Treasuring Old Friends

One of the very few drawbacks of my current job is the absence of paid vacation time, which means that I either can’t take time off at all, or I have to decide that it’s worth the sacrifice and scrimp and save like a fiend (sort of), as is the case with my upcoming Hungary trip. As a result, I can’t visit friends around the country, which was always one of my favorite things to do. Although I miss them all, I’m lucky that they all live in cool places. However, I’ve been fortunate enough to have a few friends actually make the unlikely trek to Ohio, including two people who have spend an inordinate amount of time with me already – my freshman roommate and my IFPRI officemate. The past several days, I hosted my first longer-term guest, a dear college buddy who decided to buck trendiness and glamor and spend her 30th birthday in Wooster.
Of course, nothing could have made me happier. Although I had to work two out of the 4 days she was here, we still managed to squeeze in some fun. On Sunday, after I picked her up from the airport, we popped into Gervasi (where I reveled in BEING served) and had a lovely lunch outdoors and chatted for a couple hours by the lake. We then headed to our ultimate Woo-town destination, where we celebrated her birthday at my parents’ house with a home-cooked meal and a sad but spirited attempt at a cake by yours truly. She got to hang out with the whole fam, including the nephews.
Before work on Monday, I followed up on our earlier Secrest picnic with an alcohol-free meal, which was just as enjoyable. The azalea and rhododendron gardens there are gorgeous, and the weather was perfect. Tuesday we ate breakfast at perhaps the most treasured of Wooster establishments, The Parlor. Granted, we just had eggs and hash browns, but the friendly staff and cozy booths provided the perfect small-town diner atmosphere. Tuesday was her actual birthday, so although she sadly had to eat most of her dinner at the Steakhouse by herself, we abandoned foodie principles and gorged on cookies and brownies a la mode at Applebee’s. A gluttonous – yet awesome – end to the day.
Wednesday I finally had the day off, so we ventured into Amish country by meandering along scenic country roads, munching on cheese/watching cheesemaking at Heini’s and Guggisberg, exploring charming downtown Millersburg, stopping at (who knew??) Ohio’s largest year-round Christmas store to indulge her ornament needs, and going on a wild goose chase to find the world’s largest cuckoo clock. I perhaps built up this clock experience a bit more than I should have, but I have oddly fond memories of visiting the now-closed-and-auctioned-off Alpine Alpa mini Swiss Village, where the clock was displayed. A wealthy patron donated the clock to Sugarcreek, the “Little Switzerland of Ohio.” (I kept calling it Salzburg, which isn’t even IN Switzerland!) After some aimless driving and a helpful information desk clerk, we found the dismantled clock, which is currently being refurbished. I think it was worth it…
After missing a couple of turns, we met up with our fellow Gilliam Hall resident in historic downtown Dublin (outside of Columbus) at Tucci’s Italian restaurant. It was an ideal night to sit outside, and it felt like no time had passed at all, even though it’s been 12 (!!) years since we met. The night wouldn’t have been complete without a huge helping of Jeni’s ice cream – definitely my downfall.
Friends come in all types, and they are all meaningful in some way. We can’t be as close with all of them, nor would that be ideal. But I cherish this friendship more than most, and I am already looking forward to our next reunion in 2011. What an amazing few days!

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