On Tuesday Sue and I head to Utica because there is a place there that does wine tasting and features wine from a local winery. The entire time I lived in IllinoisI don’t think I was ever in the town of Utica unless it was to pass through to get somewhere else. Sue tells me it has become a popular getaway for Chicagoans. I am shocked. Utica? Why Utica of all places? Nature, she supposes, as there are state parks and green spaces nearby. Sure enough I discover Utica’s tiny downtown is one of those reinvented areas with restaurants, a gourmet chocolate shop and gift stores. Plus I see signs for a few bed and breakfasts. Before one o’clock, I have a buzz from the six wines I’ve tasted. I’m also addicted to the buttery little breadsticks offered to cleanse the palate between tastings. Neither Sue nor I purchase any wine but we both buy boxes of the breadsticks.
We take a drive-by tour of a resort called Grand Bear and then we head toStarvedRockState Park. I used to come here as a child with my family. We had picnics with other families either here or more often at Buffalo Rock. We climb up to the rock and look out over the river. There is a dam, a barge going through the lock and many white pelicans. There are also eagles soaring across the sky. I realize I’m not in as good of shape as I think I am after climbing up and down many stairs to get to the rock and back.
Afterward we stop to visit Sue’s mom in Oglesby. She just turned 90, and lives alone in the house Sue grew up in. Sue’s sister Connie is there visiting also.
Back at her house we munch on tortilla chips and salsa. I drink white zin while Sue makes a vegetable stir fry with some of the chicken leftover from last night’s barbeque.
Wednesday Sue has to work. I start writing down everything I can remember about my trip toMissouri. I end up with 13 pages by the time I’m done. I call Steve to see if he wants to go anywhere or if he needs anything, since he can’t drive anyway and I have his truck. Plus I don’t want to completely ignore him after I get back toIllinois. Although maybe he’s had enough quality time with me after our four days together.
He calls me back after a bit and we decide to go to lunch at Applebee’s. I tell him about the party at Dave’s. He tells me some more stories about the people who were there and also one about a neighbor giving Sue a cat which they told her was a male and was just fat, both of which were lies. This was years ago when he and Sue were still married. At one time, the way he tells it, there were more than twenty cats in the old farmhouse they were living in and so many mice the cats couldn’t keep up with them. He laughs while he’s telling it. I think about how much I’ve heard about the ups and downs of his and Sue’s marriage in the past few days. It seems like they got through a lot of bad times already by the time they divorced. Maybe, as he’s said previously, he should have stuck it out.
Sue arrives home and she has brought stuffed mushrooms and salmon filets. I could get used to having her cook for me every night.
Meanwhile, we have figured out her yahoo e-mail account which she was having trouble accessing. We’ve also set up a new gmail account for her and set her up on Facebook. Her internet connection is slower than mine at home and at times it’s excruciatingly slow.
Thursday Sue has to work and I have plans to meet my childhood friend also named Barbara. We lived next door to each other inOttawafrom the time we were six years old until we were ten. I haven’t seen Barb in thirty years. Somehow we lost touch but we found each other again on Facebook.
Thursday is a nasty day weatherwise. Cold, rainy and windy. Forty-seven degrees. I have brought no clothes with me for weather like this. I have one pair of jeans which I end up wearing with wedged flipflops. Luckily I did bring a sweater. A black one. I throw that on over my short-sleeved top and it will have to do.
I run the heat at floor level to keep my feet warm all the way to Ottawa. I follow Barb’s directions to “the best place for lunch” in Ottawa which is downtown. I want to stop and gape at the downtown I once knew, but I don’t have time. I do notice the Roxy theater is still on the corner right where it always was. Woolworth’s, Carson, Pirie, Scott & Co., and Hornsby’s are long gone. I find the restaurant which is called C230 and a parking place near the corner across the street. I am early so I read for a little bit before facing the weather and going inside. Barb is at a table right near the door. I know her. She hasn’t changed very much except her hair is shorter and lighter and she wears glasses. We hug. I am so glad to see her.
Lunch is filled with us taking turns talking and eating. The server is kind and patient because she says it won’t be busy today so take as long as we want. She takes pictures of us before we leave. Barb offers to drive me around a bit, back to the street where we grew up and a few of the places I might remember.
The house her parents owned on Post Street looks like it’s being well-maintained, but the one my family rented next to it doesn’t. The front porch is gone and now there’s only a crumbling concrete stoop. It’s no longer white but is now covered with blue siding. She tells me a little bit about some of the kids we knew that lived in the neighborhood as we circle the block. We drive past the house my parents bought a few blocks away. It’s still there and we both recall how we loved that house. It had big, cavernous rooms and we each had our own bedroom upstairs. My dad hated that house. We didn’t live there very long because he changed jobs and we moved to another rental outside Spring Valley which is how I ended up attending school in Ladd.
Much too soon our time ends. Barb has a horseback riding lesson that afternoon. We hug and hope we see each other sooner than thirty years from now. Maybe she will come to see me in Florida…
To be continued…look for Family Therapy in The House of Dust, Part Ten, The Rest of the Trip coming soon
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