|Walks to Remember|
|March 30, 2003|
Going home is good for the soul. I'd hazard that it's even better than a visit to a spa for all their hot and smelly rocks. I've come back to Boston refreshed, happy, and calmly nostalgic. The zennish state I'm in is borne out by the fact that I don't go home all that often -- in fact, this was the first time I'd been home since I got married two years ago this coming October. Before that, all my visits home for a year-and-a-half had been frantic with wedding plans and fraught with errands on the same bill. This time I had little else to do but cook for my friends and family, enjoy their company, and enjoy the company of the city.
Since I have four weeks of back-to-back exams in Haute/Nouvelle Cuisine as well as French Provincial coming up, I had grand designs to study. That didn't exactly happen. Instead? I went home to Minneapolis and I went for a walk.
Written down it looks rather insignificant, but our walks are more than simply putting one foot in front of the other for a few miles. A trip home isn't complete if it doesn't include at least one dinner from The King and I, taking my mother's convertible out for a few trips to Byerly's, and walks with Nix and Puzer. When you get right down to it, our walks have become an institution that has lasted nearly fifteen years.
All through high school and during college breaks, we walked. We walked around these two lakes -- Isles and Harriet -- to talk, to fight, to debate, to console, to confess, to release. Innumerable important decisions were thrashed out on these walks. They grew in importance as we grew. We have progressed from "I don't know what to wear to the dance, like, at all," to "I don't know if I want to have kids, like, ever." I can't even count how many times one of us called the other up after dinner to extend this invitation: "I'm stressing." "Walk?" "Yeah."
Oh, the ears that burned on those walks! To our credit, since we only really talked about people we cared about, we weren't gossips. Heaven forbid. "We haven't been able to find that hula girl tie for Blake so I think we should get something else." "Why has Brett been so crabby?" "Is she eating enough these days, or totally O.D.-ing on the fruit?" "God, Alec's getting on my nerves -- I can't even talk to him without being bitchy." "Can I borrow your blue skirt?" "Are you bothering with Carnation Grams this year?" "I want you to cut my hair this weekend." "What are we going to do about her birthday?" It's funny and sort of sad to look back on all the things that were Just So Important at that time: certain guys, dances, college applications, certain guys.
Depending on the time of year, we were surrounded by the same four smells: spring (thawing dog poo), winter (ice, snow, snow and ice), summer (warm lake water and milfoil), and fall (dry leaves and cooling tree bark). Winters with a wind chill of seventy-five degrees below zero did little to keep us from our treks. We bundled up in nothing short of ten layers -- we gradually stripped them off as our bodies warmed up -- tied down the hats with scarves, and balled up our hands inside our mittens as we got out of the heated car. When the temperature hit thirty above, we knew we could leave our jackets in the car and would most likely be losing the mittens halfway around the lake. Sometimes we would experience "Thigh Itch." That's when it's so cold and your skin gets so flush with blood vessels expanding with exercise that once you get inside a normal temp, your thighs start to itch like mad. There have been times when I've itched so hard, I managed to bruise myself but that just gave more weight to my "Pathetic Invalid" moniker.
Depending on our mood, we chose either Harriet or Isles. Isles was when we were in a Elaine's Fateful Pond's state of mind. It was mystical, peaceful, soothing. But when we were "half sick of shadows" we booked on over to the loud aunt that Harriet was -- blowsy, rattling, and vivid. Being teenagers, I think we spent more time being tragical around Isles. In fact, I think that's still the lake of choice. Perhaps we haven't changed as much as we think we have.
The one thing that was irksome about Isles was the lack of (ahem) facilities. If you started out with a full gut of liquid, you better hope you sweated it out because there really was no place to, you know, go. Considering Puzer's famously tiny bladder, it could well be counted on that she would be bursting before we got back to the car. At least at Harriet you had the bandstand confection-area. There may actually have been a few desperate runs to some high bushes, but in my dotage, I'm not certain of the particulars.
There's this house that faces Isles. From the outside, it looks like something you'd find on a beach or could imagine Kelly and Donna popping out of their bikinis around. In fact, it looks very much like three of Kelly and Donna's beach apartments stacked on top of each other. We never saw the inside but it seemed to have three distinct levels all approximately the same size. Since high school, the three of us had largish plans to live in that house together. Each of us would get our own level -- I don't remember who had dibs on what anymore but I have a suspicion that our personal preferences changed every year -- and we would throw big parties. It's a very special house. It's also probably close to three million dollars. Yet it continues to be our House of Dreams.
Sometimes the walks were hot, sticky and bug-ridden. Sometimes they were fast, furious, and fueled by righteous indignation. But always, ALWAYS, they had to go for the full two or three miles. Once we got out of the car and started on the goose-pooped path, we had to finish the walk no matter what. Even if we got halfway around and it started to pour and flash lightning, we pushed on. Cramps? Walk them off. There really wasn't any other choice. You couldn't cut the walk short by pulling a Jesus to get back to the car. Even with the ice, it wasn't exactly safe to go that route.
Once we got home, we were always nicely fatigued, talked out, and probably pleasanter for our families to be around. It's very possible that all those walks saved my parents tons in potential therapy bills. And in the last ten years since I left home, times have been when I wished I had one of those lakes and one of those girls to walk with.
I think I grew up in the most beautiful place on earth.