I left Illinois in a white Buick Celebrity. I was making tremendously grown-up decisions, and yet in the front passenger seat I had my teddybear Oliver, buckled in next to me.
I also, wanted desperately, to be a confident smoker, but failed miserably as I often tucked out of sight to light a Capri. It felt so risky to be smoking in my
mom’s car, but it was a safe place where I could pretend that I was in a music video, even though I felt like my thighs would never be thin enough and yet my hair was too thin.
So there I was. 19. Crying I as drove away, smoking my ridiculous smokes. It was August and I wondered if I would ever experience an Illinois Autumn ever again.
In my most deliciously melancholy moments, it’s always Fall in Woodhull. Where I can taste the crisp in the air. Where it’s not quite cold enough to be winter, but you know it’s just a day or so away. I can smell the dryer smell outside my house and the when the steam hits the air it’s warm enough to put my hands in it it, even though it will make my mittens damp and ultimately colder than before. Where there are leaf piles burning and it’s Spirit Week and Homecoming and I’m never quite a grown up, but I can’t be a child anymore. Where in these moments I am walking through town, on Division Street with my best friend Jodie. She’s complaining about something. And we’ve got Jolly Ranchers in our pockets even though she really shouldn’t have any because of her never-ending braces. My lips taste of carmex and I daydream about finally using all the carmex and having that adorable little white glass container to fill with… something, but I don’t know what. We feel dangerous and small all at the same time. We loathe being a 12 year olds in a town so tiny, but have no idea what the world could possibly be like past the cornfields.
And now it’s Fall again. And I’m 40. I still feel that sweet ache of nostalgia for fall and chapped lips and red cheeks, but now Roxi is sending me pictures of The Butter Churn and her homemade pies. Pictures of hearty soups that warm you from the inside out. And noodle casseroles that will make your house smell like home. The store is being revamped for the season and we are getting ready to tuck in. I often say we are nestled on Division Street because of how we placed the building away ever so from the sidewalk, and nestled will be especially true now that it’s turning cold. We are ready for people to come in to get warm. To get something that will nourish them. To walk in, smell whatever is cooking that day, and to know they are welcome.
And we are going to start the season with an event tomorrow that will bring together all of the yumminess that you can fit in your mouth. Brats will be cooking. Homemade Cider is going to be made. Paired with Cheese that is so good you’ll be mad! Washed down with Mead or Ale. Roxi baked some pies already and I know she baked them with Love and a little help from her Mama. Jean won’t be able to physically greet people tomorrow, but I have no doubt she’ll be there.
So tomorrow we open at 8, but the event starts at 11. And if it rains, we’ll just get cozy inside.
And I can’t be melancholy like before, because it’s all too delicious. Because these experiences are even better than the ones in my memories.
So go get some food tomorrow and meet some of the folks who make it. Shake their hands. Bite into a brat and feel the give when your teeth break through casing and a little bit of juice runs down your chin and you wipe it away with the back of your hand and wonder if it’s okay to lick your hand. It is.