Thursday, November 20, 2014

A Weekend Away!

There was honey on my breakfast toast this morning thanks to son-in-law Rick Eiler’s first honey harvest from  his two bee hives on a friend’s farm land.  If I am not mistaken, the last time we traveled the length of Illinois to see Jeannie’s family was for Showtime during Elijah’s senior year at Freeport High School.  It was wonderful to have the opportunity to visit there this past weekend. 
Katherine’s friend Laura was with her, so I did not worry about Kate.  Granddaughter Leslie came up from Nashville Thursday night; and she had invited us to go on up with her, so I did not need to be concerned about Gerald driving that entire way.  We had missed Cecelie’s freshmen participation in last year’s musical, play, and Showtime, so to go see her in this year’s musical was a dream come true as we hurriedly packed and left the farm mid-morning Friday.
Leslie is always delightful company—funny and bright and so pretty. Unfortunately we did not get to hear her sing during this visit, and we should have insisted on it.  But there was much to talk about.  Her husband Mike stayed home with Millie and Sidney—their huge dogs that  don’t travel that well--but we caught up on the news about them as well as Mike. 
Mike is a personal trainer, and proof of his ability has been seeing our little Leslie become a champion strong woman competitor.  (Is that the right wording?)  We really did not know there was such a thing or such contests, but now we regularly see photos of Leslie lifting huge bars into the air while we tremble.  And we see Mike pulling trucks and other outrageous objects with Les in the background of the video being his cheerleader urging him on.  Scary stuff to watch, but we have to be proud that they somehow have achieved that strength in addition to holding full-time jobs, an active social life,  and fixing up their first home. And now to my great satisfaction, Leslie has renewed her high school theater career-- as an extra curriculum activity in the evenings. I love knowing she is singing and acting again.  That was not possible as a commercial voice major at Belmont with all the required concerts to complete that degree. She is rehearsing now for Ragtime in January.
On our way north, we stopped at Illinois State in Normal to pick up Elijah who had driven there from Jacksonville.  He is a senior studying special education for the seeing impaired, but his classes at Normal are over.He spent the first six weeks of this semester at Indianapolis at  the Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired. Now he is rooming in a dorm at Jacksonville, but each morning he drives to Springfield where he teaches individual students with sight impairment at four different schools.  Next semester he will be doing his official student teaching at a Chicago school, so I am especially eager to hear him tell of those experiences.  I think he enjoyed being on campus long enough for coffee with a friend while he awaited us to arrive from downstate.
Soon we were on that long long stretch of Route 39 and 51 heading toward Rockford.  It was good to once more see the familiar sights along the streets of Freeport, and soon we were welcomed into Jeannie and Rick’s house where there was a fire blazing  for us in the living room.  We dropped off Lige and Les and  made a quick trip to our favorite motel to dress for Cecelie’s musical and then returned to be at  Jeannie’s pretty table for chili and goodies before we headed to the Jeannette Lloyd Theatre, another favorite place for our family. 
For twenty-five years Tim Connors has devoted his life to the kids at Freeport High.  He has developed a fantastic speech program and manages to get amazing results from the large casts he works with. Kids working together to create a successful performance is an enormously valuable life experience. That bonding and the artistic opportunity given to such large crews and casts of students are of immense importance to their community.  
Jeannette Lloyd obviously created an educational environment conducive to developing individual talent and superior high school theater, and Connors has continued the tradition of excellence. When I see the stage filled with guys singing and dancing their hearts out, I not only feel personal joy as I listen and watch as  crowds of girls run in to join them, but  I also know lives have been made richer because of those weeks spent producing the show.
I had never bothered to watch John Travolta’s Grease, so I was unfamiliar with the plot.  Since the time depicted was not that long after I had been in high school, I was taken down memory lane.  Cecelie’s sweet tiny neck scarf was the kind I wore most days; and  although I did not have a poodle dog skirt, I envied the girls who did.
In Cecelie’s role as Marty, her emotional excitement and dramatic exaggerated take on life often duplicated the drama my girl friends and I liked to imagine we were starring in.  Of course, I loved her song. I wanted to slap Marty and Rizzo sometimes for their meaness, and I wanted to shake Frenchy and tell her to get busy and study.  Going from childhood into near adulthood can be a difficult time, and these kids in the Grease  sub culture suffered perhaps more than other groups.  I did not like beautiful Sandy, so well played by Veronica Gross, changing because of peer pressure.  But I would like it if today’s kids used a wooden gun made in shop rather than a real one. 
Brianna was arriving after the show to join her cousins at the Eilers.  She had come home from Murray State and joined her daddy for the trip up to his brother’s, where he annually attends an auction fund-raiser.  She drove on in to Freeport to attend Saturday’s performance.  Mary Ellen and Trent stayed home because of a trivia contest they were involved in. We waited to see Bri the next day because we were on a mission for a forgotten toothbrush and special cleanser. We were in bed by eleven and slept late the next morning. 
