Wednesday, July 25, 2018


My vacation this year was a trip to go see Beloved Ex. Back in our day, BEx was in a band, and a few months back he mentioned to me they were planning a 30th reunion show, with the original lineup. Intriguing! I thought it'd be funny if I showed up, and ... ended up, somehow, deciding to actually show up.

I haven't seen that town or those guys in 24 years and a month. BEx and I split one week before our first anniversary, and though that wasn't quite the end of our marriage, it was the end of my time in Ohio. I never even saw my in-laws again, and only one of my friends from that time.

Driving into that city for the first time in all those years was cognitive dissonance extraordinaire. The old classic rock station was playing the same music they played back then (not "classic" at the time, I suppose ...). I knew how to get around, but the look of the place was alien to me. It was something like the reverse of a phantom limb - I could touch, I could see, but the sense was gone somehow. The texture, the earth from which the town rose and was built, was impossibly strange.

Being of a Certain Age, too, hormones got the best of me and I cried coming into town. Pearl Jam's "Black" didn't help, though the reasons for that are a bit personal to get into.

Before hitting my hotel, I spun briefly around my college campus - BEx was my "townie" back then - and was struck by how easily I found the places I lived and knew, and how strange they looked to me. And how TINY that campus is.

BEx and I had a date that night, and of course I wanted to look good. I got a bit of rest, cleaned up from the road, curled the oddly-colored hair, put on a dress. When he called to say he was on the way, I was ready. I saw him out the hotel window, and watched his car arrive, watched him get out and look about a bit, head inside. He looked good, but I knew that. How I look these days was a concern, but there's nothing you can do about that once it's time to answer the door.

I got a hug to "squeeze all the mean juice out of me" (he learned that one from my dad - aww), and we went to one of those places that was out of our price range in the 80s, has probably been there since the early 60s, and seems to have the same wait staff and decor it always had. The pizza was good, the service ... personal. Heh. Then we went for a walk on campus, through a night impossibly blessed with a lovely breeze and beautiful sky. He drove me around town until fatigue took over, and we called it an evening. I hadn't recognized much, beyond the walking-distance environs of my college years. Our stomping grounds after marriage, we didn't even get to.

Day two, something changed, and I operated more as if I were in a place I once called home. Whatever was different, my brain adjusted to, and it wasn't so strange.

I picked him up this time, and we spent a while with his mom. Let it be said here, if my Ex is "Beloved", so too were his folks. Though it made no sense on paper, his dad and I always liked each other, and his mom is a lovely lady it was always nice to have women's time with. They were generous, my F-I-L was really funny, and she was as sweet as BEx. Catching up on a drizzly morning was nice, and she seems to be well.

We wandered about for the day, among other things finding a GREAT bookstore, and came back in the evening to meet both his folks for chicken, which we brought along. Dinner was convivial, his dad more laid back than years back, and it felt like family. Maybe in some way it was family (hey, apparently I'm godmother to one of their grandkids; and we never did hate each other, so it works out). Even if not, it was just a nice, easygoing meal with people I enjoy.

The Really Big Show was Saturday, and the guys in the band had let BEx invite me to come see them and get the chance to actually hang out a little outside of the show. The drummer gave me the biggest, warmest greeting I got from anyone through the whole visit. Sweaty from loading out and some rehearsal, he grabbed me in a bear hug and rubbed his sweaty face on my face. Heh. He seemed genuinely happy to see me, and I've always loved the guy, so that was pretty great. Hey, and - sweaty drummers - what're you going to do, hate 'em? Nope.

All the guys were good to see, generous and still the great guys I remember with a lot of fondness. Sound check was impressive, and I sat through a couple songs before wandering off to let them do their jobs.

Campus is just up the hill from the venue, so taking some time to go up there, I was serenaded by the band in the distance - walking the student union, heading up the hill to the chapel.

The chapel on this campus is absolutely filled with mid-century design and really amazing art, and as the rain stepped up, I stayed in there for a good while, taking lots of pictures. The stained glass windows, the floor, the meditation chapel, the whole sanctuary. Even the lights. I even tried to go up the steeple tower, but it was locked at the top. No harm/no foul, I was very glad the chapel was open.

Back down to my car in the rain, the whole campus was empty. Not silent, of course, though the reverb from down the hill was low. Here, the familiarity was at its height, and when I saw the statue of the undergrad I had forgotten existed, I was genuinely happy to see it again.

In the brick walk were a few memorial items ... my creative writing professor and his wife ... a girl whose unique surname and year of attendance might have made her the daughter of the one single "boyfriend" I had from the school itself. Huh. He was a nice guy too. Physics major, actually.

The show was perfect, and two of my best friends from those years, the other "girl with the band" and a singer from our crowd I always remembered with a smile, were there. "Come to my bosom!" the first said, which was hilarious and so absolutely her a thing to say.

The whole visit kind of felt like coming to a welcoming bosom, really.

I've shed my prejudices about that town - my snobbery towards it was bitter for long, stupid years - and never did resent the people in it. Seeing the place again, and those old friends, was a balm.

One of the things several people said to me, unbidden, was how much I needed to get away. Some knew I'd lost my stepfather, but that they could see how much that and everything since has been "on me" was a bit of a surprise. I don't know that BEx troubled to say anything other than to family - I would be surprised - so apparently, my sense of relief to be out on my own was pretty palpable.

And it was a blessing and a blast.

He and I wandered around again on Sunday, one more great bookstore (this one with a cat; I do love cat-owned bookstores) and an indulgent dessert at the local dairy. And that was it.

I'm grateful to have been able to see my friends, even my old school (of which I am less forgiving than this city I used to hate, though the grounds are not responsible for that), and my old home. I was there for most of almost nine years, which astonishes me to count out on my stubby fingers.

Geez, all those YEARS I knew that place. It was my home, even when I wanted to deny that.

And it welcomed me back and said, "Come to my bosom!"

Good trip. Good vacation.

And now ... back to work.

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