Sunday, January 12, 2014

No. 144 – More Than This

Performer: Roxy Music
Songwriter: Bryan Ferry
Original Release: Avalon
Year: 1982
Definitive Version: None.

Laurie and I hadn’t planned to go anywhere for Thanksgiving in 2005. Laurie had a show and an established tradition of having Thanksgiving at her apartment for her posse.

But that year, as luck would have it, nearly everyone declined due to family obligations and other vacation plans. I remember the phone call we had in early November while I got dressed to go to one of my library “offices” when I suggested, what if, this year, we went to Columbus for Thanksgiving? Laurie thought that was a good idea.

I was overjoyed, because it would be the first time I spent a Thanksgiving with my family and a date since … well, maybe Beth more than 20 years before, maybe never, actually. It would have to be a wind-sprint trip, however. Due to Laurie’s rehearsal schedule, we’d have to get back to Chicago Saturday, and we couldn’t get away Wednesday until late. Sacrifices must be made.

The day before we left, I heard this song on the radio while I left a Kinkos after copying my resume for another job application after my move to Chicago two months earlier. It was good timing, because I was very excited that Laurie would meet everyone in my family. Well, she already had met everyone in my nuclear family, of course, at Paul and Jin’s wedding the year before, but this was the first time we made a family appearance as a couple.

On Wednesday, I loaded up the car and swung by Laurie’s rehearsal space to pick her up at about 11. I made it all the way to Indianapolis before I faded.

We stopped at a Motel 6 near Post Road on the east side of town that had, shall we say, an interesting clientele at 3 a.m. There was a young couple in their car, seemingly debating about whether they wanted to get a room. A black woman with fire-engine red hair and a seemingly too-high hemline for a chilly night stood outside the lobby.

Laurie and I didn’t care what went on as long as our room was warm. It was, but that was about it. I’d spent many a night at a Motel 6, but this one was by far the dingiest. It served its purpose well, however, and the next day we were up bright and early to finish the drive.

Laurie was nervous on the drive, unsure what my family might think of her. Are you nuts? Yes, it’s water under the bridge by now, but the mere fact that you aren’t Debbie automatically puts you in good favor. It’ll be fine. She still wanted to get flowers for Laura as a hostess gift, so we stopped at a Meijer outside Dayton.

Our arrival in Columbus was tumultuous and unforgettable. Whatever nerves Laurie felt were put to rest instantly as Dad gave her a big hug. But that couldn’t compare with the greeting I got from Maile: She threw herself on the ground, tummy-side up and whined loudly as I petted her vigorously. Laurie said later it almost sounded as though Maile were crying, because she was so happy to see the Alpha Dog back home.

Right as this was happening, Scott, Shani, Leah and their dog, Kirby, showed up. It was every bit as chaotic as you might think it would be for six people and two dogs to be crushed into a 4-by-4 foyer, and it was too much for Leah, who just had awakened from a car-ride nap.

She cried out for “Daddy” to pick her up after he had just set her down to take off his coat. Scott picked her up, handed her to Shani to again try to remove his coat as the dogs carried on below. Then he turned to Laurie. “Hi. I’m Daddy,” is how he re-introduced himself.

Several aunts, uncles and cousins were with Laura in the kitchen, and after the introductions, Laurie set herself to working as sous chef, asking what she could do to help. She said later it was a defense mechanism so she wouldn’t have to make small talk. I told her that she couldn’t have ingratiated herself with my family any better.

After that, Thanksgiving settled down into a more sedate affair. That night, after the extended family and Scott and Shani left for home, Laurie and I, and Dad and Laura settled in for a game of Scrabble in the living room. At one point, I stole a letter on the board that Laurie planned to use, and she called me a bastard.

“I can’t believe I said that in front of your father,” she said after we had retired to the guest bedroom, which had been my bedroom most of the previous two years. Don’t worry about it. He’s a lawyer; he’s heard worse. Hell, he’s SAID worse. When we left, she got another big hug from Dad. She had passed the audition.

Although it was a short visit, it seemed to recalibrate me. I wasn’t homesick per se, but I had been struggling to establish myself in Chicago, and it felt good to be home. It felt even better that Laurie was with me then and when I drove back to Chicago—the first time we made the drive together from my old home to my new one. That seemed to be a symbolic gesture, and I was eager to get back and get back to work on my new life.

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