(CAVEAT: ain’t got no “pitchers”, so hope prose offers insights)
In Des Moines/IA, pause for an oil change @ Wal-Mart. It’s intake guy scopes my CA license plates and begins chatting how, when he came to the US from El Salvador, he stayed with a cousin in Southern CA. He got involved romantically with a local woman with relatives in IA, and when times got bad, they moved. For each of them, a snowy winter was something new. He says he’s “used to Winter, now”, but wonder whether, given a chance, he/they might well go west.
Get on I-80, and, excepting q brief stop at Herbert Hoover National Monument, drive thru to my cousin Marge’s place in Northbrook/IL.
Her husband Bruce is on hand to greet me, and soon, am comfortably back “in the bosom of my family” like some returned Prodigal Son.
(Although San Francisco continues to be “home”, Midwest places of my youth retain a claim on my emotions. In Chicago, Mozart Elementary School’s playground where a buddy, “Butch” Kummerow & I once played scrub basketball with neighborhood heroes George and Ed Mikan; Wrigley Field bleachers where night-working “old men” who spoke Eastern European languages introduced me to beer; Fullerton Avenue’s Liberty Theater where Saturday afternoon was my destination for cowboy “shoot ‘m ups”. Round Lake, which was our “blue collar” option and my cousins functioned as siblings; and Libertyville, where classmates offered an upper-middle-class option to pursue)
Soon, we are “knee deep” in conversation: film, books, religion, politics, sports… there are no boundaries, no “off-limit” subjects: where differences of opinion generate queries about what “supports” a given position
Pause briefly to gather food/booze as “entry card” to our Libertyville High School “Class of 1952” reunion.
We gather at home of Janet Volino Matthews: a small residue, some 60+ years later, of a young and hope-filled group brought up in shadows of “MAD” atomic annihilation and a far-off war in a small Asian country, Korea, few of us could have located on a world map.
Some of us remain “locals”; some “nearby”; some “far away”: all drawn back by some sense of personal communion. (Someone points out an interesting statistic: out of roughly 120 students, ten choose to ”partner” in five long-term marriages; and another, widowed pair, made a similar choice later in life.)
We speak briefly of the ill; yet, tacitly, withhold conversation of those of us already dead: our own mortality remains a private, hidden subject.
What we DO, is eat, and drink, and share stories of our lives, and lives of our children/grandchildren. We speculate on local issues (“WILL Libertyville’s lovely library have its architectural equilibrium besmirched with a modern addition?”), national issues (“Will our grandchildren have economic opportunities as extensive as were ours?”), international issues (“Why must we be this world’s policeman?”).
We talk about (as older people do) our various physical impairments and our frustrations that body and mind are deteriorating after 80 years of use. Some of us speak of travels: places we have visited which have left indelible impressions upon our memories.
But, mostly, we simply warm ourselves in a nostalgic “spa” of camaraderie… a sense of shared values and choices despite Life’s winds having scattered us hither and yon. We have survived, and, in an emotional/psychological sense, prospered.
Sunday proves a “quiet” (in Marge’s house, activity is a “baseline”) day: their daughter Maren and three pre-teen grand/children vitalize their house. Monday evening, Marge hosting her “women friends” encourages Bruce & I to head for a film (Richard Linklater’s “Boyhood”) in nearby Highland Park.
We wander out to Elgin/IL to lunch with cousin Wayne, and his “newly re-hipped” wife Peg (a week after her hip replacement, Peg is walking, albeit slowly, with a cane). Again, lunch is a wonderful chance to share “Present” and “Past”: so we segue back to their place to continue. Their son Todd (a skillful balancer as independent businessman and active rock musician) stops by, and conversation expands.