Anime Boston — a Mother Daughter Adventure

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I have no recollection of the conversation with my friend when I expressed the desire to travel with her and our teenage daughters to Anime Boston but I believe her when she says I did just that. When she called to remind me just a couple of weeks prior to the event and my daughter caught wind of the invitation, I didn’t know what to say besides, “Sure. Sounds good to me.” And so the adventure began and with it came the realization that I had just committed myself to finding us a place to stay in Boston over Memorial Day weekend, which in itself could spell trouble but with the added attendance of a convention center full of crazed Cosplayers, no longer seemed like a fabulous idea. So, I did what I do best. I tried to pretend it wasn’t happening and then, didn’t do anything about it. Before I knew it, there were only a few days before we had to leave and I still had made no attempt to find the four of us a place to stay within walking distance of the Hynes Convention Center. That’s when I rustled up the courage to tell my husband that I had not only taken the responsibility of finding us a hotel room but that we were making the trip in the first place. I guess that up until that moment, it didn’t seem important enough to bring up in casual conversation.

Oh, and did I mention at all that I really didn’t want to go in the first place? Or that I volunteered my husband and his millions of Amex points to pay for the room? Hey, it made perfect sense to me at the time.

Finally, I had procrastinated long enough in fulfilling my obligation to find us a place to stay that our options were few and far between.The only room that filled our requirements was a suite at the Westin that would run us about a gazillion points (well, not quite a gazillion, but close.) There I was with a hotel room that cost a gazillion of my husband’s hard earned Amex points for an event that I really wasn’t all that excited about in the first place. And so, I did what any other red blooded Mom of a teenage girl would do in that position: Keep my mouth shut, pack my bags, and allow her to have a great time at this convention she was so looking forward to? Of course not. I am of Jewish descent, after all. I cried and whined and pouted and made my daughter feel guilty. Why? Because this trip wasn’t shaping up to be the one I wanted it to be. But don’t worry about me. I’ll just sit here in the dark. I made it pretty clear I was “biting the bullet” and taking her to the convention and she’d better damn well appreciate all my suffering. Aren’t I a great Mom? Damn.

Lucky for me, my friend is a much better mother than I am. She was enthusiastic about the trip, looking forward to the convention itself, and grateful for the room I had secured for us. Somehow, by the time we were getting ready to go, I realized that in order to have a decent experience and to avoid making everyone else miserable, I had better go with the flow. I gave myself over to Linda and her positive attitude, hoping for the best and deciding that if all else failed, I would ditch my friend and the girls, take my camera out and go off to explore Boston on my own. Seemed like a reasonable enough plan at the time.

We hit a decent amount of traffic on our trip to Boston but we weren’t surprised. After all, it was a Friday afternoon of a holiday weekend. The ride was made pleasant by the company and even though it took us longer to get there than expected, we arrived at our hotel in good spirits. I knew the hotel was going to be a nice one — dang, for a gazillion points, it had better be. But what I didn’t expect was the view of Boston and how it seemed to go on forever.

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Step one towards making me relax and think, “This may not be such a bad experience, after all.”

Our room was ginormous with 2 queen size beds and a fold out couch. I relaxed even more when I realized that the girls could share the couch and Linda and I would each have our own beds. Step two towards making Mom a happy camper.

Step three was the discovery that we wouldn’t even have to walk outside the hotel in order to get to the Hynes Center. The Westin, where we stayed, was connected to the convention center by a series of upscale malls and enclosed pedestrian bridges. Our entire weekend could be spent inside and we would not have to venture out into the unusually cold and rainy Spring weather unless we so desired. Things were looking better and better.

Our original game plan was to check in to our hotel room, grab something to eat and head over to the Con to register and explore a bit before we called it a night. We made reservations at a lovely restaurant just outside the doors of the hotel (and yet still inside by way of the many enclosed and connected malls) and then ran back upstairs to our room before we headed over for registration. That’s when we realized that the registration had at that very minute closed for the day and we wouldn’t be making it in that night. Oh, well. An early bed time wouldn’t hurt any of us after our long day of driving.

