Gather round friends!
When we were sixteen, my doubles partner Kristy and I were invited to compete at that year’s Boston Open which was being held at MIT.
Important background information: I used to play competitive junior national badminton. YES I AM AWARE OF HOW NERDY THAT IS SOUNDS – YOU DON’T NEED REMIND ME.
This invitation was very, very exciting news for us.
One, the tournament was taking place on the cusp of Spring Break, so our attendance was basically guaranteeing us an extra long vacation from school, plus the opportunity to spend said extra days IN BOSTON BLOODY MASCHECHUSETTES.
(OMG! I JUST SPELLED MASCHECHUSETTES CORRECTLY ON MY FIRST TRY!)
Ed. update: Okay, obviously I didn’t spell it correctly. But why the fresh hell did it not come up on my spell check? What weird Canadian word of ours is MASCHECHUSETTES!?
Two, we were just at the point where our parents were letting us go to away tournaments by ourselves, and we couldn’t think of anything more fun than bopping about Harvard in between our matches SANS CHAPERONES.
And third, as highly competitive athletes, we wanted to bring our special brand of Canadian kick-ass States-side and see just what kind of damage we could bring to old’ Beantown.
I honestly cannot describe to you how excited I was when our parents gave us the okay to go.
And when I say that the trip was totally bonkers, that, my friends, is no lie.
1.) Flying to Boston on the redeye Wednesday night, deliriously tired, I turned to Kristy and said, “Look how close the moon is!”
She just stared at me, before responding, “WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT THAT IS THE WING LIGHT.”
Good times! Also, this trip took place pre-9/11 so we actually got to go visit the cockpit and chat with the pilots. Can you believe it?
2.) When we arrived in Boston we were picked up by our homestay family, only to quickly learn that we wouldn’t actually be staying in the city proper, but a suburb located approximately forty-five minutes (to an hour) outside of the downtown core.
This was a surprise to us.
3.) Normally homestay families provide meals (usually breakfast and dinner) for the entirety of the athletes’ stay. We were gifted a bag filled with a dozen frozen bagels and a giant fruit salad from Whole Foods.
I ate quite a bit of dried cereal bought from 7/11 over the length of the weekend.
And by cereal I mean penny candy.
4.) Upon arrival at the house we were told that we would actually be driving ourselves to the tournament. Our billets had recently won a car in a fundraiser raffle, and we were to use this car to transport ourselves to Boston and back. We liked to refer to it as the cardboard car.
We had two pages worth of directions, one “new” drivers license (Kristy) and one “learners” license (me) between the two of us.
Driving in that first morning was harrowing and a half.
Oh, hello giant semi-truck encroaching in our space in this turnpike!
5.) I forgot all my shorts at home and had to play the entire weekend in the spandex shorts I would normally wear under my regular shorts to keep my muscles warm between games. Because of this some guy wearing a “YALE” t-shirt sat at the back of every court on which I played, watching my every move.
To this day I just refer to him as the YALE CREEPER.
6.) One afternoon we went to a coffee shop at MIT and the flirty barista gave us a GIANT plastic bag filled with six years of Canadian coinage.
7.) I beat an ex-junior national champion in my quarter final singles game and she threw one of the most impressive post-game tantrums I have ever witnessed. Broken racquets and everything.
8.) On our last night at our homestay, their son Don asked Kristy if she wanted to go down to the river and watch the moon with him. She politely declined.
9.) I started reading Catcher in the Rye while in Boston and finished it on the plane ride home. This EXPLODED my brain and as such, I spent the next three months pretending to be Holden Caulfield anytime I wrote ANYTHING.
10.) I made it to the semi-finals in singles, and we also made the semis in doubles. All the rest of our time was spent shopping (I bought a number of sundresses and peasant shirts – remember them? – at Target), walking around the campus, laughing at everything possible, and just generally being the silly, sixteen year old girls that we were.
Twelve years later I remember this trip like it was yesterday. We still laugh about it anytime we get together, and goodness knows the myth of the cardboard car will live on and on for the remainder of my days.
I would also love to return to Boston.
But this time, I’ll stay right in the heart of the city.
In a hotel, with a view of the moon.