Thursday, April 1, 2010

First Xmas Return: Champaign 1996

We had moved to Fort Lauderdale in the spring of 1996. In May, I think. By the mid-summer we had found a house to rent in Victoria Park and were moved in. By the end of August we'd made friends, First Daughter had started kindergarten at VSY and I was in classes at FIU's graduate writing program. We felt good, Fru and I, our little family settled into our slice of South Florida.
But, Fru wanted to go "home" for Xmas.
Well. Okay. I mean, I wasn't too keen on it. I would have been happy with just a small nuclear Xmas in our rented house, but, she had come all the way down to Florida for me and she was working full time and how could I say "No"? I couldn't. Besides, I liked Fru's family. I liked Xmas in Champaign on the whole. So, we drove up there when the time came.
And it was nice enough. We stayed at Fru's father's place. I saw people I'd known and went out and around with them a bit. But something was nagging at me the whole while. And I knew what it was one evening as I ran around with Fru's sister's husband (her brother-in-law and therefore, I guess my brother-in-law--Dan--who I always got along with the best and who gave me work now and then). Dan and I were out one night, I think we went to the Tumble Inn, and were coming back with Dan always taking the side streets to get around and it was dark and cold-frozen, the streets were empty of people and there was snow blowing. Little wisps of snow looking like fog being blown by a frigid wind across the steppes of Champaign. And I felt a great dread. I felt like I had not gone away and was still living in that town and that--even if it was true that we had moved and had settled in Fort Lauderdale--I would be coming back to live there again soon.
Okay. Champaign is a nice town. It's no different than many of the Iowa towns I like. But, as I've said, I had mixed feelings about that place and spent six years there, most of those six years spent trying to get out. And I had gotten out. But then I was back. Back in town during the desperate winter months and I felt like I was desperate, too.
But, it wasn't so. Because Xmas came and went and we packed up our Volvo and I pulled out of her father's driveway and we--Fru, First Daughter, Second Daughter and I--hit Interstate 57 with snow on the ground and drove south: Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia.
We drove home.

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