Five years ago, things happened fast. In February, it was off to Portland to see the “Hesse: A Princely German Collection” exhibition. In April, Cindy joined the triumvirate for a vacation in Holland and Belgium. Later that month, a promising new job put Columbus in the rear-view mirror.
And then things slowed way, way down. For the next three and a half years, the accomplished, enthusiastic city girl felt more like a disillusioned Rapunzel stuck in a lonely rural turret, trying to learn and see the good in the difficult lessons she was constantly being taught.
Traveller received the first warning sign that this was not a good idea. Three days before the move, he and his mistress were stopped at a red light when suddenly someone plowed into his hind quarters. Neither Traveller nor his overly careful mistress had ever been in an accident before. It took weeks to fix Traveller in his new environment, and he was left with an unsightly scar.
A year later, the heroine of this story found herself in the starring role of a sequel to “The Money Pit.” No matter how many episodes of “This Old House” she watched to learn how to deal with mechanical malfunctions, much-anticipated vacations always came to a screeching stop whenever she returned to the Hive. While she learned to live with a coyote howling in the driveway, a fox darting through the yard while she cut the grass, and owls hooting outside her bedroom window, Nails decided it was best to tell her later about puzzling discoveries like tiny, furry siblings huddled around a business card in the basement and a deer’s leg hidden behind the woodpile.
Even while trying to take her mind off the situation, she couldn’t escape the feeling that she had made a dreadful mistake. After watching “Little Dorritt” on Masterpiece Theatre, she dreamed about “fiends in human form” and living the rest of her days in debtor’s prison. Instead of making new friends, she found herself dodging gossips.
More warning signs kept coming along, but the girl who likes to give everyone plenty of chances didn’t think she should head for home quite so fast. Rather than applying the “three-strikes-and-you’re-out” baseball rule to the situation, she played her game for way more innings than she probably should have.
So she decided to try to make the best of the situation and get to work. She edited two books, wrote 16 articles, gave four conference presentations, attended eight symposia, offered over a dozen public programs, planned two orientation events, and organized several exhibits. She stood next to a tabletop display by the hour, promoting the services provided by her place of employment. She represented her constituents during a three-year Senate term. Most of all, she spent her days sorting out filing cabinets and rummaging through boxes, making interesting discoveries while bringing order to years of archival disarray.
While she did her work, she came across lines in letters and diaries written by long-ago local residents that started to make her think that it wasn’t just her.
After a visit to the city in the 1890s, it took some time for an ambitious surveyor living on his father-in-law’s farm to get used to his tame, quiet, dull neighborhood again. The next year, he had plans to attend a concert in a nearby town, but decided against it when he figured it would take about 11 hours to get there and back.
And then there was a minister’s daughter in the 1840s, writing to her friend back home how her heart sank when she saw the much-talked-of quiet little country village that was her new home. The town center was forlorn-looking, and its stores didn’t carry what she wanted to buy. It was just like Sunday all the time, she lamented, with no noise or bustling activity to sustain her. To her, it was the most dull place she had ever lived. Its inhabitants’ manners were so different from hers. The gardens were so backward that there were no hopes of getting any vegetables to grow. Even the water was a mess, filled with limestone deposits. And then there were the countless pigs that seemed to flood the countryside. Trying to stay positive, she reminded herself that she had many things for which to be grateful and there was no excuse for how she felt.
Just as the surveyor confided to his diary, our heroine finally decided that she had had enough. After a four-part interview and a final telephone conversation conducted in the privacy of Traveller’s back seat, she landed a new job back home and packed her bags as fast as she could, even though her colleagues couldn’t understand why she would ever want to leave. Now, she remembers the insight that a traveling poet shared with his former teacher in a letter written during the 1950s: In the long run, even unpleasant experiences make life interesting.
This story couldn’t come to an end until one last, big hurdle had been overcome. After a 16-month endurance contest that was stressful until its very last minutes, this unfortunate, but instructive, chapter of my life closed today at last. With much gratitude and relief, the quiet little country village is finally in the rear-view mirror.