Friday, August 8, 2014

Back Home Again



Thought for the day:  I think what you notice most when you haven't been home in a while is how much the trees have grown around your memories.  [Mitch Albom]

This is an old picture of my mom (far right) and some of her siblings. It tears at my heart a little to look at this picture, because they're all long gone now.

... I wasn't homesick for anything I would find at home when I returned. The longing was for what I wouldn't find. The past and all the people and places there were lost to me.  [Alice Steinbach]

Smarticus and I just returned home from Baltimore. Even though we've called Georgia home since 1971, the ghosts of our childhoods still reside in Baltimore. Never are we more aware of them than when we re-visit some of our old haunts, like we did last weekend. Places that used to teem with crowds of people are now mostly vacant. Sealed off.


Like this place. Loch Raven. Once upon a time, every roadway here was lined with cars. Lots of young people waxing their cars, and striking poses. (You know, in case anyone was looking...) Lots of cruising and schmoozing. Lots of laughter.

There used to be picnic areas, and places to hike, too. And we loved to walk out across the top of the dam to watch the water spilling over it, and marvel at the gargantuan carp swimming down below. Now? No can do. Everything is fenced off. Eerie. There were no signs of other visitors around, unless you count all the Canadian geese. Methinks people-type visitors aren't welcome there anymore.

We experienced the same thing at Rocks State Park, which used to be one of our favorite places to visit. Smarticus and I went there right before he went into the Army in 1969.


We took quite a few pictures that day, but this is my favorite. I'd hoped to recreate it.

No such luck. We couldn't get to that area anymore. You guessed it. Blocked off.



So I took THIS picture, and I like it just as well. (Hmmm, might have something to do with being kinda partial to the subject matter...)

Even though the places we visited had changed so dramatically, our trip to Baltimore wasn't about the places. Not at all.

Home is a people. Not a place. If you go there after the people are gone, then all you can see is what is not there anymore.  [Robin Hobb]

Yes...it was about  people. Some very special people... my cousins, many of whom were also very dear childhood friends. And last weekend, a bunch of us got together in Baltimore for a reunion. That's the really cool thing I was doing. We came together to celebrate... us.  (While some of us are still left.) Believe it or not, I met one cousin for the first time. We found out a couple years ago that Kathy had been given up for adoption by one of my aunts, and though we've communicated via email and telephone, this was our first face-to-face. She and her husband came all the way from California to meet us. My brother came in from Texas, and he hadn't seen some of our cousins since before he went into the Marines in 1959. So as you can imagine, it was an incredible gathering. I'll only share a few pics with you...

Remember this shot of my cousin Phyllis and me? I just shared it on a post last month.




Well, we tried to recreate it last weekend... without the tent, of course. Or the svelte young bodies. But every time I attempted to strike an approximation of the original the-wind-is-blowing pose, she'd say something to make me laugh.




So we settled for this one. Close enough.


Here's some of the crew. That's my brother Ron on the far left, and my "baby" cousin Curt with his arm around Diane and me. Patty, next to my brother, is the "classy" one among us, although she'd probably argue with me about that. Kathy is next to me, and we found we have so much in common, it's as though we were separated at birth. (As she pointed out, in a way... we were.) That's Curt's son Jacob behind us. He'd valiantly been trying to horn into the many pictures taken of this group, and he finally succeeded. (Might I add that the camera added at LEAST twenty pounds to each of us... except for Jacob, of course. Clearly, it's a blatant case of ageism.)

I won't bore you with more pictures of people you don't know. A lot of our cousins weren't able to join us, but for those of us who were there, it was a magical day. For that one day, the extra pounds, wrinkles, and gray hairs magically melted away. For just that one day, we celebrated family and our lifelong friendships, and ya know what? It doesn't get much cooler than that. Dare I say it? We all felt young again.

Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it doesn't matter. [Mark Twain]

... I wasn't homesick for anything I would find at home when I returned. The longing was for what I wouldn't find. The past and all the people and places there were lost to me.  [Alice Steinbach]

Sometimes, Alice, if we're very lucky, those lost people can be found again. For one glorious day, we found each other, and the memories we share exploded into full-screen technicolor happiness.

