Why Bryon was good for me

Last Friday I went to go see Les Miserables at Proctors Theater in Schenectady with some friends.  Les Miserables was the first Broadway show I had ever seen.

It was 1996 and I was a senior in high school.  My cross country team traveled from Ellsworth, ME to NYC to run in the Foot Locker Regional race.  Our coach, Mr Beardsley, was also the sophomore English teacher and taught a unit on theater. We learned about Les Miserables, Phantom of the Opera and Miss Saigon.

Because of Mr. Beardsley, there is probably a whole generation of Ellsworth graduates who love the theater, or at the very least, appreciate it.

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Les Miserables, 2018

So I saw Les Miserables at the Imperial Theater on Broadway with my cross country team.  I was very moved by the play.  I laughed.  I cried.  I got laughed at because I cried.  The experience left an impression on me.

Three years later in 1999, I was studying in England and I saw Phantom of the Opera at Her Majesty’s Theater in London.

I started dating Bryon in 2008 and I learned that he came from a family that was involved in community theater.  I shared with Bryon how much I loved Les Miserables and Bryon told me hated it.  In fact his whole family hated it.  I got mocked for it through the years.  I think it was too pedestrian for them or something.  Whatever.

Eventually Bryon did give me his reason which was simply that it was too f*ucking depressing.  Fair enough.

We only saw two Broadway plays in our years together.  One was Pippen (Music Box Theater) and the other was Cats (technically West End, which is the London version and it was on a cruise ship.)

We meant to see more but it was one of those things that we figured we’d always have more time.

Bryon loved Cats.  It was the first and last musical he ever saw.

Personally, I thought it was only okay.

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Cats, Oasis of the Seas, 2015

Before the show started last Friday, my friends and I had grabbed some dinner, dessert and drinks and we were chatting.  I recalled how much I loved Les Miserables and how much Bryon hated it.

And then I told my friends about my list.

Before I started dating Bryon, I had written a list of ten attributes I wanted in a future mate.  I guess it was to keep me focused.  I kept getting into “pseudo relationships” with men who didn’t appreciate me so at this point, I was focused on myself and what I wanted.

The top three things on the list were Republican, Catholic and had to be a Red Sox fan.  I was told by many that that combination was not going to happen.  It surprised them that I found it in a New Yorker.

Number 4 was that I wanted my mate to be Irish. Bryon was only 1/8 Irish so that was stretching it.

And I can’t really remember what the other items on this important list were.  I mean, probably something about being drug-free, employed and with no criminal record.

But I do remember one thing.  I wanted a man who had varied interests.  Someone who could go to wine tasting and to the symphony one night and eat hot dogs and drink beers at Fenway the next.

We never did make it to the symphony but Bryon was completely comfortable in a tux.  And a kilt too.  He loved formal nights on the cruise and didn’t understand why others would not dress up.

We did catch a few evening concerts at Tanglewood.  We picnicked on the lawn with our infant daughter.

We went wine tasting and we were those people who would taste our wine and say things like “It’s light and crisp and I can taste the touch of citrus.  Very refreshing.”

We did attend many baseball games.  Most were local games.  We tried to catch the Tri-City Valley Cats when the Lowell Spinners were in town.  We usually went on the 4th of July because never had plans on the actual holiday and we figured nothing was more American than baseball.

Though our daughter’s first baseball game was at Pawtucket watching the Paw Sox.

Bryon thought the clam chowder was wicked good.  Okay, that might be my wording.  Bryon was not shy at making fun of my New England vernacular.

Our most memorable game was a month after we started dating.  Our relationship still a secret from our friends as we were unsure where it was heading and we didn’t want to create gossip within our political circle. We met up for a secret weekend in Boston.  It was also the weekend of my 30th birthday and Bryon took me a Red Sox game.

It was his first and last Fenway game.

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But I loved that Bryon was content doing a variety of different activities.

He was a Renaissance man.  I told him that once and he proudly agreed.

He liked all sports.  Well, except Nascar.

He was a lawyer but he was also really good at math and economics.

He knew theater and music.

