My husband and I visited Dallas over the weekend. We were there — mostly — to go to the state fair. Since he couldn’t dig up anybody else to go with, I was drafted.
So I trailed along, examining the barnyard animals, the canned pickles, the prizewinning needlework. We watched humans dancing with dogs and I have to say there’s no canine Fred Astaire out there just yet. We just missed the evident delight of seeing cows milked (incredible! my husband assured me). We ate corny dogs cooked in jalapeno batter and fried cookie dough. (Great stuff. I grew up on fried foods and loved the excuse — no, the patriotic duty — to indulge in them without any kind of remorse. But the fried cookie dough was a gloppy flop. The frying interfered with the essential rawness of the cookie dough itself. Tongues down.)
Anyway, it was fun. I gave myself all kinds of credit for going somewhere my husband really wanted to go and kind of enjoying it, even if I couldn’t work up the same out-of-control enthusiasm he had.
Afterwards, we drove through our old neighborhood in Dallas. It’s always haunting to me to go back to somewhere I’ve lived before, as if I’m flooded by too many memories and looking for something that no longer exists. It makes me sad to think of the discontinuity in our lives caused by moving. I love living where we are, but I miss the shared history with older friends. They knew my kids in diapers and I knew theirs as they wobbled on their first bike rides and went trick-or-treating. No one else will ever know us, or our shared history, in the same way. We lost that by moving.
I demanded that we stop the car and ring the doorbells of houses where some of our best friends lived, just across the street from our old house. My husband parked the car and followed me. He seemed relieved — relieved — that no one was home. So we piled back into the car, when I realized that another set of neighbors, farther down the block might be there. This time, my husband stayed in the car, driving slowly along the block like he was a burglar or something. He got out of the car reluctantly after I hit pay dirt — two old friends were at home.
So we sat and talked for a short time, catching up on their children and grandchildren and our own kids. We heard the latest neighborhood stories — the neighbors who had moved, the houses that had been torn down to clear the way for something bigger and brassier.
It was wonderful. I felt so warm and happy as we left, so thrilled to reconnect with old friends. It’s like pure oxygen to me, makes me feel more alive and happier.
“Wasn’t that just great?” I gushed to my husband, as we drove away. “Aren’t you glad we got to see them?”
“It was all right,” he muttered matter-of-factly.
I wanted to demand whether this kind of small reunion wasn’t far better than all the barnyard animals and icky canned vegetables and heart-attacks-on-a-stick at the state fair? But I didn’t. We’ve been married almost 35 years and I know when to cut out of the game when I’m already ahead.
P.S. An essay of mine just ran in the Austin newspaper: http://www.statesman.com/search/content/editorial/stories/insight/10/14/1014pennebaker.html
(Copyright 2007 by Ruth Pennebaker)