The aroma of Carmel Truffle coffee envelops my tiny dorm— and I ruminate over my inactivity.
Usually, I have great ideas but never finish or pull through with projects of my own. There are so many things about which to write, and I can’t focus on a particular one. But the recent cloudiness and cold in St. Louis has sparked memories and reflection:
I love cold, cloudy weather. It originates in my childhood, as many habits do. My hometown, Jefferson City, hardly offers any unique shopping places or chain stores— not one store, besides a few, does Columbia or the Lake of the Ozarks have that Jefferson City does; therefore, a spontaneous day-trip to farther locations— as far as Quincy, Illinois —were not uncommon in my family.
My mom, aunt, Gram, cousin, and I pack up in the fading blue Ford Taurus and depart to our intended destination— the Lake, St. Louis, or Quincy (I’ll explain the significance of Quincy shortly). Ash, my cousin, listens to Savage Garden on her Walkman; I listen to my beloved elders talk about anything and everything. Gram is driving and my mom is sitting in the front with her— I’m squeezed in the middle with Ash and Auntie on either side— my mom gets carsick very easily and has to sit in the front. Sometimes I fiddle with lace and cardboard depictions of animals, the ones that are in the small compartment behind my head, but soon it becomes tedious and tiresome and monotonous.
I wonder if I get my feminist values from these car rides. Sure, these three ladies aren’t burning their bras for Susan B. Anthony, nor are they vocal about women’s rights. But they are strong and independent.
Quincy, IL, circa 1999: There is a small café at the river’s edge, which offers typical food. This diner, from the looks of it, has been through several changes in management. It’s winter and the bald trees line the shore of the muddy water. Our family, not fancy or demanding, regards this as gourmet— charm is everything. I expect that Gram, my mom, or Auntie will get either a burger or a French dip; I may even venture to say that Gram gets the fish & chips— it totally depends on each one’s mood, and the lot of them does not get the same thing; why would one sample one’s own dish? After the meal, which the three argue who will pay, we head to the mall. I admire Quincy’s mediocre mall; later in life I come to realize that it resembles the mall depicted in the sitcom Roseanne. The shopping center is quite dull and fading— but the secret resides in the market. Quincy is far enough away yet close enough to several metropolitan areas: specifically, St. Louis and Chicago. Retailers send popular items and reduce their prices, because, brashly, no one comes to Quincy— herein lies our tactics. Already cheap items are slashed in clearance bins, but there isn’t a sufficient population to sweep the shelves clear of the merchandise. We are bargain hunters, to say the least!
Our trips primarily took place in the fall or winter, because of cabin fever— that, and Gram has a pool, so summers were spent there. It seemed that every trip, no matter where, was a cloudy day— the land barren and dull, the sky overcast.
Gram traded in her New Car (the old Taurus); as Ash became older and doing more things that didn’t include us, we slowly stopped going— now she has two babies. I see how I developed from playing with those cardboard animals to listening to the Killers on my MP3 player.
I’m not a sad person, not in the slightest, but those days began my maturation; on those days, I grew up. And every time the clouds sink closer to the ground, the air becomes crisper, the leaves begin to fall, I think of those weekend trips. The love and closeness of my family on Highway 54 and 70 miles an hour enter my mind.