                                Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.


86 comments:

  1. Family shots are the best. Looks like a happy crew! I've got a few group shots like that which I treasure. You're looking good, Susan!

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    1. Yeah, we are a pretty happy crew. It's a shame more of us couldn't make it to the reunion, but we had a blast. (More food for US to eat!)

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  2. Buncha cuties! But most amazing is Jacob, who has --not to imply he's a rebellious child-- defied gravity!

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    1. HA! Jacob was pretty gravity-defying. You could say he was bouncing off the walls... (Energetic kid!)

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  3. Replies
    1. Thanks, Suze-a-ma-cuzie. (My mother used to call me that every once in a while.)

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    2. Wow. I hope it's okay that I feel honored. :)

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    3. And I hope it's okay that I feel honored that YOU feel honored...

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  4. Home is family - and it's lovely to see all these great pictures of yours. But, while I was on my long trip, I missed my girls but there were also little thing about the county I live in that I missed - lambs and daffodils in the spring, sitting in my garden in the summer. None of my girls live here now, but it is where my roots are.

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    1. Yes! Home IS all about the people, but you're right. Some of the "things" about the places we call home tug at the ol' heartstrings, too.

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  5. How lovely. And yes, how super cool.

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    1. Thanks. I'm glad you think a reunion is super cool, too. It was our first, but I hope it wasn't our last.

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  6. What a heartwarming post. Much like you, I find it sad and bittersweet to look at old photos because most of the people in them are now gone. Things change drastically over the years, but the warm memories last forever.

    I'm glad that you got to visit old haunts in Baltimore and have a reunion with your cousins. I like the recreation photo of you and Phyllis. Fortunately, I have a lot of wonderful cousins, too. As an only "child", I consider them to be my siblings.

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    1. You nailed it. The memories do last forever. (Hopefully.) It's great to hear you have a bunch of terrific cousins, too, and I hope you get to see some of them again very soon. (Like Nancy...?) Don't put it off, cowboy. I can't think of a better way to lift your spirits than making a bunch of new memories with those wonderful cousins of yours.

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  7. This was touching Susan... oh those memories of home that are really memories of people...

    It is both good and sad to go back to those place sometimes...

    I hope you have a really great weekend :)

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    1. Yes, memories of home are often intertwined with heart-wrenching memories of people who are no longer with us. All the more reason to see the ones who are still living while we can.

      You have a super weekend, too!

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  8. I also love how you tried to recreate your photo with Phyllis! Though you referred to one of your cousins as "the classy one" you look pretty classy to me. I noticed your striking pivotal poses! Despite all your wisecracks, you look pretty darn good! Glad you had a fun family weekend!

    Julie

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    1. ME... classy? Now that's funny. Methinks you're viewing me through prejudiced eyes. That pivotal pose? That was because it hurt to put weight on my left leg. HA!

      Thanks. We had a blast. It just goes to show ya. Sometimes, you CAN go home again.

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  9. Looks like you had a great time. Good for you.I like that Alice Steinbach line.

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    1. Yeah, I had a super time.

      I like that line, too. A lot. (Although, I must confess, I don't know who Alice Steinbach IS... guess I'd better check her out.)

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  10. Your first paragraph had me in tears as I have been thinking lately of people I have lost. Then, though, you picked me up by reminding me to celebrate life with the present and the love that survives over the years.

    Yes, you can go home again, things do change, but the memory of good people and good times will always stay in our hearts.

    BTW, we are having a cousin reunion in October. I know it will be a fun-filled day sharing memories and lots of laughter.

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    1. I love, love, LOVE that you'll be having a cousin reunion, too. This was our first, but I hope it won't be the last.

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  11. What a happy looking bunch of folks...here's to many more such gatherings.

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    1. I'll drink to that! (It isn't blasphemy to use water, is it?)

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  12. Lots of things change indeed when you go back to your old feed, just ten years for mine and everything has changed alot.

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    1. Lots of things change, including our perception of the way things used to be. Time allows a warm fuzzy filter to smooth out the old rough spots.

