As I slip between the Endless Mountains, my urgency to get home is amplified. Even in the “almost” darkness I can see the silhouettes of the trees to my right and the hills on both sides of the road. Darkness arrives quickly in October and had I known I was going to take this side trip I would have chosen a flight that landed closer to home than Philadelphia. The change of plans was all my doing, or undoing I guess you’d call it. I was headed to my hometown, leaving my former agenda in the trashcan at home. I scanned the road, the cars, and the bank of the river – I did not want to meet up with a deer while driving a rental car.
I’m sure it was close to 5:30 when I pulled into the Hampton Inn’s parking lot, relishing the fact that I had a nice place to stay in such a small town. Occasionally I stay with a friend, but this is where I wanted to be on this visit. I could hardly wait to go for a run tomorrow on the streets and sidewalks where I spent most of my childhood. This wasn’t where I learned to drive because I was only thirteen when I moved from this small town, so getting back on the sidewalks was on my list of things to do. It’s an odd thing to most people to say that you miss walking the sidewalks of your hometown, but it’s one thing that would just make this trip all the better. Years after I moved when I was an adult, I would actually find driving around town to be quite disorienting. Over that time away, I leapt from skateboards and bicycles to being married with three kids and driving a mini van!
Another thing about “home” I was looking forward to, or maybe salivating over, was getting some real Italian food. There have always been many Italian families in this little corner of America, and until you live away from this place, you never understand why your parents talk endlessly about the food. My husband and I can appreciate this after living in Germany – we STILL talk about how great the Greek, Italian, and Syrian food was in our little German town.
So, after checking in I head to my favorite pizza place for a calzone and take it back to my room complete with soda from the vending machine. Another thing I don’t indulge in very often is soda… but I HAVE to have some with my calzone or it doesn’t feel complete. I’m pretty sure there were M&M’s for dessert too.
Between the sheer delight at the gastronomic feast and a good movie on TV, I check in with few friends to solidify our plans for the next 2 days. Another little gem of this small town is a breakfast and brunch cafe complete with many homemade bakery items. Their omelets are excellent and their bakery carries gluten-free products and some desserts exclusive to Pennsylvania. I think every meal I had that weekend was literally “a slice of home.”
The best part of breakfast or brunch is, of course, spending it with friends that have made a huge resurgence in my life since their 25th class reunion. I left in 8th grade, but I was invited to attend the reunion and really enjoyed finding out how close you can still be after the passing of nearly 30 years. Marriages, kids, the passing of classmates or parents, and lots of “I wonder where so-and-so is” were discussed. More than that though, there was this deep-seeded feeling of having never left. It’s almost a lovesick feeling to leave everything you’ve ever known in your short life and then come back and feel so welcomed and missed by your dear friends. And each time I leave, I eagerly await the next visit.
In Girls Scouts we used to sing a song that said “make new friends, but keep the old … one is silver and the other is gold.” I’m not sure why that stuck with me all those years, but like a seed that is planted on good soil, eventually it grew. It’s something that you really come to understand years later.
When I read some of the other verses to this song, I knew and understood how precious even just one friend from childhood can be. “A fire burns bright, it warms the heart … We’ve been friends, from the very start.”
Life is hard – in case you didn’t know. We all take turns hitting low spots in the valleys or spending a little time on top of the hill feeling that all is well and good in our lives. What’s really great though, is when you can share these times with the friends that know you through-and-through and maybe have a laugh about it, or just exchange the knowing and understanding look that says “I’ve been there too my friend.”
Sometimes, words aren’t necessary with a really good friendship, just the knowledge of who we are and where we came from…