GAYS MILLS - I am kind of a sentimental person. Which is something that is good for you my friendly readers because it creates a lot of good fodder for my column for weeks when my toddler doesn’t do anything interesting.
This past weekend I had this weird sentimental feeling that I don’t have very often, one of sadness.
If you’re following along at home and are a regular reader you’ll know that I am halfway a transplant to Crawford County.
To recap a bit for those of you who are just joining us, my mom is a native of the area. She grew up running around the Soldiers Grove-Readstown area as the oldest of the Hadley Girls during the 1970s. She met my dad around 1976. I think that’s when his uncle was spending some time with my mom’s aunt in a cabin somewhere in Vernon County.
My dad is from Beloit and had come up for the weekend to do whatever it is 18 year olds do in the 1970s. My mom was initially ‘too cool’ for my dad and didn’t give him too much attention over the weekend.
Yet as legend has it, she came calling down to the city a short while later. A favorite memory of my dad’s to share was my grandma’s comment when my mom came by.
“A big redheaded Amazon woman came here lookin’ for ya Tommy!” his mother is said to have reported. The rest is, as they say, history. My parents settled back on the state line following one year of wedded bliss yonder north.
So, I grew up in a little rundown farmhouse on the edge of town. When I was a young lass, it was basically the middle of nowhere. It was the country living!
This past weekend, we took the three-hour journey south to visit family in Beloit and I decided as soon as I made the plans I’d drag Chasca down Colley Road to visit the ol’ homestead. Or at least, where it once stood.
I knew from driving out there about five years previously that the shabby little white house had already been torn down.
However, when I visited before the road and yard all looked relatively the same. But a lot can change in five years, and even more so, a lot can change in the 15 years that passed since the day my mom drove out of the driveway that last time.
Driving down the side road out to the country, things looked nearly the same until we came to this bizarre brand new road crossing the old one that looked as though it had never been repaired since the days I had grown up. “This wasn’t here before,” I said feeling slightly confused and offended by the new passage.
We continued down the road only to find the first major change of my great-aunt’s farm that had been torn down, much to my surprise. The homestead had been under much of a fight to be saved because of its beautiful round barn. However, nothing is safe from the perils of Urban Sprawl, I suppose.
But it wasn’t until we rounded the corner did it really hit me. Where once there were fields of crops and beautiful ancient trees, there was now an industrial park home to a office supplies distribution center as well as other big, industrial looking buildings with many major loading docks and endless line of semi trailers parked at the ready.
My yard was almost unrecognizable if not for the one lone pine tree still standing and the end of our driveway.
The house and barn long since torn down and many trees including my beloved red maple pulled out to make way for the wider lane of road, the only thing that indicated that it was the home I grew up in was that pine, much taller than I remember it, but the same tree we played under.
“There is a picture of me and Patty under that tree when we were babies,” I told Chasca. Who offered in a kind and sincere way to take a picture of Thatcher and me underneath the tree.
I declined, feeling a strange pang of sadness in my stomach. That was my home, and now it’s just another empty lot waiting for another big, sprawling ugly warehouse.
The strangest memories came rushing back, like my dad had to chasing my homework in the field for hours in a windstorm and that every pet we ever had that died was buried in that yard.
I also felt kind of jealous that every other house I randomly recognized throughout the city looked exactly the same—secretly wishing my home where I spent my childhood was among the ranks of the unchanged.
I guess that’s the name of the game though with progress and time, you can’t stop it, you just have to keep looking forward.
Driving away I put the sadness over the missing house out of my mind. Instead, I focused on the time I had just spent with the family I seldom see. Then, I realized that the memories I make with them are something I have control over. Those memories are something I will hold, even when the physical structures disappear.