Surprise! Back in Columbus, nine months after our last visit

After seven weeks of regrouping in (hot!) Florida, our departure from that state had an uncharacteristic element of stealth. No fanfare or weblog entries, just a long drive north in our new van, nicknamed the Squid Wagon.

The occasion that caused us to leave Dad’s without even a hint on this website was a surprise party planned for Barry’s sister, Julie, in Columbus, Ohio. Driving 18 hours from Florida, we were not the guests who traveled the farthest — that was Barry’s parents, Sharon and Dave, who flew all the way from Washington state. Needless to say, Julie was stunned (and pleasantly surprised, I think!) to have her whole family in town for the week.

At Julie’s party, Barry and I square-danced for the first time since we left Ohio about ten years ago. The dancing left us gasping for breath, we laughed so hard. Barry was not the only one who got his right and left confused!

Back in 1996, when Sharon and Dave were planning their move from Ohio to Washington, Julie went to China to teach English for a year. She’d had her eye on some fellow who just wasn’t responding. So, after her stint in China, she was going to give up on him and settle in the Pacific Northwest.

That wasn’t what happened at all. That fellow suddenly figured it out, and after Julie’s year in China, she and Cody got engaged, married, and now have two boys, Emanuel and Gabriel. At first, I was disappointed that Julie stayed in Columbus. But now, I am so glad! Because with Julie and her family here, plus my brother Hank, we have an excuse to visit almost every year. That means we’ve stayed in touch with our Columbus friends, some of whom we’ve known for almost 25 years. After Julie’s party, we contacted many of them and started a round robin of visits and activities.

Columbus has become incredibly diverse in the years since we left. Tuesday’s lunch was Korean bi-bim-bap and sushi with Lisa, who sold us our first sailboat in 1990. That evening, my old college roommate, Tara, introduced us to Somalian food and to Fatima, the dynamic former Somalian ambassador to the United Nations. At Schiller Park, in German Village, we mixed our metaphors by eating more sushi with our dear friend Carol while watching a performance of A Comedy of Errors staged to take place in a small Appalachian town. Evidently, Shakespeare’s Elizabethan English was closer to what we know as a “hillbilly” accent than to common American English. The director is from Ironton, Ohio, where the town name is pronounced “Arnt’n.”

The following day, nine of us went to the Ohio State Fair for the full midwest experience. We rode the ferris wheel, slid down the giant slide, watched a potbellied pig race, and saw horses, cows, sheep, chickens, goats, and lots of children. One of my favorite things was the full-sized Lewis and Clark — not to mention their campfire — carved from over a ton of butter. We eschewed cotton candy, deep-fried twinkies, and hot-dog-on-a-stick for a picnic of sandwiches and fruit under the trees.

There were also lunches and long evenings of talk and laughter with Mowgli, Linda, Dave and his two Maggies and Trip, and Georgia. And still there are people we didn’t have time to connect with. Next time, we’ll put them first on the list.

None of this visit would have been possible without the help of our special friends Carol and Steve. Back in 1994, we stayed with them while we prepared for our big bicycle trip. This visit, they opened their home to not just us, but to Prussia, too. Talk about kitty heaven! She had a whole two-story house to ramble around in, and “Auntie Carol and Uncle Stevie” lavished her with attention. In short, they spoiled her (and us)!

Our whole visit was so pleasant that Barry mused, “Wouldn’t it be fun to get a job and live here for a few months sometime?”

I was floored. “What’s this about getting a jay-oh-bee? I thought we were retired!”

“Well, just so we could hang out with our friends for longer than a week,” he explained.

Maybe someday. But not now. We’re headed for a September 8th rendezvous with my Dad in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. And then we’re going to start building our dream boat someplace near Seattle. But we’ll be back, I’m sure. We just can’t seem to stay away from this funny, flat, magical place.