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  13. I wonder what happened to make all those places "off limits?" A change in land ownership? Water pollution? Liability for injuries sustained by visitors?

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    1. We aren't positive, but we suspect 9/11 happened. Especially at the Loch Raven dam. Liability concerns might have played a role at Rocks, too. We used to hike to the top of some huge rocks, our favorite of which were called the "king and queen" seats. If someone got hurt up there, it could have been a game-changer.

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  14. You never lose your ties to that ancestral home, the place you grew up. No matter how long you've lived away, it will always be home.

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    1. To a certain extent, I agree, but as the years pile up, the people pass away, and the old places we recall as "home" change beyond recognition, the ancestral home we remember and cherish ends up existing only in old faded photographs and dusty memories.

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  15. >>... I wasn't homesick for anything I would find at home when I returned. The longing was for what I wouldn't find. The past and all the people and places there were lost to me.

    Oh, that's a great quote, 'cause I feel it so well.

    This was a wonderful post, SUSAN.
    And, yes, I remembered that previous photo of you and Phyllis very, Very, VERY well! (It's a good thing for Smarticus that I wasn't born a few years earlier and out yer way, because he and I would have had to fight, and I would have been inspired for the fisticuffs[;-)}

    >>... Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it doesn't matter. [Mark Twain]

    Mark Twain... didn't that guy just say the best things? In my op, NO ONE has ever been more quotable than Mark Twain... except for maybe Samuel Clemens.

    ~ D-FensDogg
    'Loyal American Underground'

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    1. Thanks. I'm glad you enjoyed the post, Stephen. I guess the idea of trying to go back home again resonates with most of us. It isn't so much that we can't go home again; we simply can't return to the same home that used to exist.

      (HA! I'm glad you like that old pic, but you DO realize I was still a teenager in it... )

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  16. Glad you had such a great time! I love getting together with my cousins, but all of us together doesn't happen too often.

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    1. Thanks! This was the first time for us for a very long time, especially without the involvement of a eulogy.

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  17. Old photos like these truly are bittersweet. Remembering memories, yet there's the loss as well, and at my age, knowing one day soon I'll be one of those memories.

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    1. Bittersweet is the perfect description for them. Existing only in someone's memories doesn't bother me at all. What bothers me (but only a little) is the prospect of being forgotten altogether.

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  18. I forget who said "you can't go home again" first, but it is true-every time I return to the Philadelphia suburbs I grew up in, more has changed.

    Having lived far away from "home" for almost 25 years, it felt like I mostly went back and saw extended family at funerals.

    Last month I went back for an aunt's 90th birthday celebration, and I think I felt what you are describing in this post.

    It's very refreshing to connect with everyone and celebrate lives well lived rather than mourning someone's passing.

    Larry

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    1. Well, you CAN go back home to Philadelphia, but it will never again be the Philadelphia home you remember from your childhood. Then again, we'll never be those children again, either.

      I'm glad you could relate to the sentiments expressed in this post. Gathering with family to celebrate life beats the heck out of gathering for a funeral.

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  19. I do think about the past more now than ever before.

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    1. You know why, dontcha? We have so much MORE of it now...

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  20. What a glorious day! Even if the old haunts are gone, somehow you managed to find those who remember the same things you do.

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    1. Yes, it sure was! There is a lot to be said for shared memories.

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  21. well, ya know ya had me in tears. what a bighearted, warmhearted story sue! im just blown away. your words said it all. perfect! have a super duper weekend. im happy you and your husband finally found each other. cheers!!

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    1. Sorry, didn't mean to make you cry, but it's nice that you related to this post so well. I reckon some feelings are pretty universal. You have a super weekend, too.

      Cheers!

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  22. Susan - love this post as it reminded me of all the folks I've lost. One of my good friends from high school whom I ran into not long ago said it was no fun taking new photos anymore as there was always someone missing. She'd lost her husband early in their marriage. Yes, so many people missing but never ever forgotten. Loved the photos of you and Kathy. I too have cousins I love and miss. You're reminded me it's time to get some family photos our and travel down home in my mind's eye. Hugs.

