It’s funny that I consider myself a city girl at heart, when I really could not imagine a more perfect setting for my run this morning than Mayberry USA. It’s the 4th of July, Independence Day, and I’m spending it with my kids in the town that I spent so many of the Christmases and Thanksgivings and 4ths of July of my childhood.
Quincy, IL is nestled on the banks of the Mississippi River, just across from Hannibal, MO, home of Mark Twain. It’s about halfway between St. Louis and Chicago, so it’s one of those rare places where Cubs and Cardinals fans can set aside their differences, focus on their mutual love of baseball and actually be friends. This is a town where people decorate their houses for the holiday like it’s their patriotic duty, large flags flying and small flags stuck in the ground lining the sidewalks.
As I set off on my run this morning, I wasn’t really sure how far I would end up going. I was hoping for 6, but I wasn’t sure if my hip would let me go more than 3 or 4. It’s still giving me trouble and I’m just hanging on to hope that it will hold out another couple weeks to get me through that half marathon at the end of Racine 70.3.
I left my Grandma’s house and headed west on Payson Road over to 24th street. I turned north at Niemann’s Horse Farm, which holds a secure spot in my earliest memories of this place. I ran past the entrance to my Aunt and Uncle’s neighborhood and I waved hello to a man driving a tractor down the road. I ran past homes with freshly painted porches and manicured lawns, well maintained, showing the pride these folks have in the lives that they’ve built here. I continued north on 24th all the way to Maine St. That’s right, Maine, with an ‘e’. As I stood at the corner of 24th and Maine, waiting for the traffic to clear, I nodded hello at a couple cyclists and I smiled at the driver of an old-school Ford as he cruised on by.
I ran west down tree lined Maine, past all the old mansions, toward the heart of downtown and the river. At some points the brick sidewalk showed the age of the town, you could see how the roots of the huge trees had grown over the years, breaking the bricks and rippling the sidewalk. It got a little treacherous, but it was well worth it for the nostalgia of the day. I thought of our trip out to Camp Point last summer to see all the sights of where my dad had lived in his earliest years before the Jacobs clan came to Quincy. My Uncle Tim drove us out there last year for the Camp Point 4th of July parade (be careful not to blink or you might miss the whole thing). We went by the cemetery to pay homage to my Grandpa Wayne who fought with the Navy in World War II and my Great-Grandpa Issac who fought with the Army in World War I. We drove past my Great-Grandma Winnie’s little pink house…or where it used to stand anyway. We stopped by the park and got root beer floats and elephant ears, at 10am. Breakfast of champions.
I snapped back to present day when I got to 12th street. I briefly considered turning right and bailing on my run with a stop at Maid-rite, but instead I went left and headed back in the direction of my Grandma’s house, knowing that my kids were probably chomping at the bit to get over to swim with my cousins. They adore my cousin Jerrison, who is the youngest of 3 boys my Aunt Jane and Uncle Tim adopted from Haiti a few years ago and is the same age as Ally. I ran down 12th, past the Governor John Woods mansion on my left, and Mr. Bill’s Bar and Grill to my right. I ran to South Park, established 1895. I ran on 12th until it turns into Cherry Lane and leads back to 24th. I ran over the Curved Creek bridge and up the hill by Niemann’s, past the long white fence lined with American flags flapping in the breeze.
At this point I realized I was going to top out just shy of 8 miles for the day. I guess there is something to be said for sentimentality carrying me through and over-riding the pain. The sun was high and it was warming up, I probably should have brought water (I usually try to practice what I preach with this one). I started wondering if I should have headed out on the bike before my run this morning since I need more practice with transitions. I did get in a decent brick workout yesterday, a ride out through the country roads with surprisingly more rolling hills than I would have thought, followed by a short run. But today, was about getting back to being who I am. Before I was a triathlete, I was a runner. Even before that though, I was a Jacobs. That’s the thing I really love about being here in Quincy. Even time I come back, I am always reminded of who I am. And even with all my baggage and goofiness and geekiness, here I am completely 100% comfortable with all of my weirdness. That’s the thing about the Jacobs family; we’re all about the more the merrier. We quote lines from the National Lampoon Vacation movies. We help each other. We love baseball. We share stories about the good old days. We take a lot of pleasure in the over-the-top fireworks display that my Uncle Jerry puts on. We take naps on Norma’s couch and we cheer on our beloved Cubs without fear of ridicule. We eat a lot. We put together jigsaw puzzles and watch reruns of Andy Griffith and Cheers. We’re not extravagant, we just are who we are. We’re loyal. We’re accepting. We’re not perfect, but we love without judgment. We find comfort in family and traditions, and we know how to celebrate life without holding back.
I used to declare that I’m not sentimental, because I don’t keep a lot of “stuff”, but today proved that might not be entirely accurate. Maybe I don’t keep the “stuff” but I keep the memories and I remember the traditions, and that’s what really matters. Being a Jacobs is near and dear to my heart. I’m proud to be who I am, and I’m proud of where I came from. And obviously, I’m not completely averse to keeping the “stuff” because my Great-Grandpa Issac that I mentioned earlier…well, his old trunk from when he headed off to the war has found a home in my living room.
Yesterday I got this picture of my niece from my brother, with the caption: It’s like she wakes up every day and says…what is something awesome I can do today?
My text back to him was: Well, duh. She’s a Jacobs. Would you expect anything else?!
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a burger and some strawberry pie to eat before we head off to a small town baseball game and fireworks.
Happy 4th everyone! I hope you are all enjoying your families today, as much as I am enjoying mine. And I would be remiss if I didn’t take the opportunity to say a heartfelt thanks to those who have given their lives and fight for the freedoms that we enjoy and celebrate on this day. Thank you and God Bless America!