Novak (novak) wrote,

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Personal: Heading Down to Visit Angie and Chad

The other weekend, Thursday the 17th through Sunday the 20th was a grand time. It was finally time to move beyond the "I should come down to visit again, sometime" stage and actually get off my rear and visit Angie and Chad. It felt like we had gotten together and all hung out just maybe three years ago or so, but in fact it was before the two of them started having any kids, where we had the luxury of just talking at all hours. Fortunately the shift would be no problem for me, as I am perfectly used to putting conversations on "pause" frequently as various crises or moments of drama appear with kids: sometimes I've seen people apologize repeatedly for such interruptions of a visit or a phone conversation. It seems people worry about being "bad hosts" or such because of such, but I think rather that expecting otherwise would make me a bad guest. And besides: the occasional imagination and insanity of children is often so fascinating in its own right.

Since getting in touch with one another last month, Angie and I had been laughing about all sorts of LOMC memories and people popping up in the last few weeks, like her running into Darcie at the Fourth of July fireworks in the Peoria area. On my way down to stay with Angie and Chad, I had, at Angie's late suggestion, decided not to drive down and instead took the train, saving myself some money both in the car rental and in the high price of gas right now. I rode from Milwaukee to Union Station in Chicago, enjoying some comfortable reading along the way, and then got on my train to Bloomington around 5pm.

Walking down the aisle, I was starting to think I would have to sit with someone as there were no available sets of seats entirely open. As I've walked halfway back through the car before I make this decision, I then look to the first open seat next before me. I lock eyes with David. We recognize one another instantly: "Dave Douglass!" "Mike Novak!"

Another old friend from LOMC.

The other week, in my ongoing project of scanning my old photography and backing that up electronically, I had just gotten to my last summer at LOMC and had scanned a picture of David, while listening to a Midnight Oil disc I'd gotten while staying with him at the University of Illinois, wondering what had happened to him. A few days later: here we are, due to his deciding to leave a conference in Chicago early and get home to his family in Bloomington. I hadn't seen him since probably the end of undergrad. The two-and-a-half hour trip flew by as we caught one another up on our basic stories. When the train arrived in Bloomington, I stood up and was instantly seen by Angie, who bobbed and smiled having spotted me, as she waited on the platform outside the other side of the train. I leaned to the side and gestured with my thumb over my shoulder as Dave then stood up behind me and Angie squinted, trying to see who I was gesturing at, and then her jaw fell open as she recognized David. Stepping out, I told her that I'd taken matters into my own hands and invited him along to the LOMC reunion cookout I'd suggested she host while I visited. We all had some good laughter while the two of them exchanged news, and as we were introduced to Angie's daughters Clara and Eva. I filled Angie in on more details as we drove back to her and Chad's place, both about Dave's story and about news of Darrell and Debbie, Dave's sibs who also were part of our time at LOMC.

I had to tell both Angie and Chad how disappointed I was when I arrived. One of the few details of conversation that I remembered from my last visit was a fantasy – more of Chad's than Angie's as I recall – of redoing the yard as English-style gardens and thereby alarming/offending all the neighbours and their concerns about neighbours affecting real estate values. But the yard, while given a number of interesting or fun additions for their girls, was still very American. As hoped, they laughed at the old idea when I brought it to mind with my mock dismay. I was also introduced at this point to Lydia, the eldest of the daughters, and was quickly settled in, taking over their music room on the first floor of the house. I had a good, hobbitish second supper of spaghetti while talking to the two of them, and getting the occasional feeler from the girls (ages 9, 6, and 4) as they were trying to figure out who this new houseguest was.

Chad had to work the next day, which meant that he had to check out of the first night's talk on the earlier side, but Angie kept talking with me until around 1am, still touching on catch-up stuff, bits of follow-up to the catching-up we had done earlier, and the like. That Chad had checked-out a bit earlier meant that we could actually do all our "Whatever happened to so-and-so?" kind of conversation about old friends and circumstances then and the next day so that we didn't threaten to bore Chad to tears.