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    1. I'm glad you liked the post, Barb. Photos mean more to me than I ever expected they would. Hugs back atcha.

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  23. A rather poignant post. Glad you could get back "home" and hang with cousins, etc. Folks who know your reference point are invaluable. I try to tell Ray some stuff and he listens, but I go back to PA and the "gang" knows what I'm talking about. And you can start a conversation where you left it a year or so ago. At least you have pics of the old haunts and can pass along the stories. Glad you had fun and welcome back too

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    1. Yes, that's exactly it! Those common reference points make all the difference in the world. Ditto the ability to pick up a conversation as though you'd never been apart.

      Thanks. Here's to a super weekend!

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  24. I think what you notice most when you haven't been home in a while is how much the trees have grown around your memories. <--This is the quote that did it for me...because every time we go back to visit a place where we used to live, we drive by the house we used to live in, and we always comment on the size of the trees.

    I so can understand how you felt - bittersweet is such a beautiful word to describe that feeling. I get "back home" to Germany so rarely, but you described exactly how I feel every time I do. Love your recreation of the photo of you and your cousin Phyllis. And it seems like Jacob is great at photobombing! What a great post today...you've got me smiling, with a few tears in my eyes.

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    1. Your infrequent trips back to Germany must be especially poignant. With as many years as you've lived in the states, you must feel kinda like a "foreigner" when you visit your own childhood town.

      Smiling with tears in your eyes... that's a good description of what it feels like to go "back home."

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  25. Yeah, it bothers me quite a bit that I have not returned to my hometown in over three years now. It's only a little over two hours away but family, home, and job demands have made it impractical.

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    1. Yeah, I can understand what you're saying about the impracticality of making a trip to your hometown, but I hope you'll go for it, anyway. Especially if you still have family and old friends there. The only time we can count on is now.

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  26. I know some people who love Baltimore big time. Favorite Young Man lived there and hated to leave. Baltimore is the setting for Anne Tyler's novels, in which setting becomes a character. She writes of Baltimore in quite a tender manner. I'm glad you had a good time and met your cousin. How did you find her?

    Love,
    Janie

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    1. Yeah, once Baltimore gets under your skin, it's a hard place to forget. Part of me will always love it. (And I love Anne Tyler, too.)

      Long story short, Kathy was born about six months before Maryland sealed adoption records in 1946. Since she fell into that lucky "loop," she was able to get her birth mother's name when she started hunting for her in the '90s. Unfortunately, my aunt refused to meet her, but after she died, a friend of Kathy's helped her track down the rest of us. We all welcomed her with open arms, and it's been a real happily-ever-after story from there.

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  27. I love the quotes, so true. It is amazing how meeting families and old friends, is a bit like stepping into a time machine. How the passing years just float away and you're transported back to how things once were.

    As always, lovely post Susan.

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    1. Yes, it's exactly like stepping into a time machine... as long as we don't try to do any of those physically demanding things we used to do so easily.

      Thanks, kiddo.

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  28. Wonderful photos. Really loved the then and now with you and Phyllis. Fun! And how wonderful you got to meet Kathy. Did I miss how many siblings your mom had? There are seven wonderful faces in that first photo and you say "SOME of her siblings."

    I haven't been "home" in 20 years. Maybe one day.

    VR Barkowski

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    1. Thanks. I'm glad you liked 'em. In addition to the people in the first pic, my mother had two additional brothers. Yeah, a big family, and some of them had big families, so we had LOTS of cousins.

      Twenty years? That's a looooong time. If you still have family and friends there, I hope you don't put it off too much longer.

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  29. What a great post, Susan. Thanks for sharing that. Glad you had a good time. Keep the quotes coming.

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    1. Thanks, Keith. I'm glad you liked it. As long as people keep saying cool things, I'll keep sharing their cool quotes.

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  30. To bad about all the lovely places being shut off. It is probably because of all the law suites that would happen if anyone gets hurt now.
    Your family looks wonderful. I love seeing peoples photos. All mine where lost in the fire so I have nothing.
    I had tears in my eyes from the quotes and your writing. Quite lovely and heartfelt.

    cheers, parsnip

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    1. How heartbreaking to have lost all your pictures... but it could have been worse. I'm glad you and your family still have each other and your memories.

