Family weekend

We said goodbye to Kates’ parents this morning, four nights after their much-anticipated arrival to visit us in The ‘Ville … After all, it was our first face-to-face visit with anyone from what we’ll call our “outside world” since The Move. And, unlike my folks and brother, Kates' parents had never been to The ‘Ville, so I was eager to show off the surroundings.

Phoebe was so excited she busted out her party hats within moments of their arrival Thursday night.

We wasted little time taking them out on the town Thursday evening. First to A&G’s for dinner, The ‘Ville’s only upscale restaurant and a must-visit for all out-of-town visitors. Then for a driving tour of the city, through the square, past Kates’ new school, Beal Park with its outdoor aquatic center and little league fields, through the neighborhoods where we’ve been eyeing houses and past my old apartment.

The county fair was up and running all weekend long on the square, full of carnival rides and food stands. But we never did make it there, in part because of the wretched heat.

On Saturday morning, we walked the campus and I gave them one of my special tours. But the heat, which seemed to affect everyone but me, became too much and it ended up being an abbreviated tour.

Good thing we did it Saturday, too. On Sunday morning, I got my first 3 a.m. phone call since taking my new role …

We’ve have had some monstrous storms this summer, and another wicked one rolled in around 2:30 Sunday morning. The thunder was so loud and the wind so violent that Kates and I were listening for the tornado sirens to go off at any time; the power did go out for about an hour. Luckily Kates and I were sleeping on the air mattress in the hallway outside Phoebe’s downstairs room. Kates’ parents were sleeping in our bedroom upstairs and told us later they seriously considered joining us downstairs.

So around 3, as the storm was starting to pass, my phone rang. It was our emergency coordinator calling with the news that the campus sustained considerable tree damage, including a large tree that fell and took a light pole with it. Text messages were exchanged throughout the next hour or so as the damage was assessed …

We got our first look at the storm’s remnants as we drove to church Sunday morning. Barely a yard was left unscathed; there were huge limbs down everywhere … I said, That's what happens when nearly everything in this town is more than 100 years old.

We hit the buffet at the local Chinese buffet for lunch -- awesome -- and then I took a bike ride to campus to survey the damage. On my way, I rode past several more yards with severe damage, including a huge uprooted tree that crushed a metal trailer and toppled a chain link fence.

The center of campus looked like a war zone … The campus, I should note, is the state arboretum with more than 1,300 trees and 125 different species; those of us who study and work there take great pride in the landscape and grounds. Sunday morning’s storm killed nine trees and damaged about 200.

Last night, we celebrated Kates’ birthday with a home-cooked meal, chocolate cake -- and the party hats.

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