He knew how to cook.

He liked animals.

He liked history and was always up for seeing landmarks.

He loved fine dining but he also appreciated the McRib.

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Generally he wasn’t into Museums but he always wanted to go to the Jello Museum.  That dream was left unfulfilled.

Whenever we went on a cruise, we always went a few days early to explore the departure port.  (We also did that to create a buffer in case the winter weather didn’t cooperate.)

Our first cruise was out of Miami and we took a side trip to Key West.

We visited the Southernmost Point, drank margaritas and watched the sunset on Mallory Square, visited the cats at the Hemingway House, found the Southernmost Red Sox bar and Bryon indulged my need to see the start of Route 1.

 

I have two random anecdotes from that Key West trip.

The first was that there was a chicken crossing the road and Bryon decides he wants to catch it.  But he aborted the mission halfway through and said he wasn’t drunk enough for that to be a good idea.

The second was at night when we left the Red Sox bar.  We were walking back to our motel and we pass a ghost tour that was walking towards us.  Bryon tells everyone on the tour that he is alive and he is not a ghost.  They all laugh.  Then there were some random people walking behind the tour and Bryon goes up to them and says “Oooooh, I’m a ghost.  Ooooooh.”  Those people laugh too.

And I laugh at the irony because while Bryon isn’t a ghost, he’s dead and could be a ghost if he really wanted to be.  He’d find a way to make it happen.

That trip also took us to Miami where we ate Cuban food, tried Cuban coffee, drove by Elian Gonzalez’s uncles house and had dinner at a tapas bar that was in a gas station (and we were surprisingly under dressed for the establishment.)

Bryon had all these interests and this intense zest for life.  Whenever we traveled anywhere, Bryon tried to fit in as much as he could.  We ate local food, drank local beer, saw as many landmarks as possible and he would try to squeeze in a local sporting event.

How else would I explain that I saw the Ottawa soccer club (Capital City) play Toronto?  I think Bryon might have bought the team scarf.   If he did, I will find it someday.

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Ottawa, 2011

Bryon was so good for me because I have always been a restless soul but I never knew how to go out, explore and enjoy my life.

I did not have the confidence to follow my dreams.

Bryon taught me how to really live.

And in some ways, he is still teaching me how to live.  Even though he is dead.

I enjoyed all our adventures but I never realized how much they taught me until Bryon was gone.  When he was alive, I never had to make choices or plan anything.  He did all the vacation planning.  He asked for my input, combined it with his wants and came up with an itinerary.  He would even plot it all on a google map.  Planning always made him happy and I was content to just show up and enjoy the vacation.

But now he is gone.  I can’t rely on him pave the way to living anymore.

If I want to continue to live, it’s up to me.

When I booked my airline tickets for my trip to Vegas last year, it was the first time I booked airline tickets since 2009.  Because Bryon always did it.

And even though my Chicago best friend was in my Vegas with me, it felt weird to be having adventures without Bryon.

A month after that trip, I drove out to Michigan to visit my Maine best friend and I drove across New York State and Southern Ontario.  I couldn’t help but think about Bryon when I drove by the Labatt Brewery.  And the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame.  I know Bryon would have been lobbying to stop- “But Kerry, we have to stop. It’s the CANADIAN Baseball Hall of Fame.”

Even though I explore the world with my daughter and friends, I do feel an emptiness because I am not sharing it with Bryon.  And a sadness when it hits me that I wouldn’t be recounting the adventure to Bryon because he’s not waiting for me at home.

It’s a fear of mine that I will lose my desire to truly live before I can pass on the desire to learn and see the world to my daughter.

But I must carry on.

Because I am still living.

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The dream

Yesterday I put my daughter down for a nap and then I faced a major dilemma-

Do I do something productive or do I take a nap?

The nap won out.

I begin to dream.

Somehow I am at Bryon’s work and people tell me that he is there.

I go into a conference room and Bryon is sitting at a table with his laptop out. He is wearing jeans and a dark shirt, like a long-sleeved golf shirt.

