Here are a few journal entries made during a trip to the home of my youth:
How utterly stunning this is. I am standing in an empty space where once a family lived, worked and died; where the fields were fertile in the hot Ohio sun and the crops were ripe and yielding. The barn, miraculously, still stands. The date "1881" is emblazoned under a cut-out star at its crest. My great-grandfather built that barn with the help of his neighbors and a pack of mules. My memory hears the distant call of our Tennessee Walkers, Dan and Lady, ready to be freed from their stalls. Visions come tumbling back of the grain bin I played in when I was small, of the heavy, well-oiled equipment my father used to work his farm, and of the hayloft my brother and I would spend summers flying into from a swinging rope. The barn reminds me of an ancient ruin, and in some ways, it is. My child's eye sees where the farmhouse my father built, the one that I grew up in, once stood. It is gone now, along with my grandparents' house across the way. I am struggling with the empty spaces and the flood of memories they bring. The old and lovely land that seemed to go on forever now ends abruptly at a freeway overpass. Progress, in all its ugly and rapacious glory, has taken over.
The lady who now lives on the land, in a beautiful modern house, turns out to be gracious and lets me into the barn for a look-see. The barn is at once familiar and unfamiliar. There is no hayloft now, nor any hay at all. Instead there is a sound stage and I learn that many parties and celebrations occur here. I am not displeased by this, in that my grandfather was a violin player who would fiddle and call square dances around the countryside as well as at home. It seems an entirely appropriate use for the old barn, and it makes me happy.
No trip home would be complete without a tour of some personal landmarks, so I drag my patient husband to our small town's Schaller Memorial. The Schallers are my ancestors and settled this area of Northwestern Ohio, once known as The Black Swamp. As the name should tellw you, this was an arduous undertaking. It's comforting to know that I come from some pretty sturdy stock. After visiting the memorial, we stop by the scene of the crime, the church in which we were married. We go in and stand at the altar and try to recapture the feelings we had when we stood at the same altar 50 years ago. What I mostly remember from back then was that while we were standing there, my soon-to-be husband began swaying ever so slightly. I slanted my eyes toward him and noted that he was not only swaying, but sweating and pale. I thought it best to put a firm hand at his elbow, which I'm happy to say helped him to get through the ceremony in a conscious state. It occurs to me now that maybe he was guessing what the next 50 years would be like!
This walk down memory lane culminates in attendance at my high school reunion, where I barely recognize my old friends. Tempus Fugit. Even though I haven't seen them in a coon's age (sorry, Ohio expression) we came together as if we had never been apart. These friendships are important. They have lasted a lifetime.
Looking at the past as I did on this trip back made me realize how precious it all is, how quickly it passes, and how much it needs to be cherished.