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?