Monday, April 19, 2010

A New Walk Down Old Memories

As always, it stood at the end of the lane watching the activity on Neff Road. On this day, it would look down at a woman returning home.

Janet invited me to walk with her once more down Neff Road on my return visit to Ohio. My best friend, Brenda, went with me. Two old friends once small girls walking barefoot down this old road stepping on the bubbles of tar that popped up through the pavement on hot days. We remembered a different Neff Road. “Where do you want to go first,” Janet asked. Oh, my heart longed to see the home I have loved these many years.

The neighbors who once lived along this road, those who loved us and watched over us were all gone. Some had passed and some had moved to the Brethren Home. I could no longer knock on Margaret’s door and find her welcoming smile and warm arms. Brenda’s mother is 96 now. Their home has been bought and remodeled adding another floor to the little house as well as a large garage. Nothing was the same. Doris and Victor no longer sat on their porch waiting for me to stop in to visit. Oh, I longed to see them there.

“Do you want to go to the house,” asks Janet as we stand looking back the lane. Torn between a longing to walk the lane and hug the house once more or avoiding the sense of loss I would feel if we walked on by, my feet automatically began the long remembered walk up the lane. The farm had changed. A new barn, fences around pigs and a cow, a play structure in the yard. Yes, it had changed. I knocked on the door unsure if I wanted to see inside of the house or talk with the new residents. The girl in me still longed to walk into the kitchen and find my mother cooking as usual and Dad peeling potatoes. The woman inside of me longed to once more belong to this land. No one came to the door. Whew. Not meant to be. Maybe I am not ready.

We walked to the barn my father built. Inside horses stood in stalls. The farm was once more a part of the simple life of no electricity and modern conveniences. Horses and buggies took the place of tractors and cars. It was no longer mine.

Three friends walked to the bridge. The same path walked hundreds of times now bringing me back to a place my family loved through our lifetimes and those of our children.

We ended our country trek at my grandfather’s farm. As we walked across the bridge by his home, Brenda told how she always hid beneath it when she ran away from home. At dinner time, she would wander home. “No one ever came looking for me,” she said. “I just wanted them to look for me.”

“Brenda, I’m sure they knew exactly where you were,” I said. Two best friends and their secrets. Now two older best friends and their memories.

I loved my walk down Neff Road. I’d waited three weeks to step onto that road once more. Janet gave me a gift in that invitation. She gave me more warm memories of a trip back home.

There really is no place like home…..even those of our memories.

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