Sunday, July 19, 2009
Last week I "went back home."
My hometown of Sylvania, Georgia -- about an hour outside of the coastal sprawl of Savannah -- has managed to maintain or recapture so much charm from its earlier history. Many of the old stores remain, while a few of them have been renovated to become something entirely different.
The old pool hall is now an antique store, its main room -- narrow and long -- filled with mementos of bygone eras. The old appliance store, where my neighbor made his living, is now a gift shop/drug store. The old soda shop, where I ventured with my buddies in the afternoons after school for a BLT and Coke, is now an artist's gallery.
The town square boasts a fountain for sitting around, chatting, relaxing, contemplating. Just beyond it is a patch of grass where teens used to park on Friday and Saturday nights (just to hang out). Now crepe myrtles bloom and an American flag stands proudly guarding two Napoleon cannons from the Civil War (AKA The War of Northern Aggression). Just beyond the cannons stands the church I walked into week after week, Sunday after Sunday, Wednesday night after Wednesday night.
Of course, while visiting back home I went to church on Sunday. I parked the car on the far right side of the building, under the shade of some old trees. We climbed out -- my mother, brother, daughter, and I -- and walked toward the front of the Sunday school building. I looked at my feet, thinking about the number of times I'd stepped on this sidewalk, inching my way toward the House of the Lord. My eyes cut to the main parking lot and had a vague memory of jumping rope "right here" during VBS one summer and realizing I was pretty good at it.
My mother now stepped ahead of me. I focused on the 1/2 inch heels of her shoes and recalled the 3-inch spikes of her pumps "back in the day." For a moment she and my father were walking just in front of my little brother and me -- Daddy dressed in a dark suit and Mother in spikey shoes, a sleek dress, white gloves, and a small hat. I thought about the fact that it was these heart pictures taken in my childhood that formed my opinions about adulthood. And what proper Southern ladies wear to church.
Of course not too many women wear all that to church these days. I missed the boat by about 20 years.
The familiarity of "home" rushes back at the oddest times. Walking along the cracked sidewalk in front of some of the storefronts and remembering this person or that moment. Even in my mother's home -- the home of my childhood -- waking in the warmth of the summer's morning and having that "sense" of the same time of day during summer vacations from school. Lazy mornings. Stretching beneath yellow and green floral sheets, wiping the sleep from my eyes as I planned the whole live-long day. Watching "Concentration" or "Captain Kangeroo" on television while eating cereal swimming in whole milk. Getting dressed and then calling my best friend to see if she wanted to meet between our homes and, by that afternoon, going to the recreation department's olympic-size pool where we'd glide like eels under water for hours on end.
Not that I get to do that anymore, of course. None of it.
They say you can't go home again and maybe a part of that is true. But in some ways you can ... you really can. You just have to close your eyes and inhale a little. Breathe in a memory. Bask in the glow of what was and what could have been. Think, "You know, it really was a good life..." and mean it.
And it's nice if someone comes along and restores that which was beginning to crumble, the way the Downtown Development Authority of Sylvania has done.
Which leads me to another point ... about a cook book and some book signings.
But I'll write about those later.