And he was skinny. (This is significant because Bryon died from complications of weight loss surgery.)

I was so excited to see Bryon. “You got better! I thought you were dead this whole time.”

I barely converse with Bryon in my dreams. Usually we just look at each other and smile.

I am so excited to be together with Bryon again. I was talking his ear off. He didn’t say much. He mostly listened to me.

I do express two concerns to him-

First that he needs some new clothes because the clothes he is wearing are baggy. Bryon just looked amused and said he wouldn’t know where to shop.

The second was that he was at work and it might be problematic because I already claimed his death benefit. Bryon told me not to worry about that.

Bryon doesn’t seem concerned about either of these.

I have heard that when you dream about a dead loved one, they are actually visiting you. Therefore it would make sense that Bryon wasn’t concerned with either of these issues.

Because he knew he was dead.

It was my subconscious that did not. And he was humoring my subconscious.

And then the alarm I had set on my phone went off.

I woke up thinking Bryon was alive again and that my life can go on as it was supposed to.

It only took a few seconds to realize that Bryon was still dead.

Late night ramblings of a widow #4

Yes, another late night rambling. People seems to like these posts. Probably because I wrote them when I am some sort of state of feeling emotionally f*cked up.

People seem to like it.

Or they are curious.

A small portion are my friends who will likely text me tomorrow to see how I am doing. I love my friends.

When I decided to share my story. I am sharing all of it.

Even if those moments are awkward and involve a little bit of wine.

Widowhood is not glamorous. (Thank you Fergie for helping me get the spelling right.)

So it’s Saturday night and I am sitting at home, drinking wine, eating cookie dough and watching Discovery ID.

But the Chateauneuf-du-pape didn’t taste right, Homicide Hunter is not on tonight (love me some Joe Kenda) and the cookie dough didn’t taste good. Definitely not worth the salmonella risk.

F*ck it.

I actually say that a lot these days.

F*ck it.

I was always a rule follower. A good Catholic girl and then all this happens.

Seriously? This is how God thanks the faithful?

So just f*ck it.

And then I go in Bumble and Tinder.

I don’t know why.

I don’t really have any desire to date.

I was happy being Bryon’s wife. I was good at it.

But I am just as good at being single.

It’s the sh*t in between that I am not good at.

And I have no desire for hookups. Partially because there is still the moral remnants of the good Catholic girl I used to be.

But more importantly, I am not going to parade strange men around my daughter during her formative years.

It’s bad enough her father’s dead. I am not going to confuse her any further.

But when I am doing all that swiping right and swiping left, it feels empty compared that what I used to have.

Should I fall in love again, I want it to be a little more romantic than swiping right and left.

Also, Tinder and Bumble do this thing where they show mutual Facebook friends.

I got freaked out by how many people were in Bryon’s circles. I could tell by the mutual friends if people would know Bryon from politics, college or the Masons.

I wrote about people always viewing me as Bryon’s widow.

It also turns out I have just as much of a hangup.

Bryon and I lived a respectable and traditional life with certain values and rules.

But I no longer ascribe to a lot of those rules and I think that would freak people out.

I have come into my own since I became a widow. I have never been so secure in who I am than I am right now.

I don’t even like who I was before.

But somedays, I would give it all up if it meant I could have Bryon and my old life back.

And this hangup doesn’t stop at people who know Bryon. Bryon and I were together 8 years. We have so many memories in this town.

There are so many places I avoid because the memories are too painful.

How long can I do that?

I’m just going to delete that Tinder and Bumble sh*t in the morning.

Because…f*ck Bumble and Tinder.

I don’t even give people a chance to be freaked out that I am Bryon’s widow because I have already decided that everyone is freaked out.

But can anyone blame me?

A widow spends so much time making others feel better about her loss.

It’s kind of f*cked up.

She’s the one who lost her spouse, her identity, her life. It’s her reality that she lives every single day and it becomes her job to make sure people aren’t uncomfortable for the short span of time that her reality makes them uncomfortable.

I dread dating because I hear from other widows that our widow status freaks men out.

F*ck that.

