We have been going there every October for the past 30 years or so.
In theory (and in our selective memories), it is always beautiful: leaves changing, sweater weather for the parade, sun-drenched football game, perfect autumn conditions.
We have based many decisions that would affect our comfort and well-being on these misguided memories. And the facts will bear me out on this.
For instance, I suspect a study of the meteorological charts for the past 30 years would show that most of those years there has been rain on at least one day of Homecoming Weekend. And the rain usually comes when we are most vulnerable: somewhere out in the open with no chance of getting under cover.
And no matter what the temperature is when we leave Norwalk, there is almost always the passage of some sort of drastic cold front shortly after we arrive.
The coldest front of all passed the year we rented the unheated state park cabin in Hocking Hills. Our then-college-student, Beth, and my elementary-school-age nephew Drake were with us.
The fireplace will be cozy, we thought.
Yeah, right. Ninety percent of the heat went up the chimney, 6 percent of it went out the door each time we went for firewood, and the other 4 percent warmed the air blowing through the cracks in the uninsulated walls.
You know how they press flowers in the pages of a heavy book? That is how we slept in that cabin: I didn’t know blankets could weigh so much and warm so little. We had a huge pot of hot water on the stove at all times to warm the kitchen. And when one of us was courageous enough to light our little kerosene heater in the morning, it set off the smoke detector and created permanent hearing damage for at least three of us. Man it was cold.
At one time or another we have also forgotten numerous other things we really wanted during Homecoming Weekend: some critical item of clothing, some perfect snack, a camera, a hat—we have forgotten it all.
That is, we used to forget it all.
One advantage to repeating an activity is that eventually you can become completely prepared for it.
And so it was, finally, after, I believe, nineteen-point-four years of making that trip, we created a HOMECOMING WEEKEND MASTER LIST of stuff to take.
We used it again this year, of course.
Hats: stocking cap, baseball cap, broad-brimmed hiking hat. And those we just for me!
Gloves: two pairs. One to wear to the parade (forecasted temps last Saturday in the 30s) and one to wear in case the pair I wore to the parade got soaked in an unexpected downpour.
Coats: Light jacket, heavy jacket and hoodie. Check.
Extra pillow. Cooler. Rain gear. Check, check and check.
The list went on, pretty elaborate for a two day trip.
But we were prepared!
And again this year it turned out we needed most of the stuff we took.
There were just enough ominous black clouds, just enough chill, just enough threat of bad weather in general that we did not regret packing so much.
And as for the challenges of the unheated cabin, the smoky fireplace, and the heavy blankets, this year we stayed in the Holiday Inn Express.
It worked out so well, I’m adding it to the list.
Jim Busek is a free-lance writer who lives in Norwalk. He can be reached via e-mail at [email protected] hotmail.com.