only in the nicest sense of the word, i hope. and only with my favorite facebook friends.
i drove far south, over the course of two days, to meet f2fb friend #298 colleen kennedy jacobs. colleen suggested that we go to the best cafe in town.
bill's toasty shop has a facebook profile under the name "bill's toasties". . . . the menu features fried cheese, fried pickles, fried broccoli and cheese, fried . . . oh, you get the idea! in any event, it is quite famous throughout the state and beyond. and bill's toasties has 5,253 "likes" on facebook. can't beat that!
taylorville is the county seat of christian county and it was originally a mining town. at its heart is the courthouse square and four one way streets force a driver to glide past dress shops, beauty parlors, diners, a laundromat, a bookshop, and a convenience store. walk one block away from this center square and there’s really not a whole lot more. but friendly people–i asked a passing stranger where a cash station was and he walked me all the way to the bank!
f2fb friend #298 colleen kennedy jacobs showed up with her “safe” person–her mom–and it was as if we were old friends who had simply missed each other too much! we talked about golf–colleen’s mother won the taylorville women’s tournament four times and her sister has won it an astonishing ten times. if it hadn’t been freezing outside, i would have demanded golf lessons from this 93 year old who still carries her own clubs.
colleen overcame many things she’s afraid of in order to come to bill’s. first, she ordinarily doesn’t leave the house. at all. only when she’s with her mother, her boyfriend, or another safe person. a safe person is very important to someone with agoraphobia–i think i used my sons as “safe” people which probably isn’t healthy parenting.
second, she was meeting a new person. that makes two of us–meeting a new person is always scary. facebook can make us believe we know another person, that we’re friends, that we’re simpatico, but really, it’s the face to face interaction that is most important to friendship.
colleen uses a picture of the singer lionel richie as her profile picture. it's a family joke about one christmas when mom put up pictures of all the relatives and added "uncle richie' a favorite singer to the collection. i would not have been completely surprised had a tall black man in pastel attire had showed up at bill's and serenaded me "all night long". . .
third, colleen doesn’t like to eat in public–her mouth gets dry and she gets nervous about swallowing.
i can totally relate to being nervous about eating in public. but i plowed through a "regular" sized burger, some fried cheese balls and onion rings. oh, and a medium diet pepsi. jeez, they sell a "large" triple burger that is three pounds of meat. for under six dollars.
colleen had her first anxiety attack when she was in junior high school and she freaked out so much that she ran away from school to her grandmother’s farm. her grandmother was a devout baptist totally opposed to drinkin’, dancin’, and whatnot but totally addicted to a medicinal home remedy that contained 11% alcohol. she gave colleen a healthy dose of the stuff and sent her home with a bottle.
well into the twentieth century, over the counter medications often contained alcohol, cocaine, or opium and people trusted that whatever they were buying was "safe". colleen's grandmother probably had no idea what was in the medicine she gave her granddaughter.
colleen continued to have trouble with anxiety and transferred to a catholic school in town. she married three times, each time to someone from taylorville. she has two sons although one of them, sadly, passed on. she has tried every medicine and every therapy she has had access to. she is so brave and so beautiful and i asked her what she wanted to do most. ambition is hard for someone like us. but she allowed as how she wanted to drive somewhere by herself.
lunch was over. her mother was getting a little antsy. i had to get on the road. i was invited back to the house. i asked colleen if she wanted to ride with me–i have a mini-coop and she was sort of excited by the prospect. so we walked over to the town square parking place. . . and i threw her my keys.
“you drive,” i said.
well, that wasn’t so scary because she does drive sometimes so long as her mom is in the car. and we talked about how her mom is increasingly showing signs of needing to rely on colleen. colleen’s siblings have left taylorville and one day colleen will be the one who has to take charge . . . but then i did a lying, manipulative bitchy thing as we drove along the one way streets circling the courthouse.
“stop the car,” i said. “i just saw the greatest dress in that window. i’ll get us a parking space.”
and i opened the door and got out.
now there’s not much you can do on a one way street except go forward. and the only way to get back to where you are in taylorville is to circle around the courthouse. one block south, one block east, one block north, one block west. . . to where i’m standing wondering “did i remember to pay the car insurance bill?”
but, you know, colleen did all right by herself! and just before we walked into the little luxuries* shop. . .
it turns out the dress in the window was gorgeous but alas, not my size, but colleen found a white dress that is motivational. she’s planning on driving by herself every day and putting aside a little money every time so that she can afford the dress. as colleen put it “who doesn’t like to get a new dress?”
sure, there’s the dress, but i think her real motivation to grab hold of her life is the fact that her mother is now ninety three and colleen will become her mother’s caregiver at some point. and also, colleen wants to be part of the bigger world, the one she reads about, the one she interacts with on facebook.
while we were at the little luxuries store, we met the owner colleen's friend laura long. it was a nice reunion!
i am very grateful to colleen for a wonderful wonderful day in taylorville! and i can’t wait to be sitting in my study and hear a car pull into the driveway. colleen kennedy jacobs gets out, wearing her new white dress, and yells “hey, let’s have some fun, girlfriend!” she’ll keep the car running!
*little luxuries, at 15 s. washington street, taylorville, illinois is owned by laura long and her mother.