|It's a law office now but this building housed |
the public library where I checked out
my first romance novel.
God puts people in our path for a reason. My stepmom was a wonderful woman; a smart, funny, kind woman who loved my dad deeply. She brought joy and laughter back into his life, welcomed the five of us kids as if we were her own and blended her children, grandchildren and great-children into our family as if we had always been meant to be a unit. She and my dad showed us that sometimes we get a second chance at love and, no matter our age, we should not fear reaching for it. She died two weeks ago. We feel the loss of her life keenly but we cherish the memories she left us.
The more things change, the more they stay the same. My small hometown has suffered a great deal over the past several years. The economic downturn has left its mark in failed businesses and rundown buildings but some traditions remain solid. School and recreational sporting events still draw large, supportive crowds, the local hardware store still sports a Radio Flyer wagon in its window and the fire department still blows the fire whistle at Noon and 6pm. It's been a long time since I lived there but each time the fire whistle blew, or a train rumbled through town, I closed my eyes and was transported back in time to my childhood. The town may have changed but the sounds remain the same.
Nothing says "Good Morning" like good coffee and good friends. Another iconic fixture of small town America still going strong in my hometown is the diner where locals gather over coffee each morning to discuss the events of the day: how the weather will affect the crops, what politicians are going to do about the economy, what fish are biting in the lake and whether or not the Cubs (or Tigers) have a shot at this year's pennant. The Sidetrack Cafe (so named because it sits next to the railroad tracks) is small, worn and probably hasn't had a face lift since it was known as the Midget 45 years ago but it still serves up the best coffee, breakfast and gossip in the area. Eating there each morning was a bit surreal, however. It was as if, since the diner hadn't changed, I expected the patrons to be the same too. I spent my first twenty years in that town. The population was about 1800 and I probably knew at least 80% of the people who lived there but, for three days, as I sipped coffee, savored breakfast and strolled Main Street, I didn't see a single familiar face. Do you think the fact that, in my mind, I was visualizing people as they looked 40 years ago may have had something to do with it?
There are many definitions of family. Our childhood home was on a lake and we were one of only a handful of year-round residents on our street. Most of the homes were owned by people from Chicago with mothers and children who arrived on Memorial Day and left on Labor Day and husbands who joined them on weekends. We were particularly close to one summer family who owned the house across the street from ours. For as long as I can remember (I was four when we moved to the lake), they've been a part of my life.
|The street where I grew up.|
Don't wait until tomorrow to tell people you love them. With our busy lives and many responsibilities, we sometimes forget to tell people how much they mean to us. Sometimes this message has to be reinforced as has been the case during the past few weeks. The original reason for our trip north was the news that my aunt and uncle (my dad's sister and brother) are in poor health. They and my uncle's wife (who may not be related by blood but is my beloved aunt in every other way) are the only ones still alive from my mom and dad's generation and I love them dearly. Seeing them this past week has brought home very clearly the reality that we only have a limited amount of time on Earth and we never know when that time will come to an end. Spending time with them and with three of my brothers has made me remember how precious each day is and how important it is to tell those people close to us that we love them. It has reminded me not to take time or family or friends for granted but to treasure them and let them know they are treasured.
Where did you grow up? Do you still live there? If not, have you been back to visit? Did you find yourself looking for the faces you shared freshman English with instead of the people they are today? Do you resemble any of your ancestors? Have you always known which one or, like me, was it a recent discovery?