Can you ever go home again? And what does that mean to you?
I ask because in a couple of days, I’m on my way home. Oh, not permanently, but for a brief visit, enough to conjure up warm memories that are already making me a bit gooey inside.
- The smell of spray starch when I bounded in from school and chatted with my mom while she did the ironing.
- The slap, slap of the cards on the dining room table as Dad played solitaire every night.
- The snow forts we’d make in the winter when the snow plow would come by right after we finished shoveling the driveway.
- The hauling out of every pair of shoes in the house so I could play shoe store on snow days.
- The whip-like snap of a damp dish towel when my brother and I had dish-duty. Okay, maybe I can forget that one.
To paraphrase my favorite TV character, Ted Lasso, Life is a gift and you have to live in the moment. That’s why they call it the present. I work really hard to do this, but occasionally, I slip back in time. And that’s where I am as I write this.
But this return is even more special for me as I’ll be presenting my book, Carrie’s Quest, at the local library, I know a handful of classmates who will be attending as well as one of my high school English teachers, and the librarian. I’m equal parts excited and anxious!
I grew up in Viroqua, Wisconsin, tucked in the hills and valleys in the southwest corner of the state. Several years ago, a marketing guru defined the unglaciated area as the “driftless region” and it’s become a destination for weekend trips from Milwaukee or Minneapolis seeking beautiful scenery. It is also considered one of the best trout fishing areas in the state, “surrounded by hilly countryside, Amish farms, orchards, and produce stands.”
But none of that mattered to me when I grew up there. I just knew it was a small town (4,000) with nothing for me and the minute I left for college, I never looked back except for short college breaks. I’m glad my sister stayed and raised her family there so I have a good reason to return. It’s a remarkably vibrant small, rural town.
Of course, I’m smart enough to know the difference between the fantasy in my head and the reality of what I’ll find. Well, sort of.
- It’s been two years since I’ve been there, so it’s not like I haven’t seen the sadness in some of the neighborhoods. And that was pre-pandemic.
- I’m also keenly aware that the grand tobogganing hill across the street is simply a slope.
- And sadly, as excited as I am to see some family members, the enthusiasm will not be shared by all of them. Maybe you’ve felt them same? I think that’s the difference between an aging family member and a busy, working family person. I remember those days well.
Regardless, I’m ready to see the improvements investors have made in an old, forgotten hotel, go quilt shopping with my oldest sister, and spend time at the cemetery talking with my folks.
There will be more about this trip. I hope you’ll follow along.