Bella turns six on Friday and she requested for her birthday the special treat of going to the Public Garden in Boston to see the Make Way for Duckling statues and the swan boats. We were most happy to oblige.
Riding the train is an adventure in itself, of course. The children think the subway is the greatest ride ever. And you know, I agree with them. Riding the subway with them makes me feel just as giddy and excited as the first time I rode it. Actually, if I’m honest it just gives me permission to acknowledge that I feel the excitement at the same fever pitch because for me riding the train or subway has always felt like a grand adventure. Even if it’s a route I’ve taken dozens of times, there is still something wonderful about it. Maybe it’s because I grew up in a city that doesn’t have a subway. Anyway, having children definitely makes me feel younger at heart.
We took the Red Line train from Quincy Adams station to Park Street and then strolled across Boston Common, being sure to point out the golden dome of the State House. We stopped and looked at the murky waters of the frog pond and admired the horses and other creatures on the carousel nearby.
Once we’d transversed the Common, we crossed the street and Oh! we were in the Public Garden at last! First we crossed the bridge, looking down at the swan boats and the splashing ducks. Then we went to find the famous statues of the Mallard family.
I was the first to spy them but soon the children all were racing to climb on the ducks. It seems to be a universal reaction that children wanted to sit on the ducks. We saw a group of school children on field trip. We saw a bunch of families with little ones. My favorite though were the two boys who were older—maybe ten or eleven—who stopped and sat down near Quack, the last duck in the line. The one boy pulled out his phone and with one arm draped around the duck, flipped through the settings for the camera and then handed it to his friend so he could get a photo. Meanwhile the dad stood at a distance urging them to come on. I loved the childishness, the lack of that kind of awkward self-consciousness that too often cripples children that age, making them try to act older than they are. Instead, the boys just enjoyed the moment and delighted in the statues.
We had a little snack there, banana bread for everyone and Cheerios, string cheese, raisins, and peanut butter tortillas, for those who were still a bit hungry. Then we went back to see about riding on the swan boats. At first it seemed we might be disappointed. The man said they needed about ten adults and there was not yet anyone else waiting to ride the boat. We decided to wait for just a bit but it was almost noon and we needed to go get lunch and the prospects did not look good. Just as we were getting ready to give up and leave a mother with a couple of children came up and then a trio of tourists and the man said it would be enough to run the boat and so we got on, leaving Grandma with the stroller and bags and at the last minute with Anthony too because I began to doubt my ability to keep a grip on the thirty pound toddler if he really wanted to get down and I could tell he was not going to sit quietly on my lap during the ride.
Bella and Sophie and Ben absolutely loved it. It only cost $2.75 for adults and $1.50 for children over 2, so this was a totally affordable experience. And the smooth, gentle ride on the pedal-powered paddle boat made for a very peaceful trip. The most exciting part was seeing a lot of real live ducklings paddling around our boat. And one of them, which had been splashing on the shore as we passed, jumped into the pond and then swam in front of our boat. For a minute it looked like he wasn’t going to make it and we were going to run him over but he put on an amazing burst of super paddle speed and flashed across our bow. I couldn’t help but think of Ping: paddle paddle, paddle paddle.
After our swan boat ride we headed to Arlington station and then rode the green train to Government Center and then to Faneuil Hall where we got lunch. (No pictures of lunch because we were all tired and hungry and too busy eating.) The kids shared a big bowl of mac-n-cheese. Really good mac-n-cheese. The adults each had a lobster roll and a bowl of chowder. Really, really, really good lobster rolls. Then on to Haymarket and the green line to Park Street and then the red line back home. Ben, Bella, and Anthony all slept on the train; but Sophie didn’t fall asleep until she was in the car.
A very long day; but oh such a grand adventure! It’s not often you get to step into the pages of one of your favorite books. How perfect that even Ben was able to get into it for Make Way for Ducklings has been one of his favorite bedtime books in the last few weeks. Most of all, this was the perfect birthday adventure for my soon to be six Bella-girl!