Memories of Stratford: A (Not Really) Elegy By C

Hola! Ciao! Other words for hello! It is I, C, the great Floridian, here to do a wrap-up post of Stratford just about one week out.

I cannot believe it’s been a week. Logically, I know it has, but it just doesn’t feel like it was a week ago that I was rolling in laughter during The Hypochondriac, delighting in “Is this the face that launched a thousand ships”, and drowning in my love of Tom Rooney’s acting. A week ago, I was (mostly) not melting (there was one day I had some trouble, but, rather unfortunately for a Floridian, I am quite prone to heat-based issues) in the beautiful Stratford weather, drinking pot after pot of tea at Balzac’s, and eating meal after delicious meal. Not to mention the theater. Then again, this means one week down, fifty-one (ish) weeks to go until next year!

It’s interesting to me the way feelings change between a first trip and a return to a beloved place. Last year, A and I spent the first week back just wallowing in misery. We couldn’t get Stratford off our minds and longed to return to those beloved streets we’d so recently met. Returning this year, that patina of newness was gone, replaced by deep affection and warm renewal. We walked up the steps to our same room from last year and every creak in the floor and book on the shelf was familiar, beloved, and comforting. Laura greeted us like old friends, popping her head out of her door and throwing her arms out for a hug the second we pulled up. Her stories were as amazing as ever, and she was as delighted to hear about Mercutio as we were to hear the history of the festival through her eyes. And, of course, the granola was as delicious as we remembered.

Rediscovering old loves is, in my opinion, probably better than discovering new ones. It’s like watching a favorite movie while snuggling under a favorite blanket and eating a favorite meal. Everything we remembered slotted right into place, from the back patio of Balzac’s to the trumpets before every performance at the Festival Theater. Our sandwiches at Sirkel (one table over from Hamlet and his family!) were just as delicious as last year, and Anna Mae’s… oh, Anna Mae’s. I shed tears when I realize I’m… (looking it up) 1500 miles away from their delicious potato salad and Shoofly pie. And the chicken. And… so much food for so little money… and…

WHYYYYYYYY, Anna Mae’s?! WHY MUST YOU BE SO FAR AWAY?!

Ahem… anyway. I guess what I’m trying to get at is that, for the most part, leaving Stratford was less fraught this year (the disastrous return journey notwithstanding) than it was last year. I wouldn’t say I miss it less. In fact, I probably miss it more. But… I think getting to experience it again puts Stratford into a different category… a more familiar one. It gets a place in my life like Disney World for my birthday or the local chicken and waffles restaurant that satisfies the deep need in me to be comforted. It’s not an exciting discovery that I yearn for in the flush of first-time excitement, but an old friend I know is waiting for me, even if I have to wait a year to get there. I know there’s new things to see — we STILL haven’t made it to the damn museum (despite many attempts) or watched a set changeover — and newly-discovered favorites to visit again. (A couple of food places in particular beckon so sweetly… oh, the pig tails at Mercer. Ohhhh the goat’s milk ice-cream at Montforte we didn’t get to try… Oooooohhhhh the spicy chicken sandwich at Red Rabbit that gave me massive hiccups but I ate anyway because it was SO DAMN GOOD…)

But I am not pulling my hair out in despair or wallowing in what, last year, we called The Post-Stratford Blues… because it’s different now. Stratford is officially a part of me, and I am officially part of it. I’m a regular (well… I suppose I will be once I go next year). I’m part of Laura’s Stratford family, even if I’m a new member. I’m sure she tells stories about the two young women who were so inspired by Stratford, they wrote a play because of it. We’re part of the narrative now.

And I, for one, look forward to playing a much bigger role.

C

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