Memory lane

Jul 28, 2007

Big rains rolled through Chapel Hill and Durham last night, delaying the start of a dinner party at my home, but my MEASURE Evaluation colleagues made it. This meal was my way to thank them for helping me enjoy my time at that job.

As I fell asleep last night, I remembered a dinner party that Erin and I were invited to back in December 1996. Ann Sethness and Jack Smith had hosted us in their Bratenahl condo, along with former Ohio Governor Dick Celeste and his wife, Jacqueline Lundquist, and Progressive Insurance’s art curator Toby Devan Lewis.

Ann knew that Erin and I were planning on applying to the Peace Corps, and since her friend Dick Celeste had been director of the agency under President Carter, she arranged for us to spend a few hours talking about international service and travel — President Clinton had just appointed Celeste to be ambassador to India. He promised to put in a good word about us to the Peace Corps director at the time, Mark Gearan (Celeste’s protege).

Readers of this blog know that we got in, and had a fantastic experience in the Republic of Vanuatu. A few weeks after that dinner, Toby Lewis gave us a personal tour of Progressive’s new building and the fabulous art spread throughout (view the art). My favorite was the Frank Gehry fish lamp in the office of Progressive CEO (and Toby’s former husband) Peter B. Lewis.

That was last night’s recollection.

Tonight, driving home from a visit with my mother in High Point, I stared into a full moon obscured at times by streaking strands of rainclouds. That vision reminded me of a night nearly 15 years ago.

This was the summer after I graduated from John Carroll University, and Erin had come to visit me in Illinois one last time before I moved out to Hawaii. We didn’t know if and when we’d ever see each other again, and when it was time for Erin to fly back to Cleveland, we simply sat at the gate — a time when family and friends could freely walk the concourses — holding hands. When Erin boarded her plane, I walked out of the airport into a stormy night. Looking up, I saw the full moon erupt out of the clouds, and I knew I’d see Erin again.

Here’s the poem I wrote a few days later (it makes references to my friend, Stephan, and my mother, who also had departed recently via the air):

airport goodbyes,
an uncertain moment
hanging between an instancy and eternity.

what to say, sitting here,
no words to articulate the feeling inside,
a smile suffices.

soon,
to be left, alone,
to walk empty concourses
which echo
which echo
sandalled feet.

one left with tears to Toulouse,
another with eyes twinkling love,
mother gone with exhaustion, seeking.

airport goodbyes,
uneasy but necessary,
runways that take can also return.

As I was enjoying moonlit memories, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts came on the radio, singing “I love rock n’ roll.” And that had me back in 1982 sitting in a diner booth in Caldwell, Idaho, where my dad would take me for pancakes. Each booth had a flip-case connected to the diner’s jukebox, and as I was flipping through the names of the records one Saturday morning, I recognized a song I’d heard on the school bus that week. Any time I hear Joan Jett’s anthem, I sing along as loudly as I can.

Maybe that’s why, earlier in the day on my way to High Point, I had enjoyed Sound Opinions, that cool public radio talk show about rock and roll music (I listen on WUNC).

In the car tonight/moon shining, dinners dancing/loving my mem’ries

Anton Zuiker

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