Friday was low-key and pleasant. I tagged along as Angie did simple things like taking the girls to the library in the afternoon, which lead to some small talk about how I think that that was one of the greatest things that my Mom ever did for us, talking me, Leslie and Joe down to the Oregon Public Library every Saturday in the early afternoon. My acquisition of history began with reading WWII histories written for young people in the 1950s, and biographies of old baseball greats like Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Ty Cobb, with occasional later figures like Mickey Mantle and my fav, Carl Yastrzemski seeming strangely modern by comparison. While at the library I got to talking with Lydia about her taste in mysteries, hearing and failing to recognize the names of the currently-popular series she liked, but hearing an old favourite in the Hardy Boys. I began talking to her about the fabulousness of my own favourite from those young mysteries: the now-vanished group known as The Three Investigators. Those books I've saved for my nieces with growing (and hopeful) anticipation, and I now began to describe the basic premise to Lydia as I began to hunt the stacks with her for some old copies of these favourites, feeling particularly triumphant when finding a battered copy of The Secret of Terror Castle tucked away. I explained to her some of the same differences of technology (the book was published and is more-or-less set in 1964) that I've just had to start to explain to my niece Grace, who was amazed to hear that there were times without cell phones and even electricity.

At dinnertime I was absurdly excited to hear that Angie was planning on Beef Stroganoff, which is perhaps my favourite dish, and which you just don't find being made anymore. Chad was unable to make it home for dinner because of a project under deadline, leaving more to eat, and I took it upon myself to persuade Eva, who decided that she didn't like it much at all, that it was the best of dishes by eating roughly 43 metric tons of it, myself, which only made her look at me all the more doubtfully.

I dug around in Chad's architecture books while Angie took time to help the girls off to bed, and then we talked for a lesser amount of time, after staying up later the night before. I think here we began to sink into my reading of Donna Freitas' Sex and the Soul: Juggling Sexuality, Spirituality, Romance, and Religion on America's College Campuses, an article about which I had already posted in the journal, to some interesting discussion. Angie had picked up a copy after reading that, though she had not yet begun reading it. But we began talking over some of the stuff I'd read so far, and I was particularly interested to hear her take on it since when I first became friends with her she had shortly begun teaching Human Sexuality at the University of Illinois. Her work in that field, combined with my reading in theology and spirituality, had begun a long, ongoing conversation between us on the intersection of the two fields, fueled by our mutual belief that there was a lack of depth or nuance in discussion of the subject in the collegiate evangelical circles in which we moved. It was those ongoing conversations over a few years that made me very comfortable in dealing with the subject publicly, which in turn formed the basis of lots of talks with my high school students, both in groups and in private, in coming years. Now, I found, Angie's own interest in the subject had been reawakened by some teaching opportunities she had had in her church, where she had communicated (a different take on "preaching") on the subject a few weeks ago, and where she felt intent on being really of use and going beyond the expected platitudes. I was intrigued to hear her describing her experience with that, and thought that the years of simple life and family experience since she had taught the subject must give her new insight, and I said how interested I would be to hear what she might come up with, if she ended up trying to develop some of her ideas more formally.

Chad got in about 45 minutes after she had gone off to bed, but was still wound up from a 16-hour workday and so we sat in the kitchen for some time, him with a beer and me with one of the cream sodas Angie had re-introduced me to, catching up one-on-one, too. I accused him of having faked the whole late-night effort with his team so that they could sneak out and catch the opening night of The Dark Knight and we talked about that for a moment before sliding on to other things, hitting bits of architecture and theology, catch-up news of his job changes and my grad school, and whatnot.

Tags: books, food, friends-niu era, lomc, mysticism/spirituality, old stories, oregon illinois, personal, sexuality, teaching, travel

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