New plan: wake up early in the morning, get some breakfast and head to the Con. Works for me.

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This is my daughter, Clare, up early and ready for her first day of Anime Boston. Clare is 14 and obsessed with Tumblr, video games and web comics. Do you see that incredible smile? She was so happy and looking forward to this convention that the anticipation just radiated from her face. She had worked hard on her cosplay options and for Day One of the convention she was going as Jane Crocker, a character from the amazing popular web comic, Homestuck. Do not ask me any more about it — beyond a few characters’ names and some information about Trolls and God Tiers, I know nothing other than the fact that many characters are killed off, revived again and killed off once more. One of Clare’s joys in life is in finding and connecting with other “Homestucks.” At a certain point that was a rarity. I remember her surprise and delight as we were standing in the checkout line at our local grocery store and the young man who was bagging our groceries recognized the character symbol she was wearing on her shirt. It was the beginning of a secret handshake and membership in an ever growing community of young people who share the culture of Homestuck. Clare was going to meet her Homestuck family at the Convention.

My only prior convention experience was several years ago at the New York ComicCon. Another dear friend and I took a group of teens, some of our own and an extra or two, and allowed them to wander, somewhat unsupervised, through the crowds of people gathered at the Javitts Center for one day of the convention. It was crowded, noisy, overwhelming for me, and a bit nerve wracking because of limited cell service that made hooking up with and keeping track of the teens near impossible. The two oldest of the group, my son and my friend’s daughter, were to take responsibility for the younger ones, Clare and a friend. Then they could take off on their own without having us Moms tagging along behind. I never did get the story straight. The two oldest had taken their responsibility only grudgingly and the next thing we knew, they were separated and Clare was nowhere to be found. Lucky for us, we had predetermined an “in case of emergency” meeting place so when we couldn’t find or get in touch with either of the lost girls, we headed to our spot and waited and hoped like heck they’d show up, which they eventually did. Of course, there was the finger pointing and the blame: it wasn’t my fault, Mom. I turned around for a second and they were gone. Anyway, coupled with the crowds, the noise and my general lack of interest in the whole thing, ComicCon wasn’t high on my list of memorable life experiences. Another Con? Hmmm. But Clare is older now and more responsible. Well, somewhat.

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After a quick breakfast at the Starbucks just outside the hotel lobby, we started seeing Cosplayers scattered about the mall. Clare would see a character she recognized, stop to compliment the cosplayer on their costume, and ask to take a picture. This happened over and over again throughout the con. “I love your cosplay. Can I take your picture?” I don’t think anyone declined a photo op. As I watched this interaction happen again and again, I was impressed with how open and nonjudgmental everyone was with each other. It didn’t matter what the person looked like or how old they were or what color their skin — it was all about the cosplay and how well they captured their character. And everyone seemed so genuine with their compliments. My daughter was blooming and opening up with each encounter.

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Cosplay costumes ran the gamut from simple and home made to store bought and extremely fancy. And nothing made Clare happier than running into fellow Homestucks.

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Here she is posing as Jane Crocker with her “Dad.”

As much as I hadn’t wanted to be, I was being sucked in and I was having a good time. Watching my daughter, who if you asked her, would tell you she is socially anxious, spontaneously approach people she didn’t know, compliment them, ask to take their pictures and then spend a minute or two creating a connection and chatting, was, well, impressive. I started noticing that other people were doing the same thing, too. No one seemed self conscious or self critical or judgmental. I have to admit it was kind of nice to be around. Part of me was feeling a bit like I had stepped in to an episode of The Big Bang Theory. Then I saw a tee shirt that said “You say ‘Nerd’ as if it is a bad thing” and it all started to make sense.

