Even though it was the most efficient way to travel around the city, the kids grew weary of the subway after the first day of our trip. There were several reasons for this--our apartment was practically in Connecticut, so every morning we got on the train for approximately fourteen hours to get downtown. Also, Ryan and I turned into total assholes every time we went down those sticky stairs, barking orders like "Keep walking please!" "Get behind the red line!" and "DON'T EAT THOSE OH MY GOD!!" And there's the little matter of no one liking having to spend time in a urine-scented oven just to go home. Ryan and I were happy enough with the situation, but the kids were having fantasies of being swept away in our roomy, private, air-conditioned minivan where strangers don't yell at you for looking at them.
I didn't realize how weary they were until we were walking to the train on our last day after a last-minute jaunt through the northwestern corner of Central Park and we told Wes with great enthusiasm that we were going to be taking a train from the city to Maine! His little shoulders slumped and he groaned "Oh MANNNN!"
Aside: Central Park was gorgeous. Wish we could have spent more time.
We pressed on, down into the subway, across town to Penn Station, then through the labyrinth to the Amtrack waiting area where we learned our train would be about an hour behind schedule. We spent this time eating bagels and black and white cookies (the two last items on my New York food bucket list). Charley and Wes enjoyed a safety video that was playing on a big screen TV because it was a screeeeeen. Ryan got yelled at by an old lady who wanted Mary to be wearing shoes, even though she took them off and threw them every time we put them on, and James and Mary had a screaming fight that Mary started by using her bagel to stamp cream cheese circles all over James's sweatshirt.
I was so relieved when we finally got on the train (still in the station underground, at this point I hadn't seen daylight in three hours and wasn't sure we even had a sun anymore) and settled into our seats. I handed out postcards and pencils so everyone could write to a friend back home, settled Mary into a seat, and sat down to read my magazine.
This cozy scene lasted for about nine minutes.
Then people started getting restless. We did a lot of things. We went for walks up and down the train. We played with the bathroom doors. Mary FINALLY took a nap. Charley read Harry Potter. Wes wrote three postcards to his friend Victoria. We stopped at every single tiny town in New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts. Right before we arrived in Back Bay Station, where we would have to change TRAIN STATIONS via either subway or cab IN BOSTON, Mary FLIPPED THE EFF OUT. Ryan had just run to the back of the train car to get something James had left behind and Mary was SCREECHING HER HEAD OFF AT FULL VOLUME and I was trying to figure out with Ryan whether we were supposed to get off at Back Bay Station or at South Station. This meant that I was YELLING over the heads of a train car full of people and over Mary's hysterical screaming "IS IT HERE OR SOUTH STATION WHERE WE GET OFF?!!" Meanwhile, I was trying to gather all of our crap into the two strollers and keeping the kids from flying headlong into a commuter's lap because of the motion of the train. I have never been so happy to get off a train in my life.
It was hellish, but we were back in the land of stroller-friendly transit and there was a beautiful air-conditioned elevator waiting just on the other side of the platform.
When we got out of the elevator we had fifty minutes to get to North Station to catch our next train. We (literally) ran to a cab, threw all our crap in the trunk, then got in (I got in the FRONT this time, so Ryan could deal with Mary. I was NOT going to relive the cab ride to the World Trade Center Memorial. There was a lot of screaming. That soundproof plexiglass is remarkable). It was an absolutely gorgeous, though stressful drive through Back Bay with an infuriating number of stoplights and buses and traffic jams. Once we arrived at North Station we jumped out, reassembled all the crap, buckled two screamers back into their strollers, hastily paid the driver and then the four of us plus two strollers RAN, Amazing Race-style, through the station, out onto the platform (where a sign indicated that our train was BOARDING) stopping only to hike up the waistband of my jeans which were falling down around my hips, we all ran into the first train car we saw then worked our way back through another four cars until we found an empty bank of seats.
There was some jockeying to determine who got to ride in the seats that moved backwards, but eventually we settled down and the train started moving. Now we only had FOUR MORE HOURS until our stop.
