The newly awakened writer in me is going crazy as Bernie and I move from one experience to the next. I’ve decided to leave some things off to write about later. I have my notes to help me recall the details.
I was able to find my friends at the Grand Geneva Resort. We agreed to meet for breakfast at the Egg Harbor Cafe. Breakfast is my favorite meal to eat out, so I knew I’d love this place. I arrived early. Bernie dropped me off while he went to find a Walmart to buy a disposable camera. We’d left our digital camera at home. I was delighted to see the restaurant decor: roosters all over the place, paintings as proud as portraits of presidents, little ceramic roosters and rooster cookie jars on shelves. The menu had a large colorful rooster on its cover. I knew I would take one home, hopefully, with permission. I am drawn to roosters, cocky, strutting their stuff. They are my inspiration as I get into this writing thing.
The women came and I recognized each of them as they came through the doors of Egg Harbor Cafe: Mary Pat, Barbara, Anita, my cousin Franny, and Terry. They recognized me too. There is only so much adding and subtracting that years can do.
We had to wait for a table to be prepared. There were plenty of tables for six, but Bernie would be joining us. We sat around and chatting began immediately. I said, “Mary Pat, do you remember the time when you went on the senior trip to Washington, D.C…”
She finished my sentence, “And you made me that life-size paper doll of my boyfriend.”
We were off and running. Franny and I realized that we were the only ones among our group that hadn’t gone to Washington. There were members of the class who couldn’t afford the trip, so the school offered a plan B, a day trip to Springfield Illinois where Lincoln is memorialized.
Each of us shared about our lives, what our children are doing now, about our life’s work, and about what we’re doing now. Two nurses, a social worker, one worked for the school district, a business woman, a parent educator (me)…and Bernie the banker. (He jumped right in) Side conversations were great. Because these women have kept contact with one another, one might say, “Terry, tell the story about the time you….” and I would be brought up to speed with the years going by.
One such story and the best one shared was told Mary Pat when her first husband died. She told of how his family wanted to bury his ashes in their family plot. The cost was in a thousand dollars. The family was astounded, realizing the level of effort it would take to dig a small hole and dump in the ashes. So a couple of her husband’s family members, in the middle of the night, climbed over the cemetary fence, found the grave sight, dug the small hole needed and dumped the ashes in. That was the best death story I’ve heard since Aunt Edna’s passing in the film National Lampoon Vacation with Chevy Chase.
Enroute to my cousin Sally’s house, we drove through Woodstock, Illinois. We realized that this trip was turning into a revisiting of our old living places and decided that on Friday we would visit the rest, the places where I grew up and Bernie and I began our lives together.
We drove into Woodstock and by visited our house on Tappan Avenue, the first one we owned. It was here that Bernie discovered that he had inherited his father’s building skills. He built the garage behind the house and added an addition that included an eating area and a small family room.
We went to Woodstock’s center square, made famous in the movie “Groundhog Day”. If you are familiar with the phrase “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”, you need to see this old movie with Bill Murray. I got out to take pictures while Bernie found a place to park. A woman approached me as I clicked away and said to me, “I used to live here, too.” The conversation that followed was amazing. We’d raised our children here at the same time, though we didn’t know one another. Her father had worked at the bank shortly before my husband started there. Her dad also was the lead singer for the band that played in the gazebo for the Wednesday night band performances each summer. I took a picture of Woodstock Theater where several acting careers were launched: Orson Wells, Ann Bancroft, Paul Newman, and Tom Boswell, to name a few. We drove by the house where our friends once lived, later sold and turned into the bread and breakfast you’ll see in “Groundhog Day”. We drove by the house we first rented when we moved to Woodstock. The yellow siding was painted a deep red-brown and there was sign above the front door: “Harvest Moon Cafe”. We drove out of town between rows of blooming lilacs bushes.
At Sally’s house, we settled in and had a chance to rest a bit before relatives started to arrive. Most important was seeing my Aunt Maureen, the last relative of my mother’s generation still living. She looked amazing, her hair died blond, nicely bobbed. I’d never realized how sweeping her smile. She is one of the family story tellers and we coerced her to tell some good ones, including the time when she and Uncle Ray and another couple found themselves driving on the runways of the O’Hare Airport when there were noting but dirt roads around and before the runways were fenced in. That is probably why the fences were put up around. She said shyly, “We were under the weather.” She didn’t mean the flu.
Today, Bernie and I will drive around our old haunts…see you later.