Jeannie invited us for a breakfast casserole and a yummy coffee cake at their house, but we like poking around and eating at the motel’s big breakast available whenever you want to go the dining room.  Of course when we showed up at Jeannie’s for lunch I sampled the casserole, and I indulged in the coffee cake for lunch and supper dessert instead of the pies on her buffet.
Our Saturday morning schedule was to watch Rick extract more honey from the comb.   We had already observed on Friday  the abundance of little bears and the traditional almost oval plastic bottles filled with golden liquid, and Rick was going to work up yet another batch or two in his garage turned honey workshop.  It was fascinating as he explained the process of scraping the excess wax off the racks of goodness and  carefully placed into his stainless containers to spin the honey out.  There were several steps as we watched the liquid go from the bucket of raw honey to the lovely pure liquid in the plastic bottles. We were given a generous supply of to take home.
After lunch, Jeannie and I left the men  and  went on errands including a couple of trips to the beautiful flower shop on the edge of town where Jeannie was having a presentation bouquet prepared for Cecelie. Leslie was lunching with a high school friend to see her new baby, and Brianna and Elijah were studying together for their respective Monday morning classes.  Our main goal was to see the special thrift store that Cecelie works at and to pick her up at the end of her time there. We hid her flowers in the van and took her home to join her cousins. 
Although Cecelie and her date and some adult friends were coming to the Eilers after the show, Jeannie had a couple large cans of cheese and a crock pot needing to be sent to her friend’s house for the cast party that night.  She enlisted Elijah to deliver them since he is close friends to the two daughters there. That led to the rest of the days’ entertainment because the mother of the house suggested Elijah kidnap his long-time classmate’s tiny stuffed monkey left over from her childhood.
There was much intrigue at the Eiler house as ransom notes were written and Brianna’s unknown phone was used in various communications to Fred-the-Monkey’s mama. While we adults were eating a calm supper, Fred was off with the younger ones having his photo taken at various places at the high school.  At one time he was hanging center stage high on the overhead electric sign Grease.  I think common sense told them that maybe Connors would not enjoy that addition to the set, and they took Fred down. But the photo was funny.
Gerald usually only goes to one performance per trip to Freeport, but I love to see the second (or third when that is possible) and observe and enjoy the difference in audiences and kids’ reactions. The last night is usually charged with a mixture of satisfaction and sadness that makes that performance special.  That was true Saturday night when I went again while Gerald stayed home and watched the football game. Afterwards during  the time between the end of the play and the cast photos, I love seeing the kids still in costume receiving flowers, congratulations, and compliments. They completely fill the crowded hallway with their  parents and siblings and buddies. Alumni from  previous years are also there to give them greetings and hugs and report on college and work.
After the show the college set were out for pizza and Laurel was reunited with Fred. At the pizza gathering or else some where else, Leslie and other theater alums were presenting Connors with a cake in the shape of a juke box. It was quite a cake from the photos shared, and the crowd encircling him and leaning on the table and accidentally breaking it down made the cake presentation quite memorable I am sure.
By Saturday evening, the ground was covered with several inches of snow and everything was slick. I was being extremely careful that I did not fall, and I had Rick drop me off after the show rather than going to the after-event at their house.  The next morning we all met up again at the Eiler house in a winter scene straight from a Christmas card. Cars were covered with snow, and as we waited for church time, Gerald swept the snow off the others’ car as he had ours earlier at the motel.  We were worried about the highways, and Brianna must drive part of the way home alone before she picked up Brian down the road.  So she went on and we were grateful to the crews when we found the roads well salted and free of ice. After worship we headed back to Southern Illinois although we would have liked to have stayed for the Bible class Rick would be teaching before noon. If at all possible, Leslie planned to pick up her car at Woodsong and drive onto Nashville so she would not miss work Monday morning.
On the way home, we lunched at Culver’s, a favorite eating place for all Freeport people.  We dropped Elijah off at Normal, where he would drive onto Jacksonville, and we continued over to Champaine-Urbana and on down Route 57 to home.  Although we drove through almost continual mist, some rain, lots of fog, the highways were clear as we kept ahead of the worsening weather. 
At Woodsong the ground was covered with white loveliness, and again Gerald cleared snow this time from Leslie’s car waiting on her. She reached Nashville and was at work Monday morning.  Brianna stayed at their farm that night and made it safely to Murray the next morning. 

Our weekend with its long delayed trip to Freeport  was a much needed break from routine. Thankfully everybody made it safely back home without an accident including Fred.

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