Dan and I celebrated our 17th anniversary this past December with a trip to our college hometown of Columbia, Missouri. We’ve been back for other events since graduation, but haven’t returned to simply hang out together. This time, we booked a hotel downtown so we could walk and explore to our heart’s desire. I loved being back on the same sacred ground where God changed our lives by intersecting them and binding us together.
Dan and I have been eagerly awaiting the release of the movie version of Les Miserables, and planned to see it in Columbia. We went to a theater we vaguely remember from back in our day and saw it that night. I was upended and wrecked at the end of the movie. It affected me as deeply as the stage version, but in completely different ways.
After the movie, we were too spent to do much more than find a late night snack and a drink. We found a restaurant named Addison’s near our hotel, and had drinks (Dan’s was a Black & Tan and mine was a Mediterranean martini, or something like that) and one of the best platters of nachos I’ve ever tasted. (They call them Nachos Bianco and they had asiago cheese on them. Yum!)
We planned to walk through town most of the day. The shoes I had were not snow-worthy, so we had to take a trip to Walmart for some boots. On the way, we stopped for breakfast at one of Dan’s favorite places that he frequented in college (in the wee hours of the night): The Broadway Diner. Dan had the signature dish, called a Stretch. It is awful, if you ask me. But he loves it! Eggs, hash browns, onions, chili, cheese, and peppers.
And then, we started our – literal – walk down memory lane. First, we drove by Dan’s old apartment in Juniper Ridge, which looked so small and run down, even though it pretty much hasn’t changed since he lived there. Of course, he didn’t have a four-wheeler on the lawn back then. (But wouldn’t that have been fun?!)
Next, we headed to campus and parked the car so we could walk wherever our memories led us. We started at the new student center (which used to be called Brady Commons but is now soooo much more). I loved this SEC display on the wall.
We left the new version of Brady Commons and came to this dry fountain. I have great memories here. My two sorority pledge sisters and I were walking on campus one summer night and ended up in the fountain. (Well, one of us did.) I can still hear Sally shrieking at Eve while she was getting soaked. Poor Sally!
I loved how campus was so deserted (it was New Year’s Eve, after all), because I felt like the entire college belonged to us. We weren’t distracted by the present, and could walk the paths like twenty years had never passed. That was most evident in Ellis Library.
Time has truly stood still inside the library. I remember sitting at these same desks, studying (with my WALKMAN on my ears, y’all!) and trying to understand my Econ class notes and filling countless index cards with memorization facts. I have a vivid memory of sitting in this room and practicing the spelling of the last name of this red-headed new boy I had met. (If you know me in real life, you know my last name is not easy to spell!)
The day we visited, there were only two other people in this room. The silence was palpable, and yet so comforting and soothing. The only noise in the place was my camera shutter, clicking away. You have no idea how much the sound of silence and shutters makes my heart sing!
We ventured out of the big, spacious room and through those doors and into the stacks and stacks and STACKS of library books. I remember being in these crannies in college and how I may have kissed Dan in a row like this… maybe once or twice. This photo can’t convey the sheer amount of books in the stacks. I had moments of minor claustrophobia walking through here and when I lost sight of Dan for a few moments, panic gripped my heart until I found him again.
One of my favorite parts of the bowels of the library are these study corrals that people can rent. I assume it’s graduate students who need the corrals for research, so they don’t have to lug their books and papers through the library every time they need to come study. They rent these desk with wire cages built around them, and can lock the doors on their spots when they leave. Most of the corrals don’t have windows, and I can’t imagine how isolated a person must feel to be caught in the stacks inside a cage. Dude, it makes my heart thud just thinking about it. I swear it sounds like a horror movie plot. But knowing how much change the campus has undergone since we graduated, I’m sure it’s just a matter of time until the library is renovated and these Cages of Death (dunh, dunh, dunh!) disappear.
Next, we found the microfilm room. Honestly, I can’t believe microfilm still exists. Hasn’t someone scanned all the film into a database somewhere? Obviously not. However, seeing a Mac beside a microfilm machine got me all giddy inside. I imagine one day my kids (or grandkids) will be fascinated by microfilm machines. They’ll ask, “Film? What’s that? Ribbons with images on them? Huh?”
I wonder what people will do with these microfilm storage drawers one day. I saw them and my eyes grew wide, wishing I had storage like this in my house. (Did you just hear Dan groan? That’s his worst nightmare.)
The J-School has changed dramatically through additions of new classrooms and technology. I didn’t recognize most of it, but I was still able to locate the classroom where I learned the most about journalism, and where I was critiqued (endlessly and often painfully) by my professors and classmates. It was rough, but it was necessary to prepare me for the sharp and sometimes heartless business of television news. (There’s a reason I didn’t last long as a TV news producer, y’all. The parts I loved – the writing and the chronicling of life – were sucked dry by the character beatings and horrible work schedules I endured. But that’s a story for another day.)
I stopped by my favorite professor’s office and left him a note on his door, then walked out of my college home and saw this man who has become a home for my heart. I love the silhouette of him overlooking the snowy Quad.
We knew it was time to make our way off campus and to downtown Columbia to get ready for dinner and New Year’s Eve festivities, but stopped at one more spot on the way there. This is something pretty special for us.
In our early dating days, I found out that Dan had never seen the movie Casablanca. Neither had I, I don’t think. And remember, this was back in the day when I didn’t even own a VCR (yep, wait for the grandkids to ask what THAT is!) and didn’t know how we might be able to watch this movie I had heard was so romantic and a must-see. One day I heard the movie was being played in the library auditorium. I made plans for a secret date night with Dan. I walked him to Ellis Auditorium and didn’t tell him why. He figured out we were going to see a movie, but didn’t know which one until the movie started to roll. This is the room where we first saw Casablanca, and it is still one of Dan’s favorite movies.
Then we met my sorority pledge mom (who still lives in town) and her husband for drinks at a new spot, Broadway Brewery. They have craft beers and Dan was so happy to have that instead of the Penny Pitchers he used to drink in college.
The rest of the night, Dan and I were on our own and found a few new spots (Sycamore for dinner and The Shot Bar [where we felt REALLY old]) and ended up back at Broadway Brewery for the crème brulee dessert. We rang in the new year at Vault Speakeasy, the bar in the basement of our hotel. Along with the champagne toast, I had some yummy drink with chocolate toffee on top. (Sorry for the photo quality.)
I don’t think any burger I’ve eaten in my lifetime will ever compare to a Booches burger. I only ate one (it was still morning, y’all!), but seriously considered eating two because they are that good.
I have learned not to live in the past. There are too many regrets and too many losses that make my heart ache. But every once in a while, I visit the past to see the path God pioneered solely for me. Our trip to Columbia reminded me how gracious and loving He is to me, and how His mercy coats every mistake and misstep I fought so hard to make. He rescued me, He carried me, and He blessed me tremendously with this life He has led me to and led me through. How happy I am to be married to my college sweetheart, who whisks me away for a weekend with him. The wonder of it all!