08 October 2008

Good Old/New Days

I know, long time no writing. I've been home from the "momcation" the better part of a week and I'm still decompressing.

I arrived in Charleston before 5 p.m., checked into the hotel then hot-footed it out of there to see what had changed since I'd last seen my college town well over a dozen years ago. Driving down the main strip (which is hard to do and ogle at the same time) I noticed that a couple of fast food joints are still the same (McD's, surprisingly McHugh's is still there, the Taco Hell where I worked is still around) and the old Hardee's is gone, replaced with a shiny new Jimmy John's (about time since Jimmy John's was founded in Charleston). My favorite Chinese place is gone, which made me sad since I was really looking forward to their cashew chicken. The old Wal-Mart is gone, relocated to the far east side of town, even further away from students. The Wilb Walker (yes, that's the actual name) grocery store is now County Market. The bar we all hung out in is not the same place. A campus store that sold candy, fraternity & sorority stuff, and other 'necessities' is gone. The owner once called my friend and I "little fillies", so I'm not sad to see that place vacant.

One of my favorite people from my college days is my friend Gwen. She and I shared the hotel room and stayed up late into the night chatting, marveling that "20 years ago at 10:00 on a Friday night we were usually getting ready to go out" instead of yawning and putting on pj's. Since we had no plans until early the next afternoon we'd definitely be sleeping in.

Apparently, 7:30 is sleeping in (at my house it is). Gwen and I were awake and cursing that fact Saturday morning. Unable to return to sleep, we went out for breakfast then on to campus to check out the old Union and the new fine arts building. There used to be a street that ran in front of the Union, health service building, fine arts and continued the length of campus. The new fine arts digs are now smack dab in the middle of the street. It's massive and amazing (it takes up the space where health service used to be). The Union is still pretty much the same except for a Java coffee bar, which would've come in handy when we were students, and the extinction of the Sugar Shack (a beloved candy counter) and McD's. Amazingly, it smells the same. Gwen and I met up with Paul and Stacy, who'd driven down from Chicago. It was so, so, so good to see them in person again. After hugs and "Oh, my God, you look great"s we went to snoop around the new theatre spaces before the official tour.

All I can say about the new fine arts building is wow. All that's left of our old digs is the back staircase that connected the main stage to the green room and the costume shop. It was freaky. As the four of us joined the tour for alumni, we were joined by our friends Gary (and his lovely wife Sheila) and John, who'd flown in from Portland, Oregon. We were flooded with memories: pulling all-nighters in the Scene Design room, not getting into a theatre for tech rehearsals until after 9:00 p.m., hanging lights in the studio theatre with a cherry picker and a prayer, Gary talking me down from the grid above the main stage (fear of heights, you know), sleeping in the lobby, doing laundry in the costume shop (or maybe that was just me since I had keys to the building).

After the tour we went to lunch and ate and drank and talked and laughed. A lot. Sheila, a nurse, told the most hilarious story about a remote control and a chicken leg. Gary regaled us with tales of being a police officer. We reminisced. In many ways it was like those intervening 17 years slipped away and we were all in our 20's again. It was like my friends and I were straddling a divide with one foot in the past, the other firmly planted in the here and now.

As for the play we saw that night, I'll just say we would've been better off staying at the bar, but the reception after was nice. We spent time with a couple of our former professors; our acting teacher and the play's director. Departing that night, I didn't want the night to end. I had missed my friends and didn't really realize how much until then. They knew me way back when I did really stupid stuff on a routine basis and are my friends still. I am endeavoring to be a better friend and keep in touch.

Sunday I woke early despite not falling asleep until after 1 a.m. I gathered my things, checked out, picked up a large skinny vanilla latte at the Starbucks and headed back to Chambana to be part of Leeanthro's Step Out For Diabetes team. Frank and the kids met me at the park for the event, welcoming me home with hugs and kisses.

This week I've been tired and lethargic but mulling over the weekend always brings a smile to my face and my friends and I have connected in an online community, exchanging notes and pictures, staying connected.

It's all good.

It'll have to be until the next time. And, guys, I'm buying the first round.


Quigs78 said...

That sounds like a fantastic visit! You guys should start a yearly travel-the-country club and visit each person in their town.

I don't think I'll honestly ever step foot on my campus ever again, but I am going to visit one of my best college friends this weekend. That kinda counts, right?

Resplendent Enigma said...

I know my absence from school is far shorter than yours but I know exactly what you are talking about. The cross country and track team I ran for in college holds an Alumni meet in January and a golf outing in September. I really don't get up to Naperville often enough but when I do it's as though I never left and we all still shared rooms together. It's crazy how strong those bonds are when you spend that much time with people.

Gary said...

You summed that up perfectly, I think. My favorite part was @ Roc's when it seemed we all just gelled again, as though we'd just been on an extended vacay, not Life. I was completely surprised when nostalgia DIDN'T overwhelm me--but I did well up a coupla times.

I say we (and as many co-conspirators as we can manage!) try to get together once a year or so, go to Roc's, and sit-n-talk-n-eat-n-drink to our hearts' content.