Sunday, June 07, 2009

Durham

I forgot three things on this trip to North Carolina.

1) a razor
Now, I’ve never forgotten this on any trip before, so I can assume it was because I took out all the liquids from my toiletries, and this was along with the shampoo bottle, and oops, it happened. I’m lucky that I don’t do risqué things on my book talks. I sincerely hope no one noticed that I forgot the razor.

2) the GPS
My parents gave us this GPS and while it’s occasionally useful, I forgot it. Maybe because I felt I didn’t need it (see #3) but also because, well, this week has been a little crazy. I did mapquest the directions I absolutely needed and I brought a map of the area. So, because of #3, I didn’t really need #2.

3) how much Durham felt like home
It took some mental effort for me to remember how to get from the airport in an enormous downpour to downtown Durham. Things had changed a little bit, new buildings and such, since I moved away 7 years ago. I’ve visited once or twice since then, but not for a long time. Even so—when I got to Durham, everything went on automatic pilot. I knew where I needed to go and why. I drove by our old house and our old neighborhood. (Improving, but still the nicer end of a working class neighborhood)

The photos here of the yellow house are the house that Mary--a knitwear designer who reads my blog-- and I both lived in. (She lived there before we did, we bought it from her and we didn't know her then.) It had a great front porch for spinning on. I used to sit outside with my dog Lucy--may she rest in peace-- and watch the world go by.

I got ice cream, bought a book and CD from what used to be my independent bookstore (The Regulator) and visited the small Durham yarn shop I used to frequent. It is conveniently located in a bigger shop that has brands like Dansko, Eileen Fisher, and other things that I wish I could afford…but can’t!

Anyhow, I’m missing the point here. Durham felt like finding an old pair of jeans in the very back of your drawer. You know, the pair you’d forgotten about? When you put them on, they fit perfectly. Comfortably broken in, worn, but not worn out. The pair of jeans that you maybe stashed for some quirky issue (a hole in the pocket, a zipper problem) but when you tried them on again, the quirky issue had passed and you’d remembered, “Ahhh. I love these.”

I still feel that way about Durham. This bittersweet love makes me a little homesick. A little sad—because I struggled mightily when I lived there. I was in a graduate program in turmoil. As a result of that dissension, my (somewhat off-kilter) advisor retired. I managed to get a master’s degree (I’d signed up for a PhD) and lost a lot of my self esteem during that time. I felt bad about myself, and yet there was no way for me to succeed…I had to fight to get just an M.A. Sometimes there’s a problem with the lure, and like a fisherman, this department cut bait. (my part of the program was the bait.)

As I was driving along to my old haunts, I realized that I feel very proud and happy right now about my professor’s achievements lately, and my own. That the last time I felt that proud was probably just before we got married and when I first moved to Durham. In between, there was probably a (no kidding) 10 year period where one or the other of us was struggling. That’s a long struggle.

Sometimes you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone. What really helped make my time in “the Triangle” special were my friends in what is now called the Twisted Threads Fiber Guild. We met once a month in each other's living rooms. Many of them recall visiting the bright yellow house on James Street in Durham. Seeing those friends on Saturday was a delicious treat. I got to give my talk to about 40 people at Quail Ridge Books, hug lots of old friends, and even go out to eat with a crowd of about 6 of them. The chance to reconnect, hear what they're spinning and knitting, about their families and work was so fabulous. Even better, it was great to see all over again how smart, funny, and warm they were.

Now, packing starts in earnest for the big move to Winnipeg. I’m glad to be home…but I think I’ll always miss Durham.

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3 Comments:

Blogger Mary G said...

Thanks for the walk down memory lane! I only lived there 9 months (and then got married and moved to Raleigh for a bit ...) but I love Quail Ridge Books! Did you get to go by Great Yarns?

I just spent the weekend with a bunch of families from Raleigh and I have such great memories of those times.

Hope your trip (and book) went well ... hugs and blessings ... when do you head North?

June 7, 2009 at 7:23 PM  
Blogger distaff22 said...

It was so good to see you; it brought back a lot of memories. Since I can't think how to condense everything that is crossing my mind right now to a reasonable length comment, I'll leave it at that. --Jame

June 7, 2009 at 8:48 PM  
Anonymous AlisonH said...

It struck me how much that house looks like the one you just bought. I love old houses!

June 8, 2009 at 2:26 PM  

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