I have been to Hell and back I am not hiding my battle scars. One doesn’t survive what I have without being a badass.

If I ever love again, that man has to love me: battle scars and all.

Good Vibrations Gratitude Friday #11

It’s Friday!

And that means it is time for some Good Vibrations Gratitude!

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These are the things I am grateful for this week-

  1.  Our 70F degree day

    A 70F degree day is a rarity in the Northeast in February.  But I enjoyed it.  It was nice to walk outside without your winter coat and not be cold.

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  2. Being a Maine Girl

    Because the day after that 70F degree February day, the temperature dropped down to 31F and we got a few inches of snow.  But I am from Maine.  I drive a Suburu Forrester and I wear LL Bean coat and LL Bean boots.  I can handle it.

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    But I also take comfort in knowing the winter days are numbered.  Spring will be here soon.

    The snow did not ruin my cats plans.  He did what he does every day.  Living his best life possible.

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  3. Family dinners.

    I cherish the meals shared with my closest friends.  Friends who are so close that we refer to each other as family.  I also learned about a new wine and it was approved by Carter, the wine connoisseur.

  4. Chinese Food for lunch.

    It’s a favorite of mine.  Usually I would get sweet and sour chicken but lately I have been into pork lo mein.  This might become my Friday treat.

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  5. This moment.

    I am in trouble. But this moment is precious and it will stay with me forever.

    It was funny because when I was putting her to bed that night, I was alarmed that her neck was pink.  Then I remembered that she put A LOT of blush on her neck.

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    What are you grateful for this week?

Top 10 songs from my grief mix

 

Yesterday was the 18 month mark since Bryon passed.

Honestly, the day kind of snuck up on me.

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On an unrelated note: I have been juggling Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat.  I am sure it will all implode soon.

I read my post from the six month mark.

I know I have come a long way in my healing journey.

I was still sad.

But the sadness didn’t debilitate me like it did a year ago.

I was still able to function and go about my daily business.

I went to the gym.

I abstracted cancer cases.

I took my daughter to a bounce house place because dance class was canceled.  She burned some energy.

But I still felt sad.

I was being hit with a grief wave.

But I am far enough into my grief journey to know the best way for me to cope.

My view on grief waves can be shown on this very hi-tech, wicked awesome graph I made.  Sadly, I spent more time on it than I care to admit.

 

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Everything is moving forward, as shown in the green.

The black line represents time which moves forward at an even, steady pace.

The blue shows the grief waves which are more turbulent in the beginning but decrease in intensity as time moves forward.  (Though beware, you can get a rogue grief wave at any time.  I just did not demonstrate that because, frankly, there wasn’t enough room.)

The red line represents healing.  It is all over the place.

For me, I have learned that it is better to just go with the grief wave than fight it.

Ride it out.

Don’t try to resist it.

Do what you need to do and it will pass.

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So I went with it.

I still cried.

I still thought about what should have been.

I thought about the things I missed about him.

And while I wasn’t sad enough to watch Sleepless in Seattle or eat ice cream, I may have belted out to the songs of my grief mix.

Lots of widows have their own grief mix.  And if they don’t- they should.

So I am going share my top ten favorites from my grief mix.  Not all songs are about death.  Some are about breakups but my only major requirement for a song to be in my grief mix is that it is sad and there are at least a few lines or verses that resonate with me.

I wasn’t going to put them in any particular order but I could hear Bryon tell me that I can’t have a half-assed song countdown and that I need to count down like Casey Kasem.

Without much further ado, here are my top ten songs from my grief mix.

10.  Didn’t We Almost Have It All by Whitney Houston

9.  All Out of Love by Air Supply

8.  Could’ve Been by Tiffany

7.  Seasons in the Sun by Terry Jacks

6. Don’t Cry Out Loud by Melissa Manchester

5.  All By Myself by Eric Carmen

4. Tears in Heaven by Eric Clapton

3.  Yester-me, Yester-you, Yesterday by Stevie Wonder

2. It’s So Hard To Say Good-Bye to Yesterday by Boyz II Men

1.  Take My Breath Away by Berlin

What songs do you listen to when you are feeling sad?

