We ride through Minnesota and into Wisconsin in the back seat of a rented Jeep. Two of us are comfy and content with our windows down, glad to have made it this far. One of us is unhappy about her car seat, but we’ll all survive. It’s a wonderful place to be, the back seat of this Jeep with nothing to do but ride. The front two seats are occupied by friends we haven’t seen since their own wedding, four years ago. That sentence sounds insane to me, makes me feel like a terrible friend, until I realize the circumstances. There are many people we are meeting again in the summer of twenty three that we haven’t seen since nineteen.
Minnesota gives way to Wisconsin over a river that looks like the kind of place I’d like to explore. This whole slice of country feels comfortable to me, the boy from upstate New York. Green, wet, and full of small towns. Eventually we reach the single stoplight variety, the two lane roads through cornfields that continue straight until they top whatever hill lies on the horizon. It’s a strange two hours, the first time in this area for all five of us, but happy ones. Well, save for the car seated member, who doth protest. It is two hours filled with the kind of intense debrief of friends who haven’t met in four years. Moves, neighborhoods, jobs, and family updates fly thick. And news of friends. For we are all in this car on our way to a wedding, to an island in a lake that will host many we have never met and many we haven’t seen since at least twenty nineteen.
And so for two days we play lawn games and swim off a dock. We chat, dance, drink, and relax. I spend almost the entire weekend barefoot on grass, and 5’s as well. It’s a beautiful place we’d never expected to be, in the middle of the type of summer we no longer live in. That we haven’t for a long time, given Hong Kong’s sweltering nights and San Francisco’s chill evenings before those. It’s the type of summer we both grew up in, that feels both endless and all too brief.
In the car on the way back, with the same friends, we finally talk about the future. Our lives, after four years, feel entwined enough: we have heard the stories, caught up on life changes, and made new memories together. With the foundation stabilized through time, conversation, and activity, we are ready to share our plans, our hopes, and the challenges that come with each. On the two hour drive the topics range from families, aging, housing, children, and the kind of goals that come after a decade or more of employment. These are the topics we have worked to be more open about, during the covid years. To hide less, to share more, and to acknowledge that so often what we’re missing are examples of the kind of lives we hope for. The conversation is excellent, the type of thinking still hard to reach when we have but twenty hours with our good friends.
Weekends like these are so much of the reason we travel. Feeling this way again, full after time in contact with many humans we enjoy, has been too rare. As I dove from he floating barge into the lake, full of energy and truly awake, I was both grateful and filled with a single hope: May the next time not be so far off.