Thursday, July 23, 2009

A "Soursweet" Weekend Getaway to Lawrence, KS

It was that time of year for my pilgrimage to Lawrence, KS. This time, my friend Sarah was getting hitched, finally, after dating the fellow since she was 16. My husband came on this trip and handled most of the 8 hours driving each way. In spite of having his companionship it was a "soursweet" weekend.

I know. The phrase is "bittersweet." But lately I've been thinking about all things sour and sweet, like my husband's rhubarb dessert made from the red stalks grown in our backyard, or sour cherry jam, or the perfect pluots I finally found at our neighborhood stand. I love sour. I'd spritz lime on my pizza if it weren't for the funny looks. I'd bathe in vinegar. There's something slightly masochistic about a love of sour. Sour foods cause a whisper of a twinge at the back of the mouth, a feeling that borders on pain. You know, the whole, "make it hurt so good" thing.

There's nothing better to soothe the pang of sour than sweet. "Bittersweet" makes no sense because bitter can't be eased by sweet. Trust me, last week I stumbled across no less than two bitter almonds while munching on my midafternoon snack. Sweet almonds did nothing to erase the foulness on my tongue. Only time erases the feeling and taste of bitterness. Sweet and sour, on the other hand, are a bit like ying and yang, one easing the other.

The weekend started with dropping off our nine-month-old Juno (a dog, not a child) at her boarding facility. J and I had had a rough week. She was acting the typical adolescent for days -- misbehaving on walks, not listening to commands that she's "known" for ages. As I drove her to the facility, I was thinking, "We need a break from each other." I was almost looking forward to the time apart. Sure enough, as soon as the boarding employee grabbed her collar to lead her down the narrow hallway to the play area, she freaked out, slipped away from his grasp and ran back to between my legs. She took a seat on the floor next to me and gazed up. I read her eyes. "Don't leave me!" Of course, I'd read her all wrong. She was just afraid of the hallway and the relative stranger grabbing her collar. As soon as I lured her down the hall and she found her way through the door and to the other dogs, I was but a faint smell on her thick coat. It was a soursweet departure.

I think, too, there's something soursweet about weddings. It's a joy to see old friends and to watch a friend make this commitment, but it's a reminder about how things change. My friend from graduate school and fellow Lawrence weekend pilgrim, Aura, reminded me of how it was back in graduate school when husbands, marriage, houses, and kids were the farthest things from our minds. And there I was, my baby-filled belly protruding while we waited in the hotel lobby for my husband. Not that I don't love my life now, but it's a hard lesson to realise you can't have it all. I can't be foot-loose and fancy free and settled and secure at the same time. Perhaps it was all the more striking of a lesson because we were in Lawrence, a place that reminds me of Madison, WI, the town where I went to college and that I love almost as much as any town I've lived in.

We spent our day and a half eating perfect French Toast at Milton's, mediocre seafood at Angler's, and memorable bbq at Arthur Bryant's (sorry no food pics this time); watching crappy movies in our hotel bed; wandering into craft stores along Lawrence's Mass Street; and visiting the Haskell-Baker Wetlands where area universities study ecology, I took most of these pictures, we decided we both like cattails, debated stealing a few osage orange fruit (hedge apples) to deter spiders in our house (we did not), and considered the relative merits of fording the river versus building a raft. We did not die of dysentary.

With no dog and no housework, we got to sleep in in the luxurious king-sized bed. The rooms had been recently re-done so everything was clean and stark. It wasn't home.

On Friday night we laid in bed and I felt the baby tumbling around inside my belly. At a scant 19 weeks, I was sure it was my imagination when I thought I felt a kick on the outside of my taught skin. But sure enough, when Eric put his hand on me stomach, he felt a nudge. He smiled a surprised smile. Finally, I think he's beginning to believe I really am pregnant. The weekend wasn't entirely "soursweet;" some moments were just perfectly sweet.


Marin said...

great post, i was hooked at the first sour+sweet reference. my favorite version of that phenom is the surinam cherry, which grew like dandelions in our old neighborhood in honolulu.
good times,

Rhena said...

Thanks, Marin....