      Thanks. I'm glad you enjoyed the post.

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  31. Great pictures! Yes, home is family and friends and the people we love...not the physical structures. When we see those places, the first thing we think about are the people we shared memories with there.

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    1. Thanks! You're right about "home" being all about the people we love. It kind of makes me wonder if people who don't have family or friends ever feel at home anywhere.

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  32. Very nice photos. It's lovely to catch up with those you don't see all the time. I love that Mark Twain quote, I'm going to borrow that.

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    1. Thanks. Yes, it's beyond wonderful to catch up with family and long-time friends.

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  33. I love photo recreations. It looks like you have a wonderful family and memories to treasure forever. Too bad about parts of the area being blocked off.

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    1. Me, too! One of my all-time favorite recreation involves my hubby. The first shot is of him at about two or three years old, standing next to the picket fence gate with his dad. They're doing the same one hand on the fence, ankle crossed pose. When my hubby came home from Vietnam, I had the two of them strike the same pose beside the same gate. Then when our first son was old enough, I had the three of them pose by the gate. I treasure those pictures!

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  34. Isn't it amazing how much a place changes when you haven't been there for a while? I love the recreated photo. Sounds like you had a wonderful reunion. Times with family are so precious.

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    1. It sure is. Our memories keep people and places frozen in time, so it's quite a shock when we see those people and places in the present day reality of face-to-face.

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  35. Hi Susan - sounds like a wonderful trip - I wonder why all those places were cordoned off and left to apparently disintegrate .. very sad. But the photo of hubby is a good one - the new one! Old hubby .. new photo!!

    Sounds like you had one ball together and with Jacob, no doubt, having the time of his life meeting and greeting one and all ...

    We miss the folk .. they're the important bits of the living puzzle that get taken out as time goes on ...

    Just so pleased you had a happy time all together and welcome home .. cheers Hilary

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    1. Hi, Hilary. It sure was! We don't know for sure why those places are cordoned off now, but we suspect it was in deference to post- 9/11 concerns about terrorism.

      Thanks. As much as we enjoyed ourselves, it's good to be home again.

      Cheers!

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  36. Interesting times, Susan. I understand your longing...
    Alice Steinback's quote resonates.
    When I go to the places of my childhood, I realize that nothing looks or feels the same. Everything has changed. I can only visit certain places in my imagination. The mind is the best vehicle to visit certain places, to meet certain people that are no longer with us...

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    1. Yes, there is a certain longing for things gone by, and for people and things beyond our reach, but as you say, those places and people live on in our minds. Memories and photos can ease that longing.

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  37. What a beautiful opportunity for you to return to your roots. Why says you can't "go home again?" I love the way you put it...... that is about the people and not necessarily the geography. I too, get extremely sad when I visit the home of my youth because I only find ghosts of the past and my own memory ....... so I prefer to stay away of late.
    A very poignant post.

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    1. Manzie!!! It's great to hear from you again.

      Yes, it was a wonderful opportunity. Most of us can go home again, as long as we don't expect the "home" of today to be the same as the "home" that exists in our minds. We've gotta go with the flow, but unfortunately, that's something easier said than done. I understand why you're choosing to stay away.

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  38. So glad you got to have a good time at the reunion! That's a really cool fact about meeting a cousin for the first time.

    I haven't ever recreated a picture, but I think it's a fun idea!

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    1. Thanks! It was super.

      You should try doing a recreated photo. I think you'll be thrilled with the results.

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  39. Look at all those smiling faces!! So glad you got to go back home :)

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  40. Home is all about the people - family and friends! I tried to explain this to my husband, because it was so difficult for me to leave Ohio. I don't think he gets it.

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    1. I know what you mean. It was hard for us to move away from all our family and friends, too. But at least for us, transferring here with my hubby's job was the right decision, and we've never regretted it.

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  41. There's nothing quite so awesome as family. Thanks for sharing this. It made me tear up and happy all at the same time. =)

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