After lunch with two oncologists at a converted jail (that might be a story in itself), I had about 90 minutes to kill before my train back to Concord. I debated on what to do…Red Line to Porter Square to look at books, walk around the West End…or head to the banks of the River Charles to check out what is happening on this sultry late summer afternoon. I elected to head down to river to sit on a bench and read. Crossing over Storrow Drive, I noticed small waves on the river and the U.S. flag waving in the breeze. I sat down on a bench, looking at the building cumulonimbus clouds billowing up over the river. Out on the river were many small sailboats darting back and forth. These sailors are part of the Community Rowing Center. I overheard one elderly gentleman proudly telling another women that his two grandchildren are out there as he watched them head towards the dock. A young boy, wearing a CRC life jacket strolled past me, talking on his cell phone to presumably a parent. Runners, drenched in sweat from this humid afternoon, ran down the bridge ramp westwards towards the Citgo sign in the distance. Looking at my watch, it was now 2:00 p.m., one hour from my train time. I wanted to stroll along Charles Street in Boston, so I set off over the bridge, back to the Charles Street area.
Remembering the delicious honey-ginger-lemon ice tea from Mango Mango in Amherst this past week, I set off to look for perhaps a similar drink. Charles Street represents some very good times and some very bad times for me. The good memories involve my dear friend Jo-Ann who went to MGH’s School of Nursing in the late 70s and her housing at 20 Charles Street. It was always fun to go and hang out there with her. We got our ears pierced some where along that street. The bad memories involve when my sister was dying. I use to take breaks from MGH and strolled along Charles Street quite frequently. I remembered a good cafe, so I set off to see if they served that a unique ice tea. Finding the bakery, I was disappointed to find they only had bottled ice teas. So, I headed back out onto Charles Street. I passed many unique antique stores along my walk, before happening upon the Cafe Vanille. There was non-bottled ice tea, so I purchased a cup of black ice tea and a strawberry biscotti and headed to the outside seating area to enjoy people-watching. An elderly woman honked while scooting around the street corner on her hot pink scooter. A tour bus stopped and I heard the narrator talking about slavery. A little sparrow perched on the cast iron chair next to me, in search of the elusive crumbs. I tried pretending that perhaps I was sitting at an outside cafe in Europe. Checking my phone clock, I now had about 30 minutes to make my train.
Waiting at the corner, I decided to cross the street to see what was on the other side of Charles Street. A cool children’s shop, an organic pet store, a Starbucks, a shop that had little stuffed “Westie” like dogs. Mindful of the time, I did step into see what the little dogs cost. They were stuffed “Tin Tins”, I believe a British children’s story. The price was more than I was willing to pay, so I set off back down Charles Street to get over to North Station. It was then that I spotted it out of the corner of my eye. Another person was stopped, taking pictures of this store window. Why would this window hold such interest? It was full of unique, yes you guessed it, doorknobs.
I couldn’t believe my eyes. For years, the fourth graders at my school have written a story right before taking the MCAS Long Composition about visiting the National Museum of Doorknobs. (this museum, as far as I know, does not exist) But here in front of me, on this now really humid and darkening August afternoon, was a plethora of door knobs. Door knobs made of different materials such as pewter, brass, glass, and stone. Elaborately decorated door knobs, beautiful green and blue door knobs. These door knobs were pieces of art. Again, I glanced at my clock and that 3:00 p.m. hour was getting closer. So, I snapped a few photos, and now picked up my pace down Charles Street.
Heading back, I stopped to ponder about turning around and going back to the shop. Perhaps purchasing one of these door knobs to have a reminder of the need to stop, slow down, and look around you. No, I needed to get home. I kept stopping, I really should get back, so what if I miss the 3:00 o’clock train? I kept thinking to myself. No, can you only imagine what those door knobs cost? Again and again, I stopped, turned around, to turn back towards the train. “You can’t afford a door
knob,” “You can afford a door knob,” “You should get home and tidy up,” You should go back.” For several city blocks, this self-talk continued until I actually did turn around to go back. Two factors turned me back around towards the train. One, the clouds were getting darker and darker. If you know me well, you know the thing I am scared most of…. Two, on my left foot, I could feel a rather large blister forming on my little toe. Okay, for now, you can print out a picture of the door knobs and then dedicated a Saturday in September to going back and picking out a doorknob. Settling my self-battle, I did head back towards the train.
Looking out the train window, the storms pelted down around us. It would not have been an enjoyable experience getting drenched. (Later reports of hail in Boston solidified that this was a good decision on my part) But, I did think about the importance of
slowing down and looking at the world around you. Whether it be bicycles parked at a public lot, a slug hanging out on a decomposing branch, or a window full of door knobs, I am going to set one of my personal goals for this year to try and build this in on a more regular basis. With the craziness of the school year soon set to begin once again, I need to take stock of what will make me a better teacher for my students. I preach about the importance of giving my students some time at the river to sit and “zone”. I need to preach for myself to allow myself time to zone, to not be so tied into a schedule, into a clock. It is so easy to get totally sucked into being insanely busy, but I think it is hard to sometimes slow down, look around and admire those doorknobs. A line from one of my favorite movies, “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” says “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” So as my goal was last year to not compare my new “turtles” to my old “toads” https://305bcoaches.wordpress.com/2010/09/04/note-to-self-before-the-school-year-starts/ , my goal is this year to give both myself and my students the time to stop and look around you. And BTW, I already have plans to go back to that door knob shop in September to give myself a door knob that will serve as that reminder.