Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Who says you can never go home again?

Who says you can never go home again? I just did.

A tornado touched down a few miles east of Beecher, where I used to live. A house on the Schroeder farm was severely damaged. It was actually reported as being in Peotone, since that was the mailing address. In reality, it was between Beecher and Peotone, the town where I lived and the town where I worked respectively. That was my beat, as a reporter for the local paper. Had I still lived there, I would have covered the story. I often wrote weather stories. This was the grandaddy of weather stories since the barometric pressure in this storm was the lowest on record. Eighteen states were affected by this monster storm. They say it was stronger than the one that sunk the Edmund Fitzgerald in the Great Lakes in the 1950's.

I watched the WGN news at noon. Peotone Fire Chief Bill Schreiber was interviewed. I was well-acquainted with Bill and used to talk to him on a regular basis. I haven't seen him since we moved to Arkansas six years ago. It was odd to see someone else interview him. That was my job. Of course there are times I miss working for the paper. I enjoyed the relationship I had with so many people. Not only did I know them; I cried with many of them. Even from 600 miles away, I could empathize with the victims of this tragedy and the personal scope of this story.

I was moved by this trip back to my former on so many levels, but none so much as what occurred in the late afternoon. During the coverage, my former next door neighbor's daughter was interviewed on ABC News. The footage showed not only her home, but the house next door, which was where I lived for more than 20 years.

I admit that was weird. It isn't that I wish we still lived there. I am very happy to be living in Arkansas, but it was odd to see the old homestead, where there were many, many happy memories. I loved that old, rambling two-story house that my children called home. One brief glimpse of it, gave me a similar sensation as stepping into a hot tub. I was enveloped by warm thoughts of our past there, the friendliness of my neighbor Diane who used to come and sit on the front porch as I waited for my husband to come home from work. Family life in a small town was like being in a web that included many others. There was almost constant interaction, with friends, neighbors, children, and their network of friends. It seemed so structured, routine.

My life does not resemble my former lifestyle at all these days. John and I are virtually alone, void of neighbors stopping by or kids running in and out with friends. Being retired has little place for a routine. The phone hardly ever rings. We have made friends, but the friendships are much less intense and more distant.

I loved my former life, but I love this one too. I have pangs of sadness as I long for a hug from one of my children or grandchildren. When that happens I try to replace my thoughts with real memories of them. The cure is a simple telephone call. Just hearing their voices satisfies me. It has to.

It is fitting that after 20 years of writing for newspapers, that my trip down memory lane would be induced by the media. I love that technology makes such things possible. Twenty years ago, my present would have been severed from my past. Yet today, I am able to bring my past and present together almost seamlessly. If this is possible, what does the future hold. I am anxious to find out.