It was July and time for the girls and I to head to Boulder Junction, Wisconsin, and the lake my family has been visiting for 59 years. But first we detoured to Washington DC so Faye could tour a couple of colleges. It seems I just finished that task with Jade, and here I am starting all over again. Most of the mainland is locked in a heat wave, but one cannot prepare enough for stinkin’ hot and humid weather. There’s only so far you can strip down.
One of the highlights of the DC trip was seeing an old friend, Jo. We had been in graduate school together at the University of Maryland in the late 70’s and early 80’s. We recently reunited through social media. When I mentioned that I and the girls would be in the area, she offered to pick us up from the subway station in College Park. This station is conveniently located right on campus, though it was not yet built when we attended school back then. Jo drove us around campus where she is now a professor and showed me all the changes. The last time I had been there was in 1986, when I came back to receive my degree. (Never take a job before finishing your dissertation! It’s too easy to get off track.) It is unfortunate that the school mascot is a Terp; I could never get excited about cheering for a turtle.
We had spent many weekends together down at the Mall, the great strip of land in DC dedicated to Smithsonian Museums and memorials. How we (Jo and Jim, me and my first husband) would have loved to hop the subway right there at College Park for the seven mile trip into the heart of DC. That would have been so convenient. We used to joke that the trip was seven miles or one hour by car. At the Mall we visited museums, flew kites, and of course saw the fireworks every July 4th after listening to top bands like the Beach Boys (1980) all day long, baking in the sun. When you’ve seen the fireworks at the Nation’s Capital, you don’t need to see any others.
Jo and I had been so much alike; we voted the same way, we believed in the same causes, we held similar views on social issues, we even looked alike. My daughters said we still looked alike.
We talked about old times, being careful to skirt anything that might be shocking to the girls. (Thank you Jo!) Jo is the person who introduced me to bluegrass music and “A Prairie Home Companion” on Saturday nights. We had made a couple of trips up the coast, once to Boston and Plymouth, and once to New York, where we took the elevator to the top of the World Trade Center. So strange to be talking about it now.
We even went camping a couple of times. One night in the Delaware River Valley, we saw what looked like thousands of fireflies as we walked near the river. Another time near Harper’s Ferry on the C&O Canal, she asked me where I got the cool semisolid camping dish soap I was using. I nearly bust a gut laughing – it was Ivory liquid; the night was so cold it has nearly solidified. This was right around October 10th, and it snowed! Then there was the time my husband and I bought a sleeper sofa, and invited them to come over to help us carry it up three flights of stairs. Thank God no one got hurt.
So many good memories. I think my favorite one was the road trip we took one summer to my hometown, Manitowoc, Wisconsin. It was a chance to bond without the guys around. We drove down to Lake Michigan one morning to see sunrise. It was something I had done often in my youth – wake up early, take my bike down to the lake, watch sunrise, and go back home to bed. My dad, ever the protective soul, surprised us by showing up, as it could be dangerous down there near the railroad tracks in the semi-light of dawn. Of course that wasn’t something I ever considered as a kid. Good thing he never found out about those escapades. That morning we sipped coffee from a thermos and also enjoyed a bottle of Asti Spumonte, which we shared with him. The lake was quiet for once, and we relished the moment of sunrise with my dad.
Soon after that trip, she told me that she and Jim planned to have a baby. The thought shocked me. It never occurred to me that she would choose motherhood. I had decided much earlier that kids were not for me and thought she felt the same way. Then I shocked her: I stepped into the world of the corporation – something she couldn’t fathom. Even I was surprised: I was supposed to become a university professor. How could I work in a corporate environment? Wasn’t Big Business at the root of many of the social ills we both lamented?
We drifted apart and lost track of each other. Life goes on. Now I’m out of the corporate world, and I can’t imagine life without my daughters. In more recent years I’ve had time to wonder what happened to Jo and my other friends from back then. Thank God for social media, and a chance to laugh together once again.
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