Wednesday, April 05, 2006

My Outdoor Cousin

When I go to the restaurant I know, I order the same food. I don’t like having to figure out what I might want again. I don’t like being disappointed when I could have had what I already know I like. When I drive to a place I like to go, I take the route I like, I don’t usually wander. I look forward to the sights I know are coming, and I don’t want to give them up for something that might not be there.

Most folks will tell you I’m not much of an outside person. I like to be near my music and my computer.

But whenever my cousin, Joe, is around here, or I’m around where he is, we always end up outside or in the car going somewhere. Joe is my outdoor cousin.

It started one Saturday afternoon that I was home from college, walking down the street in the town where we both lived. He offered me a ride home. We decided to go out to lunch at the local root beer stand−frozen mug root beer in the car and all. We had such a fine talk that we decided to keep talking. He suggested that we go hiking at the Rock.

I said, “Are you kidding? Who DO you think you’re talking to? I hate the fall winds.”

“Aw C’mon, We’ll keep talking. You’re only home for the weekend.”

He had me there. I did like talking. We drove to Starved Rock State Park and walked out to the cliffs over the river. It was fall. The wind was cold, but the friendship was warm enough to make a difference. The space and the trees make talking so easy that my ears forgot to hurt when the wind rushed through them.

That’s the day Joe and I decided that both of our families were totally crazy. We divorced our parents and our siblings on the spot and started a separate family of our own. Of course, we never told them. We walked, laughing and talking like that for a couple of hours.

Then we went into the fabulous, old park hotel lobby. It was built by depression recovery workers, using giant old logs and stone. We drank hot cider in front of the 8-foot walk through fireplace, on mustard yellow couches under floor lamps with fringed lampshades, the two of us still talking. Sometimes we were quiet. We pretended we were in another country−Luxemburg, or Lithuania, or maybe it was Russia. At one point we walked out the French doors along the back to let the view know that we’d been there.

That was a couple of decades ago, give or take ten years, or maybe it was yesterday.

I’m still not that much of an outdoor person, but whenever the mention of a State Park in the fall comes up, I think for a second of how my ears might hurt, and then I think of my outdoor cousin.
Sometimes the last thing you want to do is the one you’d do again in a second.
−me strauss Letting me be


Doug said...

I want that last line on my desk. Starved Rock St. Park sounds familiar. Is it between Dubuque or Davenport and Chicago?

ME Strauss said...

Hi Doug,
Yep, Starved Rock is right off Route 80 and well worth a visit to the Lodge. I like it best in the fall and winter--when there aren't so many Chicago visitors.

You're welcome to take that line to your desk. I like the idea of having my writing there.

Doug said...

Not if you saw what else is on my desk, but thanks.

ME Strauss said...

You always make me laugh. Have you been keeping Ambrose on your desk again?

Rain said...

Oh Liz, you stir up the best memories! I have an outdoor cousin too! Haven't heard from him in a long time. I must get in touch with him. Thanks.

ME Strauss said...

Hi Rain,
I'm so happy that I reminded you of someone who means a lot to you. That's a really cool feeling. Thank you for telling me.

fineartist said...

This piece, this memory was so good to read.

Like Rain I can relate. My outdoor cousin and I used to ride horses and smoke ciggy butts in the baseball dugout, and we walked for miles together, laughing and talking.

Then I began to remember…

And one thought let to another and I found myself thinking about my “take baths together” cousins. There were a lot of us, my grandma used to stick as many as she could into the tub at one time…before the water heater ran out of hot water, cousins included. When I turned four I remember insisting that I NOT be plunked in a tub with opposite sex brothers or cousins.

I’m glad I found this piece, this memory, it’s poetically beautiful, and fun.

I have no doubt though, that in my case with the bathing, it will continue to be the last thing I would want to do, heh heh, but I loved the truth that can be found, in most cases, from this last sentence of yours.

Man oh man you are good at what you do.

ME Strauss said...

Hello Lori,
How nice to wake up to hear about your cousins. My aunt used to do the same with her kids--threee boys and three girls. When I stayed over I'd be part of the girls' shift for sure, so much so that I thought that's what you do when there was more than one little kid. My uncle once got mad at me for leaving the bath water in the tub for that reason.

Thank you for bring that memory back to me.