I love having any excuse to go to St. Louis. It is, without doubt, my definition of “home”, even though I moved away 30 years ago. It’s where I was born and raised, and I am a walking stereotype of a South St. Louis native: I grew up in a little brick house in a blue collar neighborhood, I eat jack salmon and pork steaks, can spot a hoosier a mile away, still scream and shout for my beloved Cardinals, and know that asking someone what high school they went to will tell me almost everything I need to know about them.
So, when I got an email from my East Coast sister (I call her that so as not to confuse her with my St. Louis sister) announcing that her clan would be in St. Louis over the July 4 holiday, I immediately got my Happy Dance on. While any excuse to go breathe in the comfort of The Lou will do, being able to get together with my siblings is one of my favorite justifications.
This visit seemed to be more poignant than most. That may be due to my funk / midlife crisis / badditude, I’m not sure. Yes, I’m still wallowing in my mood…my discombobulation….my glass-half-empty phase. You get the picture. I’m not spewing sunshine and positive juju over here.
As is my norm, I digress…..back to the visit.
We packed a lot into this 48 hour fun fest. A walk down Market to enjoy the throngs of kids playing in the fountains at City Garden, and watching the beautiful horse drawn carriages give their fares an unforgettable view of downtown. Strolled through Soulard early on Saturday morning (which is the optimum time to go, of course) while snacking on the best mini donuts ever. Watched the parade down Market Street that kicks off Fair St. Louis. Visited City Museum, and enjoyed the added attraction of a huge Hindu wedding that was being held there….watching children in beautifully elaborate clothes sneak away to go flying down a 2 story metal slide kept us entertained for a good half hour. An evening with friends from grade school at a local bar…..and a not-so-subtle reminder of how quickly we’re aging as we abandoned ship when the alternative rock band started to blow our eardrums out. (The lead singer had a decent voice, though, so I might try to find an online recording by Butterfly Distortion…and listen to it on low volume before passing judgment) A movie at the OmniMax, which is a domed screen (roof), and made me kind of queasy. Pizza at Imo’s. A drive through Tower Grove and Forest Park. Dinner with my family at Bartolino’s. An air show while sprawled on the Market Street green way.
It was all of those things and yet none of them that made this trip special. It was walking along jagged sidewalks, the giant slabs of concrete having been rearranged by the roots of the massive trees that grow along the street. It was driving down Loughborough and taking in the giant sycamores, a tree that doesn’t seem to show up in other cities very often. It was the literal sea of Cardinals gear, even though there was no game at Busch Stadium. It was opening the door to our hotel room in the morning to find a St. Louis Post Dispatch greeting me. It was knowing before I even put my dimes in the parking meter at Soulard that if I wanted a watermelon, the best ones come from the vendor on the NW corner of the market.
For some crazy reason (blame the aforementioned funk / midlife crisis / badditude), those things comfort me. They have existed for as long as I can remember, and I can count on them. They remind me that no matter what changes in life, some things will persevere, survive, withstand….even flourish. Inbev may have bought the AB empire, but those big ol’ horses in the parade? Those were the Anheuser Busch Clydesdales, my friends, and they always will be. At a time in my life when so many aspects of my belief system are being challenged, listening to that vendor barking about having the sweetest watermelons is like being wrapped in a warm blanket.
I hope my own roots go as deep as the ones that have mangled those city sidewalks. I hope they keep me standing straight and tall when push comes to shove.
Mostly, I hope I get past the point in my life when I’m trying to gain perspective and inner strength by comparing myself to an old tree.