Tuesday, September 4, 2012

On The Trail Of Family and Friends

Crab Risotto

On a quiet Saturday afternoon, I joined my friend for a drink and conversation to just make sure we were both keeping our heads above water.  The challenges of parenthood, of marriage, of employment, and of life melt away over a pomegranate martini and a pinot noir raised in a toast to friendship.  And upon the recommendation that we should try the crab risotto, we order the appetizer with slices of asparagus, colorful orange edges, decoratively sliced scallions, and tender bit of crab.  And when the waitress thoughtfully brings the creamy delight to our us in two bowls, she correctly guessed that the two friends would share the fare in the same way they share the stories of their lives.  And all too soon, the risotto and the afternoon were gone.

To Kill A Mockingbird

Using the “piddly roads,” as my father calls them, I sneak among the corn fields to reach the outdoor theater at New Salem, Illinois.  Tonight a dear friend takes the stage as Atticus Finch, and clock counts down to the raising of the curtain as I turn off one county road and down another empty lane to reach the theater.  Vacation sometimes is about cramming in as much as possible during a short amount of time, and while I am feeling the crunch on this drive, I cannot imagine not including this friend, this performance, and this evening in this vacation.  With apologies for entering the theater a few minutes late, I watch a southern gentleman on stage, and know that passing row upon endless row of withering corn in a maze of unknown roads is worth the drive to enjoy his final performance.

The Cool Aunt
I finally met my nephew.  The role of the aunt is non-defined, and in my family, I, myself, have more than a half dozen of them.  Each aunt is different, not too mom-like, sometimes a little goofy, sometimes a little more fun, and sometimes more cool.  One of my aunts, Marie, fits that bill.  She has mannerisms like my Mom, but she’s certainly more fun and definitely cooler.  I wonder if my nephew will see me this way.  I’ll certainly be the aunt that lives far away and pops in from time to time.  I’ll be the aunt that he visits when he vacations in the Sunshine State.  I’ll be the aunt that tells him the stories about his Dad that make him see he was once a kid, too.  And hopefully, I’ll be his Aunt Marie.
A Mentor and A Friend
I devoted today to seeing a former boss.  She is also my friend, but mostly she is amazing.  She lives privately, but beautifully.  She enjoys good food and good people.  She strives for greatness and wants to see it in others.  Her value to me is certainly worth a three-hour drive across the Mississippi River, through the Biodiesel Capital of the World, along the Lewis and Clark Trail, and into the heart of Mizzou Tiger country.  For a bite of beautiful salad and a couple hours of conversation, this day of my vacation reminds me of the kind of person I ought to be.

Sunday, September 2, 2012


In the moment when the plane revs its engines and begins its forced acceleration from a dead stop at the far end of the runway, the passengers feel the excitement of takeoff.  Glancing out the window, the queue of planes waiting to depart rush past, followed by the terminals and the flock of planes gathered around its edges like ducks at a pond. Then comes the moment where the plane lifts away from the pavement and is airborne.  Like the moment of birth, this forward rush, both literally and figuratively is the moment when the adventure begins.  The months of preparations and planning and excitement and anticipation before this actual moment arrives become real in less than sixty seconds of forward thrust.  The moment when the plane effortlessly releases its connection to the runway and ascends into the sky marks the moment when vacation is truly underway.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

The Night Before

Packed and Ready

As I liberally advertised my upcoming vacation around the office, the customary close-in questions revolved around the status of my packing.  In truth, besides itinerary planning, there is little else about which to inquire, so we engage in a casual conversation about the open-face suitcase sandwich in the corner of my bedroom.  I have loosely tossed a handful of gifts for nephews, clothes that I can go without for a few days, and the few things that I fear I will forget if I wait until the final twenty-four hours before travel, so in answer to their inquiries, yes, I have begun packing.

This pre-vacation preparation excites me and I find it to be a self-reward after all the pre-travel housework is finished, almost like vacation foreplay.  And unlike packing to move, which is a punishment to be paid for getting a new home, the process of strategically squeezing my most playful and comfortable outfits into a colorful bag allows me to take a manageable amount of my favorite possessions to a new and fun place.  The thrill of what lies in the near future makes the mundane act of folding clothes deliciously enjoyable.  And besides my hairbrush and the power cables to my laptop, when I crawl in bed for the final night of sleep before my vacation, everything that will accompany me on my adventure is snugly stuffed into the bright bags with miniature locks completely oblivious of what tomorrow holds.  I, however, while equally prepared and ready to depart, lack the patience of the inanimate objects silently standing near the door.


And now I am tucked in my sheets, waiting for the adventure to begin and falling asleep is nearly impossible.  Like a child on Christmas Eve waiting for Santa to arrive and listening for reindeer hooves on the roof or sleigh bells outside the window, I think about what the morning will bring.  In my head I am running through the remaining items to be packed and hoping I didn’t forget anything.  I triple check my alarm clock to be sure I set both alarms correctly – a.m. not p.m. – and that I remember the correct flight times.  In my somewhat sleepy head I contemplate the transition from traveling to the airport, passing through security, getting to the gate, boarding the plane, and how much time it all totals from the moment the alarm rings until the plane finally pushes away from the gate.  Perhaps part of my last-minute insomnia is based in worry rather than excitement.

But then I begin to relax and think about what happens once the plane is airborne ad I am on my way to my destination.  For weeks, or even months, I have counted backwards to the day when I would visit someplace different, meet someone new, see an amazing site, and have my breath taken away by spectacular settings.  Tomorrow it all begins, and for day after day after tantalizing day, I will absorb beauty, experiences thrills, and revel in the excitement of my months of planning, preparing, and packing.  Now go to sleep, because tomorrow it all begins.