The Joys of Going Home Again

I apologize for this post being late today. I was out of town until late last night, and was sick for half the trip, so I wasn’t up to trying to get online and think of what I wanted to say. Then, of course, I had to work today. Still not feeling great, but my brain’s working. 🙂

Anyway, the trip was from PA to Massachusetts for a family reunion and some college tours. On Sunday afternoon, we had a little free time, so we drove the half hour or so out of our way to my old hometowns, Feeding Hills, Agawam, and Southwick, Massachusetts.

It was the first real opportunity to show my kids where I grew up. They’d been up there a lot, but not since my mom died in 2003, so they didn’t really remember. I showed them my schools, the tiny apartments we lived in, the two miles I had to walk every day to junior high (“she definitely walked further than you did, Dad!”), and the convenience store across the street where my mother would send us to buy her cigarettes. (The girls were appalled. I had to explain that it was legal then. 🙂 )

What really amazed me wasn’t what had changed, but how little had. You kind of expect things to be different when you’ve been away from a place for a long time. Businesses close or change, buildings get torn down and replaced or new ones built in formerly open space. But I was really surprised at the number of little mom-and-pop stores and restaurants that were still there 30 or more years later.

The best part was going all the way back to Southwick. I lived there from the age of one, when my parents moved back to the States from England and took over my grandmother’s lake cottage, until they divorced when I was seven. The house and street were HUGELY different. Partly because I was teeny (at 7) when we left, so the size of my yard and house didn’t match my memories. But also actual change. They’d built a second story on the house, but the backyard was completely gone (homes built where there used to be woods). There’s a lake at the end of the street. When I was a kid, everyone could go down the path to a tiny little sandy beach with a swimming area they raked out every year. If you strayed from the raked area, you’d sink into ankle-deep muck from the leaves that fell in. Now, it’s still beautiful, with the trees and vegetation growing up to the edge of the lake, but it was private now, with boat docks built where the beach used to be. I wasn’t sad or anything, but it no longer felt like home.

But then we drove to town to see if my favorite place was still there, and it WAS! (See the picture above). The Summer House was just an ice cream stand when I was a kid. I would swear it was the Friendly’s Summerhouse then, because I was always confused that all the other Friendly’s were restaurants and this one was primarily a stand. I didn’t get the childhood favorite, pistachio, because A) they didn’t have it and B) it’s no longer a favorite. But I got one scoop of chocolate chip and one scoop of peppermint stick on a sugar cone, as when I was little, and I felt very gleeful as I sat there doing the frantic lick-and-spin to get the drips and tilts under control.

My husband kept trying to get me to get out of the car (in the rain!) and stand next to signs and buildings so he could take a picture, and I didn’t want to. I wasn’t being sentimental, just showing the kids where their mom grew up. But all bets were off when I saw The Summer House. I jumped out of that car so fast!

So where’s the special place from your past? Do you ever get to go back? If you have, what was it like?

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10 Responses

  1. I had one of those weekends in June when we went to a rodeo in Dillon, MT. The last time I was in that arena I roped at the college rodeo. Uh, yeah, been awhile. To give you an approximate time frame, around about the same year I saw George Strait in concert in the same town– in their high school gym.

  2. sweet memories are the best memories. My special place was my hometown library. It has since been remodeled to the extent that it’s lost its magic (though most would say it’s better) so I don’t really recognize it as the place where I once sat barelegged on the linoleum, contemplating which book I’d read again.

    • YES, Liz! We were there on Sunday, so the library wasn’t open, and I was sad about that. I spent SO many hours there. My mother would drop me off to go shopping or whatever, and pick me up hours later. No cell phones, of course, so I’d have to linger in the entryway watching for her, and she was ALWAYS late.

      But I can picture exactly where the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew books were, and the Carolyn Keanes, and the Judy Blumes, and the Robert Heinleins, and the adult paperback romances when I got older. I like my library now, but it’s not the same. 🙂

  3. hm. I still live in my hometown, so I don’t have a kind of special place like that but when I was little I’d spend summers with my dad traveling or down in Florida.

    My favorite part of coming home was jumping out of that van and smelling the country air.

  4. Sounds like fun, Natalie. I don’t really have a specific home to visit since my dad was military like my husband, but Tucson is probably the closest thing. I haven’t been back in a long time, but last time I was there it was fun to see what was the same and what had changed.

    • “Home” doesn’t have to be designated by length of time, IMO. It’s more about connection. I moved a lot (7 times before I was 16), but they were mostly close geographically (except for CA and back in three weeks). But the summer before my senior year we moved to upstate New York, near Albany, and that was the best year of the first half of my life. I feel the same going back there as I did at the Summer House. 🙂 Sounds like Tuscon is kind of like that for you, maybe?

  5. What a special trip! I love going home to visit with family and bring back those memories. 🙂 Lots has changed in my hometown though. Shoot, even my high school is no more. Kinda sad.

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