Our last day in Erie. D and I got up early and drove down to Meadville, where we both went to college. A detour took us off the highway for some miles, and the Pennsylvania countryside was at its best, with the frost not yet off the low fields, mist rising from hidden hollows, the trees cloaked in bright spring green, the woods and rolling fields that always make me think of Tolkien's Shire. Only the frequent roadkill made it less than entirely lovely.
We were going down to have breakfast with a college friend of ours and her husband. We met at Perkins, as tradition demanded, so the table was shortly encumbered with astonishing amounts of food. Our friend is currently a professor at our mutual alma mater, although not for much longer. She had depressing things to say about the state of the school, about class sizes that have swelled beyond the capacity of faculty and facilities, the eroding committment to individual attention that was once the school's hallmark, the pressure on junior faculty to publish or get out, the store set on research grants and never mind the students. Apparently half the faculty is on anti-anxiety medication, which doesn't bode well for the place. Since the loans that allowed me to attend have finally been paid off, I was going to start sending them some money this year, but am now wondering if I should instead send them a sharply worded note.
As we were getting ready to leave a bus pulled in, full of old people from West Virginia (Wheeling, I think one of them might have said when I asked where they were from), coming up to visit the casino. They must have driven all night, with another couple of hours to go. I don't understand gambling, so to me it seems like an odd thing to do, but it's quite popular these days.
The day's second errand was to buy my mother a birthday present. I had hit on the idea of getting her something for the garden, so we went to a local nursery and poked around for a while, and ended up purchasing a pink flowering dogwood. A stop at the grocery store followed, and then lunch, and in the afternoon we went to the zoo.
It was our second trip there with L. Last time it was a Memorial Day weekend and the temperature had gotten to an unseasonable 90 degrees. This visit was far more pleasant. It was a Monday, and the place was very quiet except for a few other families with young children in tow. We went on the merry-go-round twice, and were the only ones on it. We took things at L.'s pace, and tried not to force her to look at things, though sometimes it was hard not to get frustrated. She's not even four yet, so her attention span isn't all that great, but it was a beautiful day to be outside, to look at the flowers (and the animals, of course—Erie has a pretty decent zoo for a city its size) and just enjoy being there. We finally left about 3:30, pleasantly tired, and spent the remainder of the day quietly. My mother found a recipe for pasta primavera in an old Moosewood cookbook, which turned out more than acceptably. My sister did our laundry, which was awfully nice of her, and we packed everything up and turned in.