Old Friends - Part One...

Less than a week after my European vacation, I found myself taking additional time off from work, this time for a "staycation." After going more than a year and a half without seeing each other, my best friend from college, Katherine, was on her way to Chicago for a visit, and there was no way I was going to spend half of her visit at the office.

Since her arrival date was somewhat up in the air, I had tried not to plan much in the way of concrete plans for her first day. We ended up going to see Where The Wild Things Are, partly because I heartily approve of movies that do not depend on computer-generation for their special effects, and partly because I thought Katherine would appreciate the fact that it is a movie based on a children's book without pandering to children. The film is, by turns, joyously whimsical while simultaneously dark and brooding. It deals with themes like loneliness and despair, without providing any convenient, easily processed answers. I would probably not take children to see it, mostly because I think they wouldn't understand it (especially if the particularly inquisitive child sitting next to us was any indicator), and also because much of the characters' behavior in the film is not something I would want my children to model. Scenes like one in which Max, the protagonist, seeks to resolve the tension in the group of beasts by starting a massive brawl amongst them which only results in physical and emotional scarring, are more indicative of how people actually behave than how I would want to teach impressionable minds to behave.

I also prepared my famous caramelized onion pizza for dinner that evening, but by and large, the high points of the day could be found in the small traditions that we got to reenact from old times. For instance, we had late-night "girl talk" time over chocolate milk at the kitchen counter, just like we used to do when we lived together our senior year of college. It might be a small thing, but it is precisely that sort of quality time that I have missed the most since we moved to separate corners of the planet.

Sunday, however, was blocked out for bigger plans. We headed out to Richardson Farms in the far northern suburbs, home of the world's largest corn maze. Back during senior year, our entire group of friends had taken a day trip to go to the corn maze in Godfrey, Illinois, and that day has lived on as one of my favorite memories of my senior year. When I discovered that the world's largest corn maze was within driving distance of Chicago, my curiosity was piqued, and finding out that this year's theme was the life of Abraham Lincoln only crystallized my determination to visit it. Katherine's visit was exactly the impetus I needed.

It must have been a good year for corn; it was much taller than the maze we went to in Godfrey in 2007.

Due to the size of the maze (it has 11 miles of trails), they take a different approach than many other corn mazes, including the one we had visited in Godfrey. Instead of letting you loose in the maze to get lost and find your own way back as best you can, Richardson Farms gives you a map of the maze, and a punch card which you can stamp at one of about 25 checkpoints within the maze. You can find as many checkpoints as you wish (as far as we can tell, there was no concrete prize for locating them all, other than your own sense of satisfaction and accomplishment), but their main purpose is to help you orient yourself so that you don't have to spend the rest of your life in the maze. They also divide the maze into sections, the pattern of which symbolizes different eras in the life of Abraham Lincoln, such as his childhood, his career in Illinois, and his presidency. You can choose which sections you want to tackle, and there are exit points at each one so that you don't have to traverse all 11 miles of trails if you aren't so inclined.

Me and Katherine on a bridge between different sections of the maze.

I thought the maze was some good, clean, Midwestern fun, although I think Katherine preferred the sense of the unknown provided at the map-free Godfrey corn maze. We ultimately didn't spend all that long at Richardson Farms, despite spending time in all four sections of the Lincoln maze, because we had to hustle home to prepare dinner, as we had invited over Derek, one of our other friends from Wash U. I made some white bean and garlic soup, and the three of us caught up on each others' lives. Given how far flung our group of friends has become, I would say that any time you can amass at least three of us at any given time qualifies as a reunion in my book.

1 comment:

  1. The Richardson Farm is a-maz-ing! My kids would love it. Nothing beats reuniting with college friends and reliving the good old days. Your writing was short on details, however. I know that in my case, if my mom and dad knew what I was doing while I was in college, I would be dead.