a plastic water heater, an old poster or two to look at. It wasn’t that much. Not compared to what I have now, and quite suddenly. But it did feel pretty monumental at the time.
Anyways we were lost. And it was a happy occasion, so my parents, not naturally apt to socialize with strangers, stopped to ask for directions. We were in Harvard Square, and we’ve passed this intersection 3 times now, my dad explained out the driver’s side window to someone I couldn’t immediately see. We can’t take Massachusetts Avenue, he said, it’s going the wrong way, we need to go that way on it, we’re trying to go to MIT.
Stranger looked in the car. It was an older man, if I remember correctly. Looked to the back with all the stuff and smiled. “Go to school there?” he asked. Of me, apparently.
Um. Yeah. Orientation. I said. (I think. It made me nervous back then to talk to just about anybody.)
“Great. That’s great, ” He had the biggest smile on his face.
“I’m really proud of you,” the old man said, inexplicably. “You want to go this way and take Mt. Auburn, it joins up with Mass Ave in a few blocks.”
Thank you, thank you, my dad said. He waved as he pulled away from the curb; he beamed the whole rest of the way.
A few months later, we discovered the Cambridge St. exit off 90 over to Memorial Drive and we never went through Harvard Square again.
Now they are exhausted by my moving. Now I am exhausted by it too.
But back then, I was in one place, they were in many. My dad moved to Dartmouth in New Hampshire for work. My mom left New Haven for Maryland. Then my dad moved into a place back on Prospect St. He worries that my mom is home alone. All the driving. All the driving. When I started applying to graduate school, this winter, six years later, he joked that he was also applying. For work, at NIH or maybe another lab in the DC area. “We’ll see who gets the good news first,” he laughed.
Then he sold the house. Then I won.