Sunday, November 26, 2017

Making a ConnecTion

Below is an essay I submitted to the Boston Globe magazine almost six months ago. I wrote it for the Connections column on the publication's back page, but since I haven't heard back I figured I'd publish it here.

I self-published a children’s book about students traveling through Boston on Green Line trolleys. A Wicked Good Trip! is selling modestly around Greater Boston, but it was recently translated into another language right before my eyes.

The book is inspired by my son’s, ahem, love for the MBTA. Through Owen I’ve learned the ins and outs of trolleys and seen parts of Boston that were new to me.

We’ve ridden on every subway line but lately we focus on the Green Line. We used to spend most of our time underground, but Owen now appreciates fresh air and my desire to shoot photos of old buildings.

I relied on Owen when writing A Wicked Good Trip! On one illustration, he corrected the four-digit number of a trolley. “That one’s out of service,” he said.

In the book, the students travel through numerous subway stations, and go above ground to see Fenway Park, the Boston Common and other landmarks.

I’m happy my book is available locally. But I also wanted to share the book with families who don’t have time to shop. I mailed the book to three non-profits helping sick children. I recently read my book at one.

I didn’t know what to expect with busy families who have a lot on their minds. I would have been happy if just one kid showed.

A family of four entered the room. The father said that his kids didn’t understand English. I felt my visit might be cut short. Thankfully, it wasn’t.

The couple was eager to hear my book. “We can translate what you say to them,” the husband said happily.

I pulled my chair closer. Rather than a straight reading, I held an informal conversation about the T, tourist destinations and the differences between Boston and Poland, the family’s country.

The kids’ eyes lit up when they saw the Museum of Science dinosaur. After I read about how squeaky the trolleys can be, the mother said her son asked why didn’t somebody make them quieter. Exactly!

They asked about Faneuil Hall. I said the building was important, but stressed the vibrancy of Quincy Market. They were intrigued by the shops and restaurants. The children sat patiently as their parents explained about the 360-degree views from Prudential Skywalk.

The kids giggled at the monsters that one of the students in the book speculated might live in an abandoned tunnel. Goofy characters don’t need translation.

The family visited Fenway Park, which is depicted in the book. “We don’t understand the rules, so we left early. Is that OK?” the father asked. “My kids know the game, and they don’t stay for an entire game,” I said.

Their daughter left to play with some toys. Their son zoomed around with my toy Green Line trolley.

He had successful surgery, so the family was excited to explore more of Boston.

About the illustration of students at the Museum of Fine Arts, the father asked, “Is this a good place?” I nodded.

“Even for children?”

“You won’t see as much as you would if you were alone,” I answered. “But it’s great. Check out the instrument room.” They liked that idea.

The mother said she and her daughter were learning violin together. They brightened at the idea of walking to the Boston Symphony’s home, which I mention in the book.

I learned there are no subways in their town, but there are in Warsaw.

Pointing at the last page of my book, I asked, “Do you understand this Boston word: wicked?” I asked.

“It doesn’t mean ‘evil,’” I said. “It means ‘very,’ as in ‘wicked awesome.’” They laughed, happy to learn local slang.

We shook hands and I explained that my son fell in love with the MBTA when he was five. “He’s almost 15,” I said. “We might go for a ride tomorrow.”

“Maybe we’ll see you on the subway!” the father said.

You can buy my book at the Sidetrack Products web site.