One of the things I miss the most…

There are so many things I miss about Bryon.

I miss his hugs.

I miss his humor.

I miss his smile.

I miss watching him play with our daughter.

I miss that I didn’t have to worry about the car, the bills or anything really.

But one of the the things I miss the most was his intellect.

I am sure anyone who has a Facebook knows that our country is very divided on an issue.

And anyone who knows Bryon knows that he was extremely intelligent.

He was probably the smartest person they knew.

And possibly the smartest person they will ever know.

Bryon was so smart that he stayed off of Facebook whenever the U.S. Supreme Court made a major decision.

He would always rant to me, “I went to law school.  I know more than most.  And I am NOT a Constitutional Scholar.  But you go on Facebook and everything thinks that they are a f*cking constitutional scholar.  Where did they get there law degree from?  Legal Zoom?”

brace yourselves everyone on facebook is about to become a constitutional scholar - Lord of the Rings

The same was true for major trials.  There was a very public trial (I am not saying which one) which was televised and Bryon watched a lot of it.  I mean, we all watched a lot of it but Bryon was watching it with objective intellectual curiosity.  The verdict was rendered and people shared their opinions on Facebook.

Many of his outspoken friends felt that the verdict was wrong.  There was this one “friend” and I am going to use that term loosely because no one really likes her and I don’t feel bad about it because she is arrogant.  Come on, we all have that “friend”.  You know, they always have an opinion about everything and they think that they are the smartest person in the room.  Well this “friend” was writing on Facebook about how the verdict was wrong.

It was one of the few times I ever seen Bryon get defensive about his profession.  I remember him saying “If she actually watched the trial, she would have known that the prosecution did a sh*tty job.  I am so tired of people thinking that they know more about the law than lawyers.  I don’t go into *her place of work* and tell *the worker in her position* how to do their job so maybe she shouldn’t tell people in my profession how to do their job.”

It was very similar about debates on Facebook.

Bryon would get annoyed anytime there were major debates on Facebook.

He would normally say things like  “Correlation does not mean causation” and he would remind me that statistics are very easily manipulated.

He would say that it was very unlikely that anyone was going to change their minds by reading Facebook debates.  He usually refrained from debating on Facebook.  He regularly would have to talk me out of  Facebook debates.

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But as much as Facebook debates would annoy Bryon, he would always have real conversations with me.

I always wanted to know his opinion.  Because his opinion was always solid and I could always trust it.

Bryon would look at an issue as a lawyer, a economist, as a Republican, as a Catholic, as a father, as a New Yorker, as a Millennial, as a Bills fan, etc.

I knew his opinion was not based on emotion.  He was able to see issues from all sides, even those he did not agree with.   He would often say “He/She/They are not wrong, but…”

It wasn’t uncommon for him to argue the side he doesn’t agree with.  I admit, that would drive me nuts at times.  I know there were many times I got frustrated and would say “Stop! I know you don’t believe that.”

He was one of the smartest people I have ever known, if not the smartest.  But Bryon was unique because while he was aware of his intelligence, he would take the time to explain things without making people feel stupid.  He was secure enough with his intelligence and did not feel the need to tear people down to prove it.

One of the biggest gifts Bryon ever gave me was that he taught me to be a more critical thinker and that most issues are not black and white.

I used to make self-deprecating comments to him about how dumb I was and he would tell me that wasn’t true because he couldn’t be married to me if I wasn’t smart.  He was very matter of fact about it.

I mean, sometimes he would start to lose his patience and he would smile and say “You’re the dumbest smart person I know.”  I know I am not the only recipient of that comment and I am sure there are many people who are going to smile at the memory of him saying that to them.

I have many intelligent friends to have discussions with about today’s issues, but I am really missing my conversations with Bryon.

Those conversations would be full of knowledge, insights and humor and there was a sort shared interest in those conversations.

Bryon would start out the discussion by objectively discussing an issue from several angles.  I would say my opinions and ask him questions.  Then we would discuss what it meant to us and our values.  We didn’t agree 100% of the time, but overall, we shared the same values.

