Tuesday, November 12, 2013
May Never Pass This Way Again
The temperature plummeted a full twenty degrees overnight in Columbus—along with the promise of snow—but last night, the only thing I had on my mind was a dish of ice cream.
It's hard, leaving a place that I never called home, but which could very well have served as a second home, anyhow.
Columbus, Ohio, has been that kind of place from my earliest growing-up years. It has become a city I've come to know—and navigate—through frequent visits. At first, those visits were sporadic, when it was just a trip home for my mother, to visit her parents and sister who had never left home in quite the same attention-grabbing way she had. As times improved for young marrieds raising kids, we kids saw more of our mother's Columbus—enough for my sister and me to claim our favorite spots.
I remember the trips from our grandparents' place on Charing Road up Riverside Drive to the Columbus Zoo—which, to our dismay, was not located in Columbus, but in a remote spot beyond the city limits, making the trip unendurably longer for fidgety grade-school students during summer break.
I fondly recall trips even further out into the country to places which I euphemistically dub "the dairy air" where one such farm featured its own ice cream parlor. On those lingering summer evenings, after my grandfather returned home from work, he'd drive us out there after dinner. We'd all hurry inside the store holding our breath, order our favorite flavor of ice cream scooped atop a cone, then return outdoors to eat our treat in its native habitat.
Whatever were we thinking?
As far as the cars that got us to our summertime destinations—whether inside city limits or not—I remember my grandfather asking us kids, before heading out to work for the day, what kind of car we would like him to bring home that evening. My sister and I would always clamor for a convertible. When he came home that evening, sure enough, there would be a convertible sitting in the driveway. My grandmother would heave a sigh, retreat to her bedroom for a kerchief and we'd all head out the door for an evening drive. That was the kind of treat the grandchildren of a car salesman could expect during summer vacation visits.
Growing up changed the nature of the visits but not the location. While we grandchildren went off to college and entered our own careers, grandparents and aunt continued life in the same community they had come to call home decades before. After the death of my father, even the renegade member of that Davis family circle—my mother, who had left town as soon as she could graduate from high school—eventually acquiesced and returned home.
That began the yearly pilgrimages to Columbus. And it stayed that way for many, many years—until the inevitable happened and we lost our mother, and health difficulties confronted our aunt. Then, a frenzy of activity escalated those visits.
Until it was all over.
That is what left me, last night, thinking about the import of my flight out of here tomorrow afternoon. It will most likely represent my last time to ever visit this city. Gone are those childhood visits with grandparents. Gone, too, are holidays with my mom. Gone, even, are my adult-perspective business dealings with those whose services I needed to engage on behalf of my aunt.
There are some things I will leave behind with this departure from Columbus that are inextricably intertwined in my own identity. I'm not sure I can accurately say that, upon leaving here, it will be as if I am tearing my identity apart. But there are parts of the Columbus area—and especially the nearby cities of Powell and Dublin, where my mother and aunt, respectively, last lived—that most certainly are deeply engrained within my consciousness. They may not have been the elements that shaped me per se, but they definitely were areas I enjoyed having as part of my life.
Perhaps it was for that reason—as if to capture the essence of what I was about to leave for the last time—I found myself wanting to retreat to some semblance of a childhood memory, recreate a family tradition at a place we frequented and have a scoop of ice cream at Graeter's just this one last time.
Even if it was followed by snow.