I took mom on a trip back to her hometown two years ago- sort of a rearview mirror tour – to Germantown, Ohio. For those of you have never been -Germantown is famous for the Pretzel Festival, held each year in the fall-The Germantown Dam-where I spent lots of time growing up. And, the legendary Florentine Hotel- a place that was famous for their fish sandwich. And a wonderful place to grow up.
I was warned by my brother to be ready for anything- meaning ready turning around at any moment along the drive- if she had a panic attack. To packing up in the middle of the night and heading back to Georgia. I was prepared and also determined to make this trip happen -for her – I knew it was going to be her last goodbye to her hometown.
At times, she would ask every few miles where we were and where we were going. At times, she would be mesmerized by the scenery- 75 North/South is actually a scenic drive. When I got her to talk about the past- when her kids were little- when she was a kid- or vacations- or boat races-any memory I could bring out of her you could feel and see her presence float back in time. And she would reminise.
She did well at the hotel room- she rested well-only waking up once to ask me where we were and where we were going. When we got to Germantown and settled into the B & B she was ok during the day. At night she was confused and had me up several times- asking the questions. But would settle back down and rest.
Dorothy grew up back in the holler on a small farm with her grandparents- her dad died when she was young, and her mom wasn’t prepared to raise any children. She grew up poor- but happy -and was loved by her sister and grandparents. Life was good on the farm- she always said.
We headed out to her homeplace- she remembered where she was, who lived where and what they did for a living- how many kids they had- it was good to see this side of her. The long lane had “NO TRESPASSING “signs everywhere- but, being the rebel that I am -I ignored them and took the chance. You could feel her transform back in time and see the look of anticipation on her face. We drove all the way to where the house sat- but all that was left standing from that era was the barn.
She told me about getting up early before school to milk the cows and gather the eggs. She liked the outside chores more than the inside chores. The ironing and waxing of the floors were her favorite chores to do- nobody bothered her when she ironed and her and her sister had so much fun sliding around the hardwood floors in socks to polish the floor. She talked of Granny’s garden and her canning skills and Pappy’s tobacco plants. She laughed remembering how Pappy would spend most of his time “hiding’ from Granny in the barn. She remembered how her and her sister had to walk down the lane to catch the bus in all types of weather. How the kids on the bus would make fun of them because they were poor.
She talked about her daddy being sick and him talking to her- telling her to be good for Granny and Pappy and that he loved her. She remembered the day he died and how they had his body lay in state in the front room of the farmhouse- and all the people who came to see them. Then after the funeral how the horse and buggy took him to the cemetery.
She was lost in her youth-back before she met my dad, before she had a family, before she lived most of her life- it was good to see her in this happy place – where she was at peace. She was content had a glow about her. I was happy that she knew where she was and could connect with her past and her memories.
We weren’t a mile down the road and she ask me where we were.
Peace & Love,