This past week, I had a chance to spend a few days in upstate New York where I grew up. I’ve visited there through the years, though not often enough, and this time I realized that some pretty significant changes have ocurred. Either the town has changed or I have! It seemed somehow out of sync with my current life. The main street is still graced with leafy trees hugging the houses and the center of town. Some of the old Victorians have been kindly restored and a few even tempt the heart of a poet. Other sections of town though, seem to have forgotten their original purpose and have not aged well. I felt somewhat like an outsider peeking through a window of the now defunct train station.
Beyond the creeks and parks where I once played or the memory of river canoe trips and cookouts on the bank, I felt somewhat disconnected. I was drawn to the passage of time via the houses that no longer contained former family members, and by the school that is now an elementary school only and not a K-12 as it had been for me. The diner where we once hung out after a victorious basketball game was no longer open. My grandparents and my aunts and uncles have passed, though I’m blessed to have my parents still there, living just outside of town. Perhaps this is the reason we can’t go home again, visiting our humble roots, hoping to see something familiar that will make us smile. We can’t ask time to stand still just so we can capture old memories.
Lest this become too somber, I will say that there were also several unique gifts woven into my visit. Certainly seeing my parents is always one of those, but seeing a high school friend that I hadn’t connected with since the graduation pomp and circumstance was another one. We went to church together and then out to lunch and caught up a bit on the path each of our lives have taken. Oddly enough, gray hair didn’t change the smile that could just as easily have beamed from an 18 year old, as he and his wife sat opposite me. It was so much fun to renew a friendship that helped us revisit scenes from the chapters of our school days. It was a gold nugget experience; one that I will cherish always.
I also visited Coach Green who still lives in the home he has shared with his wife of 67 years. His daughter and I had renewed our friendship several years back and we discovered that we had a mutual commitment to our faith. Sadly, Judy passed away much too soon and so visiting her family had always been something I hoped to do. Clearly, God knew that we could bless each other’s lives. I left his home in perfect peace and joy. It’s interesting to note that Coach Green and my dad went to the same high school in New Jersey, and yet somehow ended up in Unadilla. Life is funny like that!
I know I still have a few old friends back in my home town and I hope that little by little to have a chance to connect with each one of them again. After all, it’s only in sharing our stories that we can each understand our heritage and the blessings that life has brought us. I’m so glad I was able to walk those streets of Unadilla once again. I thank God for giving me a home there. It’s appropriate that its name means, “The Meeting Place.” I hope to meet more old friends there every chance I get. May the grace of God shine on each one of you!