I went to Ashland yesterday morning to visit with some friends I went to college with. Sounds like a fun time, right?
I got there early, stopped at the Goasis just to stop there, and I was thrilled, excited, home, when in the process of walking in and out, four men opened the door and stepped out of the way. One man even was halfway through the door, and stepped back out again. And crawling all over Goasis, farmers, men in Wranglers with torn sleeves and long, lean farm muscles. There were more pick-up trucks than Mercedes, and right away, I saw a Yoder Furniture truck. There were three Amish horses and buggies just off I-71, the smell of manure and cut grass in the air, and excitement all around us. The freshmen were there for their first weekend.
There are so many places I used to go in Ashland, and as I drove down Main Street where the bars were too far to walk. Center Street, where all the houses are beautiful, hidden by bushes, set far back from the road. I looked for the poor homeless man who used to live in a gazebo by the movie theater, and for my old coffee house, which had been turned into a party supply store.
I went to see friends, though. One moved to Indianapolis after college, one to Canton, Ohio, and one remained in Ashland. I, of course, have been bouncing between North Carolina and Franklin, Pennsylvania. So we met up, drank some beers on the Ashland friend’s porch, hung out with her husband and her tenant. And it was peaceful, but it felt so adult.
We ate dinner at Buffalo Wild Wings, the closest bar to campus, the one we stumbled home from on countless star-filled nights with our ears ringing from karaoke and our throats sore from cigarettes. And then we wandered campus.
Our dorm was called Myers, and it used to be all girls. Now two floors are boys, and everything is different. The picnic table where I smoked cigarettes with a long-haired boy in college is now a babbling brook. The diamond-plated stairs that I used to slide down in the snow are now concrete and safe. The umbrella trees where we used to hide are now open mulch. But my tree on the Quad is there. It’s still strong and standing.
But it’s not the same. I cannot expect it to stay the same, although it wouldn’t hurt if it did. I learned so much about who I was at Ashland because of the places I went, frequented, lived. I’m not sure that matters as much now, though, as I am a completely different person. I know this only because my friends and I were not connecting…or maybe we were, the way we used to. But I felt like a cool Autumn breeze, blowing through the Summer of my life, where my friends still live. Am I jaded to already be the one in the Autumn of my life?
Just a few pictures from the weekend.
And now, some of Mike and me, for good measure.