Houston after three months

No, we did not need the map at the car rental. These streets are burned into our every sense. Memories floated from every corner like the bits of paper that blow in the winds before a thunderstorm. Without the wind they lie there, invisible, suddenly to leap up with the sand that stings my legs before the storm. Hobby airport, not the one we usually see, very unlike the abandoned ghost put back into service 30 years ago. Then I wandered alone through the cavernous halls. Now it is bright, banal.

Driving on, there is the Shell station on Alameda where we so often filled up after a class birding trip and from which Cin-ty once spotted an osprey. Hermann park, where my father once golfed, is on our right. Then the zoo, a new entrance cut into this side. On our left is Hermann hospital where my two oldest children were born.

At Rice we drive in past our Wiess College, then past the lot where it once stood. We pay to park, though as retired faculty (they refused to make us emeritus, but can’t deny we are retired) we have a right to free parking. In the office we saw Diane, Laura, Andrea, just where they always were. We signed a few missing papers, chatted with Jenn, making us a little late for our meeting with Chandra, who has moved on to a wonderful postdoc where she can put promoters in cells, then titrate gene activity with drugs. It was fascinating. We sat at our picnic tables, just as we did for thousands of lunches. But we couldn’t go in. Sarah came by to pick up seeds we carried for Lucia to give Bonnie. Dave Caprette walked by grumbling. Liz wondered if we still wanted the tripods left in our space (we didn’t).

We moved inside the RMC, noting the larger, noisier home of the coffee house. We saw Susan, Deborah, Andre, but mostly stayed in Farnsworth talking about research, academics, career moves with our wonderful Chandra. Her son asks why he can’t come up to the second floor and see us. It guess it is harder for him to understand the move.

Leaving Rice, Igor cut my hair, declaring it was a very expensive haircut if it included a trip down from St. Louis. We gave Jocelyn a gift certificate to replace her shovel the movers moved to St. Louis. From her third floor we peeked next door to the house we called home for 21 years, saw the wild jumble in the back was intact, as were the turkscap we planted under the windows. The new sod was largely dead except where it covered what was once our pond. We walked down the block to return a house key to Judy. We would no longer be of any help if Alex got locked out. Returning to our rental Impala, a black-haired mother left our house, baby on hip, a young child walking next to her, and got into one of the three minivans parked out front. We stayed away. No one wants a relationship with the people that bought their house, unless, I suppose, they were already friends.


About Joan E. Strassmann

Evolutionary biologist, studies social behavior in insects & microbes, interested in education, travel, birds, tropics, nature, food; biology professor at Washington University in St. Louis
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