"This state has everything!"
"It's got everything!"
"Elizabeth. The State of Vermont has exactly nothing, which is exactly why I live here."
"But the University! The Big Box stores! AND ALL THAT SHOPPING ON CHURCH STREET PLUS THE SKINNY PANCAKE. Mom!"
"No. That's the State of Burlington."
"How long did it take us to get here?"
"About an hour, give or take fifteen minutes either way."
"How many miles?"
"Thirty-two miles, give or take two either way."
"Never mind. Do you want to go to Middlebury?"
I meant to say, Bristol but if Middlebury is what she heard, then Middlebury is what I said. Probably.
"Will you let me go into any stores in Middlebury?"
"I let you go in a store in Burlington!"
"Yeah. The one store with no people. There's a reason there were no people. The store was boring. Will you let me go in any stores in Middlebury?"
"Sure. If there are no other people. And they also have to be open. Open and entirely devoid of people; I'm not up for a B&E charge or COVID exposure."
"There were people in Trader Joes."
"I know. And that's my exposure limit for the month. We'll be using another two of those rapid tests when we get home. Just in case."
"Damn, Mom! I'm gonna have a whole collection of lollypops before I get home!"
"Please don't put that in your mouth. It's not a lollypop. It's a litmus test in a box on a stick that spent a fair amount of time up your nose."
"Booger flavored lollypop."
"How old did you say you were?"
I directed Waze to the first stored Middlebury address that popped up. 476 Foote Street. I thought I was at the used bookstore last trip and that's on Main Street but maybe I'm wrong. The drive through Bristol on 116 to Quarry Road to Foote and to Rt 7 - yeah, THAT Route 7 - is a wonderland of mountains, farms, and silos with the promise of one of New England's most New England-like towns. Middlebury is the Shire Town (County seat) of Addison County. Combine that with Middlebury College and you've got Quaint: Top Five.
476 Foote Street is not Main Street; it's the location of the nearest Tractor Supply Co. which is three and a half miles from the Middlebury Agway which is what makes this town so utterly acceptable. We pulled into the parking lot and she hyperventilated while I circled, ostensibly looking for a space. I was looking for a safe place to put the car in park and locate Main Street on the map but I sure did enjoy the panic.
I can cope with Middlebury. It's got exactly one long block of Main Street with a used bookstore and a consignment shop in which we had a field day. She got a pair of white strappy shoes with pointy toes and wobbly heels. I found a very old and very serviceable pair of leather mittens and gaiters that look like they've never seen snow. Or mud. Or water. Ever.
But it was the end of a long day that began on Church Street in Burlington, meandered through the biggest Trader Joe's I've ever seen, before bypassing the VT17/116 junction and running one last day after Christmas shopping gauntlet. I don't shop. Have I mentioned the part about I don't shop?
She knows this.
and asked the question anyway.
"Why, Mom? Why is it so hard to be in Burlington? It's so much easier than Westchester and you said there was only 20% of the normal traffic but it made you crazy anyway."
I'm watching the road and muttering something about the wiper fluid being in the back of the car instead of the wiper fluid receptacle and thinking I'd seen a sign for a carwash in Hinesburg.
"Do you miss the City, Mom?"
Pause. "Yes, as a matter of fact, I do miss the City but this is where I want to be and I want to be here for a damn good reason. And also, I am the City, but that doesn't mean I want to be there."
Spend enough time in any one place and it rubs off on you. You rub off on it too, we just forget that part.
"Do you want to visit?"
"Nope. Not any time soon. There are crazy people in Manhattan these days and your stats are through the roof again."
"There are crazy people in the Northeast Kingdom but I don't see you high tailing it further south."
"I think I'm south enough, thank you very much."
"How long to the Canadian border?"
"I don't know, an hour and a half? But you have to go through the Northeast Kingdom to get there."
This is not the absolute truth. There are at least four crossings to the west but it would take longer and involve a highway and I like to un-involve myself from highways whenever possible.
"I'm afraid of the Northeast Kingdom."
"Why? You should be more afraid of the Kingdom of Burlington."
"Now it's a KINGDOM?!"
"OK, maybe just a small country or a Lake Champlain fiefdom."
"Lakes don't have fiefdoms."
"This one does. Did you know Lake Champlain is one of the Great Lakes? It's number six, I think. Not sure. Maybe number nine."
"Mom. There are five Great Lakes. Just five, and Champlain is not one of them."
"But it's wicked deep so it could have a fiefdom or two."
"Now you're just being ridiculous."
"No. I've been ridiculous since before we left the house this morning. Why are we talking about this?"
"Because I wanted to know how long to get to Canada."
"Well. You weren't specific."
"I need a hat. Do you have a hat?"
"I do not have a hat but you could borrow one from S."
"What do you mean you don't have a hat?"
"Maybe in storage but I don't wear them unless I'm sitting still in which case I just pull up my hood and I don't really get cold until the temp drops into the teens."
"There's something wrong with you."
"This was established and well-documented at least a decade before your conception. What's your point?"
"I haven't got one."
"Do you want to come to my lesson on Wednesday?"
"What else would you do? Please do not ask Lausanne why she's not teaching me to read music. You're just going to have to let that one go."
"I don't understand how you can play without music."
"And you do not have to. Don't sweat it."
"Um, you know that parking area at the top of the App Gap?"
"Yeah, we took a picture there once."
"So there's an entrance to the Long Trail right there. Do you want to check it out with me?"
"Is this a 'walk' or a 'hike', Mom?"
"A walk. Easy peasy."
"A walk, as in, I walk across the road to get to the trailhead and then commence to scramble over ice and boulders?"
"You don't know?"
"Nope. Haven't gotten to it yet."
"As always, I am conscripted, ordered to follow you to our almost guaranteed doom."
"And as always, you end up leading. Just sayin'."
There was a seven month gap. I left Westchester at the end of May. This is the first time I've spent any significant amount of time with my daughter. Nothing has changed. Everything has changed and yet, here we still are.