Back Home Again In The Valley

I’ve spent a lot of time in the last few years pondering my future. What do I want to be when I grow up? Where do I want to live? What do I want to spend my time doing? One thing I never considered was moving “back home”. Every Memorial Day Weekend, I do go back home. I revel in the homecoming weekend with a local festival, a carnival, two parades, and high school reunions. Mostly, though, the weekend is about family reunion with my dad and his brother and sister and their families.

This year, I went to the all-class reunion with my sister and dad. I felt a bit bad that after two generations, the third only knows our hometown one weekend a year. My sisters and I all moved away. Our cousins moved away..oh, wait, my aunt’s son and daughter actually ended back in our home town.

At the all-class reunion, a man approached me. I am really bad at recognizing people, but I did figure out that he lived across the street from me the last couple of years of high school. He was a year ahead of me and his sister was in my class. He asked me if I remembered that his dad drove the three of us to school. I didn’t. Then he said maybe it was only once. Hmmm. Meanwhile, I’m looking around the room at this throw-back to a seventies kegger…sure enough, the vast majority of the folks in the room were graduates from the 1970’s. I was despairing of seeing any of my own classmates when one walked in with his wife from the class behind us.

I enjoyed the evening, but the highlight was a heartfelt discussion with my classmate. The rest of the weekend was filled with lots of family time. On Saturday, I slept in. After that, I went through the hotel breakfast buffet, then put on my swimsuit and swam laps in the just-opened pool. I love swimming…note to self, have a lap pool in retirement! Then I met up with my family and we ended up the evening at a rib cook-off listening to American folk music and eating some amazing ribs

Sunday I dragged my kids out of bed so that I could make the hometown race. Next up was the hometown parade…also known as the “candy parade” for all the candy tossed out. After the parade, we headed to my aunt’s, the glue of the family. The kids, first and second cousins, had no problem connecting after a year apart…such a wonderful thing to see! The kids, ages 5 to 20, played non-stop. The adults, from early forties to early eighties, chatted non-stop! We vowed to meet-up at the Memorial Day Parade in the morning.

The Memorial Day Parade in my hometown is a quintessential event. It is very short. I walked in it as a Brownie and Girl Scout as a girl. I remember being told that we had to march along regardless of whether or not a horse ahead of us had left a problematic deposit in our way. That never ended up being a real problem.  The parade ends at the local cemetery where a small ceremony includes a 21 gun salute and the recitation of the Gettysburg address by a sixth-grader. My family gathers in front of grandma and grandpa’s house. My grandparents moved out of the house about forty years ago and are, themselves, up at the cemetary, but we still think of the house as theirs.

The house sits on a corner, at the end of the parade route. Once the parade has passed, we part ways after a series of hugs and goodbyes and see-you-next-year’s. As I hugged my cousin goodbye, she informed me that several houses were for sale on her street, just around the corner. She expressed her desire for me and my sisters to move back home. As I looked around at my dad and his siblings, my sister and cousins, and the next generation of kids, I did feel the pull. When these kids are all grown, how many will return here for this special weekend? It gave me pause. Something to consider as I figure out just exactly how I want to spend my retirement years.

Find the Joy in the Journey…and the love of family, no matter how seldom seen.

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