I wish I could tell you that I didn’t have any relapses in my attitude towards the convention the whole time I was there. I would love to tell you that I had let go of all my reservations and became totally chill for the entire weekend. But I would be lying. There was one point when I had planned on running out to get something I needed at the Apple Store across the street. This would have given me a few quieter moments out of the constant noise and sensual assault that the Convention could be and a moment away from my daughter, who if I turned my eyes away from for a second, would be distracted by something or someone and instantly lost in the crowd. The plan was for Linda, Ariel and Clare to head to the Vendor gallery and browse while I did my errand. But just before Clare entered the Vendor hall with Linda and I made my getaway, Clare got distracted. How could I blame her? Right in front of her eyes was a group of assorted Homestuck cosplayers playing “Spin the Spoon,” with a choice of a Truth or Dare option or a hug. The hug option seemed to be winning.

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Again, there was my daughter, the self proclaimed socially anxious teen, putting herself out there and making connections without a care or a thought. I looked at the group and realized that she probably wasn’t the only one in that gathering who thought of themselves as “socially anxious” and who, in normal situations, would go into a panic attack at a glimpse of a group that size. But there they all were, having themselves a fine time. So, as much as I wanted to grizzle about Clare hijacking my chance to get away for a few minutes, I sat and watched and only drew the line when the group was asked to move to another location. We went to look for Linda and Ariel in the Vendor Hall — for some reason I was feeling the need to put our little group back together. Clare was focused on seeing everything in the Vendor Hall that she hadn’t seen yet and  I was wondering if it would be possible to find Linda and Ariel in the midst of the crowds. We wandered around and around and I scanned the room for our friends, feeling a bit like I was searching for a needle in a haystack. Clare was being Clare and enjoying the scenery and I was starting to grizzle again. That’s when I started to notice just how many family units there were, wandering around together and enjoying the convention. I mean “enjoying” the convention. Not feeling put upon because they had to follow their kids around an event they didn’t really want to be at in the first place, but having a good time together. So I thought I’d whip out my camera, take some pictures and maybe, through my picture taking, get a vicarious sense of that enjoyment and put a stop to all the grizzling.

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It helped, really it did, but then I was worried that Linda and Ariel would be wondering where we were so after a little longer, Clare and I headed back to meet them at the hotel room for a rest and to go out for some dinner before spending the rest of the evening at the Con.

It was a full night of activities, including the Masquerade which consisted of some clever Cosplay skits, a costume contest and some anime music videos. The girls requested some time to wander around on their own and found another group of Homestucks to hang with before we called it a night and left to get some rest before our last day at the Con.

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Day Two at Anime Boston required a different Cosplay for both girls. Here they are: Clare as Fiona from Adventure Time and Ariel is ????? The second day finds me much more relaxed than I was just the day before. The Con is a known commodity now and I breathe a sigh of relief and go with the flow. Linda and I have practiced giving the girls some space and allow them to go off without our direct supervision for periods of time and they have done just fine. We are unscheduled and unstructured for most of the day with one activity planned and the rest to unfold as it may.  We mostly wander around the Artists Gallery and the Vendor Hall and take random photo opportunities but this is apparently what the girls want to do and we are all fine with the way things are going.

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There are more Cosplays and characters to see and Linda and I have the chance for an extended break when the girls sign up for a Plushie making workshop. When they are the very last participants to be allowed in, Linda and I leave and have a long, relaxing lunch in the food court. And then, before we know it, Anime Boston is over and it’s time to go home.

I not only survived to tell the tale but enjoyed myself and learned a bit about myself as well.

AnimeBoston was about a lot of things. It was about making connections, coming out of your shell, finding yourself, sharing with others, growing up and letting go. It was about finding common ground, about having fun, about acceptance. For Clare, it was about independence and a step closer to growing up. For me, at least a little bit, it was about letting go. If I had let things go the way they were headed in the beginning, when it was all about the money and the inconvenience and the weather, it would have been a miserable trip and while it would have been all about me, I would have dragged everyone else down with me. In the end, I hope it was about all of us. About friendship, camaraderie, individuality, and most importantly, fun. I hope that when Clare remembers this trip, it isn’t about what a self centered pill her mother was, but about how in the long run, her mother learned a little more about letting go and allowing her daughter in.

~ by photobella on 10 June, 2013.

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