"It never rains like this in the South."
Mom and I were driving from Delavan to Madison last week in the kind of gentle, even rain that I remember from growing up in Wisconsin. We'd had a couple of beautiful days at the Lake Lawn Resort, with bright sun and temperatures getting up into the low eighties, so this cool rain was welcome on a day when we didn't expect to be outside much anyway. The cornfields were thick and green and we took old narrow uncrowded highways so that we could enjoy the drive.
Turns out that it was moving-in day around the UW campus. As we slowly made our way up University Avenue toward our hotel, the streets were lined on both sides with U-Haul vans and pickup trucks, with miserable looking students and even more miserable looking parents milling around trying to figure out how to get their keys and get their stuff up into their new apartments. Decades earlier, my Mom and oldest sister might have been among that crowd. Those were good memories for her, she said, but she was glad that she wasn't among them today.
We had a wonderful late lunch at the Orpheum Theater restaurant -- a perfectly done seafood linguine with a bottle of good New Zealand Pinot Noir. The restaurant has been installed in the lobby of the grand old fashioned theater on State Street, where you eat surrounded by fading movie posters of the stars of yesteryear. If I lived in Madison I'd have lunch there once a week.
The rain was tapering off when we got back to the car, and by the time we stopped to visit with my niece Wendy the sun was coming out. Back at the campus end of University, the U-Hauls had thinned out and it looked like most of the moving in was finished.
Mom went to her room to take a nap and I settled in to do some preparation on the workshop I'd be doing the next morning for the crew at the Ebling Library at UW. They're gearing up a strategic planning process and my task was to help stimulate some innovative and creative thinking that would get them into the mode of looking afresh at the things they need to do to help their institution move forward.
I think the workshop went well. Based on the quality of the discussion and the ideas that were flowing around the room, they're going to do a good job. Frankly, I felt a little superfluous, but sometimes it's useful to have someone come in from the outside to tell you the things that you already know. So if I was useful in that sense, it's a good thing.
It was a good trip all around. I got to see most of my siblings and some nieces & nephews, relaxed a little, finished reading a bad novel, had some good long conversations with my Mom, and got a bit of decent work done. And there was that cool rain. Now I'm back in drought-stricken Alabama where it is already 80 degrees at 7 in the morning, and predicted to top 100 -- just like every day the past two weeks. If we do get any rain it'll be one of those fierce, quick, local thundershowers that won't put a dent in the drought and won't last long enough to cool the air.
But I'm a patient guy. Another month and we'll start to see some of those glorious fall days. And no doubt, come January, I'll find myself having lunch somewhere outside on one of those bright, unseasonably warm days that we always have a handful of just after the first of the year. I'll look at the winter sunlight gleaming on the buildings and think, "We sure didn't have days like this when I was growing up in Wisconsin."