A Day With Isabella

Things have been a little crazy lately. I’ve been feeling frustrated and upset and had a lot of emotions whirling around in my head.

So on Saturday night I had Eric do baby duty, got some uninterrupted sleep, and then on Sunday I finally made a trip out to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.

It was a chilly day, windy and kind of rainy. I put my umbrella in my bag and walked over to the bus stop. It wasn’t just that I needed some time alone. I needed time without all my normal thoughts and concerns. So I wasn’t going to think about the kids or the house or the blog or any of that. I was just going to enjoy and absorb and reflect.

Riding the bus alone is such a luxury.

Normally I ride the bus with the kids, there may or may not be a stroller involved, there’s always an excited toddler. We usually have to fight our way through the crowds and struggle to find seats.

But this time I was alone. It was Sunday. The bus was delightfully empty. I even got to people watch.

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/jessicaesquire/status/209317094553157632″]

You can always tell Europeans by their shoes. Or, you know, just wait for them to talk. I have no idea what these kids were doing on our bus. Our neighborhood is pretty working-class, I’d say the bus is usually about 20% hispanic, 30% white, 50% black. There’s a mix of working adults, the elderly and small children. But we don’t get lots of teenagers. And if I hear another language on the bus it’s usually Spanish. (My best guess for these kids: Russian.)

Also spotted: the first gay couple I’ve ever seen on our bus. They’re not unusual in much of the city, but they are in our neighborhood. I’m sure it’s not easy to be a black lesbian couple where we live, so go them. They seemed quite enamored with one another, even though they had that bad habit of blocking the door.

After that I transferred buses. We went past the hipster neighborhood, past the low-income housing, into the city.

A little walk and there I was:

This is the back of the building. Isabella was a patron of the arts and she had this museum built to house her many treasures. It is unlike any other place. The rooms often have a theme, which may have a set of similar works or have a mixture of places and times. There is a lot of furniture, many tapestries, and most chairs and benches aren’t for sitting. There’s a central courtyard with plants and sculptures.

They just finished a new building that holds the gift shop, cafe and hosts lectures and concerts.

Here’s the new next to the old. It’s a nice change, letting the museum just be itself. Especially since Isabella set everything up just so. The museum even sends you down a path from room to room.

There is no photography allowed, which I found out after I snapped this pic as I entered.


Also, no phones. Not even for texting. At first I was sad because I was looking at this beautiful Whistler and I wanted to tell you guys about it. But it was a good thing. It meant I could detach from everything.

The Gardner is perfect for that. The rooms create a mood. And the paintings aren’t labeled. If you want, you can look at room guides, but after the first couple rooms I stopped. I just walked through, taking in the paintings and the art, not knowing what was by a famous artist and what wasn’t.

If I had my way, the Gardner would be like one of those monasteries where no one speaks. I tried to tune out the conversations.

I highly recommend you hit the Gardner’s website in Explore mode if you’re even remotely interested in art, architecture or textiles. You can see the rooms themselves and soak in a little of the atmosphere. It’s not quite the same, but it’s pretty amazing. Here’s a screenshot of my absolute favorite part of the Museum.

It doesn’t quite compare to the amazing feeling when you stand in front of that gorgeous, massive Sargent in that gorgeous room. But it’s a decent second place.

By the time I took the bus home I felt renewed.

I also thought a lot yesterday about how happy I am to be here in Boston. It was June 2 years ago that we moved here and while it took a while for me to acclimate, I have learned to love it. I am happy that we’ll be here for years to come. I’m happy to have my kids here. I’m happy for the friends I’ve made here. I’m happy to have the Gardner and the bus and the stupid rainy weather.

A year ago I would’ve been conflicted about being home full-time. Now I feel really at peace with it. But I still need a chance to withdraw every now and then. Soaking in some beauty was exactly what I needed.

Today I’m back to dirty diapers and toilet training and fussing and whining and I’m okay with that.


  1. Jenny says

    i love that you got a day on your own & how you spent it.

    I think a real torturous interrogation technique to break a person’s spirit would be to have a small child repeatedly whine, scream & pathetically cry in this person’s direction. This child would also give really confusing signals of what he or she wants to stop this emotional outburst of his/hers – or be something that cannot be fulfilled even if one were to try.
    Can you tell that I’m reaching the end of my whining/crying/screaming threshold?
    I can only imagine what you deal w/, having a toddler on the spectrum AND an infant. I just have the ASD toddler. You have my sympathy.

  2. JoLee says

    Someday when I visit you in Boston lets go to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. I want to experience its loveliness.

    • says

      Oh yes we will. It’s first on my list. And also the ICA (Institute for Contemporary Art) if I still haven’t been there by then. I can’t believe I’ve been here for 2 years and still haven’t been to our modern art museum!

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