Mexican petunia, gift from Elaine Woelich
With only a few final tasks left on the bathroom project, we headed out for a pre-planned fishing trip to Roaring River. It had rained all night and the skies were cloudy Sunday with air chilly enough for a sweatshirt. The drive down was gorgeous because the early and easy spring had made the grasses, fields, and trees lush; the recent rain had washed them, leaving everything green and vibrant despite a lack of sunshine.
Our friends, Jim and Elaine, had beaten us to the state park. It did not take us long to unload suitcases since the lodge let us check in early. Jim and DH grabbed poles and flies and headed to the river, while Elaine and I poured icy colas and began chattering like magpies, catching up on each others lives. Our friendship is a few months short of being 40 years old. As young marrieds, we ended up in the same apartment complex in Hazelwood where we drove old cars, played board games, threw Frisbees for our dogs, and pooled our foods for simple shared meals as we planned our mutual futures.
Jim and Elaine had grown up in St. Genevieve and married while Jim was in the Navy during the Vietnam years. Once Jim left the battleship Missouri, they came to St. Louis so Jim could attend school and Elaine did cosmetology. DH and I had come from Kansas so DH could design planes for McDonnell Douglas, and I hunted a teaching job. I ended up subbing at Hazelwood High everyday and taught Senior English at night. DH also had a second job in the Sears Credit Depart at Northwest Plaza. Between the two of us, we had four jobs, one car, a school loan, and very little of anything else. However, it was a good time of our life, although we were not aware of that the when every day produced a transmission crisis, hauling clothes to a Laundromat, or when the government contract jobs began to be cut as Vietnam wound down.
Eventually, Jim and Elaine moved first Florissant as Jim joined the McDonnell team; DH found a design job in automotive on the other side of the state. We all stayed in touch through letters, and when we each had our first toddler, the Woelichs came to our home for a few days. We gals had a great time weaving baskets, making macramé, talking motherhood while the men took the canoe to Spring River. We took them to the Lamar Fair, saw Harry Truman’s birthday place, and crossed the state line for Coors beer that was unavailable in Missouri at the time. It was the first of many get togethers we were to have. Another son each, different jobs, first soccer teams, loss of parents, surgeries, and all of life’s events happened while we stayed in touch. Every few years we managed to meet somewhere for a face to face visit. Then they went to Finland for a couple of years to work and still we stayed in touch.
The kids are gone now, scattered across the Midwest, and we use fast emails to stay up on each other’s lives. We aim for a fishing trip once a year or so. Last year it was fishing on Table Rock, but it rained for almost the entire three days. Still, we had some fun eating Italian casseroles with red wine followed by hearty games of dominoes. This year it was Roaring River, and we feared a repeat of rain. However, the clouds moved out late Sunday afternoon; both the days and nights became perfect. The men did fly fishing in the park and also took a boat to Table Rock. We gals scooted over to Eureka Springs, peaking in shops before the summer crowds become thick. A wonderful lunch at the Mud Street Café was delightful.
This year’s rendezvous ended with loading up our gear and then having a nice picnic in the park before a final parting. Dappled sunlight fell over our sandwiches and cookies; the river in deed “roared” as it tripped over the rocks and stones that had been the river bed for eons of time. Now it is time to mow again, finish the bathroom, and find time to enjoy the flowers and deck time of summer. Winter writing rejections are beginning to make themselves known; it is time also for new inspiration and new words, maybe even a poem about old friends.