Thirty minutes in Ryan took the kids to buy candy in the dining car because that seemed like a fun and distracting thing to do. When he came back he brought me a mini bottle of wine and a klassy plastic cup to drink it in. I thanked him loudly and profusely and noticed the mother of the family sitting next to us staring daggers at her husband. THAT'S RIGHT, LADIES, HE'S MINE! I think the wine really turned the trip around for me because soon we were playing the alphabet game and loudly cracking jokes together. Ryan took Mary for a walk. Everything was fun again. Woo hoo trains!
And then I looked out the window and noticed that the train must have been in a school zone because it was going about twenty miles per hour. After maybe thirty minutes (Not sure? Time had ceased to have meaning by this point?) the conductor came on the intercom and told us some nonsense about signals and track speed and delays. Also they had to come to a complete stop before all railroad crossings. Somebody. Kill. Me.
Eventually, all the commuters were gone and all that was left in our car were us and another family with similarly-aged kids. The girls in the family organized a cute game of telephone in the baggage area of the car.
They played quietly and nicely like this for nearly an hour before the grouchy conductor came through, seemingly unaware of the TWO EXTRA HOURS these kids had spent on the train than expected and the MAGICAL MIRACLE that they were all sitting down and playing quietly, and barked "WE NEED TO KEEP THIS AISLE CLEAR" and moved on to the next car.
What happened next was TOTAL PANDEMONIUM. Telephone turned into climbing the luggage racks, running up and down the aisle, and crawling under the seats playing hide and seek. Ryan and me and the other parents stood and tried to maintain some semblance of order, but the kids were FRIED. Mary kept falling and hurting herself, which had nothing to do with the train since we were going TWENTY MILES PER HOUR, and then SCREAMING FOR DEAR LIFE. James asked every question in the universe of the unsuspecting grandma from the other family. Wes and Charley and the two girls from the other family hid in various parts of the car.
Shortly before we arrived at the station someone poked his head out of the bathroom and yelled across the whole car "I HAD A POOP ACCIDENT". Ryan went off to deal with that then came out and said "I'm going to need wipes and I don't know if this (new package) is enough." Then he came out and asked if we had any extra shoes. He patched the kid up as best he could in the gross train bathroom then collapsed into one of the seats.
At last we arrived at our station in Maine. At TEN O'CLOCK AT NIGHT. The dirty clothes bag exploded as we got off the train. I numbly scooped my underpants back into the basket of the stroller and pressed on through the heavy RAIN (BECAUSE OF COURSE). We were very happy to see the car. VERY VERY HAPPY TO SEE A CAR and buckle Mary into a carseat for the first time in four days. OMG HOW I LOVE CARSEATS.
We took a happy car selfie and began driving to our house.
Fifteen minutes later, the same kid who had pooped all over the train bathroom complained of feeling carsick.
Two minutes after that the complaining became more urgent and then the kid PUKED ALL OVER THE BACKSEAT.
I pulled into the first gas station I saw and ran inside for paper towels only to discover that both bathrooms WERE LOCKED. I helped myself to a large roll of paper towels behind the counter while Ryan extricated the vomit-soaked child from the car. While Ryan scrubbed down the back seat I helped the poor vomit soaked child change his entire outfit OUT ON THE SIDEWALK OF THE GAS STATION then wrapped him in a blanket. The attendant helpfully offered use of the OUTDOOR faucet if we needed it and also gave us an entire sheaf of plastic bags in addition to the paper towels "just in case" (please don't come back in here). Charley helpfully refused to sit next to the thrower-upper which meant we had to rearrange all the seats before we could go. There was one more "incident" by the time we got to our house, but fortunately we had all those bags and it was contained.
Did I mention that the thrower-upper had eaten a handful of jelly beans OFF A NEW YORK STREET CORNER that morning? OMG SERIOUSLY.
As crazy as our trip was (would have been just as crazy by car, I am certain) WE MADE IT and I am so glad we are here. We are having the best time. And we are flying home on Saturday. In an airplane. And I will never complain about buckling the kids into the van AGAIN.