(This is more of a personal blog than a true travel blog so if you want to skip by, that's OK)
The old adage says you can’t go home again. You can, but it just won’t be the same. Similar. Familiar. Not the same.
It shouldn’t be. Change is inevitable. Some good, some not so much. It’s hard, though, when what changes is the place you called home for 21 years. The past weekend brought all those thoughts into perspective as I attended my 50+2 high school reunion. I have made that four-hour trip to see parents and family and friends so many times since I moved 48 years ago after college.
My trips became more infrequent after my parents moved closer to me before they died and the last trip was in January 2020. This trip was somehow different. It was bringing together the Class of 1970 to celebrate not only our reunion but our 70th birthdays. Yipes . . . that age thing crept up on us real fast.
I also had the opportunity to reunite with some of the group of guys I grew up with. There were about 10 or 12 of us all about the same age living in our small neighborhood. At breakfast, it was just like we were back in the neighborhood. We reminisced about the daily baseball games (sometimes they had to drag me out of bed to play), to football in knee-high snow, slipping and sliding across the flood control spillway (and getting the oil in the stream on our clothes to our moms' dismay) and, of course, just hanging out at the corner at the neighborhood’s main intersection.
We did indeed grow up in a special place at a special time. With the wisdom of age and hindsight, I don't think any of us realized how important the neighborhood connections we had then were. We were just having too much fun.
That fun carried over to the high school years, especially our senior year so the more than 100 classmates were looking forward to gathering again. Covid stopped it in 2020. It stopped it again in 2021. Thanks to a herculean effort by a small cadre of classmates 2022 was to be our year and it was.
Even though the severe thunderstorms that pummeled the area Friday put a crimp into the celebration, it wasn't enough to dampen the joy of seeing classmates when we gathered at the Model-T Inn. OK, the rain really sucked but amid flashes of lightning and sideways rain, seeing long-time friends was worth the soaking.
The fellowship continued Saturday with the (fortunately) rain-free picnic at Callahan Park and the chance to see classmates who couldn't make it Friday night. The stories. The memories. The laughs. Being able to again share all those about our days at BAHS was special. We also learned the sad news that more than 90 of our classmates have died. Even though they are no longer here, remembering them at the reunion reminded us of the friendships we made in high school and how precious friends - past, present and future - are.
Some random thoughts about being “home”:
My elementary school was torn down a number of years ago and replaced by several professional buildings and parking lots. What a waste. Built in, I believe the ‘20s or ‘30s, it was a rock and possibly able to withstand the nuclear blast we all practiced for on a regular basis by moving our chairs to the hallways.
Walked through my old neighborhood. My former home is still the same color. That’s staying power.
At the nearby flood control spillway, a group of junior firefighters were practicing water rescues. Where were they when I was a kid and kept slipping and sliding in that concrete basin. (OK, it was only about 2-feet deep then, but . . .)
Visiting St. Bernard Cemetery is always with mixed emotions. Eight of my family members, including my dad, are buried in a family plot. Since it was the July 4th weekend, the cemetery was awash with U.S. flags symbolizing those who served our nation. It was a chance to reminisce about family long-gone and to think about all those buried here whose names are part of Bradford’s legacy.
Visited the Zippo/Case Museum for the first time. It was worth it. My mom worked there for more than 20 years. On my many travels, I have seen Zippo lighters in every country to which we’ve been, a testament to a great company.
Looking down Main Street the sight is familiar, but walking shows the familiar stores are gone. Some have been replaced. Others haven’t. It’s a difficult time for retailers and I applaud all of the organizations and individuals doing what they can to renew downtown and wish them the best.
No matter how many times it has been or will be sold, the refinery will ALWAYS be Kendall Oil.
Forty-eight years is a LONG time to be away but there will always be a place in my heart and in my memories for “home.”