And if I didn’t know how I felt on an issue, I would talk to Bryon.  I could count on him help me figure it out.

And right now, that is one of the things I miss the most about him.

 

Boston with my cousins

If there is an upside to my grandmother’s funeral, it is that I got to spend time with my brother and my cousins.

Facebook reminded me (through “On This Day”) that my cousins and I also did this back in 2007 when our grandfather passed. We all crammed into my brothers car and he drove us around the city. Always a fun time.

 

And we learned that even in our 20’s, we were still mesmerized by the magic of a slinky descending down the stairs.

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Our grandmother died eleven years after our grandfather passed, almost to the day.

The night after the wake, my cousins, my cousin’s best friend who lives outside of Boston, her boyfriend (also local) and I went out for some Boston Chinese at the Peppercorn House in Woburn. (Woburn is ten miles outside of Boston and it is where my family is from). It was amazing and I highly recommend it. The food did not disappoint. My parents went a few nights later and they enjoyed it as well.

And now I have two honorary cousins!

(And my parents graciously watched my daughter at night on this trip so I was able to have a break and spend time with my cousins. Thanks Mom and Dad!)

We toasted.

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We ate. I got over my fear of edamame.

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We read our fortunes and I made everyone say “…in bed” after their fortune.

Because I am that person. And I am not sorry.

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After Chinese food, we went to an Irish bar called Waxy O’Connors. It was loud and there lots of people wearing Patriots shirts. I was right at home.

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I am going to leave this next photo without an explanation.

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The following day, after the funeral and the luncheon were over, my cousins and I were trying to decide where to go that evening.

I suggested that we just go to into the city. We did have the challenge of doing something predominately indoors since it was February and my cousins live in Florida. And we were joking that my cousins husband was delicate because he is a Florida native.

We ultimately decided to go to the Pru and see Eataly and have a few drinks at the Top of the Hub. That way we could walk around and still be inside.

My cousins, my brother and I took two ubers from Woburn to Alewife Station which is the beginning of the Red Line. ($35 on the way in, $25 return if you were curious.)

We got our Dunkins. I bet you can guess which drink this Northern Girl got and which drinks her Florida cousins got.

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We had to change trains at Park Street and my cousin got this picture without us noticing. She is sneaky like that. #ruleofthirds

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We walked around the shops at the Pru. The strap on my purse broke and I looked for one but decided I didn’t want to spend the money. My cousins were able to fix the strap.

We walked around Eataly. It was busy and crowded so we didn’t eat there. I would like to go back at a less busy time.

But I did take this picture of cheese.

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All the restaurants had waits. We decided that we didn’t want to spent an hour of one night in Boston waiting to eat at the Cheesecake Factory but luckily we found a little pizza stand and had pizza for dinner.

We then made our way to the Top of the Hub.

We had actually been here once before in 2012. We were all in town for my grandmother’s 90th birthday.

 

But I had never been there at nighttime. And I remember when I was 18 years old deciding that it was going to be a life goal of mine to go to the Top of the Hub at night.

Life goal accomplished. It just took my 21 years to do it.

 

We decided to head to another bar from our trip in 2012. Another cousin, who couldn’t come out with us, introduced us to The 21st Amendment which is near the Common.

The temperature was in the single digits and my cousins live in Florida and my cousin’s husband is the Florida Native so we knew we didn’t want to be walking outside much. Luckily my brother is a human GPS and he was able to ascertain which subway stop was the closest.

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The trains stop running in Boston at 1 am so we left around midnight.

My brother acting goofy in the Common.

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I am fairly well traveled and Boston is my favorite city.

I can’t wait to be there again.

Maybe as soon as April…

And I hope my cousin doesn’t mind that took some of her pictures off of her Facebook. I love you Cuz!!

Edit: My cousin granted permission to use photos. Love you Cuz! Thank you. #crowleysondunkin

And we forgot to take a Subway Selfie so I am going to put this one from 2012. Also taken from your Facebook…

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