Jennifer last saw Peter in November, a month before she graduated. It was in Hornell, at the grocery store. He was in front of her in the aisle. Her feet frozen in place, her chest barely breathing, willing him to finish his shopping so she wouldn’t have to open up her protective carapace and say hello. Eventually he moved on, but encountered her at the checkout stand directly across from each another. For some wacky reason, nerves probably, Jennifer smiled. Peter just stared.
But now, she was standing in the living room of her house, packing up. For graduation her father had bought her a Toyota pick up. Some of the furniture would be hauled in a trailer she’d rent later in the week. Her parents had been disappointed she wasn’t going to attend the graduation ceremony. She was their first child to finish college. Her diploma would come later in the mail when she arrived in the Pacific Northwest.
The roommates had thrown a delicious graduation party. Jillian had gone all out with pastries – savory and sweet, Jennifer made humus and a crudité platter, spanakopita, and bought wine. Anne had barbequed skewers of eggplant, peppers, cherry tomatoes, and teriyaki tofu. Roxy and her followers showed up, as well as many of their classmates. Simone and Peter were noticeably absent.
Anne and Jillian had graduated earlier. The house was already sold. Jennifer had a week before she had to be out. She’d started college at the Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, falling in love with the green, damp, gorgeousness of the terrain. But needing specialized training she traveled East to The New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred. Soon she’d be returning there, using the money from the sale of the house to establish a studio.
As she secured the trailer with her furniture to the truck, her eyes filled with tears remembering the fun of her comrades in art, her passion with Peter, and the questions raised with Simone.
Nothing would replace her college experience, the discovery, the insights, the challenges, or the love. But the road ahead teamed with adventure and challenges, forging her new career as an architectural ceramicist. Once her studio was established, she’d take business classes to balance out the fluff taught to her in art school. It was one of her “beefs” about her education, no practicality about the road ahead, professors only had the expectation of grad school and teaching – or marriage for the women artists graduating from their program.
Friday rolled around and Jennifer surveyed her bundled trailer and truck with its supplies for her cross-country trip. Sipping her coffee from her new plastic travel mug, she slid into the truck and started the engine. Resisting the urge to drive through town, past Peter’s shop and Simone and Roxy’s unique house, she turned right toward Rt. 17 J West. Windows rolled half way down, the air wafted cow detritus, fresh mown hay, and the sound of insects.
By the time Jennifer reached her parents home in Ohio, she was beat. For three days she visited and told them stories of her college exploits and the characters of her three years at Alfred. Her sister was graduating from the University of Arizona, in Tucson, in a week. So Jennifer would meet them there at the hotel where they were staying. She wanted to take her time traveling the blue roads of the map. Winding her way slowly through small towns and by-ways, to discover the non-media America.
After her sisters, festivities, giving her parents the benefit of a graduation ceremony, she’d aim towards Olympia, Washington and find a place to establish a studio. She’d need to build a large kiln. Probably fueled by propane for it’s economy and scrounging high temperature brick from the aluminum specialties metal industries along the Columbia River. Rebuilding their kilns twice a year, left salvage piles of usable refractory brick good for 2000 degrees Fahrenheit. Jennifer would be firing to 2350, cone ten, but these would be dandy second layer insulating brick over her new 2700 Fahrenheit degree rated interior brick.
So many plans and ideas bubbled and stewed in her head as the miles collected under her tires. Adventure spiced her journey, potential spurred her on, alone but not for long. She’d achieve what she trained for and succeed, Washington State ahead.