Having thrown our initial plan overboard, the Beechcraft Bonanza finally ended up carrying us to Newport, Rhode Island, one of the oldest cities in America. It used to be the capital of Rhode Island, before that was moved to Providence.
Rhode Island, that has its name from the Greek island Rhodes, because it allegedly looked the same to its explorer, is the smallest of the 50 states. Newport, whose population has a strong Irish heritage, is the home of many rich people, to put it quite bluntly. The Vanderbilts were here and all the others.
We learn all this while on a guided tour around Newport and the cottages, as they used to be called, and that are in fact mansions, if not castles.
We leave Newport after a quick New England Clam Chowder at a local pub, hop aboard the Beechcraft Bonanza, and fly to a little country airport to get gas. The gallon here is at USD 5.75 and the steel bird swallows hundreds of gallons, so you do the math.
It is not easy to take off from this airport, because the runway is quite short. Ben therefore has to power the engine up with the breaks on and does use every inch of the runway to lift us up into the sky. We fly by Providence on our way to Massachusetts where we ultimately land in Taunton, with an impressive landing on the grass runway, because the real one is under construction, and the Beechcraft is stowed away. I am getting sentimental. I had gotten used to her (I’m sure it’s a she).
We then head to Ben’s family’s house in Wellesley, a place unknown to me until then. We stop at a liquor store and a supermarket on the way home – the good American way of doing things and of keeping the booze under surveillance.
And there she is. The Cohen family. Sarah and Laura, the two ladies of the house. Little Laura has freed her room for me. Max and Casey are growing into real men. I desperately look for the little boys’ faces in these juvenile athletes that they have become since I saw them last 5 years ago. Burgers on the grill and family dinner in the kitchen. Happy times.
Wellesley is very pretty and reveals another serendipitous moment, when Ben and I take the family dog Piper to the forest of Wellesley College the next day, an all-female New England school as only the Americans have it. A splendid campus with beautiful buildings and sports facilities, all spic and span and ready for the graduation ceremony that happens to get started as we tour the campus. It made me think of how I wanted to go to an American boarding school somewhere in New England back in high school with a program called ASSIST after watching Dead Poet Society with the young and mighty Ethan Hawke. I did not get into the program and was very disappointed at first, but also somewhat deterred by the selection process. After all, I was just a kid at the time. Plus and more importantly, I would not have my YFU American family today.
In the afternoon, we pick up Ben’s son Casey (who has been so kind to pose with my son Leo’s little bunny “Schorschi”) from his school (that also has quite an impressive campus and plays in a league of its own), and I think back to my high school days in Michigan, Lansing, with golden memories and my heart full of love and gratitude for my host-family and high school friends, who took care of me, as only the Americans do.
Cohen family moments
Following a visit to the mall with Ben and Casey for me to buy some gifts for my family, I practice a bit of Lacrosse with Casey in the back yard. (Malls. I remember my first time at a mall in 1992 in Lansing, Michigan. I couldn’t believe it. Why would you have something like that? In our German cities back then, you would have city centers with shops and restaurants. Why would you spend a day in a climatized megastore, instead of being outside and walking the streets? A lot has changed since then, when I think of the large malls in Berlin.)
After dinner, Max takes me for a spin in the car. He is 16 now and needs practice. He shows me the neighborhood and tells me about his friends and what they do in their spare time. He rows in an eight crew for his school and is about to go to the nationals for which his team just qualified. Little precious moments. Just like the one later that night, when Casey comes down to make himself a sandwich, and we talk a bit while I finish my last blog post at the kitchen table. To put it with Goethe:
Augenblick, verweile doch. Du bist so schön!
Moment, ah, linger on. Thou art so fair!
As I write this, I am sitting in the airplane from Boston to LA. Ben took me to the airport early this morning. Made me coffee and poached eggs with toasted and buttered bagel before we left. A few tears at the airport before we split. Until next time, my brother. I miss you already.