Heading back instead of forward

blog103Sometimes the road before you takes you back instead of forward.

Last Saturday, Papa and I awakened early in our empty nest. We crawled out of bed at o-dark thirty (as my once-an-Army-man husband says) to shower, get dressed, and grab a quick breakfast.

Actually it was 5 am and we planned to leave our house around 6:30 because we had a three+ hour long trip to take to attend a morning gathering in a town over 175 miles away from ours.

One of the last surviving aunts on my husband’s mother’s side of the family passed away last week at the age of 87. We decided to attend her memorial service, not only to pay our respects for her and her family, but also because we knew it would be a family reunion of sorts.

We would have the opportunity to visit with my husband’s cousins who we haven’t seen in 20 years. Some of them live close by the town so far from ours, but some of them reside even farther away in other states, even on the West Coast. Papa’s older brother, a Texan now for over 30 years, was flying in for the service as well and we looked forward to seeing him.

We traveled by highway eastward as the sun arose and once we crossed the mountains, crystal blue skies and sunshine greeted us making our drive very pleasant.

Once we arrived at our destination, the air still nipped at us with a bite of chilliness but the greetings from family warmed us with smiles and hugs.

Reconnecting with cousins and my husband’s brother truly was a joy. We shared updates about grown children and cell phone photos of grandchildren.

We listened to stories of days gone by and memories of childhoods when that side of my husband’s family would all gather together at their “cottage” at a church campground and spend summer vacations together on the Jersey shore.

Quite some time ago, I tackled the plethora of old photos that had belonged to my in-laws. I managed my way through them all, deciding which ones we wanted to keep and placed them into photo albums.

But there were so many old photos of aunts and uncles and older cousins as youngsters that we decided should be given to those family members who were still alive.  Since Papa knew the family histories better than I did, he sorted those by families, bundled them up, and inserted them into large envelopes.

They traveled with us on our journey and as we all gathered at a lovely restaurant for lunch, Papa passed the envelopes out. Smiles spread on all those faces as they viewed those photos from yesteryear and passed them around for others to see.  Gracious thanks rained over us like blessings.

As the time ended and we all dispersed, Papa and I hugged everyone goodbye with promises of coming back in late summer for a family reunion. His brother had some time to kill before heading back to the airport, so we stayed and visited with him before we gave more hugs goodbye.

But before we left to travel back home, we meandered around this quaint town where so many of my husband’s relatives had lived. We drove past their former homes and Papa recalled many fond childhood memories.

We wandered down country roads and found the church campground where so much family history took place and marveled that the “cottage” the family once owned still stood.

The roads that led us to this wonderful time of family took us back – back to the days when families weren’t so spread apart by distance, back to a simpler time, back to childhood memories, and reminisces of those who are no longer among us.

Our day was a bit bittersweet. As we headed back westward to our home, I thought about the fact that we are now becoming the older generation of this family.

And how it saddens me to know that our children – all young adults and some reaching middle age now – will not have this experience of reconnecting with this side of the family. Yes, they are second or third cousins or however you classify the offspring of first cousins, but they don’t really know one another because distance separates us all.

Family stories and histories will probably become lost in time. Unless some of us try to preserve them. That’s what this day of traveling back showed me.

Sometimes we need to let the road before us take us back.

“So much of who we are is where we have been.” ~ William Langewiesche

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

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Life might be a highway, but I travel down memory lane

blogvacation3If life is a highway, and according to Rascal Flatts it is, then today I took a trip backwards down memory lane.

Someone once said, “A moment lasts all of a second, but the memory lives on forever.”

I would have to agree with that quote as today I visited a place where so many memories entrenched in the recesses of my mind sprang back to life.   After church, hubby and I decided to follow a ribbon of highway and see where it led us.

We traveled to the north country, where it’s even more rural than our area and the woods are thick and cool.  A distinct woodsy smell permeates the air there, a smell I can’t describe in words, but my mind identifies and remembers.

Our travels transported us down a narrow country lane where many of my childhood days transpired.   From the time I was about 10 until just a few years ago,  my parents owned a “camp” on a wooded lot near a national forest that runs through our state.  Our family spent many weekends there and sometimes a week at a time in the summers.  Relatives owned the camp next door and our families celebrated lively and entertaining times together.

When I was a child I reveled in this “home away from home,” but later in my teen-age years, the lure of Friday night high school football games, school dances, and going out with friends overshadowed my enthusiasm for going to camp for the weekend.

Today though as hubby and I drove down that familiar country road, I regaled tales to him about those forever memories, my memories, of camp.

See, right here was where girlhood friends and I would sit on a wooden plank bridge dreaming of our futures and giggling about cute boys while we competed to see who could hurl stones farther  into the creek and make the biggest splash.   The wooden plank bridge is long gone,  but the memory lives on.

And right there in that thick of woods was a lane that invitingly enticed us to follow until we arrived at a wider stretch of the creek, babbling on its merry way.  There were huge rocks that we would climb and sun ourselves on and then when it became too hot in the afternoon sun, we’d shirk our socks and Keds and wade into the cold, rushing water.  The lane is gone, a very faint path remains, but the memory lives on.

And there!  That was the old farm where the owner granted us permission to climb up into his old tree house nestled in a stately oak tree.   As we were ascending up the rickety ladder, a swarm of bees descended on us like a plague and we ran screaming and swatting the air as we flew like lightning out of there.   All four of us were stung and crying like crazy.  The farm looks abandoned now, the treehouse surely destroyed, but the memory lives on.

And right here at this house, where our playmate/local girl  lived all year round, is where we sought comfort from our bee stings.  Her mother soothed those nasty bee bites with Listerine mouthwash.  And back we ventured to explore some more, but never to that treehouse again!  The house remains, but looks quite different now and somehow smaller, but the memory lives on.

Oh, these fields are where my girlfriend and I rode, trotting and cantering, her ponies, Bonnie and Blondie.   We pretended we were cowgirls blazing trails on our trusty steeds and right there stood the barn where we would unsaddle the ponies and give them hay to eat.  No signs of the barn remain, but the memory lives on.

Someone I know now owns our old camp, so I didn’t feel like we were trespassing when we parked our car in the driveway and walked around the yard.  Back in my childhood days, the remnants of coal strip mining were behind the camp.  My friends and I enacted numerous pretend adventures on those mounds of shale.  One day we were desert explorers, desperate to find water.  Another time we were treasure hunters.   The no longer visible mounds are covered over with dense underbrush and trees now, but the memory lives on.

Hubby and I continued weaving around the country roads noticing changes here and there.  We stopped at what once was an old country general store, where I loved to go with my parents and pick penny candy out of a large candy counter.  Today it is an antique gift shop/post office but as soon as I walked inside I noticed the wooden plank floor.   Still the same floor, the lady behind the counter assured me.   Not the same store, but the memory lives on.

We traveled on to a nearby state park and then veered off to a different route back home,  stopping to view some lovely sights along the way including this one below.

Our meandering occupied our entire afternoon and our journey was complete  when we stopped for an ice cream dinner.  Yep, when you live in the empty nest and you don’t have to cook for the family, you can eat banana splits and grasshopper sundaes for dinner!

This day was filled with memories, but on our way back home, another thought became apparent to me.  Today hubby and I constructed more enjoyable memories together.

“Memory is a way of holding on to the things you love, the things you are, the things you never want to lose.” ~Anonymous

©2010 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com