Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Autumn musings

I spent last week with my sister, Edie, at her lovely country home near Lima, Ohio. A perfect place for meditating and slowing the busy summer pace, it is surrounded by trees and a brook. It's quiet there in the country, and the autumn air was restful.

The road to my sister's house is never long.
On Thursday, I drove to the neighboring town of Kenton where my then-husband and I lived when our children were very small. We had moved there from Minnesota with the promise of a better job for my husband. I hadn't been back for many years.

It was a trip down memory lane for me. All of a sudden I was 25 again as I drove past the two houses we bought and called home during our time there. And I could picture vividly pushing our baby son in the stroller as his 3 year-old sister toddled beside us, walking to the neighborhood carry-out (their term for a small grocery store), or to the library or the park.

I spent the day there in Kenton with one of my dearest friends. It was a friendship born when we were neighbors on the small two-block stretch of Barron Street and she was expecting her first child. The bond of friendship was instant.

She and her husband had moved to Kenton only a short time after we did, so they were newcomers to the town as well. The friendship that followed between our husbands was a bonus, we thought.

We lived on a narrow cobblestone street. Amish residents from the area's farms used our street frequently when in town to cut across two busier streets on either side of us. I never tired of hearing the clip-clop of the horses and peering out the window at the bearded men and women in cloaks riding in the small, square black carriages.

My neighbor was a bit more accustomed to it than I, she and her husband having lived in the Amish-country of Ohio all their lives.

Baptism in Ada, Ohio, 1971
When their baby boy was born, my husband and I were asked to be Godparents. Since we had no family around us at the time, it was a comfort and blessing to be welcomed into theirs.

So on the beautiful autumn day that we shared together last week, my friend and I continued our tour through the town, driving past once-familiar sights including the hospital where I worked part-time.

But like everything else, it has grown and changed beyond my recognition.

The downtown area was built around a square with the county courthouse in the middle and retail stores all around. A wonderful department store called Ullman's, a delightful children's store called Miss and Master Haberdashery, and a very practical Rexall drugstore were ones I frequented. The drugstore more likely than not included Amish women shopping for necessities. There were no shopping centers or chain stores then.

Today the courthouse remains, but the stores around the square are all closed and vacant. The outlying area is built up with split-level houses, shopping malls and Wal-Mart. It's the story not only of Kenton but so many other small towns around the country. The landscape of Americana is, sadly, changing.

As my friend and I ended our tour and our memorable day together, and I drove the 26 miles back to my sister's house, I decided to leave my impressions of our small town just the way they were when we moved back to Minnesota. Committed to my memory, they are better left there.

The physical surroundings of the area may have changed, but the blessings of warm friendships and the memories of two friends sharing the joys of being 25, homemakers and new mothers still remain, protected for recalling at will.

I am blessed and thankful for rich, heartwarming memories, and for solid friendships that endure the test of time.